Playing the Long Conversion Game: What to Measure and Improve

Martin Greif
by Martin Greif 25 Jan, 2018
Sometimes, life is simple for marketers.

A dad needs a Halloween costume for his kid. The dad lands on a website he has not really heard of. He finds the site trustworthy enough, and within that same session, makes a purchase. Everything is clean-one visitor, one device, one session, one purchase. It is a straight to the bottom of the funnel story, a model that is in a lot of marketers' heads.

Most of the time, however, the lives of marketers are nowhere near that simple. Maybe the process begins at the research stage because the products are somewhat technical. Perhaps a committee needs to make the decision, and there needs to be messaging targeted to different groups within an organization, or a conversion requires a four-week process rather than one that is 20-minutes.

When forced to play the long game, the point where the purchase is made is important, but so are the micro-conversions along the way. Marketers need to think about the pages other than the one where the "Buy Now" button is placed.

Improve Engagement
Ignoring the top of the funnel is one of the more common mistakes that digital marketers make. This is the greedy marketer syndrome at work-organizations assume that almost everyone is ready to buy and they only create content for those who are ready to pull the trigger.

Organizations suffering from greedy marketer syndrome have a few tells.

+ The website usually has very little educational content - the kind that draws search engine traffic from people who are just starting to get a feel for the market

+ Bounce rate is an issue with the website - a lot of people leave without doing anything

+ If marketers look in Google Search Console to see what people are typing to get to the website, the entry-point keywords are typically high purchase-intent keywords and brands, and the website is not succeeding with research-stage industry keywords

If that sounds like you, lower the bounce rate by focusing on the entire sales journey rather than just the bottom of the funnel. Start by measuring the bounce rate for popular entry pages, and then create new entry points by developing content for users in the research phase, adding calls-to-action that take them deeper if they are already at that point.

Get Visitors to Return
If users do not move from an educational page to the pages where the brand starts to drive toward products, marketers may still be fine.

The thing marketers need to measure is how often they get people to return. Maybe people are not ready to transition from website reader to potential customer in one session, but they have started to create a relationship with them for when they are ready to buy.

Organizations need to measure a few things in this scenario.

+ New versus returning visitors: If an enterprise gets less than one in 20 people to return, it may be time to revisit how "sticky" the content is.

+ Loyalty: If brands do not get people who return to their site twice, five times, and so on, they may need to improve the quality of their thought-leadership content.

Visitors returning to a website can transition from top-of-the-funnel visitors to middle-of-the-funnel visitors. That is a small conversion in and of itself. It is not quite as powerful to look at as dollars on an ecommerce engine, but it is not something marketers can afford to ignore.

Incentivize Users to Download Key Assets
Getting a visitor to download an un-gated PDF, for example, is not exactly exciting, but it is one of the best tools enterprises have to get people to move closer to the sale while keeping their site in contention since the content can be more easily shared and people who are referenced back to the site from the PDF are considered hotter leads.

Marketers will want to make sure to have some way to measure people who come from downloaded PDFs back to the website, like campaign tracking or event codes. This technique can tell marketers which PDFs are sticky and they can amplify reach for the documents that are working.

Use progressive forms (and not just because they are less intimidating).

Progressive forms are good if they have many fields marketers need users to fill out because they are less daunting than displaying all the fields at once. But over and above the benefit of fewer users leaving because marketers have elected to show them 15 fields to fill out, there is also a side benefit:

People who only partially go through the process can leave you their email.

That means if they started to fill out a form but got distracted, marketers have some way to recover the visit. They can email the people who did not complete the process and recover a fraction of the traffic and get them back on the path to a sale.

Review & Test Form Completions
There is a reason form pages are good candidates for split and multivariate tests - form pages indicate that users are at or near the bottom of the funnel. If marketers can get significant boosts to the form completion rate by removing a few fields, even if some departments balk at the idea, it is at least worth having the conversation.

A form complete is not quite a sale, but it is not a new visit either. The numbers here are closer to the sale, and marketers should have testing strategies for this area.

Pay Attention to Other Digital Touch Points

Just because someone who has filled out a form is no longer interacting directly with the site does not mean marketers can rest and give themselves a pat on the back. There are several things to measure and improve after users complete a form:

+ CRM-initiated campaigns. When a user's email is in a marketer's database, the customer-relationship management (CRM) system can send targeted campaigns based on what is known about the person's behavior and interests. Marketers will want to pay attention to the click-through rates for emails from their CRM system, and what they do back on the site if they click through.

+ Opportunities, wins and losses.
It would be a shame if a website succeeded at delivering a marketing qualified lead, and then nobody followed up to try and get the sale. Organizations should have lead scoring enabled, and the hottest opportunities should either be emailed or called, depending on the industry, to try and get the sale. Then somebody should note whether the opportunity actually led to a sale, so marketers can check what is working.

Putting It All Together
Marketing is sometimes a game of delayed gratification. If brands pay attention to the multiple things that drive a person closer to the sale rather than just the direct sale, they will get more people to actually buy things from them over the long term.

About the Authors
Martin Greif brings 25-plus years of sales and marketing experience to SiteTuners (host of Digital Growth Unleashed) where he is responsible for driving revenue growth, establishing and nurturing partner relationships and creating value for its broad customer base.