The #1 Way To Increase Your Website Conversion

I got another e-mail this morning from some guy named “Anonymous.”

It was hostile as his e-mails usually are (although being named Anonymous would likely take a toll on anyone) but at paragraph six, he posed an interesting question.

“Don’t you think it’s hypocritical for you to be speaking at the Conversion Conference? You don’t even believe in mother*&^%ing conversion.”

Mother*&^% conversion, I thought. Is there a church for that? Or is it a more Zen-like religion?

Putting aside all my snarky thoughts for a second, I realized that maybe, just maybe, Anonymous had a point.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the few public engagements that I am doing this year and I am VERY psyched about it (the program is top-notch). With that said, I AM on record that I think conversion is over-rated.

Do I believe in it? Absolutely. My clients and my career depend on it.

Do I think it’s the closest thing to God you can get business-wise and that it deserves the obsession that’s allocated to it? Not. So.  Much.

You see, the thing about conversion is that if you want to double, triple, even quadruple your conversion, you can just block all the garbage traffic that’s bringing your conversion rate down.

Your conversion as a percentage will skyrocket.

But sadly, it’s more than likely that your sales and profits won’t. In fact, in most cases, they spiral. Downward.

There’s not a day that goes by that some CEO or President doesn’t tell me that their conversion sucks and that they’re thinking about firing their VP of Marketing because of the… well, suckage.

Granted, a lot of the mucky-mucks I speak with should fire their guys but it’s not for THAT particular reason. A lot of times they’ve read some random blog that says Schwan’s has 40% conversion. So they’re comparing their B2B site that sells high-end machinery that you only need to buy once every ten years – equipment that is so complicated that you need to talk to a salesperson before you buy it – with a site that sells home-delivery food? Um, last I knew, you had to eat daily and if you’re going to buy Schwan’s, you’re going to buy Schwan’s. A good comparison? Not in this lifetime.

You can’t pull conversion numbers out of thin air – or the nearest Quora answers – and think you’re going to match them. There are a lot of variables in play – your product, your site, your e-mail program, and so on — you can’t assume that your numbers are going to be like everyone else’s. (Well, you can but you know what assuming does for both of us.)

So, should you measure conversion? Yes. It’s critical BUT you should look at in relation to other things, especially bottom line dollars.

What’s a good conversion rate to have? You need to break your traffic down into different buckets. Dumping everything into one big, rusty pail and then looking at an overall number is an exercise in futility. Even your PPC traffic will convert differently than your SEO traffic, for goodness sake.

One of the biggest mistakes traditional direct marketers make is they don’t look at their offline traffic properly. For example, if you’re a cataloger, what kind of conversion are you getting on your “Ordering From a Catalog” Form? Are you getting over 85%? If not, why not? What level of tolerance would you have for your call center if 100 people called and 95% of them hung up and didn’t place their order? Would your VP of Inbound have a job? Not likely, right?

What’s the easiest way to increase your conversion? (Besides dumping your garbage traffic that is.) Look at your adoption to action numbers. Few conversion specialists/consultants talk about adoption to action, yet it’s one of the fastest, easiest ways to improve your bottom line. You want to know what action(s) folks are taking on your site to get to their end goals. So, for example, if you’re an ecommerce company, your overall goal is to get orders. The way you get orders is for people to put stuff into their carts. Your goal is ATC (adopt to cart) so you need to look at that as a number. Out of 100 people who come to your site, how many folks are adopting to cart?

Next, you’ll want to look at adoption to action within the checkout, starting with the view cart page (which, by the way, is not always necessary and should be on your list to test if you haven’t done so already.) In checkout, each step has an adoption to action rate. Why? Because that way you’ll know where you’re losing your users. The more you know about your users, the more you can control them. (Insert diabolical laugh here.) It’s all a numbers game so the more you know, the better.

Have more conversion related questions? Jot them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer

P.S. By the way, in case you missed what will likely be known as one of my many notorious shameless plugs, I am speaking at the Conversion Conference on March 14th. I may regret this but if you come see me, I’ll give you a free hour (maybe 1.5 if you’re nice) of consultation on anything web related. And wait, there’s more, if you use this code CCW901, you can save $250 when you register now — as in right this very minute.  (Officially it’s by March 11th but if I get a lot of takers on this PS, I am deleting it!) Sign up today to save!

