How to fix a terrible conversion strategy

Website conversion strategy

It’s somewhat stunning to me how few marketers and salespeople think about their website’s conversion strategy.

This is a true story, by the way; it’s not made up in any way. A few years ago, I had this gig in marketing. Some teams got shifted around, right? Someone who was reporting up through a group called “Consumer” moved over to “Marketing.” Different silos, but the same essential job role — he was the main guy on the business side of the organization’s website.

He meets his new boss, and the first thing the boss says is basically, “I have no idea what you do.”

The dude is flabbergasted, and it’s like a scene out of Office Space. “I talk to the customers… so the clients… DON’T HAVE TO!!!”

People don't think about their conversion strategy

Eventually, they got on the same page. The boss wanted the website to be a source of revenue. That was, essentially, all she cared about. The guy had to make that happen.

At the time, they hadn’t been chasing any kind of conversion strategy — but now they were.

And of course, like anything in the modern business world, any strategy was chucked out the window in favor of a focus on tasks and deliverables.

The problem with conversion strategy is a very real one

Here’s an article from Wharton on user experience; let’s note this one specific part:

Yet even with this determined focus on design, most digital experiences fall short of user expectations. Of the 700 million websites that exist, 72% fail to consistently engage users or drive conversions. Of the 1.6 million apps available, just 200 account for 70% of all usage, and three out of four apps aren’t even used beyond the initial download.

Here’s where we’re netting out here:

  • Everyone is rushing around screeching about Design! and UX! and Customer Experience!
  • Even with that supposed focus, 72 percent of about 700M websites don’t convert or engage
  • Roughly 7 in 10 websites you land on, then, are essentially not that good — or aren’t tied to actual business goals

That’s a problem. In short, your conversion strategy? It’s probably terrible.

How did conversion strategy get so bad?

I’d argue it’s a couple of things:

  • CMOs tend to not care about digital: For most CMOs currently, ‘digital’ isn’t where it’s at. It’s all about ad buys or power branding or some other BS concept they came up the chain knowing and understanding, so they focus their attention there. Remember: work is a fraught exercise in proving your relevance to someone who makes more money than you. The easiest way to do that is to talk about how much money you’re generating for them, and usually that’s not from digital. Because digital strategy often doesn’t have CMO attention, it slides on the attention screen of other people who should be thinking about it — because they’re trying to chase the targets of the CMO, to in turn get their attention. That guy in the story above? He was basically the main director of the company’s website and eventually was spending about 70-80 percent of his time on non-digital activities. Why? Really all comes back to unclear priorities.
  • Most websites aren’t sure what they’re trying to be: I think this is the result of people following (and paying for) marketing experts, who essentially pitch the same solutions to everyone regardless of uniqueness of brand. Fact is, most websites aren’t even transparent. I usually have no idea what the purpose or idea behind a company is when I hit their website for the first time, and I almost never have an idea of where they want me to go. Bad UX, bad CX, bad marketing, bad value prop, bad everything. The boss in that above story? I heard her define the company website 11 different ways. “It’s our business card to the world!” “It’s a lead gen engine!” Etc, etc. If there’s no clarity on what the website is or should be, it won’t convert or engage. That’s a pretty simple piece of logic, right? P.S.: we need to stop running around bellowing about lead generation, K?
  • The digital realm is thought to be the stuff of a few ‘experts:’ Digital and social became very real things in a very short amount of time. Even the words “conversion strategy” probably scare a 55 year-old CMO half to death. He’s gonna race to HR and tell them to find someone with those exact keywords in their resume, because “… I couldn’t possibly understand that…” So you’re eventually gonna torch up some headcount and bring in some “crack conversion strategist” who’s gonna basically sit and surf Facebook 18 hours/week as you postpone meetings about conversion strategy because, well, you gotta race to to a Q3 revenue stand-up.

How do we improve conversion strategy?

Look, it’s not easy. If it was easy, that 72 percent stat above wouldn’t be true. But there are a couple of core tenets to improve conversion strategy, namely:

  • Sit down and determine the goals for your website
  • Try to figure out how you’ll know when those goals are reached
  • Start using Google Analytics or another simple program to track and understand what people are doing
  • Ask some of your family and friends to move through your site and try to achieve certain things
  • Write down their ‘pain points’
  • Talk to sales about what needs to be ‘out in front’ for people researching the company
  • Think about your interfaces and think about simplicity instead of rushing around screeching about ‘brand guidelines’
  • Once you have some data from Google, look at search terms that are bringing people in and keeping them around
  • Design content and experience around those terms for a while
  • See if you can get a few people into the funnel as a result

The bullet points above are extremely over-simplified, yes, but if you had to break this down into even more granular terms, here you go:

  • Understand the value of your company
  • Determine how the website can communicate that value (in real terms, not buzzwords)
  • Figure out what a ‘successful’ website would look like for your company
  • Track, analyze, and just plain care about what your website is doing

That’s pretty much it. Simple, yes — but if you want a conversion strategy, it has to begin there.

Any other thoughts?

Ted Bauer

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