Fishing is a great metaphor for lead generation. Most small business websites are standing on the shore without even a fish pole and they're hoping a fish just jumps up into their bucket. Seriously! If you do have lead capture mechanisms on your website, what are you using for bait? If the fish aren't biting, you're probably using the wrong bait! Or, you've got the right bait but you don't have it attached to your fish line! You're just tossing it in. Now, no fisherman fishes that way but when it comes to the average website, there's often no bait, no pole and no bites.
A small business website can serve an abundance of purposes such as service and resources to existing clients, streamlining company processes and even serving the internal employee needs of a given company (employee intranets for example). But let's be real for a second. Your business exists for the sole purpose of selling products and services. For most small businesses, the primary purpose for the website is for lead generation. As a business owner, you want the phone to ring and the form requests to come in. And to that end, most small business websites miss the mark! Hundreds, maybe thousands of people visit your website every month yet how many of those leave enough tracks for you to follow? How many of their names and emails did you get? Home many of them actually called you. On average, that number is less than 1 for every 100 visitors.
Here are some reasons.
YOU'RE GIVING AWAY TOO MUCH
Most businesses want to be as helpful as possible. If you browse this website, you're going to find a lot of information, especially in the blogs. But there is more stuff that I'm just not willing to give away. I will however send it to you. For that, I need your first name and email address. On any website, getting contact information is considered a "conversion". It's not a sale but it does allow you the opportunity to follow up with the person making the request.
One of my ex-bosses used to say to me before every business meeting: "What are you going to give? What are you going to get?". If you have valuable information it should be offered in return at the very least for the contact information of the person making the request. And if it's perceived to be valuable enough, you'll have no problem getting that conversion.
LONG SALES CYCLES
The ability to get a conversion is inversely proportional to the urgency associated with the sale. If you are looking for a plumber, you're probably dealing with an overflowing toilet or busted pipe (or something urgent like that). Most people don't just hang out on plumbing sites. In that situation, the website visitor will probably not get through two websites before he or she picks up the phone. Instant conversions! Often, they'll call the first number they see in the Google MAPS listings (without even going to the website). The plumbers strategy is often - be first.
The same is not true for businesses that inherently have long lead times and sales cycles. A real estate website is a good example. The visitor has no compelling need to pick up the phone and very often the website doesn't offer him a compelling reason! If the sense of urgency isn't there, then the business should focus on a conversion strategy that helps develop the lead into a customer over time. For that to happen, you have to find a way to get the visitors contact information.
One of the best places to discover conversion opportunities is in the keyword listings of your website. The best resource to discover those keywords is through Google Webmaster Tools. One of my clients has a page on his website that gets hit more than any other page including the home page. The top keywords for this client all include the word "estimate", or "cost", or "calculator". This client sells construction services and this page includes a calculator to determine the construction cost estimate. We've been giving away this estimate for years. Customers came, did their calculation and left...no thanks, no hello, no good-bye. We were definitely missing a huge opportunity.
Today, in order for the visitor to use the calculator, he must enter his name, email and city in the form along with the required parameters to create the estimate. Once the tool is filled out, the form redirects the user to a page thanking them for the request and instructing them to check their email to retrieve the estimate. This solves the problem of getting a valid email (otherwise the visitor will not get the information). The estimate is just as valuable and the business owner now has a lead to work with.
Lead conversion opportunities exist for every business. Visitors are on your website for a reason. The most compelling reasons they are there are listed right there in Google Webmaster tool keyword logs! Create an opportunity to trade for the visitors name and email address. Then create a strategy to nurture the lead into another satisfied client.