Internet marketing is about converting visitors into buyers.
Visitors don’t make you money–buyers do.
So how do you turn traffic into profit? How do you convince web surfers to hand over their credit card info and offer you some of their hard-earned money?
The first step is to follow basic Internet marketing principles that anyone can learn to become more successful at selling online.
To help with that, here are seven essential elements for effective Internet marketing that are proven to increase sales online.
#1: Use Real Photos
Customers like to buy from people they know and trust. The problem with selling online is that customers don’t know who you are because they can’t shake your hand or look you in the eye.
That’s where photos come in.
The easiest way for people to meet you online is to show them your picture. Once customers see a photo, they have a better idea of who you are. When it comes to Internet marketing, anonymity is out. Nobody likes doing business with someone they can’t see and have never met.
Using real pictures of real people is the easiest way to create more credibility online.
How to apply: On your About page, include a picture of the company owner and possibly a group picture of employees. This will add a human element which is otherwise lacking.
You can also add a Team page with pictures of key employees. KISSmetrics does a great of that here.
#2: Tell a Story
Telling a story is another way to increase credibility online.
People have been doing this since the days that eBay was still a big deal. When someone wanted to sell an item on eBay, they would tell a story about why they were selling it.
It would go something like this: “I’m selling these shoes because they are a half size too small, and I’ve never been able to wear them to play basketball.”
Even though the story is super simple, it does two things: 1) It gives a plausible reason that the shoes are being sold and haven’t been worn yet and 2) It makes it seem less likely that the seller is hawking knock-off Jordans from China.
The story instantly makes the seller seem more credible.
Since you’re probably not selling shoes on eBay, the best way to increase sales through storytelling is to tell the story of how your business started and how it to grew to the size it is today.
If your company started for a plausible reason and you’re still in business, there’s a good chance that you’re doing something right. This will inspire confidence in your customers.
How to apply: The best place to tell the story of your company is on the About page. You can do this by telling a brief story about the idea that started your company and how it got off the ground.
By telling a believeable story on your About page, you instantly become more trustworthy and make it seem less likely that your business is the latest Internet scam started from a basement in Uzebekistan. That’s good news if you’re selling online.
#3: Pay for Good Design
If you want to do business on the Internet, good design is an investment worth paying for.
A quality design makes customers more comfortable to do business with you. Think about it this way: If you can’t afford a good designer, then your product may not be that great; if it was, you could afford a quality web designer.
You need to face the facts–customers will decide whether or not to do business with you based on your design. People do judge books (and websites) by their cover. Whether or not it’s fair, it’s true.
How to apply: The best thing to do is pay for a quality design that will make your site look credible and professional.
Your website doesn’t need to be the most beautiful site on the Internet, but it does need to look professional. Just like you need to dress for success, you need to design for it as well.
So make sure to pay for a professional design that will inspire enough confidence in customers that they’ll buy what you’re selling.
#4: Provide Testimonials
Testimonials may be the most important piece to the online marketing puzzle.
Nobody cares about what you have to say about your company. You’re biased. Of course you think the product is great and everyone should buy it. You’ll become rich if they do.
Customers don’t care what you have to say about yourself.
What they do care is what other people have to say. They care if your customers would recommend your product to their friends or do business with you again.
There may be nothing that influences a purchasing decision more than what other people have to say about your company, so don’t forget to include testimonials on your site.
How to apply: First, ask customers to provide a brief testimonial about their experience with your company. Second, post the testimonials on a Testimonial page and other sales pages.
The good news is that the testimonials don’t have to be long. Two or three sentences from a satisfied customer that are properly placed on a sales page can be the difference between a sale and a non-sale.
Always remember, people care about what other people have to say about your company way more than what you have to say about yourself
#5: Offer a Guarantee
There’s something that customers love about guarantees. Wal-Mart figured this out and started offering money back guarantees on every product they sell.
It’s worked out pretty well for them.
Guarantees are valuable because they get buyers over sales hurdles. If a customer isn’t sure whether or not they want to buy your product, a guarantee gives them the assurance they need to move forward. And why not? They’ll get their money back if they’re not satisfied.
The good news is that the majority of customers won’t end up asking for their money back. They’ll be too lazy to do so, or your product will be so good that they won’t need to ask for a refund.
How to apply: Provide a written guarantee that can be viewed as part of the sales process. Tell customers that if they aren’t satisfied for any reason, you’ll give them their money back.
The good news is that, if your product is good, you won’t need to refund any money. If for some reason you do, enough people will decide to purchase because of the guarantee that it will likely make up for any refunds you end up needing to give.
#6: Calls to Action
A call to action (CTA) is a short statement that directs customers to take an action you’d like them to take. They also happen to be critical for selling online. Here are some examples:
1. Buy now
2. Click to learn more
3. Get a free one hour consultation
4. Click like to share with your friends
It may seem like people don’t need this much help with taking a next step, but it’s proven that customers are more likely to take an action when directed to take one.
In a recent article on Copyblogger, there was a statistic that showed people are four times more likely to click on a Twitter share button when directed to “please re-tweet” compared to people who weren’t directed to do anything.
Does telling people to re-tweet really make that much of a difference? As this statistic shows, yes, it does. Customers are much more likely to take an action when there’s a call to action that tells them what to do.
How to apply: On your website and sales pages, use calls to action to direct customers to take whatever step you want them to take next. Do this by making a simple yet gentle command such as “buy now,” “click to learn more,” or “click to share on Facebook.”
It’s important to know that gentle commands are more effective than asking questions. Instead of saying “would you like to buy now” make a direct call to action such as “buy now.” The latter has been proven to be more effective.
#7: Less is More
The last lesson is this: less is more.
The biggest mistake people make online is trying to include everything possible on every page. They think that if they forget the smallest feature, they’re whole business will fall apart.
This is the worst thing to do.
The less you try to do on each page of your website, the more effective your sales funnel will be. Conversely, the more features that get added to a page, the less likely it is that people will take the action you want them to take.
When pages get cluttered, there’s just too much that can potentially get in the way.
Either customers won’t be able to find the buy now button that will make you the money you need, or they’ll get distracted by pictures in your Flickr album and forget to finish the order.
Ensure customers don’t get distracted or miss your important calls to action by deciding to do less instead of more.
How to apply: Figure out which steps you want customers to take, and make sure it’s easy for them to take those steps. Anything else that could possibly be a distraction needs to be removed.
If it’s a sales page, get rid of sidebars, extra pictures, or external links that can distract customers from buying your product.
Do whatever it takes to make your site as streamlined as possible. Instead of trying to dream up more widgets that can go on a page for the sake of taking up space, spend your time figuring out which features can be removed without detracting from the user experience. If a feature isn’t helping customers do what you want them to do, it needs to go.
What are your thoughts on these seven essential elements for effective Internet marketing? Are there any other elements that you think are critical for Internet marketing success?
Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and share this post on Twitter or Facebook if you learned something by reading it (that was a call to action).