Content Marketing

11 Reasons Why Prospects Don’t Convert Into Customers

conversion repellent 11 Reasons Why Prospects Don’t Convert Into Customers

Just four years ago, my friend Marcus Sheridan discovered the power of content marketing and rescued his nearly bankrupt pool and spa business. He dove deep into blogging and propelled River Pools and Spas to a dominant leadership position in his home state of Virginia. Today, while still maintaining partial ownership of the pool business, Marcus, a.k.a. The Sales Lion,” is a very in-demand online marketing consultant and speaker. While he credits much of his success to his ascent up the ranks in search, he’ll be the first to tell you getting found is merely the beginning.

It Takes Clicks to Make the Formula Fly

In a keynote he delivered at last year’s Content Marketing World, Marcus stressed the real objective is to leverage the power of content marketing to qualify prospects. He went so far as to draw a very black and white line for his websites: only the visitors that look at 30 pages are viable prospects.

Those that invest the time to view the hefty pile of pages merit a sales consultation. Those that don’t, don’t. There’s nothing arbitrary about Marcus’s method. History (and, of course, careful number crunching) has proven serious leads get seriously into his website. If you want to be successful, you need to understand how to get your website visitors to click around and stick around.

I’ve seen what sabotages websites.

I offer a free consulting service called “webVision.” Sounds fancy. It’s not. Instead of relentlessly exchanging emails or doing a pre-crafted sales pitch, I get on the phone and screen with a new business prospect to examine the company’s website and online marketing properties aiming to explore ways to make them more effective. Screen-sharing freebies make this easy and, well, free. But it’s valuable. I’m not harping on webVision to get you to signup (though I offer a link if you’re interested). I want to share my takeaways with you, the common mistakes I see website owners making that discourage new business prospects from getting into the website or getting any closer to becoming a customer.

The leading “conversion repellents.”

Chasing away prospects is bad news. The good news: these fatal flaws are easily rectified. Here are eleven conversion killers I come across time and again.

1. Conversion aversion

This is probably the web’s leading contributor to back-buttonitis. Sufferers of this disorder can’t even justly claim to have crappy conversion rates because they have no definition of conversion. Ouch.

I scour the homepage looking for instructions on what to do next and I come up empty. Naturally, I ask my prospect, “What is it you want the first time visitor to do?”

Bad answer #1: “Go to our contact page and fill out the form there.”

C’mon, really? I’m not saying this will never happen, but it’s naïve to believe it will happen often. Please, think like your gun-shy, skeptical, research-conducting visitor. Offer a reasonable baby step.

Bad answer #2: “I’m not sure (what I want visitors to do).”

One word of advice: decide.

Probably a bad answer: “Buy our stuff.”

I’ll accept this answer if your stuff is inexpensive, easy to understand, easy to buy and risk-free. In fact, if your sale meets these qualifications it’s a good answer. If it doesn’t, it’s borderline nuts.

2. Page pollution

This one is dangerously rampant. Your homepage, or worse yet, your campaign-specific landing page, is crowded, confusing, and poorly designed. No one wants to wade through a messy page. And they won’t. Make the page welcoming, simple, and clean. Go easy on the options. Keep the noise level down. In fact, silence is golden. Auto-play audio and video is a nasty tactic. This is your lobby. It has to be tidy, welcoming, and comfy.

3. Keyword disconnect

Your website traffic comes from other websites. Search engines and pay-per-click campaigns are likely to be your top draws. So keyword continuity is paramount. Conversely, keyword disconnect is lethal. This means that the term the visitor used to discover your content, or at the very least, the concept behind the term, must jump off the page into the reader’s brain. Don’t choke on this opportunity or forget this tip; deliver what the visitor came to find. Your landing page should reassure the reader he’s come to the right place and relevance is the key to conversion. So, if you’re running specific campaigns, via search, PPC, social media, guest blogging, or what have you, the headline the visitor discovers upon arrival should map to the phrase they just clicked.

