Need Leads? Put Your Site to Work

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted July 10, 2002
By Barry Stamos

Your wakeup call: Most companies already have professional Web sites. Your own may have rich content, a clean user interface, and compelling calls to action. Despite all that care, 80 percent of all unique visitors will abandon your company's Web site, never to return.

Like window shoppers, most people are just looking before moving on to see what other options exist. Often, potential clients, suppliers, distributors, and investors won't take the time to investigate the wealth of information on your site - information that might spark interest, make a sale, or close a deal. Some visitors might form a negative opinion about your company from their initial impression of your Web site.

Are you confident they'll have an enlightened experience in the short time they visit? Will they have been exposed to the right information needed to make a decision about you? Odds aren't in your favor if you're unable to capture their email addresses to extend the dialogue and the time in which they will be engaged and interacting with your company.

Your challenge: Very few sites try to capture the visitor's email address before she leaves their home pages. If your company is in this majority, you're losing the opportunity to engage people in a cost-effective, ongoing dialogue via email marketing.

There's one exception to this rule: If your value proposition can be shared within an interaction lasting seconds, your company might choose to wholly rely on the initial impressions of one-time visitors. If you're like most, it's unlikely you can sell your products or services in a single interaction. If this truth resonates with your sales team, you cannot expect to convert first timers who will spend only a short period on your site.

Your solution: How do you motivate a site visitor to opt in to receive email from your company? It's vital to capture visitors' email addresses and obtain permission to send relevant information at acceptable times. Over time, sharing information via email combined with consistent branding from other media channels will progress a lead through the buying cycle and may convert him into a sale and/or a more profitable customer. Look no further than these three best practices to accelerate the growth and size of your in-house opt-in email address database:

Barco Products Company. Visit this site and you'll see the majority of the home page (above the fold) presents visitors with an opportunity to opt in and "receive BARCO's eNewsletter of product updates, discounts and special promotions."

Giant Floor & Wall Covering Company. Prominent positioning of a compelling promotion - "Save $50 on your next Giant purchase!" - encourages visitors to sign up for the in-house email list. Although some registrants may only submit their email addresses for the coupon, at least it drives sales.

ROADTRIPS. Look to the left of the home page for a quick sign-up option as well as buttons within the navigation and other textual links to the "Free Email Newsletter" preference center. A person who submits her name and email address is taken to the preference center where she can specify what types of content will accommodate current interests and/or future needs.

Your bottom line: Are you using your site for optimal lead generation? The cost of failing to capture permission to send email to Web site visitors is high. Most people don't wake up in the morning and suddenly decide to visit a site they have previewed. How often do you bookmark a site then actually return without prompting? Capture email addresses. Embark on email marketing programs that educate and build relationships over time, especially when your value proposition requires more time than an average visitor will initially devote to learning about your business.

Your next steps: Ask your marketing department to collaborate with your Webmaster and post an opt-in email sign-up form above the fold on your home page. Only ask for a name and email address at first. Requesting more information might deter people from registering. Explicitly state the benefit of opting in to receive email from your company. As with any offer, the benefit must be convincing enough for them to take action by supplying their contact information.

Finally, watch your leads pile up.

Barry Stamos is vice president of business development for Inbox Marketing, which specializes in permission-based, interactive direct marketing. He has handled multi-million dollar CRM technology solutions for Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies and was the co-director of strategy with a Big Five global professional services firm. Barry also performed services in London for the American Chamber of Commerce (UK) and the U.S. Embassy in London and against all odds, taught business to fifth graders in Chicago.

Reprinted from Click-Z.com.

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