Finding out what your customers want is the beginning and end of your marketing efforts. Get this right, and you can make mistakes with the rest of this list and still make sales. Get it wrong, and you will struggle no matter how well you execute the rest.
If you're a service provider working closely with clients, this is relatively easy - since clients will tell you about their problems, challenges, loves, and hates. They'll let you know when you're giving them what they want - and vice versa! So pay attention to what they tell you and use it to improve your service - and develop new offerings.
If you're selling products or artworks without so much interaction with your customers, it's a little harder but still doable. Take every opportunity to meet with your customers and talk to them - in 'real life' as well as via social media.
Working out what your customers want is an ongoing process that involves trial and error. Here are two questions that can help you get the answers faster:
- Which products/services/artworks are my customers most enthusiastic about?
- What do they buy from your competitors that you could do better, or with an original twist?
2. Show them you mean business.
When a new visitor lands on your website, what's their first impression? Does it look professional or amateurish? Up-to-date or neglected? Popular or obscure? No prizes for guessing which qualities are more attractive to buyers.
And do you make it obvious this is a business website, where you want them to buy from you or hire you? They aren't mind readers, you know!
Don't say: "Hi, I'm Rachel, welcome to my photography site, I hope you enjoy the pictures!"
Do say: "Hi, I'm Rachel Reynolds, a photographer based in Boston. Welcome to my site - you can browse and buy my pictures in the gallery." 3. Make your offer crystal clear.
What do you want people to DO when they come to your site? 'Buy my stuff' or 'hire me' should be at the top of your list. Next up is to subscribe to your blog or newsletter, sign up for a free trial, or do something else that moves them closer to buying.
Make a prioritized list of these actions. For each desired action, you need to make an offer (invitation, call to action).
Particularly if you are selling a complex product or service, you need to make it clear exactly what you can do for your customers, and how it will benefit them. The more specific you are, the more believable your claims, the more of an expert you will appear.
Don't say: "I'm available for portrait commissions."
Do say: "I paint Vinyl Art, portraits of musicians and entertainers on vinyl records made by the subject. Instead of Elvis on velvet, think Elvis on an Elvis record." -http://vinylart.info/who.htm
At this point there's no substitute for professional standard copywriting. If you're a confident writer, teaching yourself copywriting skills could be one of the best investments you make. If you can't write for toffee, or hate the thought of penning a sales page, you should seriously consider hiring a copywriter.
4. Show them how to buy.
If you're selling an artwork or product, explain how big it is, how much it weighs, how much it costs to ship, where you ship to, delivery times, your refunds policy, and what payment methods you offer.
If you're selling a service, give some idea how long it will take, what you will do, how you will do it, and what they will need to do. Yes, this will vary from project to project, but without some kind of roadmap, potential clients may be shy of contacting you - they imagine it will take months and eat up their schedule, whereas the reality may be very different.
Again, this is all obvious to you, but not to them. The more you tell them, the easier it looks and the more of them will buy.
5. To price or not to price?
If you're selling to private individuals, it's generally a good idea to display your prices. This is particularly true in the case of creative products and services - depending on the signature, a painting could cost $100, $100 million, or anything in between - and no one likes to risk looking dumb or poor by asking. Publishing your prices will reassure those who can afford it and filter out those who can't (without embarrassing them).
If you're selling services to small-to-medium-sized businesses, where the price can vary but you still want to reassure the right people that you aren't out of their league, you may want to consider offering packages at different price points, or indicating arange of pricing for typical projects.
If you're selling high-end services to corporates, luxury goods to the wealthy, or fine art to collectors, then it may well pay not to publish your prices. If they have to ask, they can't afford it, right?
6. Use testimonials.
You may think testimonials look cheesy, but they wouldn't be so common if they didn't work. So why not make life easier for yourself - and your customers - by using something that works?
Ask your best customers for testimonials - you may be surprised how eager they are to help out. Get them to be as specific as possible about the benefits they received from doing business with you. Photos, URLs, and even videos will make the testimonials more credible and reassuring.
7. Promote a free subscription.
The brutal truth is that hardly anyone will buy the first time they land on your site. This is particularly true of sophisticated creative products or services - these purchases are usually not made on the spur of the moment.
So as well as making your sales offers abundantly clear, offer a free subscription - to your blog, your newsletter, your podcast, or some other form of communication channel that gives you permission to stay in touch with them over time. Once they get to know, like, and trust you via the free samples and advice you send them, they'll be more likely to pick you when they're ready to buy.
It's no secret that email is still the most powerful online sales channel for most small businesses. So building a mailing list of people who have actively opted in to receive your free content and sales messages should be one of your top priorities.
--What Works For You?
What has worked best for you in converting visitors to customers?
Which of these areas do you need to work on the most?
What would you add to my tips?
--Mark McGuinness is a coach who specializes in internet marketing for creative professionals. For a FREE 26-week creative career guide, sign up for Mark's course The Creative Pathfinder. And for bite-sized inspiration, follow Mark on Twitter here.