You Can’t Trip Over Your Shoelaces if You’re Not Wearing Any Shoes

B2B lead generation tipsKelly K. asks “I’m the Marketing Director of a large B2B company with over 20 websites.  We mostly sell to Fortune 500 companies and the government.  As you said in one of your recent posts, all of our sites get plenty of very qualified traffic but we don’t get much action.  What are we doing wrong? Do you have any tips for us? Please don’t reference my sites.  This is a new job for me and I was hired specifically to fix this problem. Thanks.”

Hi Kelly –

You’re not alone.

A lot of business-to-business companies struggle with this very same problem.

There are two primary reasons that you may not be getting enough “action.”  (I am going to assume that “action” means prospective clients signing up for your webinars, whitepapers and the like.) 

First, you don’t ask for what you want.  If you want people to sign up for your FREE newsletter, you need to ask them.  Most important, you need to ask them all over the place till you get it. 

What does “all over the place” mean?  It means at least 2-3 times on every view of your site. 

Isn’t that excessive?  Not at all.  If you look at your site as each view (what the user calls a page) being one screen, it’s really not that much, especially if you have good creative (copy/art direction.)

It’s important that your action directives are big, bold and IN-YOUR-FACE.  (You can find more about action directives here.)

Remember, you don’t get what you don’t ask for so it’s better to be VERY aggressive upfront.  Give it your best shot.  Once you’ve gotten the lead in whatever form you prefer (for example, sign up for a FREE podcast), you can often eliminate most of the lead boxes.

The second reason that most B2B companies lose/don’t get enough leads is that they screw up their lead forms.   (Thus the “you can’t trip over your shoelaces if you’re not wearing any shoes” headline for this post.) 

You can’t ask too many questions on a lead form (well, you can, but it kills your chances of getting the lead.)  You’ve got to ask ONLY the relevant questions.  Relevancy is determined in the user’s mind.  Research has shown that every question that you ask that’s not relevant MORE THAN QUADRUPLES your chance of losing the lead. 

I understand that a lot of companies want to know things like “employee size” and “purchasing authority.”  Personally, I think that information is easier to get from an outside profiler, but if you must ask for it do it AFTER you’ve gotten the barebones of the lead.  (Usually name, phone number, and e-mail address suffices.)  You can do this two ways: (1) one after you’ve gotten the lead or (2) in a triggered e-mail thank you letter with survey questions.

(Click here now for some additional B2B lead generation tips.)

7 Proven Keys to Getting More From Your Action Directives

So, I took the terrorists (also known as Anonymous and Nameless) to lunch today.

To make a long story short (we’re skipping MANY details because I’d really like to see my nephews in the future and I was in BIG trouble with my brother way before this happened), somehow the two year old  — aka The Wee One, 2.0, or Nameless — got stuck in the back of the car. By himself.  With the doors locked.  While he was holding the keys.

I imagine if I was the parent, this is one of those things that I just wouldn’t tell anyone.  You know, for fear of Child Protective Services showing up at the doorstep or something.  But since I am the auntie, well, it seems only right to turn it into a lesson about YOUR website.  You think this is a stretch?  Hmmm…..  Sadly, I can’t agree with you.  This will definitely be a lesson about your website.

You see, while good ole’ 2.0 was strapped into his babyseat like a NASCAR driver with a death wish and 1.0 (Anonymous) and I were screaming at him from the curb trying to get him to hit just the right button, it looked a lot like what happens day-in-and-day-out online.

For all the buttons that were on that damn key, only one mattered – and unfortunately, that was NOT the one he kept hitting.  (You can probably guess the only button that 2.0 liked was the red one.   Yes, that one.  THE PANIC BUTTON that makes the lights flash and the horn beep ad nauseam.  Kill. Me. Now.)

Just in case you wondered, telling a two year old to hit the right button, through a tightly closed AND very shaded window with a flipping child privacy screen, is not all that effective, especially when he keeps swinging the key around as if he intentionally wants to cause me a heart attack right then and there.  Can you imagine if the key had dropped?  My brother would be in jail for shooting me, I’d be dead, Anonymous would have wandered off to the nearest Coldstone Creamery because you know, “ice cream is his life” and the little guy would still be bolted to his babyseat in the back of the car.  But I digress…

Action buttons and car keys are pretty much the same thing.  You’ve got to have them.  They are critical to your success.  And in the wrong hands, they are, well, incredibly dangerous.

