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FutureNow Article
Tuesday, Apr. 21, 2009

Can your Website Handle the Complexity of your Sale?

By Jeff Sexton
April 21st, 2009

As weird as it sounds, it’s the norm for businesses with sales cycles that might be as long as several months to a year and that might involve multiple decision makers and influencers to utterly fail to take these factors into consideration when constructing their website or selecting an analytics package.

In fact, whenever I work with B2B and complex sales clients it’s a sure bet their website won’t:

1) Adequately address the multiple decision-makers and influencers involved in securing the lead

If a sales manager needs to justify a training expense to his CEO and CFO, wouldn’t it help to provide your inside champion with messaging and tools to help him make his (read “your”) case?

It’s usually good to have sections of your website and messaging designed specifically for those secondary decision-makers and influencers that need to sign-off on the decision of your inside champion.  As an analogy to the consumer world, would you really want to construct a website that sells engagement rings without providing content and messaging for the prospective fiancee?

2) Have planned (and tracked) conversion points for visitors who are early in the buying process

To keep with the consumer analogy, let’s say you’re considering having a pool put into your back yard.  Assuming that one of your local pool suppliers/installers had a website with valuable early and middle stage content, how many times might you visit their website before actually contacting them and becoming a lead?

  • You might come to them early on when doing preliminary research regarding what type of pool you wanted, what size, shape, depth, etc you should look at, what kind of associated expenses and purchases are involved, etc.  Reading this stuff might take 3-5 or even 15 different visits.  How would you know if any of these visits are successful?  How could you measure or get a handle on your Website’s influence on such a buyer?I’d normally suggest having a goal for these types of visitors.  Maybe it’s downloading a pool planning or pools for dummies report/PDF.  Maybe it’s playing with an interactive pool builder or pool cost calculator.  Whatever it is, having a trackable (and helpful) event for these early stage buyers helps to track your Website’s success in attracting and engaging
  • Moving to the middle stage of the buying process, you might touch the site again when you are closer to buying and constructing a short list of potential contractors/installers.  This time you might drill down into why you should do business with them and not someone else, reading up on their installation timelines, the skill of their install crew, etc.You may or may not feel like filling out a lead form at this point.  But a valuable and well-merchandised free download titled something like, “10 Questions to Ask Any Pool Contractor,” might look far more attractive to you – especially if you only had to provide a name and e-mail (rather than the lead forms more detailed info requests) to get it.
  • And then at the late stage of your buying process you might look at the site a third time to fill out the form or get the phone number to actually buy the pool. What a waste if the pool website only had the lead form as a conversion point, without ever providing (let alone tracking) any of the early and middle stage downloads and conversion events.  Questions would go unanswered, and prospective buyers would go unengaged / go somewhere else.

Needless to say, the exact same patterns of behavior occur for B2B sites as well.  And yet most B2B sites don’t have defined content and conversion points for their early and middle stage visitors.  Your prospective leads are going to go somewhere to get their questions answered, shouldn’t it be on your website not your competitors?

3)  Have metrics/analytics capable of tracking visitor behavior over multiple visits.

While early and middle stage conversion points help a Web analyst/website optimizer get a better handle on a sites overall success in engaging early and middle stage buyers, it still leaves them guessing at the big picture, simply because they can’t track a lead generation or sale all the way back to that prospect’s first visit to the Website.  This can be crucial for gauging the real success of a PPC campaign.  Key words that might look unprofitable (because they target earlier stage buyers) might be spectacularly profitable – but only after the 8th (or 20th) visit to the site.  Unfortunately, if you can’t track visitor behavior over multiple visits, it’s difficult to get a handle on real – vs. false- measures of keyword performance.

While I love, love, love Google Analytics / Google Ad Words, this is exactly one of these tools shortcomings.  And it’s one reason that we insist that our OnTarget clients install our software in addition to GA/GWO: OnTarget can bracket visitor behavior through keyword entry and track individual visit behavior over multiple visits.  It’s a wish-list come true for us Future Now Persuasion Architects and can be a positive boon for our On Target clients.

So there you have it: start matching your B2B and complex sale website to the real complexity of your sale.  I’ll be writing follow-up posts with exercises and steps on how to do this, but in the meantime, would it be too forward of me to suggest you sign up for On Target?

