Which converts better: an end-of-blog post image CTA, or a HelloBar dropdown from the top of a window?
The short answer, is “who cares.”
Here’s why, along with how you should be setting up a high-converting lead capture strategy instead.
AdWords almost lulls you into a false sense of belief. It works – almost too well.
But nowhere else do random people Search > Click > Convert.
Not content marketing. Not social. And especially not Facebook ads.
Instead, you’re faced with a conundrum: The vast majority of your website visitors, conservatively anywhere from 70-90%, are going to leave your site without purchasing a single thing. Probably, never to return.
That’s scary. But it gets even worse.
If you have a complex product or service, like say consulting services or high-priced software, you’re looking at conversion rates of less than a percent.
That’s not to say these tactics don’t work, or that you shouldn’t “waste money” on ads.
You should. You just need to realize what you’re up against so you can plan accordingly.
Instead of deciding which product to purchase, the majority of website visitors you get are just browsing. They’re researching and evaluating.
In other words, they’re each at different steps along the “customer journey”:
This model, though clichéd, is helpful because it gives you a starting point. It provides a standardized system to tie your own promotional and content efforts to each step of the way.
The objective is twofold:
First, you’re trying to open up the funnel to as many potential people as possible. At the end of the day, you can always overcompensate for a poor conversion rate with more volume.
Second, you’re trying to get as many “micro”-conversions as possible at each step. That includes eBook downloads, newsletter opt-ins, webinar registrations, free demonstrations, and more.
Seems like extra work, right? But stats show that only around 3% of your market is buying right now, while 56% aren’t ready and 40% are about to begin. And nurtured leads who go through your entire process (from the very top to the bottom of your funnel) make 47% larger purchases.
Further, people who are already familiar with your brand are much more likely to convert. So those “micro”-converting leads are worth a lot.
Sure…welcome mats, exit offers, and other new-aged, flashy tactics can help squeeze out a few extra leads each month. But in the end, earning conversions comes down to aligning the best offers to the right audience.
Here’s a breakdown of the most important steps, and how you should organize your lead capture strategies accordingly.
People at the top of the funnel are just beginning to realize they have a problem (or: need awareness) and are starting to look for help.
They’re not typing in specific product or brand names just yet. But they’re beginning to look for information related to the problem causing them acute pain. Many times, these are symptoms.
For example, men are slobs.
Now that it’s Fall/Winter and we have to wear something more than a tank top and sandals… what do we do? What kind of casual boots can be worn at the office? How do you pull off rolling the bottom of your jeans without looking like a total hipster (or Urkel)?
Enter this helpful eBook from Primer:
Top of the funnel offers like reports, guides, eBooks, and whitepapers are the perfect solution for these people researching, troubleshooting, preventing, or improving.
It turns out, this is a good thing for marketers, too. Because it’s 10,000,000,000x easier (*not a real number) to promote a top of the funnel piece of content than a bottom-funnel, commercial one.
Case in point: Try getting a journalist or blogger to willingly link out to your boring product page. Ain’t gonna happen.
But do you have an awesome infographic or free tool? A free Excel workbook to help people adapt to changing times? Now we’re talking.
eBooks can work well, however it might require something a little more special in a saturated market. For example, Lowe’s offers a Lawn Care Plan that provides a custom lawn maintenance program for an entire year – you just have to enter your location, style of grass, size of yard, and a few more details in the lead capture form.
They’re not targeting people ready to purchase new sod immediately in this case, but they’re seeding (ha ha) a future audience that they’ll be able to nurture and convert over time.
In these early goings, you’ll notice that many of the offers don’t ask for much: Always an email address. Sometimes a name. Almost never a phone number.
That’s because the level of commitment you’re asking from someone needs to be in proportion to what they’re receiving.
They aren’t yet investigating your pricing, so it doesn’t make sense to force them to give you their Job Title or Address (or social security number).
That information (well, besides their whole identity thing) you can get in this next step instead.
Middle of the funnel prospects now understand the problem in their life and have moved into looking for opportunities to solve it. They’re researching and evaluating in the critical “Zero Moment of Truth.”
That means they’re searching for solutions, providers, suppliers, tools and devices like the one you offer.
They’re not ready to talk pricing quite yet, either. They’re getting a lay of the land, and so comparisons, demonstrations, or videos can help them see how the possibilities in front of them stack up.
PayScale produces brilliant lead capture offers or magnets, like this free salary report.
At this stage, someone is seeing this lead capture form because they’re specifically looking for hard-to-reach (and therefore, super-valuable) data.