Here are seven sure-fire tips that will help you when it comes to the action directives (read: buttons) on your website.

The most important button should be bigger than the other buttons. Meaning PROCEED TO CHECKOUT NOW should NOT be the same size as CONTINUE SHOPPING.  If you think you’ve made your button the biggest it can be, double the size and then add it to your site.

On websites, things that are MOST important should typically go on the right. In other words, Delete This Form should not be after SIGN UP FOR OUR FREE PODCAST NOW.  Wait, correct that, Delete This Form should never be a damn button in the first place.  It can be a link, if you truly must (although not recommended), just not a button.

There are icons, not words, on car keys for a reason. People see things in pictures, not in text. It’s way more convenient to have locked/unlocked icons than to have the words, right?  It’s the same with buttons versus text links.  You can have both but if you only choose one, buttons are better from a user-centered perspective.

Colors are important. The reason why 2.0 kept pushing the red button – besides the fact that he likes to torture anyone over 3 feet – is that it was red and the other buttons are black.   Red is a very good color for checkout and form buttons.  In the reptilian brain, red signifies blood.  Blood is good.  It means you killed something and will get to eat dinner tonight along with your cavewoman.

People have spare keys for a reason. The more buttons the better.  From a website perspective, you need at least one action directive on every view of your site.  (You can find out the size of your average view by looking at your screen size information.)  Again, every view needs a button.  Yes, every view.  No, I don’t particularly care if your designer thinks it’s ugly or overkill.  Nobody looks at an entire web page at once, they view single-size-servings one screen at a time.

It’s always good to have a back-up plan. (You know, like throwing rocks through the back window and making a four year old crawl through broken glass to heroically rescue his brother.  No, I didn’t do that, although the thought…)   Tthat doesn’t mean you should have buttons to help with your buttons.  However, you should offer alternative ways to contact you (read: a phone number and an e-mail address) all over the place.   (Again, every view.)

Users understand why websites offer “do you really want to do this?” warnings, especially for credit card transactions.   However, what websites don’t understand about users is that sometimes (often the number exceeds 10%) they fill out a form, think they’re done, and then leave…. Without hitting submit.  You see this a lot in checkouts (before the confirmation page); multi-page e-mail sign-ups; and tiered and escalating lead forms.  This is something that can – and should – be easily tracked and fixed.

Any other button tips you want to add in the comments?  Anyone?  Anyone?

P.S.  In case you’re wondering, 2.0 was just fine.  I mean, I know his parents.  The kid is going to be in years of therapy as it is.  Seriously, it was nothing that cupcakes, ice cream, a trip to the toy store and, well, a new pony couldn’t cure.

10 Proven (and Profitable!) E-Commerce Tips for Catalogers

1. Separate your Direct/No Referrer Traffic from everything else.  Most catalogers and offline marketers don’t bother doing it and it’s a huge (as in colossal) mistake.  There is (or should be) a BIG difference in adoption to cart and/or conversion from people who know you and people who don’t. 

2. Fix your Catalog Quick Order form.  It’s obviously broken.  How do I know that?  Well, look at your results. Are you getting 80%+ conversion on it?  If so, you’ve got nothing to worry about.  If not, you’ve got some work to do starting with what you call it.  Catalog Quick Order is for ordering catalogs.  “Ordering from a Catalog?” is for, well, ordering from a catalog.

3. Show a picture of your catalog in at least one (preferably two or three) places on the first view of your site – on your major entry pages for all direct/no referrer traffic.   (This is only applicable for direct/no referrer traffic.  If you can’t separate your traffic yet, only show one representation of your catalog per view, preferably in the righthand corner under your offer box.)

4. Use carousels on your major entry pages.  Carousels are those simply-animated banners in the top middle columns of sites.  They usually have 5-6 rotations (more rotations than six isn’t usually wise.)  The purpose of those banners is to get people to drill deeper into the site so you need to make sure that every rotation has an action directive (click here now, buy now, shop now, and so on.)  Need a good example? Check out www.budk.com (B2C) or www.marcopromotionalproducts.com (B2B).  

