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Why Internet Marketing Isn’t What You Think It Is

December 11, 2012

Top 10 Converting Websites on Atlantic BT blog Internet Marketing Is Not What You Think

Easy to get turned around these crazy Internet marketing days. Change is happening faster and faster. Each day brings a new tool and new claims. There is so much noise it is hard to THINK. I’ve been an Internet marketer since learning HTML and Photoshop to create FoundObjects.com in 1999 (now RIP). Noise does as noise will, but great Internet marketing hasn’t changed all that much.

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The Top Converting Websites

Here is a list of Practical Ecommerce’s Top 10 converting websites (together with their conversion rates):

  1. Schwan’s Foods 41.7%.
  2. ProFlowers 26.5%.
  3. Vitacost.com 24%.
  4. Woman Within 22.4%.
  5. Blair 20.5%.
  6. Land’s End 19.5%.
  7. Doctors Foster and Smith (pets) 18.6%.
  8. Office Depot 18.4%.
  9. Roman’s (clothing) 18.4%.
  10. QVC 18.3%.

As you can see, these websites put the more typical 4% to 6% conversion to shame.  Most of these websites share Direct Marketing (DM) roots. I worked for direct marketers for seven years as a Director of Ecommerce, and Direct marketers focus marketing on results, on ROI, as should we all.

The Practical Ecommerce article notes how many top websites flout website design and SEO convention. Top converting websites carts have too many steps, SEO isn’t terrific and Google PageRank is low. This is NOT to say these companies don’t care about those metrics. They care about dollars to the bank MORE.

Ecommerce sites such as Schwan’s and Land’s End bring sizable customer lists to their web marketing teams. I used to sell NutraSweet to Schwan’s Foods. One day I even caught a ride in a tiny airplane over thunderstorms up to Marshal, Minnesota with Marvin Schwan (amazed I lived to share that story, lol).

Since the days when Marvin put the family’s failing dairy on the back of a truck, restarting the home delivery business, Schwan’s cares about three things:

  • Product Quality.
  • Customer Relationships.
  • Team.

A company started to serve hard working farm families now delivers to people all over. When I sold NutraSweet to Schwan’s, the company was worth a billion dollars. My guess is it is worth many times that now. But looking at the Schwan’s website, you might be unimpressed.

You would be dead wrong.

Some things that make Schwan’s the #1 converting website with more than 15 points on its nearest rival, such as its power in email marketing and home delivery prowess, are a little hidden, but there is much to learn from Schwan’s homepage. Lessons from Schwan’s homepage include:

  • Loyalty program is LARGE and IN CHARGE on the home page with a big GREEN Call to Action (“Learn More”).
  • Every element on that page has been tested, tested and tested some more.
  • Internal search is geared to support their extensive, hand-delivered paper catalog.
  • The first offer, “Earn Double Schwan’s Rewards,” is above everything.
  • Look at what is under their video positioned on the LEFT of the page (in the very HOT and well trafficked “Golden Triangle” area): OFFERS (“Specials” and “Hot Deals”).
  • Right below “Specials” and “Hot Deals” on the left is “NEW & Seasonal” (with an implied deadline via “Don’t Miss”).
  • The word “save” is used 7 times.
  • The word “rewards” is used 4 times.
  • “Hot Deals” is used 3 times.
  • “Specials” is used 4 times.
  • “NEW” is used 4 times.
  • Color palette is simple, and they use RED to create a sense of urgency.
  • Hero (largest image) is dedicated to a single thing – rewards program.
  • There is only one human on the page, a Schwan’s employee smiling and explaining rewards.
  • The truck is a HERO for Schwan’s, and it has 2 pictures.

If you are reading this and aren’t familiar with Schwan’s, you may be confused by their website. Their website is built to convert their catalog. Schwans.com, for the most part, assumes you already know about the company. There is one “new to Schwan’s” block, and that is in the upper left of their homepage.

The block that starts with “Delivering Cheer”, then the email subscription form and then the “Get to know us!” video introduction to the company is the “new to Schwans.com” area. Look where their Live Chat and Toll Free information is positioned, in a million dollar real estate area  above the search bar upper left (brilliant).

Schwans.com isn’t easy to navigate or simple to take in, but their website communicates clear value messages in big, bold, red type. There are 12 Calls to Action, including:

  • “Learn More” (2 times).
  • “Shop Now” (3 times).
  • “Save” (7 times).

