One of our articles, The Marketing Chain, talks about the series of steps marketing must accomplish to take someone from “never heard of it” to "buyer." You have to move prospects along in a series of small steps. Prospects can be lost at any of those points, but can’t be gained. So a major goal of marketing is to make the percentage that reach the end of the chain as close as possible to 100%.
This very much applies to your website, first because your website is (or should be) a valuable, even vital tool for moving prospects along towards becoming customers. Second, because a website encompasses several of these small steps – and you can lose someone at any one of them if they aren’t handled well.
Let’s take the most common purpose for a website: It is there to operate as a sort of an online brochure for someone who has heard of you but isn’t ready to buy.
Ideally, by the time they are done visiting your website, they pick up the phone and call you (or place an order, or walk into your store). Why does this happen, if it does? It has to do primarily with one single thing, really: building interest.
Being an old outdoor camper type, I think of it like starting a fire. If their interest level is like a flame, and roaring fire = purchase, that first spark of interest is just that – a mere spark. They’ve heard of you. They don’t really know anything about you. There’s enough curiosity to take SOME action. Probably not enough for them to pick up the phone and call, or walk into the store. Usually prospects don’t go directly from spark to roaring flame.
But they will go to your website, because that is fast, easy, and non-threatening (no one is going to know who they are, they don’t have to talk to anyone).
A website’s home page or landing page is like tinder. That spark of interest is enough to get tinder going. Fan the tinder into flame and you can start kindling going with it. But the least breeze is likely to blow it out.
The visuals (and perhaps sound), copy and navigation on your home page or landing page have to continue and increase the visitor’s interest to the point where they click through to another page in the website. (In another article we talk more about HOW you build interest.)
Broad Internet stats suggest 95% of website visitors leave without going past the home page. Because we pay careful attention to this process, none of our sites lose more than 85% from the home page, and most do much better than that.
But so far you’ve just gotten the kindling going. There’s a ways to go to achieve a roaring fire, suitable for roasting marshmallows and keeping you warm on a cold night!
To throw more analogies around, think of website visitors as like cats, or skittish colts. Easily spooked. As a character in a science-fiction novel said “beginnings are the most delicate things.”
That kindling fire is sturdier but can still easily blow out. But it’s enough to get thin branches going, and from there you can ignite logs. If the rest of your website does a good job, you’ll get orders, or phone calls, or visitors to your store.
Understanding how this works, visiting a website can be an eye opener. Suddenly it is obvious why your website isn’t bringing in more business! Or hopefully, why it is, and how to improve it even more. I should add that a good set of web analytics (statistics) are a crucial assist to sorting all this out as it will show you how people are navigating through your website, where you are losing them and where not.
Make changes accordingly and you'll be amazed how much better your website works.