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Converting a Website Into Effective Sales and Marketing Tool

Feb 10, 2008
While many companies use their websites only as online business cards, they can be turned into effective sales and marketing tools. More and more people are using the internet as their main source for information - and that information is greatly influencing their purchasing decisions.

The problem with most websites is that they don't sell - and a large number are not even trying to. An effective website should have a modern design that communicates the brand promise of the company; it has to be able to generate leads from the website traffic and sell to those leads.

While a website is practically useless without visitors, it also does no good when companies are not able to take advantage of their website traffic - no matter how low it is. It all starts with an effective sales copy - the most important component of the website. A sales copy needs to give the readers information about the product or service and needs to convince them they must buy it, or take steps towards buying it. The words used in the headlines and body text have a significant impact on sales. The key to great copy is that it guides customers through the buying process. Creating a great copy often follows this formula: attention (grabs the visitors attention), interest (get them interested in the offer), desire (evokes desire for the services), action (directs efforts towards the one action the company wants them to take).

Even on top websites 95% of visitors won't buy anything on their first visit, even though they might be interested. While there are many ways to approach this knowledge, a good idea is to set up a lead capturing system where you are offering your visitors something valuable that is related to your service, but doesn't cost you much in exchange for their contact information. As an example an SEO company might offer to conduct free website analyses, a PR company might give away free PR tips and a website that sells meditation CDs can give away a couple of first tracks. By doing this the business starts to develop a relationship with its prospect, demonstrates expert knowledge and when getting something for free, people might feel they "owe" something in return. People dislike feeling indebted to someone else and have a strong desire to repay this debt.

This process of relationship building is essential to getting the customer to trust you, to try out your product without the pressure of a tough sell, and to form a marketing relationship that will allow you to later sell to your customers. In getting your prospects to subscribe to your free offering, try to sign them up for your newsletter in the process. Some experts say it takes at least 7 contacts with a prospect before they seriously consider making the purchase. A good idea is to split your free service (if it's some information, like free tips or tactics) into 5 to 7 pieces and send them to your prospects over time, with either a few days in between the e-mails or all in a row (one per day). In the end send an email asking you if they liked the course or service and make them a special offer to make the purchase.

There are 5 main reasons why somebody might not buy from you: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, and no trust. The key factor that determines whether somebody will buy from you is trust - it is far more important than any of the other reasons. This has significant impact on websites and their success in getting their message across to the visitors.

Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab has done research on this field and discovered the key elements that create trust on a website. These elements can be narrowed down to four main categories: transparency (people behind the business, full information about the company), human touch (staff bios, pictures of staff, blogs, newsletters), customer care (getting help online, putting the customer first, explaining each step of the sales process) and security (well-explained privacy policy, security certificates, no spam policies). A website that wants to have success with sales and marketing online has to do well in all of those categories.

Once your website has an impressive design that is aligned with your unique brand, you have a proper and well thought-out sales copy which is working hand in hand with your lead capturing systems and you have systems in place to sell to those leads, you can enjoy your new found success online.
About the Author
Peep Laja is a search engine optimization (SEO) and internet marketing expert. He runs his own consultancy Panama Internet Marketing, where strategy is combined with creativity to deliver effective websites that convert visitors into customers.
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