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10 Secrets of Sales-Driven Websites

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What makes a website successful? It depends on what the explicit goal of the website is. If the goal is to make money, then a successful site is one that makes you more money than it costs you to maintain, manage, market and update.

So what should you do to ensure your website generates substantial sales?

1. State Your Goals
In order for a website to make you money, you have to know what its specific goals are first. Just like any good small business consultant will advise you to create a business plan before you start your business, a good Web consultant will suggest that you create a website plan, with specific, written goals. “I want it to make me money” is not enough. "I would like my site to generate 1000 unique visits a month, produce 100 new leads a month, and create 25 new sales a month” would be much more useful, even if you don’t hit your targets.

2. Identify your Audience
You must know who is currently and will be coming to your website. It is very important to have a clear picture of your typical visitor. The more specific demographic information you have, the better. That way you can tailor your website’s look & feel, writing and calls-to-action properly.

3. Write Sales-Driven Copy
Once you know who your visitors are, you can craft your writing accordingly. Clear, concise, grammatically correct, verbiage is necessary to make sales, regardless of your audience. Furthermore, the less big blocks of text the better. Bullets, headlines and very short paragraphs are much more likely to be read online than large amounts of uninterrupted text.

Your writing should only talk about what you can do for your visitor. It ought to explain to each reader why buying your product or service will make their life easier, richer, more comfortable, or make them more attractive, intelligent, or successful. In other words, your website copy should very clearly explain how you will somehow improve each reader’s life. Therefore, the use of the word “you” is vital in any sales-driven website copy. And your writing should be descriptive, action-oriented and use active verbs instead of passive verbs. “You will learn more by . . .”, “Buy Now” and “Get your Free download” are examples.

So one secret of a website that generates sales is that the writing on the site describes specific benefits the site visitor will enjoy if they buy the product or service. It is action-oriented, uses the words “you” and “yours”, and stays away from simply describing features.

4. Include Calls to Action
Asking your visitor to do something specific is a call to action. At the end of every site section or page, you need to include a call to action. It can be as simple as, “Click here to register”, “Contact Us Now” or “Go here to download your free Guide”. A sales-driven Web page will describe specific benefits to the visitor in its headlines, bullet points and short paragraphs, and then ask the visitor to take an action at the end. Don’t leave your potential customers hanging. Instead, compel them to do something that will bring them closer to buying.

5. Learn from Brick & Mortar Retailers – Show Visitors Where To Go
If you walk into any successful retail store and pay close attention, you’ll notice that there are actually paths already mapped out for you to follow. This is done on purpose by the store designers to maximize sales. They lead you down paths that they know will increase your chances of buying. They put things in your way that tempt you to buy.

You too should create specific paths in your website that will take full advantage of your sales and marketing efforts. If you have a particular page in your site that acts as your sales page, be sure to make the link to it prominent on your homepage, and every page for that matter. This sales page ought to have a call to action at the end of it that points to your shopping cart or sign-up page. Don’t let your site visitors wander your site. Set up the navigation in a deliberate way to generate more sales.

A good example of retail stores coaxing more sales out if its customers is all the small-ticket items they sell at the checkout counter. These impulse items are specifically there to attempt to get a couple of extra dollars out of each customer who is waiting in line. How can this translate into your website? At the virtual checkout in your site, add other, less expensive, complimentary items that they can click to add to their cart right there.

Tell your site visitors what you want them to do and where to go. Stepping them through your site the way you want them to go will increase and streamline your sales.

6. Don’t Distract your Visitors
If you point people to where you want them to go, thereby increasing your sales potential, be sure not to distract them along the way. Don’t include annoying animation or Flash unless absolutely necessary. Don’t offer lots of superfluous links on the “Buy Now” page, otherwise a significant percentage of people who are about to buy will wander away via the extra links.

7. Include Compelling Images
People will almost always look at pictures before they read anything. Images that invoke emotion are particularly effective. If you’re selling products then you obviously will benefit if you include pictures of each product. Product images should communicate how they benefit the potential customer. If you’re selling flowers, a picture of a bouquet on a table is not as effectual as a woman in a front door beaming from ear to ear as a man in a suit hands her that same bouquet.

8. Offer More Than Just a Sales Pitch
If you include free information on your site, interspersed with calls to action you are more likely to build trust and comfort among your potential website visitors. By offering free information related to your product or service you’re showing your visitors that you have their best interest in mind. You can’t just say “We have your best interest in mind”, you have to actually show it, and free, useful information does just that. By allowing people to get used to you by first offering free information, you make it more likely that they’ll buy from you in the future.

9. Constantly Build Trust
People don’t buy from people or websites they don’t trust. Offering free information is one way to accomplish this. Others ways include offering a good return policy, posting a privacy policy link on every page, and making it extremely easy to contact you.

10. Nurture Existing Website Customers
Selling to someone who bought from you in the past is easier than selling to someone for the first time. Treat existing customers special by offering them discounts or designating certain site sections only for their use. Include a bookmark feature on each page of your site so that visitors can bookmark your site to return again. Update your content regularly to entice return visits. Offer ways for visitors to join a “Buyers Club”, to register on the site to get custom content, or to join a frequent buyers program. Once a person is comfortable on your site and familiar with your business, they are more likely to buy from you online.

By stating your website goals and learning who your customers are, by putting yourself in the shoes of your site visitors when creating, writing and managing your website, by pointing people in the direction you want them to go while on your website, and by building trust, you will see your website sales increase substantially.

Article by Jason O'Connor
© 2005


Jason O'Connor is President of Oak Web Works - The synthesis of Web design, technology and marketing

Jason is an expert at Web design and programming, e-strategy, and e-marketing

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