If Your Website Doesn’t Make Sales, Check Which End of the Sales Pipe has Problems

April 25, 2013
customers - sales. Biggest Profits

If Your Website Doesn’t Make Sales, Check Which End of the Sales Pipe has Problems

I often hear small business owners saying that they have a website but it’s not generating sales. To fix the problem you have to understand the working of the sales pipe, know what you want (or need) to achieve, and find where the pipe is broken. Until you do that you won’t know what strategy to use to put things right as the techniques vary throughout the sales cycle and there may be a myriad of problems.

The Sales Pipe

To visualise the sales pipe image a piece of drainpipe with a large funnel at the top. The funnel catches website visitors (a.k.a. potential customers) and tries to direct them down the pipe (the sales route), where the visitor views products, makes selections, adds the products to a cart, chooses a delivery option, moves to a checkout and then makes some financial transaction or arrangement to complete the order.

If any part of the pipe is blocked then instead of a stream of orders coming out the bottom we’ll get only a slow drip or maybe nothing at all. To fix the problem you need to know exactly where the fault lies. In small systems there are usually two main areas of concern (a) Not enough visitors to the site or (b) enough visitors but they don’t buy.

Not enough visitors – you need to fill the funnel

To find if there are insufficient visitors is fairly easy. Many eCommerce packages have some statistical software or I find that Google Analytics is good; you can use both. The important thing is to start using metrics to give you some feedback on the effectiveness of your changes.

You don’t want just any visitor, they should be targeted

There’s only two types of people you want on your website:
a) those who will buy from you, or
b) those who will recommend someone to buy from you.

You can attract visitors using Pay-per-click search engines, social media, organic growth and many other methods. Whatever method you use you must be consistent in your targeting. If you sell tennis racquets then you need to attract tennis players, specifically those from the geographical region you can sell in, and use the currency they want to use, and etc. The entire sales plan must be consistent.

Does your advertisements/blogs/tweets actually explain clearly what you are selling and why they should buy from you?

To get potential clients to visit your site you’ll need to promote it and make some compelling reason why they should visit. If you haven’t got something unique then it has to be cheaper or better in some way. What is you unique selling proposition? Tell them!

It can be hard work and expensive to find the right customers so start building a list from the beginning.

You have enough visitors but they don’t buy

I’ll give a quick word of warning here about expectations. I had a client complain he’d had over 100 visitors and still no sales. Well you’ll probably need many thousands of visitors each month as the pipeline conversion rate is very small. The rate will vary with the type and price of product you are selling. Low cost items need high volume sales and this may be a 3% conversion rate, but expensive items which are highly profitable will have conversion of less than 0.5%.

The figure is OK as long as the cost of acquiring customers is lower than the profit made by the sale, but you’ll probably need to decide what figure you need to achieve. If the conversion rate is too low you will face a struggle to maintain sales as you will need an inordinate number of constant visitors. You need to know the target rate for your site as I’ve known companies go bust before they realised that they could never make the business work with their chosen customer acquisition strategies.

If you think you have sufficient customers and few orders try to find why. Are we getting visitors that would never buy the product you are selling, or have we got the right visitor but our product is wrong, too expensive or what? Recheck your SEO and ensure it is consistent with your product and general sales strategy.

Is the bounce rate high? What is the visitor expecting to see and not seeing when they hit the web site?

Have we got a technical problem that prevents sales? Have you tried to buy a product from your website? Can you sign up OK, choose the product, options and delivery? Does the credit card work OK? I’ve known so many people not test their own checkout. Place an empty box on the site for a penny and try to buy it.

Do you have full carts that are just abandoned? Did we have a surprise element, charge or tax in there? Are delivery charges higher than expected? Do we have enough alternative payment methods? Are we asking too many questions, just making it too difficult or time consuming for the customer to check out? Can we simplify it?

Take a step back and see if there is something fundamentally flawed with your entire business strategy. Don’t be afraid to ask others for critical comment or advice.

It takes time to get it right

It takes time to fine-tune a website, so be patient. It can take many months, even years, to establish a business. Don’t expect immediate success. Many websites don’t make many sales in their first 3-6 months. But always check you are going in the right direction, use metrics, make notes of changes or new tactics and measure everything you think useful.

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