Convert Your Website Visitors into Customers Turn web surfers into paying customers by combining pay-per-click advertising and e-mail marketing.

By Gail Goodman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For many small businesses, paid search has become a new avenue to acquire customers. Its speed and reach make it an effective way to welcome new visitors into your small-business website door--prospects have found you and you've found them! But most online visitors don't convert to customers on the very first visit, and unless you capture some contact information and follow up immediately, they may be gone in a mouse click--never to return again. In today's advertisement-filled world, it's important to not only maximize your marketing dollars but also those key opportunities to find and keep a new prospect.

You've paid for those clicks; now how do you convert new website visitors into customers? Most marketing experts agree that it takes an average of seven contacts with a prospect before they'll buy. So the way to convert site visitors into prospects and prospects into customers (and first-time customers into repeat customers) is by building relationships over time. E-mail marketing supports pay-per-click advertising efforts by giving businesses a tool to reconnect immediately and directly with new visitors by:

  • telling them more about products and services,
  • learning more about visitors' specific interests,
  • offering value through content prior to purchase, and
  • initiating those critical business-to-customer relationships before those leads go cold.

Being found online is a start, but communication is what builds the relationship. Here are three basic steps to unite e-mail marketing with paid search advertising.

1. Collect Visitors' E-Mail Addresses
The first step is getting new site visitors engaged enough to share their e-mail addresses with you. A "Join My Mailing List" box is fine for people already engaged with your business, but for newcomers who don't know you, it's not enough. You need a direct call to action and a reward. Entice them with something valuable that you give them for free in exchange for their e-mail address, such as:

  • A free white paper that educates them about the problems your business solves.
  • A free educational seminar or webinar that helps them evaluate what you sell.
  • A free consultation or evaluation (which can lead to a proposal for their business).
  • Or offer your free e-newsletter as an enticement to sign up. (See " Creating Newsletter Content " for ideas.)

Don't feel squeamish about asking for contact information upfront. It's a classic marketers' dilemma--whether to use that first communication to passively educate visitors toward conversion or to directly ask for contact information to learn more about them over time. Given you've paid for that click, it's better to entice them to share their e-mail address immediately than risk their leaving without it. Because when they're gone, they're gone.

2. Send Paid Clicks to a Special Landing Page
You may want to drop pay-per-click visitors onto a specially designed landing page that provides more direct communication and less other distraction than your regular homepage. Landing page content should be geared specifically to the search term the visitor clicked on, while putting your other navigation and content section links lower on the page. A sporting goods store that bought the search term "tennis" may create a special landing page with tennis content and offers, rather than directing paid-click visitors to its general web store, where tennis content might not be so obvious. Make it easy for them to find what they were searching for while engaging them and building confidence in your business. Put your "Join My Mailing List" box and free offer right on that landing page. It's your one chance to grab 'em while they're interested.

3. Think About Ways to Re-Engage New Signups
Now that you have their e-mail address, you can re-engage these potential new customers through a multi-step e-mail marketing campaign combining promotional and informational content. Follow through on their signup with a thank-you note targeting what you know about them based on their encounter with your website. Invite them to sign up for your e-newsletter (if they haven't already), and when they do, track which links they click on and target mailings to their interests and habits. You can even segment people who found you through search engine marketing in a separate mailing list from your general list and think about ways to connect your online and offline customers . (See " 5 Key Ways to Build Customer Relationships " for other engaging ideas.)

Paid search advertising combined with e-mail marketing is an opportunity to say something meaningful about your business to potential customers. Picture yourself at a networking event meeting the perfect prospect. You wouldn't shake hands and walk away. You would want to spend some quality time getting to know them and understanding how you might do business together. Think of your pay-per-click prospects that same way. Make sure that first virtual handshake is only the beginning of a long, valuable relationship, and that your website is never just a one-hit wonder.

Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.

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