Add Your Comments

Comments (51)

  1. Great post Jeff. I work on two sites, one of which is a B2B complex sale site. The marketers have a bizarre idea that we put up an adwords campaign, send the single person decision maker to a page, gather a lead and close the sale. The reality is of course weeks or months of research and committees, etc, before they even talk to a single vendor. Slowing moving them over to considering different audiences at different buying stages, but it’s a long cultural change.

  2. Good pool example, Jeff.

    I describe the mini-goals as “stepping stones” for visitors who aren’t ready to jump across the river in one big leap. The difference is that you need to allow the visitor to jump to the other bank from any stone and to take the stones in her own order.

    When it comes to optimising each stone you need a better tool than GA.

  3. These are great points that every website owner and designer should think about.

    With so many emerging technologies it can be hard for everyone to keep up with the latest and best ways to interact with their visitors.

  4. Great article, however I would argue that it’s the business and not the website that needs to handle the complexity of the sale.

    If you’ve got sales processes that take up to a year then you’ve inevitably got a whole range of interactions from personal meetings, conference calls etc that come into play.

    Laying the responsibility for the sale solely at the feet of the website, I think, is limiting.

    It may prevent companies from addressing other areas that impact on the final sale.

  5. Mark,

    Thanks for the comments, and I quite agree with you. I guess I missed my mark in expressing the point. The point is that if a sale takes several months to complete from the time that someone actually identifies themselves as a lead, there are likely several months (or more) in which they are a potential and unidentified lead. So websites should take those pre-lead-form-completion months as seriously as possible.

    Of course, once a lead form has been completed, then it’s time for the sales force to carry the ball across the goal line. No question on that one.

    What clients have often experienced, however, is that a properly constructed website can dramatically shorten the post-lead sales cycle. In fact, while most lead-gen clients start out with a primary goal of simply getting more leads, most of them benefit far more from getting better qualified and quicker-to-sign leads.

    - Jeff

  6. Do you recommend using wordpress for a platform for a retail site? Are there any themes that you like particularly? I am contemplating wordpress, but can’t seem to find a good theme with product detail/review pages…

  7. Jeff, I think you have hit the point exactly. The website needs to have CONTENT to support all of the “pre-lead” activity by multiple sources (yes, this is the responsibility of marketing to provide the right content for the various stages of looking before buying), and without the analytics to be able to determine what adwords, content appealed to which prospects at which stage of the buying funnel, then marketing is missing a key ingredient in maximizing the utilization of that website.

  8. [...] good illustration of this is given in Can your Website Handle the Complexity of your Sale? on FutureNow’s Marketing Optimization Blog. It suggests, rightly, that the minimum your [...]

  9. I think l’ll let web designer maximise the space

  10. Why I can’t sell out our products from our website.

  11. Great info thanks Geff – on our holiday rentals price comparison site we take the user all the way through on our site and at the very last moment move them to book on the agents site . Get a higher conversion rate that way.

  12. [...] course, Amazon offering this for computers or big-screen TV’s – complex, high-priced purchases – is very different than offering this with books or digital downloads. But, it begs the [...]

  13. Interesting post Jeff, I agree with Mark that a website doesn’t necessarily handle an entire sale, especially a complex one.

  14. OK I will call to my cutomers who leave a cart in sell process.

  15. Analytics has become an integral part of business websites.Besides breaking a large process of conversion in several small parts also helps.

  16. I use statCounter for almost my webs. but if it’s a landing page for PPC program,i must do more scripts to track all keywords for more infomation…

  17. I agree with mark’s perspective and I love Google Analytics too.

  18. This article definitely helped me to realize some of the things I’ve been doing wrong.

  19. Nice Tip.

  20. My website can handle the complexity! :)

  21. Way to put it all in a nice little package!
    Very well explained and an informative post.

  22. Interesting article, I applied it to my criminal defense law practice and it still made sense.

  23. its not the websites fault that a company can not handle the leads that it generates. One of my member companies, that is listed on my networking website, asked me to take down his link because he can’t handle the business he has received. hes first on the list of the site (its alphabetical) PERFECT PLACEMENT… LUCKY DUCK, is he kidding, take down his site??? REMEMBER websites are the door to success not the key. make sure you have the resources and manpower to follow through with sales.