5.  Look carefully at your text search.  This is one of the top two places where a lot of catalogers drop the ball.  Unlike pureplays, you need to be able to handle item numbers.  Not just item numbers but more specifically error handling for item numbers.  (15ish percent of the folks are going to screw up the entry –  it’s your responsibility to correct/fix/handle that.)  You also want to look at your word connect.   Online companies have this figured out (mostly because of SEO) but traditional marketers (catalogers and direct mailers) often don’t get this at all.  Having a difficult time figuring out how to best approach your text search?  Start with the words people are using to find you and then compare them to the words they are using on your site.  Also, be sure to look at both successful AND unsuccessful searches.  Just because you present finds doesn’t mean that they were what the user was looking for.

6.  Show at least three items you can buy above the fold.  The exception is your product pages where you are only featuring one item.  Category, department, and entry pages all need a selection.  Consultants can debate whether or not people scroll till the cows come home but whether or not you will actually scroll (you will) doesn’t really matter. 80% of our activity happens on the first view.  Make sure to work it hard. 

7.  Use instigated chat.   Live Chat works.  Instigated chat REALLY works.   Instigated chat means that you start the discussion with the customer as opposed to the customer clicking a button to initiate a chat with you.   Try it on the places that your visitors have the most trouble with – text search results (or no results as the case may be) and checkout.  Then, when you’ve got it mastered there, look at your entry pages and your product pages.  Instigated chats tend to work best here if they are based on time spent on the page so you’ll need to play around a bit before finding YOUR magic formula.

8.  Sell your soul to the devil for your users’ e-mail addresses.  Sure, you can e-append your house file but you’ll often get different (and sometimes better) e-mail addresses if you ask the user for them.  Collect e-mails in every view – especially the first view – till you have them and then all but one of the capture boxes can disappear.  By the way, there are two major e-commerce providers whose “best practices” are to put the e-mail capture on the bottom and only the bottom.  From what I’ve seen, this has to do with their programming, not what actually works for their clients.  E-mail addresses are one of the most valuable things you can have in your database so do what you have to do to get them even if you have to “break template.”

9.  Choose brains and brawn over beauty.  Use a lefthand index and a righthand column.  Yes, it’s ugly but it really is the very best formula.  Using ONLY top navigation puts way too much dependence on the user’s skills, which you’d likely NOT bet your house on.  Your lefthand column should include your e-mail sign-up, text search, highlights of your store, an alphabetical listing of the stuff you sell, your about us and customer service information and possibly a friend-get-a-friend box.  The purpose of the righthand column is to “save” your visitors from exiting.  What works best there?  Plugs (non-animated banners) that get the user to drill deeper into your site.  Check out www.eastwood.com for a good example of a cataloger who knows how to work their plugs.

10.  Refine your abandoned cart program.  One e-mail is not a program so if that’s all you have, you’ should start embellishing it.  Look at developing pops on exit, a series of e-mails and then catfishes or midis to welcome them back.  One of the biggest keys to success for abandoned cart programs is timing so if you haven’t played around with when you send things out do that now.  Each company has its own secrets to success so you have to play around a bit before you find your mojo.

All About The Word Connect…

Want to increase your sales?

Want to decrease your bounce rate?

Want to escalate your AAUS (average active user session) and adoption to cart/lead?

One of the easiest (and most effective) ways to do all the above — without breaking the bank — is to improve your word connect.

Don’t know what the word connect is?  You’re not alone.  Most people don’t.  It’s one of the things that typical usability consultants don’t talk about because they don’t know enough about how the brain perceives online experiences.   It’s also one of the things that will make the biggest difference in your website effectiveness.

Take someone who is searching for t-shirts.  Whether or not they type in tees or T’s, t-shirts or tshirts, there is no doubt they are looking for t-shirts right?  Right.

What they are not looking for is apparel.

Your apparel category may have have tees, T’s, t-shirts and tshirts, as well as shorts, pants, sweaters, jackets, hoodies and the like but “apparel” as a choice is not any variation of T’s, which means there is no word connect.

The brain is designed for efficiency.  (It needs to save all its energy to protect you should you find yourself in danger.)  It takes a lot of shortcuts.  For example, if I tell you that a bat and a ball cost $1.10 and the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

Most people immediately say that the bat costs a buck and the ball costs 10 cents.  That’s intuitive but incorrect.   For the bat to cost $1.00 more than the ball, the bat needs to cost $1.05 and the ball $.05.

