The progressive maturity of a website works like the maturity of any business.
If You Build It, They Will Come:
The first visitors are likely to be clients and friends. The "If You Build It" stuff only works in the movies!
Invitations - Please Come Check Us Out
The next visitors are likely to be your clients friends and your friends friends.
Word Of Mouth - Organic Search
Google will tell your prospects about your business if it finds a match between you and the visitors search. It's a slow but dependable process. If the content on your site is unique, relevant and closely aligned with the needs of your prospects, it's possible that you are seeing some organic growth in traffic via the search engines. At some point, most small business will find that they need a little help here. The bottom line is you need your site to show up in Google searches for your products and services.
NOTE: It's a subtle point, but your website will not show up in searches if the content is NOT unique, and doesn't respond to what your prospects are searching for. In other words, your site is more about your prospect's needs and less about you.
Then, your website traffic stalls a bit and you need to up your game.
Search Marketing - Optimization - SEO, SEM
Upping your game. There are basically three opportunities for placement on the search engine results pages. There is the paid ads section (usually the top 3 and then along the right hand side). There is the MAPS section (depending on the particular keyword search). And finally there is the list of "natural" results. Most small businesses want to be in the MAPS and natural results. The Ads are considered but not preferred. Still, if there is R.O.I., there is reason to consider the paid ads. (there are opportunities in social media as well...)
Growing Up - Helping Your Site Visitors With Marketing Automation
Marketing is all about timing. Depending on the nature of your business, buyers are in certain stages of the buying process. It's called shopping! You can't expect most people to pick up the phone just because you've said they should do it. Now, if you're a plumber, the buying process is probably pretty short. The lead time from a toilet flooding the second floor bathroom to the phone call is probably a matter of minutes. In that case, first guy wins. If you're an estate planning firm, the sense of urgency just isn't there. How do you get these people to consider your business. Basically, you have to start a conversation! Think of it this way. If you go shopping for a pair of jeans, you pretty much know what you want. If the sales person walks up to you and says "HEY! You need to buy these!". You're heading for the door! If the sales person instead strikes up a conversation, you can help but engage. (A good sales person will never ask you something to which you can simply answer "no".
When a visitor finds your website, your goal should be simply this. Help them in their shopping process. Provide the information / education they need. Talk to them like they're friends that need help, not prospects that need to buy from you. They don't need to buy from you and they won't if you can't act on their behalf instead of yours.
Call it what you want: lead nurturing, conversion strategies, selling. Ultimately it's providing an educational process for your visitor. The process you put forth will lead a prospective buyer throughout the shopping process by providing the substance that he needs to make an informative decision. While it's not the intent here to lay the ground rules for you particular situation, the best campaigns never assume that the prospect will buy from you. HOWEVER, through the same educational process the prospect will come to realize that first, he trusts what you're tell him. Second, you have the products and services that he is considering. At this point, your chances of actually meeting your prospect, receiving a phone call or an email go up dramatically and you are well on your way to a sale.
Business is truly about the sharing process between mutual parties. Win-Win. With your website, you have the ability to contribute a very valuable process to your prospects that. That in a nut-shell is what marketing automation software should be designed to do (in my opinion).