Optimizing Website Traffic in a Long Sales-Cycle
I categorize traffic to commercial websites in four ways:
- Non-commerce - stumbled upon your website but have no intention of ever purchasing from you (e.g. competitors, students, accidental visitors)
- Explorers - have a need and are finding out the various ways to address it
- Researchers - have identified potential solutions and are now comparing/narrowing-down their options
- Converters- have requested a quote or filled out a lead form
Explorers and Converters garner the lion’s-share of attention surrounding web design and content creation because their behavior is easily linked to larger goals - attracting more interest and earning more money. In contrast, Researchers remains obscure, an annoying enigma between Point A and Point B. There’s even a movement gaining steam that social media and search engines have made B2B and B2C pre-purchase research virtually indistinguishable.
Frankly, I think this idea completely misses the mark. Yes, the refinement of search engines and social media have consolidated consumer research. However, this does not mean that executives are now looking for equipment for their production floor in the same manner they buy appliances for their kitchen.
Think of the US Interstate Highway System. A commercial trucker delivering produce from Chicago to Minneapolis will use the same route as a family of four commuting from Naperville to Eden Prairie, but the trip will differ drastically. The trucker will not stop, except to fill up the tank, while the family will likely hit a rest-stop, restaurant and possibly even stay at a hotel. Just because two people start-from and end-at roughly the same place, does not mean that the behavior between point A and point B is identical.
Manufacturers, for whom the researching phase can be the bulk of a long sales-cycle, risk losing customers if they force visitors to behave like they’re looking at a Xbox One rather than a vital component of their processes. These organizations must break the mold and adapt their website to suit Researchers.
Pinpoint “Researcher” Traffic
The tailoring process should begin by extracting Researchers from the rest of your website traffic. If your company has a completely integrated CRM and analytics system, this may be as easy as running a query. However, most of us common marketing folk must be more creative in pinpointing researchers.
My approach uses Google Analytics and is based on the theory that, "the most engaged researchers will display habits similar to Converters….they just haven’t taken the final step to action." No, this isn’t exact science, but I can’t afford exact science. So, operating under this assumption, here’s how I extract Researchers from my website traffic.
Step 1: Isolate Converters
Identify the main macro-conversion on your website - submit a lead form, call a sales rep, request a quote (You should have this conversion established as goal. If you don’t, stop reading my article and read this one). Next, create a segment that includes only users who have completed the macro-conversion.
- Click “+Add Segment” next “All Sessions”
- Click Advanced —> Conditions Tab
- Set the filter to “Users”, “Include”, Goal X(Goal X Completions), per user, greater-than or equal-to 1…Goal X is the macro-conversion
Step 2: Define Engagement
Once you create the Converter segment, examine their engagement. How many times did Converters visit your website? How many pages did they view? Did they download any PDFs? Pick 2 or 3 metrics that you feel accurately characterize engagement and make note of the average value amongst Converters (e.g. The average Converter views 15 pages/session, downloads 10 pdfs, watches 2 videos).
Step 3: Create Researcher Segment
Remember, our theory is, " the most engaged Researchers will display habits similar to Converters….they just haven’t taken the final step to action." So, create a segment that includes users who met your engagement metrics from step 2, but exclude users that completed the macro-conversion. This is your Researcher segment.
Provide In-Depth Content on Popular Pages
The Researcher segment will help characterize behavior both on and off your website. Your first step in this characterization should be to make a list of popular pages amongst Researchers (to quickly extract a list of popular pages, navigate to the “All Pages” Report [Behavior tab —> Site Content —> All Pages]).
Why is this relatively simple metric important? Because you need to make sure these pages have information Researchers can sink their teeth into. B2B customers tend to thoroughly self-educate before contacting a company (aka becoming a Converter). Furthermore, Researchers have already visited your site and consumed a lot of your content. Thus, it’s reasonable to assume that Researchers will find top-level, repurposed content redundant.
You need an obvious avenue of information to keep repeat visitors engaged. Content can be as simple as comparison charts and case studies or as robust as peer-reviewed articles and videos - the key is depth. A great example of a such an avenue is the medical device manufacturer Standard Imaging. Their product pages start with top-level bullet points, then navigate to videos and end with summaries of scientific studies that used Standard Imaging tools.
Have an Intermediate "Call to Action"
Researchers need options to contact your company beyond pricing. Yes, some will be ready to make that step towards purchase, but others may just want to find more information on a product. Give these visitors a way to reach out without feeling like they’re being sold. A common example is having visitors register to download additional information (see the screen-shot from CAT below).
While this approach is acceptable, it isn’t truly customer focused. Instead, try something along the lines of “ask an expert”…maybe incorporate social media! Do all you can to get a dialog doing with your Researchers.
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