When you are looking for t-shirts, your brain will look for all the appropriate variations of t-shirts, but it won’t immediately connect with anything but t-shirts and t-shirt-y words.

Then, less than half (yes, you read that correctly) of the time we will do a second pass over the offered categories to determine where our “word” fits.  Bottom line: you have one chance to make a word connect.  If you don’t get it, you will lose about 55% of your visitors (hello, high bounce rate, low user session and poor conversion.)  

What does this mean for you?  Put simply, it means you need to make sure your most popular words are clearly represented in your navigation.  (Hopefully your top navigation, lefthand navigation AND bottom navigation.)

This applies to whatever you’re selling, advertising, promoting, or showcasing.  (In other words, the word connect is meaningful whether you are a blogger, an ecommerce site or anything in between.)

Don’t know where to start?  First, look at the most popular words people are using to find you at Google, Bing, etc.   Next, look at the words people are using in your text search on your site.  (If you don’t have a text search, that’s fine, just look at the keywords folks are using to get to your site.)  Look at the top ten matches and make sure your words are there.  If they’re not, try adding them.

Have a bazillion items and don’t know how you can do this effectively?  Follow the two steps above but look at changing your category/department pages first (instead of your home page.)  It’s a baby step in the right direction.

You can SEO your site till the cows come home, but if the user doesn’t connect the word they want with the words on your site, it’s not going to make a damn bit of difference.  It’s all about the connection, Baby.

Conversion: It’s a Piece of the Picture, Not the Whole Puzzle

So, the other day while I was sitting outside waiting for a friend, I observed a rather suspicious man pacing up and down the sidewalk.  

The guy was in his late 20’s-early 30’s and I could tell from his body language that he was definitely up to something.  I knew he wasn’t going to rob the bank (which coincidentally we were both near) so I tried to figure out EXACTLY what he was going to do.   (Yes, this is indeed the type of thing I do when I am avoiding e-mails and BBM.)

I watched him stare at the hippy-chick with the dandelions in her hair who was screaming at someone in Tagalog on her phone.  (The romantic in me was actually hoping he was going to propose to her.)

I saw him glance furtively at the three scantily-clad college girls whose combined outfits used less fabric than a scarf.

I looked at him chin-nod at the surfer dude; purse his lips at the skateboarder with the pants that STARTED at his knees; and grin at the bimbelina who was stuffed so full of Botox she couldn’t smile back.

I was so focused on him – the suspicious guy — that I completely missed what was really happening…

A flash mob.

As I watched the “suspicious guy” I came up with all sorts of notions of what he was doing. 

Sadly, none of my ideas were right because I wasn’t looking at the whole picture.

Very similar to the twisted way in which a lot of folks look at web conversion these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big conversion proponent.  I write about it, I give speeches about it and I pimp out our kick-ass conversion services on a daily basis.

However, conversion is NOT the end-all be-all.  I repeat.  Conversion is not the end-all-be-all.

It’s like this morning. One of our newer clients called me yapping about how their conversion was tanking.  He went on and on for a little over twelve minutes before I could get a word in sledge-wise.   When I finally got to ask “so, how much are sales down?” I was met with a deafening silence. 

“Sales are up almost 30%.” The voice on the other end replied.

It was all I could do not to slam the phone down.  “So, your traffic is up.  Your e-mail subscriptions are up.  Your sales are up AND your profits are up.  What exactly are you bitching about?”  I asked.    (Yes, this is why I’m not really allowed to deal with clients these days.)

Before he had a chance to say a word, I continued.  “This is the thing about conversion.  Anyone can improve your conversion.  If I wanted to just improve your conversion, we would have blocked all the garbage traffic from your site. Your conversion as a percentage would have skyrocketed but what exactly would that have done for you?  Yeah.  Notsomuch.  It would have done jack.”

Conversion isn’t a flash mob. 

