Ask around: Today's marketing landscape is "dynamic".
No, really. Follow any marketing blog long enough and you'll read that descriptor littered across blog post introductions ad nauseum. Realizing that marketers across the web have suffered through enough trite, 'navigating-the-dynamism' rhetoric (though still having to lay the concept for this blog post), I'd venture to say a more concrete, creative term to describe the current state of marketing is 'mountainous'.
Not only does 'mountainous' convey what 'dynamic' does in a way that's more unique, it does so more accurately when it's used to describe online marketing. Think about it: businesses (hikers) have a whole range of new resources (mountains) through to reach new customers and increase brand loyalty (hike, enjoy nature, life, etc.). To drag the analogy further, a few of the most prominent 'mountains' right now would probably include content marketing, social media marketing, and advanced analytics, all of which provide a new opportunities for businesses to grow.
But while all these new resources can hold a ton of potential for businesses, as mountains they can seem intimidating and dangerous. Where should a business invest resources? What strategies should a marketer leverage? These are all valid questions and perhaps predictably, the answers vary widely from client to client.
However, one thing is always true: A marketing strategy measured through the lens of any one resource alone will never provide a clear map to the very highest online marketing peak. To reach the summit, you need to only focus on one thing: Conversation rate optimization.
Race You to the Top!
High search rankings are awesome. Increased traffic to a website is great. More social shares and followers can pole-vault your brand in front of many potential clients. Becoming a thought leader can elevate you and give you a platform to increase your brand awareness.
But are those the most important things? I would say no. Are they the ultimate goal for a brand or for marketers? The answer to this is decidedly ‘no’, as well. The ultimate goal for brands and marketers should be to leverage rankings, traffic, followers and thought leadership in such a way that a goal (or, conversion) is reached.
Rankings, traffic, followers and being perceived as a thought leader don’t ultimately determine or guarantee success. Measuring and increasing the number of conversions from those things does.
Seeing the Forest for the Trees
One of the biggest issues I see is that many websites aren’t designed around conversions. Most websites simply give information or showcase products or services, effectively serving as no more than a digital brochure.
The truth is that most businesses miss out on the fact that their website can be so much more; it really can become a digital employee. Think about this: a website can inform, take information, answer questions, gather contact information, allow transactions and promote your brand. That sounds a lot like what I ask of my employees every day.
If you have a website, it needs to be designed with a specific conversion in mind. This is similar to having expectations for an employee: We hold employees to sales quotas, we ask them to answer the phone and give information, we ask them to be brand ambassadors and we hold them accountable to how well they do their job.
But too often we don’t think “How well is my website doing its job?” The reason is because many websites don’t have a specific job by which they are measured. If there is nothing to track, no specific data points to analyze and no conversion to track, it becomes impossible to know whether or not your website is working efficiently.
Climbing With Cold Carabiners
Having a website is necessary in today’s connected world. But simply having a website does not guarantee success. Conversions don’t simply come from building a great looking and well optimized website. Conversion rate optimization is as much of a science as it is an art.
There is a very well defined decision making process that occurs online. It consists of four stages:
Each of these stages is essential for leading searchers towards a desired conversion. Yet only 20% of websites have been optimized for this decision making process and for conversions.
According to SwayHub, for every $100 spent on driving traffic to websites, companies spend only $1 converting that traffic into business. No business would spend that kind of money getting people into a physical store or location and have under-trained employees interact with them. Yet that happens everyday on millions of websites.
Behold A Sprawling Horizon
Companies that realize the role a website can have really do benefit from the resources they invest in making sure the website not only has defined conversion funnels, but benefit greatly from continuing to invest in optimizing conversion.
Marketing Sherpa reports that 74% of conversion rate optimization programs boost sales. Conversion rates on most websites range from 1% to 3%. Websites that have been optimized for conversion typically see a 20% or greater increase in conversions.
Find a firm or consultant that is willing to work with you
to identify goals and put the correct processes in place to measure the results
of their efforts. It is also very important to understand what to expect from
conversion rate optimization in order to know if it is succeeding or not. With
this in mind, you should be willing to ask hard questions about success and be
willing to hold your conversion rate optimization expert accountable to expectations.
While metrics like traffic, time on site, social shares, how many people read a blog and search engine rankings are important, these alone do not paint a true picture of the success of your online marketing efforts. For that, you need to have specific goals and conversions setup and you need to track their success. This will ultimately determine if you are seeing a true return on your efforts.