It’s very rare that you find a visitor to your site buying something from you on the first visit.
The typical customer does a bit of research first, compares your products to others, and then decides whom to buy from. The costlier your product, the longer this process is.
This process is more commonly known as the buyer lifecycle or customer lifecycle. This lifecycle might vary depending on your business and industry. In general, customers go through different stages, starting from awareness, to consideration, and finally purchase.
So, as a conversion marketer, if you’re only looking at conversions from new visitor to immediate purchase, you’re not seeing the full story. Your job is to move people along the lifecycle, increasing conversions from one stage to the next, till they finally purchase.
In this post we’ll look at how you can adapt your CRO strategy to each of the customer lifecycle stages.
In this stage, the customer is just aware that they have a problem or a need. Before this, they didn’t know that something was missing. They assumed that they had no problems or, if they did have problems, they assumed there were no solutions.
For example, Crazy Egg caters to online businesses. When Crazy Egg’s ideal customers are in the Awareness stage they don’t know that they need a heat mapping software, or any conversion rate optimization tool for that matter. They don’t think their conversion rates can improve, or they think nothing can be done to improve them.
This is what you’re dealing with as a marketer, at least for customers in the Awareness stage. Do you really expect these customers to buy into your service or product when they don’t believe in the problem you’re trying to solve? No.
An easier sell would be to first get them to acknowledge their problem and take them to the next stage of consideration, where they seriously think of ways to solve this problem.
The best way to do this is through content. Produce educational material in the form of blog posts, ebooks, podcasts, webinars, slideshows, infographics and videos. And make it so good that it hooks readers and gets them to subscribe.
More importantly, remember that this content is meant to highlight the problem you’re trying to solve, not to actually make a sale. If you’re measuring the conversion rate from book download to purchase, and trying to optimize for that, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
A better metric for determining the success of your content is to track and optimize for conversions from reader to subscriber. Too many content marketers go through the effort of producing good content only to use generic subscriptions forms at the end.
For every piece of content you create, you need a relevant CTA at the end. You’ve introduced a problem to your readers, and they are getting curious about it. They want to learn more, so a subscription form that offers more content about it will fit perfectly.
For example, instead of a generic subscription form at the bottom of this blog post, a more powerful way to convert readers into subscribers is to ask them to sign up for an ebook, email series, or webinar, that will explain more about optimizing conversion rates across the customer lifecycle.
If subscription rates are high for certain types of content, then you know that you need to optimize your strategy to producing more of that stuff. As you tweak your strategy, you’ll find more readers converting to subscribers. Congrats, you’ve successfully taking them to the next stage – consideration.
This is where customers realize they have a problem, and that there are solutions out there that can help them with it. They’ve been consuming your content and have decided they want to take a look at your site and see what you can do.
They’ll also be researching your competitors. They’ll compare features and prices, and they may ask around for recommendations. But don’t worry, you’re going to optimize your site for more customers.
The first thing you want to start doing is producing more advanced content. You’re going to talk about specific features that you offer, that others don’t, and educate customers as to why those features are so important.
Again, remember not to sell. Focus on the benefits of those features rather than the features themselves.
For example, Crazy Egg recently published an article about how their heatmaps helped a company’s profits. Notice that the focus is not on click maps or scroll maps, but how using them helped someone reduce bounce rates.
You also want to focus on these key differentiators on your main site. Your subscribers are going to be learning about them in your advanced content, and they’ll come to your site to read more.
In the consideration stage, even though customers are seriously giving thought to using your software, they’re still not sure if they want to spend money on it. You need to give a little bit first. A product demo or free trial usually does the trick.
So your success metrics in this stage are number of free trials or demo requests. When you bring subscribers to your site with advanced content, you want to optimize for conversions to leads.
Hubspot does this well. They produce advanced content in the form of detailed ebooks and webinars. They create landing pages for this content and use smart forms that qualify subscribers more.
As subscribers learn more about the things they can do with marketing automation software, they start doing their research. That includes looking at all the features Hubspot has to offer, as well as the pricing and some case studies. Hubspot tracks these subscribers to see how many times they have visited the site, and they assign lead scores to the more interested ones.
If subscribers feel like Hubspot is right for them, they can request a demo easily. Hubspot stores any form information from previous downloads, so demo forms already come pre-filled. The CTAs on Hubspot also adapt to subscriber behaviour. So instead of seeing regular newsletter or book download forms at the end of blog posts, subscribers in the Consideration stage start to see demo request CTAs.
For those who don’t request a demo on their own despite showing interest, Hubspot actually reaches out to them with a personalized message requesting time to set up a demo. Again, this has been optimized to increase conversions for demo requests because of the nurturing and personalization that has gone into it.
Much like in the previous stage where you optimized content to increase conversions to subscribers, in this stage you need to optimize to increase conversions to leads.
Figure out what features and benefits are most important to potential customers and highlight those. If subscribers seem interested in learning more about Feature A and not Feature B, then you know what to focus on and how to get more trials or demo requests.
We finally come to where the money is, the purchase. Your leads have done their research, they’ve been looking at all their options, and they’ve tried out various products including yours. Now, they’re ready to invest.
Here you need to track how they’re using your product, and your success metrics will be conversions from lead to customer. Are they using the right features or are they stumbling around? Are they using the product at all, or have they forgotten about it altogether.
You have to assume that leads are trialing other products at the same time, so you want to stay on top of their minds. Otherwise they’ll get hooked by a competitor.
This is why a good onboarding process is important. As a marketer, your job doesn’t stop at website content and landing pages. You need to work with the development team to make the product easier to use, and you also need to create an onboarding sequence that will help leads get to that ‘Aha!’ moment where they start to see the return on their investment.
You’ve learnt what they are looking for as they journeyed through the awareness and consideration stages, so you should know what matters most to them. Make sure your onboarding process highlights this and gets your leads to take action. Then, track their actions and see if there’s any correlation between those actions and converting to customers.
Optimize and repeat.
Once you break down the stages your customers go through and start adapting your CRO strategy to each stage, your job will become much easier.
You won’t have to tear your hair out wondering why visitors aren’t signing up or buying your product. Instead, you’ll be able to create a more structured process that involves educating visitors, finding out what their problems are, and helping them solve them over time.
Start by mapping out what each stage is for your business and what questions customers are asking in each stage. Then identify what needs to be done to take customers from one stage to the next and start optimizing conversion rates based on that.