So PayScale gets away with a detailed opt-in form that allows them to capture additional information about this person’s company role and industry (that they can then use to compare with their own customer persona information).
My favorite lead capture examples at this stage are performance graders, like the WordStream AdWords Grader. With a tool like this, you’re able to drive home a prospect’s problem, while also highlighting the opportunity ahead of them – specifically, the opportunitythey’re missing out on or flushing down the toilet.
Another awesome example comes from Impact Branding & Design. They have an ROI calculator to help people understand exactly how inbound marketing delivers results.
Mention inbound marketing to people who aren’t familiar with it, and their eyes glaze over. But visually seeing how a few changes in their traffic or conversion rate can result in a jump in new revenue starts to make sense.
Performance graders like these can help prospects immediately understand the value behind what you do (in comparison to all those other alternatives).
The added bonus of graders in the middle of the funnel is that they help you qualify leads in real time. After all, 61% of B2B marketers say their biggest challenge is generating high-quality leads.
Capturing leads with qualifying questions that dance around sensitive subjects (like budget or expected lead value) can help you automatically sift out the best leads (who stand to gain or lose the most) from those tire kickers who may not be worth passing off to sales.
By the time someone’s reached the bottom of the funnel, they’ve got a few things figured out.
They know the type of solution they want (more or less). They know the time they want it to take to solve (or more or less). And they know how much they want to pay (more… or less).
If you’ve done the hard work up to this point, which was (1) generating their interest long enough to build trust and then (2) proving to them the value of what you offer, this last step should be straightforward.
At this point a customer is looking for benchmarks or testimonials that will back up their final decision. Case studies are critical, as are free trials or demonstrations that provide people with a sense of ownership.
There’s a reason every software company imaginable provides a free trial. Because it reduces the risk or commitment level required of potential customers, allowing them to test drive the service at their own leisure to make sure it’s the right one before committing (thereby making free guarantees largely irrelevant).
When conversion software company Leadpages recently acquired Drip (a lightweight email marketing solution), they took this offer to the next level by offering an introductory plan for $1/month.
Leadpages founder Clay Collins – ever the savvy marketer – even frames it like they’re going to “lose money.” Which, quite frankly, is BS. In fact, this will make them plenty times more.
Because the $1 plan is called a “tripwire” in the biz. It’s an offer that people can’t refuse. And it’s the perfect way to separate real buyers who will put their money where their mouth is, as opposed to the other 70% of free trials that are largely a waste.
Another savvy company, Digital Marketer, employs the same strategy in this Facebook ad; giving away a tremendous amount of value with full access to their product for an insanely low price.
The key to this ad though, isn’t the flashy creative or high-octane copy (although those do help) but the audience that it’s being targeted to in the first place.
This is true logically, across all marketing channels. However, it’s especially true on Facebook, where an average ad with great audience targeting will outperform a great ad with average targeting.
We haven’t seen a lot of eCommerce examples so far, largely because the offers at each step are fairly obvious and transactional (like coupons, buy-one-get-one-free, etc).
But the other reason is that in eCommerce, nobody can compete with Amazon. It’s not even a fair fight.
Amazon has a patented one-click purchase option to speed up the sales cycle. They have a “Subscribe & Save” feature that allows consumers to set-and-forget frequently repurchased items.
Forget the boring “free shipping” offer, Amazon Prime has same-day free shipping.
(And don’t even get me started on Amazon Fresh, which will deliver organic groceries to your door within hours too.)
These are features, sure. But add up all of these benefits together and you’ve got one hell of a compelling offer: convenience.
Not only do they make the online competition irrelevant, but they also make visiting a store seem like a hassle, too.
It’s no wonder that Prime customers spend double non-Prime members (up to $1,340 each year now).
Website conversions are a dismally low 1-3%. That’s not because people don’t care necessarily, it’s just that most aren’t ready to buy quite yet.
The best lead capture strategy takes a longer approach, splitting up the ultimate decision to purchase into a series of smaller micro-conversions or opt-ins that get people to slowly convert over time.
The tactics, like throwing up a pop-up before someone is about the leave the page, are helpful. But only if the message and offer of that pop-up matches the stage of each individual.
Testing, refining and better aligning offers to groups of people in each stage of the customer’s journey will give you higher lead capture rates.
And you know what that means – more sales.
Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, long-form content creators for SaaS companies. Their work has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, TheNextWeb, Shopify, Moz, Unbounce, HubSpot, Search Engine Journal, and more.
See other posts by Brad Smith
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