You can learn from it but you’ve got to look at the big picture.  Look at it as a percentage trend alongside your sales and profit numbers; the number of new customers you’ve brought in; the number of customers you’ve reactivated; your traffic numbers; and so on.  If you do that, you’ll get a much better idea of what’s going on…

P.S.   If you’ve never seen a Flash Mob before, click here now for a good example

6 Tried & True Tactics for Improving Your Lead Generation

Jessie Lynn says “I work for a B2B service company. We don’t have any e-commerce products to sell so to speak, just our architectural consulting services. I am wondering what creative design tips you’d have for us.  We spent almost $25,000 on our redesign last year (which was a lot of money for us) and we’re getting only half as many leads from our efforts. My boss hasn’t fired me (yet) but he doesn’t want to spend any more money on our site EVER (at least in 2010.) Bottom line: I need to improve what we’re doing without any budget. Please help.”

Hi Jessie, thanks for writing.  I get this question a lot and it’s really difficult to answer without seeing your stats.  With that said, there are two ways you can fix almost any situation online.  One is to drive more traffic and the other is to improve your conversion.  Online, everything is a funnel.   To get the most stuff out of the bottom, you need to either dump more into the top or squeeze more from the middle and hope it trickles down.

You need to know where the rat is stuck in the snake. 

I’d encourage you to really do a deep dive into your stats to figure out where the biggest opportunities are.  (In other words, look for your screaming girls.)

However, since you specifically asked about creative design tips, here are a few of the biggest bang for the buck things you can do.

  1. Ask for a lead more times. I don’t need to see your site (or anyone’s site for that matter) to know this one will work.  The more you ask for leads, the more you’ll get ‘em — and NOBODY ever asks enough.  It’s important that you ask for leads on every “page” of your site. Users see each view as a page (meaning every time they scroll, it’s a new page.)  You also want to capture leads in each quad of your site.  At a minimum, make sure you’re capturing leads at the left, at the top, and at the right.
  2. Ask for a lead more ways.  A lot of B2B companies dump “request a quote” on their site as their only lead generation method.  This sucks.  You need to offer several different ways for the user to connect with you – request a quote is fine (and recommended) but also consider offering a free newsletter, free tips, a free webinar or podcast, ask the expert, a poll/survey, contact us, and so on.  
  3. Work your lead forms.  Only ask relevant questions and remember “relevancy” is determined in the user’s mind, not yours.  What does this mean?  Basically that you need to ask the MINIMUM you can to get the lead.  Too many service companies ask for too much stuff – company size, purchasing authority, etc. can be answered AFTER you get the base information (which includes the user’s name, e-mail address and possibly phone number.) 
  4. Add a “perpetual lead form.”  Yes, perpetual carts are for e-commerce sites but they also work incredibly well on sites that don’t have products as perpetual lead forms.  Basically this is just a reminder to the user what they are supposed to do on your site.  (On B2B sites, they work in the righthand column, either in the tippy top or at the righthand side just underneath the offer box. (The offer box should be the first thing you see after the top navigation. The perpetual lead form goes underneath that.) 
  5. Personalize your site.  Even “Welcome Back Wally” in the upper middle column is a good start. 
  6. Add a deadline.  Deadlines create urgency and they cause people to focus.  They’re very effective in B2B because the AAUS (the active average user sessions or the length of time the user stays on your site in an active capacity) are usually low.

 

You’ll also want to include BIG action buttons all over your site; contact information (especially your phone number) on every page; and address security/privacy on every view.  Forms should be simple to fill out; include a temperature bar if they are more than one page (just like an e-commerce cart would); and really consider online chat as a way to collect leads.  (It works like gangbusters in a lot of B2B companies and very few folks use it.)

By the way, I mentioned looking at your stats above but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that in B2B, one of the easiest ways to see if you’re doing something wrong is to look at your SPV’s.  Single Page Visits (aka SPV’s) are a good indication of your traffic quality and/or your ability to get your users to act.

If your number is higher than 20%, you’ll want to figure out if you are sending the right traffic to your site.  Look at the words people are using to find you, maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not, you’ve got to find out.  This is important because a lot of times B2B companies get a lot of traffic but it’s not the right traffic.  For example, a company that does genetic mining used to get a ton of traffic to their site because they talked about the periodic table on one of their major pages – this traffic was mostly coming from high school kids doing their homework, not the researchers in their core market.  

Got any more tips that have worked for you?  Please add them in the comments below…

Don’t Tap The Tank! You’ll Scare Away The Fish.

In the past month, I have encountered so many Nutter Butters that I’ve started checking wrists for “if lost, please return to the psychiatric ward” bracelets.

