When talking about internet marketing strategy with small businesses, one of the common arguments I hear against investing in Internet marketing goes something like this:
“Most of the users I get over the web would not make appropriate clients for me. I have enough work to do with the business I have. I don’t have time to filter out all the noise.”
This is a particularly troubling argument because it has the ring of truth to it. Most of the small businesses executives I talk to are doing quite well and have a steady flow of customers from their existing marketing efforts. And, as the argument outlines, filtering through the noise of a whole new wave of website visitors takes time and energy that in many cases is not worth it. So, does this mean that successful small businesses shouldn’t be investing online or giving much thought to their website? I don’t think so.
Separating The Confused, The Curious and The Committed
If your efforts to drive traffic to your website are successful, chances are, a significant portion of your new visitors are what I would label as “confused”. That it is, they weren’t really looking for something specific when they came upon you, and they succeeded in not finding whatever it is that they were not looking for. The good news is that these people are not spending a lot of time on your site. They’re not going to subscribe to your newsletter. They’re not going to call you looking for more information on your offering and they’re not going to send an email to
. As such, these particular body of website visitors are not troubling. These days, having some random traffic to your website doesn’t really cost you anything (unless you paid for their clicks through AdWords or something). As such, you can let them go as easily as they came and not spend too much time worrying about it.
These visitors are the ones that are potentially good prospects for you, but they’re not really searching for an offering right now. They may have read the title of one of your blog articles on a social bookmarking site. They may have found a link to your site on one of the other blogs they read. They may have been doing a search on Google that led them to you. Whatever it was, this is a curious user that finds you because you have something to say that is of interest to them.. These are also the visitors that cause small businesses the most heartache. Based on how targeted your online marketing strategy is, the percentage of times that these “curious” visitors actually become qualified leads can vary dramatically. Could be as high as 25-50% or could be lower than 1%. Your mileage can and will vary. The reason these visitors are troublesome is that in their quest to determine whether you are the right fit, they can consume your time. If the quality of these visitors on average is low (from a sales perspective), then you are going to spend a fair amount of energy separating the signal from the noise. I think there are very effective ways that you can use the web to actually do this filtering for you (and that most small businesses fail to take advantage of). I plan to write on this topic in my next article. If you’ve not yet subscribed to this blog, now would be a great time to do so. You can either subscribe by email – or better yet, impress us with your sophistication and subscribe to our
The committed visitors are often the highest quality ones. They are actively searching for something very specific. They have an agenda. They are coming to your website to figure out whether your offering is a good fit for what they are looking for. Even in this case, I would advise using the web to provide ways for these visitors to “self-select”. Give them access to information that will help them make the decision. Share your ideas on what makes your business different. Reveal to them prior client experiences and help them understand what you consider to be the “ideal” client. And finally, make sure that they have a variety of ways to “engage” your business – and don’t just force them to contact a salesperson or otherwise reveal who they are. Based on the personality of the web visitor, different ways of interaction will appeal to them. For example, I hate phone conversations. If I come across a company that forces me to call them in order to learn more, they are not likely to get my business. I’d much rather learn on my own and read. Maybe even leave a blog comment or two. Basically, by providing a variety of tools for the web visitor to engage you, they are more likely to do so.
So, my advice is simply this: Don’t let the cost of filtering the noise from the signal dissuade you from stretching the top of your sales funnel and attracting more prospective customers. Just as the web can help drive more potential customers to your business, it can also help these visitors “self-select” so that you don’t have to do all the hard work.
Originally published Feb 5, 2007 11:14:00 AM, updated March 21 2013