  24. Hi Jeff and thanks for the great post. I think there is definitely something to be said about providing ‘all of the information’ required to address the needs of the decision makers, and it’s something I’ll be looking into today.

  25. Thanks for the comments, and I quite agree with you. I guess I missed my mark in expressing the point. The point is that if a sale takes several months to complete from the time that someone actually identifies themselves as a lead, there are likely several months (or more) in which they are a potential and unidentified lead. So websites should take those pre-lead-form-completion months as seriously as possible.

  26. he reality is of course weeks or months of research and committees, etc, before they even talk to a single vendor

  27. nteresting article, I applied it to my criminal defense law practice and it still made sense.

  28. I have to agree with cortney, it really isn’t up to a website to create conversions.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  29. I’ve found the Google Adwords Salesforce.com integration to be excellent for tracking the deferred sale. Of course it is only useful for visitors who arrive via search, but in spite of its name it also tracks organic search visitors which can be great for measuring the effectiveness of your SEO programs.

  30. someone actually identifies themselves as a lead, there are likely several months (or more) in which they are a potential and unidentified lead. So websites should take those pre-lead-form-completion months as seriously as possible.

  31. What works for one website does not necessarily work for another. It depends on the niche. It’s always a lot harder than it looks.
    Week by Week Pregnancy

  32. Spend lot of many of this .

  33. nteresting article, I applied it to my criminal defense law practice and it still made sense

  34. Thanks for good information that comes out to read.บ้านมือสอง | หอพัก

  35. Bang on… the website and it’s content are as much or even more important than all the marketing efforts put together.

  36. nteresting article, I applied it to my criminal defense law practice and it still made sense

  37. Great article Vinny, number of issues I have never considered before, thanks again.

  38. Great information. Very valid points and there were a few scenarios I have never thought of. Thanks!

  39. Great example with the pool website. The examples that you often use make the methods clear. I also need to keep the GA/GWO shortcomings in mind when analyzing my site and not give up on a PPC campaign too early.

  40. I read you book ‘Call to action’ so am already a devout follower and practitioner of your techniques. I was hoping from the title that this article might focus a little more on the end of the funnel where the sales actually go through (for complex sales). I’m trying to automate a sales process online and due to the number of steps required we keep getting calls to the office, even when the FAQ’s are in place, points of resolution are covered off, testimonials and other trust markers are present and the way is properly marked out. I know it’s probably an interface issue but relying on content to close the sale smoothly online isn’t really working.

  41. Bang on… the website and it’s content are as much or even more important than all the marketing efforts put together.

  42. Has anyone figured out how to track deferred conversions using Google Analytics? Can it be done with GA Custom Variables?

  43. It’s extremely difficult to find a good web designer who actually knows their stuff. That’s why I thank God every day that I’m a Webmaster myself and can do everything I need to do without help from others. There are so many web designers that don’t make a site complex enough to sell what needs to be sold.

  44. thank God every day that I’m a Webmaster user all the way through on our site and their stuff. That’s why I myself and can at the very last moment move them to

  45. These days all the tools are provided “out of the box” so it makes it very simple for a standard website to complete a sale.

  46. This is the information my bro was looking for…..

    I am sure he would be pleased by this information….

    Thanks for sharing….

  47. Websites are a great way to stay in touch with supplier and businesses. Only yesterday my Haier washing machine broke down and i didnt know where the nearest possible service centre was. I google it up and there it was, few kilometers from my place.

  48. The average businessman is not going to know about these kind of practices, especially since the Internet is still a relatively new medium. That’s why it’s useful to have professionals such as yourself, who can instruct companies in optimizing their processes.

  49. Hi Jeff and thanks for the great post. I think there is definitely something to be said about providing ‘all of the information’ required to address the needs of the decision makers, and it’s something I’ll be looking into today.

  50. I’m located in Nigeria and i have my system developed already. Started marketing myself this seems new in the country. I don’t have much funds with me so i’m thinking of the best way to implement marketing

  51. Great article ,alot of issues I have never considered before, Thanks Alot for sharing such information

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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