4. Buzzword babble

You don’t have to offer webVision to discover this problem. Every second, website surfers land on pages crammed with industry babble. You know what I mean—buzzwords like “infrastructure,” “software as a service,” or any hunk of jargon that describes what you sell. Put a lid on it. At the very least, save the buzzwords for the product pages and data sheets. Remember you’re not talking to yourself—or even a customer. You’re talking to a prospect. The prospect is a person. Be personable. Speak person-to-person. The opposite, “brand-to-user,” is pure engagement poison.

5. Incredibility

As a marketer, you’re either going to establish trust or you’re not. The trust you earn traces to the credibility you conjure. One way or another, your website newbie needs to find signs that indicate you know your stuff. If you haven’t yet written a book, the “social proof” (or evidence) surfers seek can come from articles, videos, reports, case studies, testimonials, badges, certifications, press releases, and so on. Even links to social media will serve this cause. And besides talking the talk, you must walk the walk. Be honest, candid, and demonstrate integrity in every word uttered or written. Your website has to prove you’re a credible problem solver. Publishing a brochure won’t be enough.

6. No help

As the hub and home of your online marketing, your website should wear a friendly face that says, “Come on in and allow us to help you solve your business problems.” However, far too many companies confuse the idea with the more conventional voice: “You’ve come to the right place for the best [product type here]. Now click here and buy it.” This is pushy, which naturally, pushes people away. If you want visitors to get into your site and value your company, you’ll offer informative and helpful content. Executing the strategy requires offering a blog, where the prospect easily gathers good advice about the business issues he wrestles with daily. You’ll also want to further empower your prospects by packaging useful content in multiple forms such as eBooks, videos, podcasts and webinars, offered at no cost, with no risk. Learn why smart marketing is about help, not hype in the soon-to-be-published book, “Youtility,” by Jay Baer.

7. A one-way web

On a one-way website, information flows from the your company to the visitor, period. There are no fields to fill in, no email or RSS feeds to capture contact information, no place to make comments or requests, to ask questions, contribute ideas, complain or even give compliments. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, make a website that encourages interaction. Take advantage of every opportunity to engage the audience, let them know you’re listening, interested in their point of view, and eager to have them come back in the future.

8. Anti-social

You can wow customers with content, woo them by demonstrating how much you care, or whisk them away with an anti-social stance. Prospects expect your company to express interest in them with ongoing interaction via social media. If you deprive them of sharing, you deprive your company of all kinds of opportunities for building relationships, increasing your reach, and earning referrals. Social Media Examiner’s Patricia Redsicker delivers powerful ideas in her article, “3 Easy Steps to Engaging Your Customers.”

9. Hard sell

I came across a funny Valentine’s Day themed article that pointed out how preposterous it would be to propose marriage on a first date. Though it’s more of a smart practice than a rule, for most businesses, it’s a big turnoff to ask first time visitors to break out their wallets. Cool your jets and do some nurturing first.

10. Unsearchable

If your site is rich with resources, it’s risky to ask visitors to scour through the pages to find what they seek. Put a simple search field on your home page and use content filters where they’ll help speed access to the content prospects might want. Understand the segments and personas you serve and place obvious signposts where they will help direct traffic. What’s more, allow visitors to qualify themselves so specific segments of your potential customer base can be addressed more personally and as pragmatically as possible.

11. No direction

Ten points ago, I pointed out the ironic “conversion aversion” that stands between you and success. An equally potent form of self-sabotage is all too prevalent: web pages, or worse, entire websites that fail to provide clear directions. Put yourself inside the mind of the busy, multitasking, and unknowing visitor who knows not where to go and what to do. Tell her. Don’t be coy, cute, or mysterious. Have a loud, proud call-to-action on every page pointing the way to the next step in the buying cycle. Make it easy to find and painstakingly clear why it’s beneficial to CLICK HERE NOW.

Your Quick Checklist

Unless you created a static website five or more years ago and haven’t given it any TLC since, it’s unlikely you’re guilty of all eleven violations we’ve covered. Do yourself a favor. Review the entire list and make sure your website has zero conversion repellents. I’ll leave you with a cheat sheet.

