In Part 2 of our series on building better websites, I continued my conversation with Astute Communications’ Anna Stout. After covering how to plan a website with user flow in mind, we spoke about creating a user acquisition funnel that results in more conversions and fewer lost leads.
Unless you’re in marketing or web design, “user acquisition funnel” may not be a familiar phrase. Stout defines it as “basically theorizing about the journey that a user is going to take from the time they arrive on your website to the point of conversion, or when they have actually taken the action you want them to take.” In other words, if your website’s main goal is to have a visitor subscribe to your email newsletter, a conversion occurs when he or she completes the subscription form. A conversion could also be purchasing a product through the site or filling out a contact form to request more information. The user acquisition funnel helps guide a website visitor toward conversion.
Stout recommends a few simple questions to ask yourself when considering your website visitors’ goals:
- What is a user’s natural behavior?
- What do I want them to do?
- What can I do in building the site to encourage that exact behavior?
She likens creating a customer acquisition funnel to “telling a story or guiding a user through the journey to where you want them to end up.”
But many companies struggle with guiding their users because they fail to properly plan their customer acquisition funnels before developing a website. They’re far too often concerned with how the site will look or if a particular piece of content will be front and center. Stout has seen this happen repeatedly, and even admits to falling prey to the problem, but experience has taught her a valuable lesson: skipping this particular part of a website planning session is “the biggest mistake you can make.”
So let’s not make that mistake.
How do I create a customer acquisition funnel?
- Understand your clients’ goals – Without attempting to see your company and its offerings through the eyes of your clients, you will likely create a company-focused website that may earn raves from peers but will fail to produce what a first-class business website ought to produce: customers.
- Understand your company’s goals – Does your company need to increase its email subscriber list? Does it need to increase website-generated revenue? Does it need to do a better job of answering questions from the public? What main goal does your website need to meet? Whatever goal you define, this becomes your conversion point. In other words, what must a visitor do on your website that will convert them into a possible customer?
- Align your customers’ goals with your company’s goals – If you can define these goals, you should be able to easily align them for a maximum return on investment. Once you discover what your customer needs, work to ensure that your website meets that need.
- Streamline your website for user flow- As a funnel begins wide and ends small, so to do you want to guide your broad audience toward one specific action. Stout recommends implementing only one customer acquisition funnel because “the more focused your website is, the better it’s going to perform for you.”
Again, this planning ought to take place before one word of code has been written. “The planning part of a website should probably be where most time is spent,” says Stout. Without the intentional planning of a customer acquisition funnel for your clients, a website will often serve as little more than a digital billboard—useful for gathering information, but useless at converting drive-by visitors into drive-to-you customers. And with as much money as companies often pour into their websites, they should demand such returns on their investments.
What if my current customer acquisition funnel isn’t working?
“The worst thing is to look at your analytics after you’ve had your site up for a while and see that users are moving through your acquisition funnel and then not converting.” When this happens, Stout recommends three strategies:
- Ask yourself, “Why aren’t our customers taking the whole journey with us?” or “What can we do to make this experience something they want to complete?” If answers aren’t readily available, consider reading the first part of our five-part interview. You may need to go back to an earlier planning stage in order to gain clarity about both your customers’ goals and your company’s goals.
- Use A/B testing to see if subtle changes may lead to significant conversions. Stout refers to A/B testing that has shown “Register” to be a more click-worthy word than “Sign up” when it comes to subscribing to email newsletters. A/B testing can reveal such answers within an under-performing customer acquisition funnel.
- Ensure that all of your content tells a story to a particular user. Because this topic is integral to a well-performing website, it’s the basis for the next part of our conversation.
To sum, an optimized customer acquisition funnel guides a website visitor to conduct one specific action on your website that accomplishes one specific goal set by your company. If a business website fails to do this, then it’s likely not conducting much business as a website.
As Online Events Manager at TechnologyAdvice, I’m afforded the opportunity to interview smart technology professionals on a routine basis. I enjoy providing media coverage for various tech events in Nashville or being on-site at conferences like BDconf and Converge.
Implement the right marketing automation software to support your inbound marketing user acquisition strategy. You can also check out some of the podcasts I regularly produce at TechnologyAdvice.com/Podcast for more interviews like this. Special thanks to Chago’s Cantina for access to their lounge space!