Don’t read this article thinking I advocate every website looking like the 41.7% converting Schwans.com. Every company has an appropriate look and feel online, so don’t attempt to adopt Schwan’s look, because on your website it very well could sink your  conversion if you don’t have the direct marketing list and power of a Schwan’s. Every website shouldn’t look like Schwan’s, but every website must learn lessons from it, such as:

  • FOCUS homepage language and images to 2, maybe 3, ideas.
  • Calls to Action (CTAs) are YOUR FRIEND, so use them liberally.
  • LARGE and highly contrasting BUTTONS are your best CTAs.
  • Use the “golden triangle” area on the left to get important things done.
  • An email subscription form is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things any website does.
  • Video is GREAT, but HOT (gets a lot of traffic and attention) so put things immediately below it that are HOT TOO.
  • Scrolling is fine, but major CTAs must be above the fold.
  • Rolling images are distracting, adding little and costing much, so AVOID THEM.

I admit this last bullet is based on personal prejudice and research conducted by Amy Africa and others. Other highly converting sides have hero images that roll. I see rolling heroes as distracting, especially on some of these very busy DM sites.

I think Schwan’s is doing the right thing to NOT roll their hero. Rolling is very Attention Deficit Disorder. Constantly blinking something at me makes me want to LEAVE (See VitaCost.com if you want to be driven to leave by a hero’s roll).

What does it mean if you DON’T have Schwan’s list or DM power? It means your website will need to:

  • Build your email list with:
    - EMAIL subscription form LARGE and IN CHARGE.
    - Email drip campaigns ready to fire on subscription.
    - Email personas and segments developed.
  • LARGE, CONSISTENT and CONTRASTING Call to Action buttons.
  • Language that reinforces your Unique Selling Proposition.
  • Use golden triangle LEFT for important CTAs.
  • Reward loyalty.

“Marty, we run a B2B business, so these ideas don’t apply to us,” I can hear some readers thinking. My experience is B2C (mostly), but the principles that make websites work are universal. Clear CTAs and offers to a list of adoring fans WORK and should be part of any website’s design and marketing. The days when websites supported a printed brochure or ad campaign are coming to a close. Websites need to make money and create the means to make money for future marketing efforts.

You need your website to MAKE MONEY. Make sure your web marketing team got the memo.  Every website I’ve ever created made money, and some have made LOTS of money (thanks to great teams and customers). There are a few secrets to making money online, including:

  • ASK for the order.
  • People buy what YOU sell them, so sell them well.
  • TEST and then TEST some more.
  • Never STOP testing some things (headlines, offers).
  • LIST = MONEY (email marketing is KEY).
  • TRAFFIC = MONEY.
  • CONVERSION = MONEY.
  • MOBILE = Darwinian (get with it or LOSE).
  • Social Media = Darwinian (need it, but don’t let SMM break the bank either).

Internet Marketing Is Not What You Think

Most customers worry about how their website looks. Look and feel is important, but no more so than CTAs, email subscription and making it easy to BUY what you want to SELL. A good team, a little data and an artist or two and you can create a website sure to out convert your competitors and make an ever-increasing ROI.

The “ever-increasing ROI” is another important Internet marketing lesson. If your net net return year one is 10%, look to move to 15% year two and 20% by year three. This assumes you started at zero. You should look to increase net net return at the same time as you scale topline sales.

If your website generated $100,000 in topline sales the first year, look to do $500,000 the second, because Internet marketing only has WIN and LOSE as options. If your trend line isn’t moving aggressively UP, then someone is eating your lunch. Tie top line gross sales to net net so you don’t go broke and feel good about going broke all the way to when the bank is coming for your car (lol).

I agree that the typical sales cycle for B2B is longer than B2C, but that is the only difference I’ve observed after working for a year at Atlantic BT and helping numerous B2B customers. Funny part is, all B2B clients think what they do is on the other side of the moon from B2C.

Not so much, as it turns out. Making money online is Darwinian. Those who know how to make money get to go on. Those who can’t figure out a CTA from a Tweet won’t be with us this time next year.

What About You?

Do you think B2B and B2C are different? How? Have you had luck with ideas discussed here? Other ideas? Want to guest blog on this or other topics? Share your thoughts, ideas and reactions in comments, or email me directly at Martin.Smith(at)AtlanticBT(dot)com.

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  • http://www.success-with-blogging.com Blog for Marketing

    Hi Martin, very interesting article. I am very happy to know this part of effective internet marketing:

    ASK for the order.
    People buy what YOU sell them, so sell them well.
    TEST and then TEST some more.
    Never STOP testing some things (headlines, offers).
    LIST = MONEY (email marketing is KEY).
    TRAFFIC = MONEY.
    CONVERSION = MONEY.
    MOBILE = Darwinian (get with it or LOSE).
    Social Media = Darwinian (need it, but don’t let SMM break the bank either).

    I know that there’s a lot of things that people must learn in order for them to succeed with blog marketing or internet marketing and this article have said much on “Why Internet Marketing Isn’t What You Think It Is”. Thank you so much for the share.