Not only have I met too many full-on wackadoodles to count, I have also come across several people where the only thing I can wonder about them is what planet they are from. (And I am not talking Mars and Venus here.)

Take the other day for example….   I was not-so-patiently waiting in my dentist’s office.   As always, he was running late and if that wasn’t irritating enough, his big, fat liar assistant said that he was only twenty minutes behind.  Twenty minutes times four was more like it.

Anyway, I had plopped myself in the only seat available, right next to the fish tank.

My dentist has a huge fish tank – and when I say huge, I mean Boston-Aquarium-scuba-divers-inside sized.   (Since fish tanks are supposed to be relaxing, I personally think he’s compensating for being a dentist.)

Unlike a lot of fish tanks, his tank is impeccably clean and he has interesting fish, not just those bottom-sucking fish that refuse to die that most folks have.  You know, the leftover fish.

Like moths to a flame.

As if it was some sort of rite of passage, every five to ten minutes, someone (an adult, not a child) would come to see the fish.     

What did the MAJORITY of folks do when they got to the fish tank?

Yes, you guessed it.

They tapped the glass.

I repeat: THEY TAPPED THE GLASS.

What the hell?

You don’t have to be a poker player to know that if you tap the glass, you scare away the fish.

I won’t embellish the story to add that folks said “here fishy-fishy” when they tapped the tank, because they didn’t.  Yet all but one of them acted as if the fish were cuddly creatures and they’d come running, er, swimming, to the front of the tank when called.

As if.

Tapping the tank scares away the fish in the SAME EXACT WAY that tapping-type behavior scares away users on your web site.

Here are a few examples of tapping the tank when it comes to your site…  (Note: these are not best practices.  They aren’t even mildly good practices.  These are things to AVOID.)

  • Auto-starting sound (yes, it is sometimes effective but unless you’ve tested it, it’s NOT a good idea)
  • Scary errors – especially security warnings.  (If you want an easy way to figure out how the “average person” (yes, even in B2B) sees your site, download the full version of AOL and look at your site from there.
  • “Nothing to do” on the entry page.  Companies – ecommerce businesses, bloggers, almost everyone – underestimates this.  Because of the way the brain works in conquer mode, the user will be most successful overall if they have a sense of purpose and then accomplishment.  This is beyond the library and bookstore analogy – this is about getting the user to “act” or “do” as fast as you possibly can.  Your web site is a VERY visual medium and the user has to get their “orders” (aka action directives) within thirty seconds (or less) of being there.
  • Poor navigation.  Navigation accounts for over half your success online.  You get what I give you.  If I don’t give it to you, you don’t get it.  It’s as plain and simple as that.
  • An abundance of white picket fences.  Far too many sites still have no other choices but for me to marry you , have your babies, get a Golden Retriever and a house with a picket fence.   If I don’t want to fully commit (for example: request a quote or order), there’s nothing else I can do.  (Offering an e-mail sign-up, ask an expert, a poll/survey goes a long way.)
  • Too much SEO text.  Yes, there is a balance.  No, it’s not taking up the entire first view.  Search engines “see” things in text.  People see them in pictures.
  • Carousels and banners that are too speedy.   Flow is important so just because you want to jam eight rotations into your space doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  Nor is it a wise tactic to have all sorts of competing rotation(s).  (In other words, using a slammer and a carousel on the same page is typically a bad idea.)
  • Midis, catfishes, sidewinders, and pop-ups without purpose. Pop-ups (and similar tactics) really work.  (And no, I don’t care how much everyone says they hate them) but they are COMPLETELY dependent on creative – ESPECIALLY graphics – and they need to have something for the user to do.  Just asking them to close the box is not enough. 

There are lots of other no-nos so what’s important to remember is that you can determine whether or not you are scaring away YOUR fish by looking at your “screaming girl” stats.  Yes, screaming girls.  Every site has ‘em.

8 Sure-Fire Tips To Increase Conversion Without Breaking the Bank


Facebook? Twitter? FriendFeed? Utterz? Social networking is all the rage. Everyone seems to want to know more about Web 2.0. That’s especially unfortunate for traditional catalogers and direct marketers whose sites are still at Web .05

Here are the reasons:

  • These days, most businesses get more than enough Web traffic.
  • They just don’t know how to convert it effectively.
  • And to mask their inability to actually enable people to easily add stuff to their carts and check out seamlessly, these companies send more and more traffic to flawed sites. Short term, it can be a great idea. Long term, it’s destined to fail.