  1. Define conversion
  2. Make the website clean
  3. Connect with keywords
  4. Nix the jargon
  5. Foster credibility
  6. Offer helpful content
  7. Inspire interaction
  8. Embrace social media
  9. Nurture
  10. Make the site easy to search
  11. Direct the visitor

Got ‘em? Great. Get to work giving visitors every reason to get into your website.   For an even more comprehensive guide, download “21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website,” a free eBook.

Related
  • WadeStrz

    Great article and it got me thinking (I guess that was the point, right?) about conversions not just on my website but within my industry (clinical research). Do you think that perhaps a twelfth reason for poor conversion could be a lack of awareness/education about the industry/service/product. In my case, I wonder how many people fail to convert on my website because they are not familiar with my industry or could even have certain misperceptions that keep them from converting even if I’ve addressed your first 11 reasons appropriately. Maybe the educational piece is part of your #5 Incredibility?

    • http://www.facebook.com/reyna.olvey Reyna Olvey

      If you’re sharing relevant content within your site and your blog those questions should be getting answered, which will in turn solve the problem of keyword irrelevancy.

      Another question to ask yourself might be who your buyer is-sounds almost insultingly obvious, right?-but what I mean to say is, ask yourself if someone coming to your site who knows nothing about the industry is your target audience.

      If so, reevaluate your content. If not, maybe it’s a good thing that they’ll be “filtered out” so to speak. Again keyword relevancy will make these kinds of distinctions in how you’re found (and who you’re found by) as well.

      • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

        Good stuff. I suspect Wade would benefit from a “The 10 Most Common Questions about Clinical Research” type of offer.

    • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

      Not familiar with your industry? Content marketing is your answer. Get them familiar with it. Make your site/blog their #1 resource.

  • http://twitter.com/MelissaBreau Melissa Breau

    Hey Barry,

    This piece has got me thinking about my CTA on my homepage… and my homepage format as a whole. At the moment I do have clear CTA, but it’s to get in touch—which is a bit like asking for marriage on a first date. However my reasoning is that most people don’t come to my website via the homepage—they find me via my blog content and that’s where they’re most likely to land.

    So by the time they make it to my homepage they hopefully already have some context.

    Or maybe not.

    My biggest struggle thus far is that I serve two fairly different audiences. I’m a copywriter specializing in small business and retail and a book editor who works primarily with self published authors. So now you’ve got me wondring if I should have 2 CTAs on my homepage, one for each audience to help qualify them as leads and point them to resources relevant for them.

    Anyway, interesting piece. I plan to share it. Thanks for the new thoughts.

    • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

      I don’t offer advice to copywriters ;-)… JK. Melissa, I’d experiment with your 2 CTA strategy. Worth trying. Whatever you do, I think you should think of your home page and any other well traveled page, as a landing page and adjust accordingly.

      • http://twitter.com/MelissaBreau Melissa Breau

        Thanks Barry. I appreciate the recommendation :-D

  • kevinjgallagher

    great post, It is definitely a common problem that websites are not clear what they want you to do. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jeanne

    Thank you for this post. It is the most concise and helpful treatment of this problem I have seen. I’m putting a copy on my desktop so I can use it as a checklist.

    • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

      Thanks Jeanne. I feel so used.

  • Hem

    Thanks for your free tips ;) Nice to have some useful advice from professionals! For thanks, I comment your point 7, to make some interaction, and not just use your ideas free. Later i’ll link to this article in my own posts. Sunshine for you!

    • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

      Looking forward to seeing your post. Please include me in the tweet, so I see it.

  • Graciousstore

    It is important to make it easy for visitors on a site to find their way very easily, and there should be readily avaiable directions/instructions for visitors on what to do if their need help

  • Yasin Aydin

    Thanks for the checklist, I’ve got them printed out for my colleagues!

  • parkerconsulting

    Great checklist! I see many of my small business clients, who have been mislead by thinking if they simply set up a website the visitors will come. The virtual world isn’t too different than the actual world… you must actively seek new business on a daily basis.