To track conversions, invite soft conversions first, hard conversions next
Why? Because it works best when you ask someone for a small favor first. If they say yes to a small favor, there’s a much better chance they will say yes to your bigger ask later on.
People like to be consistent with their past behavior, due to the human consistency principle.
So, don’t try to go too far too fast. Don’t ask for a sale at the first chance you get. It’s too much like asking someone to marry you on the first date.
Instead, in the top half of the funnel, make a small ask or a series of small asks to work your way up to the big ask. By taking this approach, when you make the big ask in the bottom half of the funnel, your buyer is already primed to say yes.
What is a soft conversion?
A soft conversion is a clear signal of interest in your content marketing. It means you’ve won a bit of attention from a potential buyer.
Here are ways to seek soft conversions on your website. Track each type of soft conversion, so you know which parts of your content marketing are moving the needle:
- Suggest the next piece of content. If buyers just finished a blog on spring gardening, next offer them a video to watch or a magazine article on the same topic. Keep the topic constant but vary the media. To see how well this approach is working, track the time spent on your website and the number of pages visited.
- Forward to a friend. If your buyer enjoyed the content, make it easy to share with others via social media and email. Track forwarding.
- Invite people to download content. For example, invite people to download a seasonal piece of content, such as a gardener’s guide to Spring. Or offer an infographic that prompts people to get gardening tasks done year-round.
As customers increase soft conversions, your hard conversions will rise in parallel. Soft conversions today prove to be a good predictor of future hard conversions tomorrow.
If your buyers have completed a soft conversion but not moved on, they may be facing obstacles such as these:
- They don’t need your product or service right now.
- They don’t have the money to buy right now.
- They don’t trust you yet.
What should you do?
If they don’t need your product or service or don’t have the money yet, seek a hard conversion to get an email address, so you can nurture that lead and later track the conversion from nurture to sale.
Create a sense of urgency by applying the scarcity principle. Make limited-time offers or reveal that only a limited number of products is available at today’s price.
For example, Woot.com does a great job of milking the scarcity principle.
If buyers don’t trust you yet, offer social proof such as reviews from other customers, rankings, ratings, testimonials, and case histories to demonstrate your trustworthiness. Don’t confine social proof to a single webpage: spread it around on your website.
What is a hard conversion?
A hard conversion signals clear intent on the buyer’s part. It means you have a prospect who may be ready to buy soon – either from you or a competitor.
Here are ways to secure more hard conversions on your website. Track these calls to action (CTAs) separately so you can see what is working best in your market:
- Offer a free limited-time trial of your product. Works great for software.
- Provide a free consultation: 15, 30 or 60 minutes to identify the buyer’s problems and clarify needs. Works great for professional services.
- Invite people to register to download a piece of mega-content, such as a buyer’s guide, a how-to book, or an E-Book. Works best for carefully considered purchases.
- Seek buyer interaction via chat, email, or phone. Works best when you can complete the sale online.
- Invite people to sign up for a webinar, schedule a demonstration, or meet you at a trade show or other event. Works best when you need a face-to-face experience to move the buyer along the journey.
- Offer a survey, quiz, or assessment that helps a buyer see where they stand relative to peers. Works best when buyers take a thoughtful approach to the purchase and are concerned about their competitiveness or social status.
- Enable buyers to request a proposal or quote without talking to a salesperson. Works best when buyers are price-shopping online.
All of these hard conversion steps pave the way to a sale. They lead gracefully to asking for the sale online, by phone, or in person.
Minimize friction to maximize action
To nudge buyers through the conversion process, apply the concept called Schramm’s Fraction of Selection:
Expectation of reward = Frequency
Effort required of activity
Maximize the reward buyers expect. Minimize the mental and emotional effort they must make to get it. Doing so increases the likelihood and frequency of buyers taking action.
Minimize buyers’ effort by cutting out all unnecessary friction. For example:
- Don’t ask for too much information on registration forms. The fewer fields, the better.
- Enable people to use social media to log in, rather than setting up another username and password.
- Minimize the number of clicks to subscribe or buy.
- Simplify payment with services such as PayPal or Apple Pay.
- Reduce buyer risk by offering a money-back guarantee.
Big-ticket purchases are easier to track
The higher the price point of your product or service, the easier it is to track results by sale by sale.
When a consumer is considering an item with a high price point – such as a car, a house, a mortgage, a college education, or a retirement plan – it’s easier to track exact results sale by sale. Back-solve: which content helped the buyer move forward to decide?
B2B marketers who offer products and services with a high price point take an account-based marketing (ABM) approach. They nurture individual customers through the buying process one at a time.
Since big B2B buying decisions take a year or two from start to finish, marketers have many opportunities to make soft conversions and hard conversions that lead to a sale.
On smaller price-point goods, qualify buyers by email, chat or phone. Discover their needs, how well your product addresses their problems, and what obstacles you can help them overcome to advance towards a purchase.
When the price tag is small, incent people to make a purchase. Offer a coupon, a discount, a premium, training, or a user guide to help them maximize the value of their purchase.
To track conversions:
- Invite people to make soft conversions first.
- Then invite a hard conversion, so you can capture contact information.
- Maximize the reward buyers expect, and minimize the effort required to get the reward.
- Track conversions to make sure soft and hard conversions advance in parallel.
- Track conversions that led to sales, especially on big-ticket B2B and B2C items.
“How do you track conversions / preferred method?” is one of marketers Top 100 Questions about content marketing. Here are the answers.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.