So what can you do to convert traffic without breaking the bank? Here are eight of the best tactics:

1. Employ a perpetual cart.

A perpetual cart stays with customers throughout the buying process. It consists of a cart icon, the number of items they have in their carts as well as the dollar amounts. If you have a good perpetual cart, you’ll have a tagline that says “100% secure shopping guaranteed.” If you have a great perpetual cart, you’ll have links to view cart, save cart, print cart and e-mail cart. If you have a fantastic perpetual cart, a big, red “CHECKOUT NOW” button will pop up when there are items in it.

Perpetual carts typically work best in the upper right-hand corner of a Web site. However, the truth is the more perpetual carts, the better. The highest-converting sites use a second cart in the right-hand column — near the hot spot, which is where users scroll down — and one in the bottom navigation. Some sites are even featuring a perpetual cart in a fourth spot: the middle of the left-hand navigation.

2. Use several add-to-cart/buy-now buttons on each product page.

Many sites have one buy-now/add-to-cart button per page. Often, it’s not on the first view; you need to scroll down to see it. Users see each screen view as its own page, so usually the more buy-now buttons, the better. In fact, some of the best sites have eight to twelve buy-now buttons per page.

Do you have a complicated product with color, size and delivery choices? If so, still use as many buy-now buttons as you can — when customers click the button, jump right to a central place where they can make their selections.

3. Use multiple visuals.

Search engines read text, but users see visuals. So the more pictures the better. Be careful, though: More pictures doesn’t just mean one of those fancy-schmancy viewers to see things in a perfect 360 degrees. It means using silo shots, lifestyle pictures, spilled tiers and more.

4. Empower user reviews.

Web 2.0 gets credited with user reviews, but they’ve been around since the beginning. The good news is they’re easier than ever to implement. If you want to show reviews but can’t do them right away, use testimonials and/or pictures of your customers throughout the site.

5. Look closely at referring URLs.

Referring URLs show what sites users visited before they got to your site — this can often have the biggest impact on conversion. If, for example, you know someone is coming from an affiliate program, not a catalog, bury (or hide altogether) all your Ordering From a Catalog? (aka Quick Order) information.

It’s valuable space you can use for something that better serves the user.

This works in reverse, too. If a customer is coming in directly with no referrer, or on a specific catalog URL, make sure something says, “Ordering from a Catalog” in the top navigation, left-hand navigation and bottom navigation.

Have a large plug (namely, a nonanimated banner) in the right-hand column, complete with a picture of your current catalog to go along with it.

6. Personalize your site.

This is yet another thing credited to Web 2.0 that’s been around since before Al Gore invented the Internet. Personalizing users’ experiences based on who they are or what they do works almost every time.

The biggest fallacy of implementing a dynamically personalized site is that you have to do everything all at once. You don’t. If you can’t offer a sidebar with what you think users should buy based on their past or intended behaviors, it’s OK. Try something simple, like welcoming customers back in the middle column. It’s OK to start small; just keep adding as you see it working.

7. Offer a recently viewed items box in the site’s right-hand column.

This sounds-too-simple-to-work idea is one of the best things you can do on a shoestring budget. It gives users an easy, at-a-glance way to figure out what they’ve seen in case they want to go back to it. That’s especially good for the more than 92 percent of adult users who aren’t great at searching.

8. Employ the perfect checkout.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Dozens of companies have spent millions of dollars figuring out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to carts. Steal from them liberally.

Welcome to Amazon.com

I noticed you recommend a Welcome Page a la Amazon in your “perfect checkout.” Why? Isn’t that a wasted step?

There are two reasons why you should have a Welcome Page. One everyone knows about and the other, most people don’t.

The first, and most important, reason is to collect a user’s email address so if they abandon at any point during the checkout process you still have a way to contact them.

The second (and more 007) reason is to get the user to “think and feel” they are closer to being finished. Good, high-converting sites use temperature bars so users know where they are in the process. After a user fills out the Welcome Page in your checkout and moves to the next step, they should be about 20% through the process. The more the temperature bar is filled in, the better the chance they have to convert. (See www.hellodirect.com for a solid example of a temperature bar.)