Back in the day — like, 1993 — every company had to have a website because it was the thing you did! A website was something new, fresh and shiny, and it allowed the marketing team to reach more people than ever before. It was on the Internet, which automatically made your company seem cool. It was totally rad!
Within about 18 moths, though, everyone had a website and the novelty wore off. That was when marketers needed to assert why the website existed. There was a branding role, and an informational role — but the real reason to spend money on a website was to drive more leads.
That became somewhat lost as websites became mandatory for businesses. Building and maintaining the website itself became the objective — and too often, the mechanisms to gather lead information from the website were neglected.
A Buyer’s Journey
Marketers today have a far better grasp on the need to harness their websites’ power for lead generation. Unfortunately, the versatility of Web pages means they are responsible for a remarkable range of business duties: They convey news, they serve as a repository of business information, they offer gateways to other services for customers and partners, they promote products and events, and they deliver the business’ most important messages.
All these things are important — but they can steal attention away from the lead generation function. As a result, many websites function as “billboards” — flashing information at potential buyers who remain anonymous, because there’s no mechanism for capturing lead information.
That no longer has to be the case. With the right tools, businesses can gain a better understanding of anonymous visitors, tracking their progress and attaching it to their identities when, as buyers, they offer that information. This allows marketers to see the entirety of a buyer’s journey through the website’s content.
On a micro level, it equips sales and marketing with an understanding of what a particular buyer is viewing, and what level of understanding the buyer has achieved. On a macro level, it allows marketers to see the patterns buyers exhibit as they move through a site, and to use that information to change content and get better results.
It also allows the website to do some things to make visits more pertinent to buyers on repeat visits. If visitors are tracked, a dynamic site not only can employ some basic personalization, but also can refine what the visitor sees upon arrival, based on the content viewed during previous visits.
Easy on the Forms
Having a tracking capability for anonymous visitors allows businesses to avoid the trap of putting all of their content behind a registration form. While this is a natural tendency — you want to show the ROI of all content, and how better to easily generate the metrics than a form-fill? — it drives down the open rate of that content by creating a less-than-optimal experience for the buyer.
Numbers vary, but the general consensus is that a 3-5 percent form fill rate is phenomenal. To get that form filled out, be judicious in what you’re gating.
- Does it make sense to gate content that’s aimed at educating the broader market? Probably not.
- Does it make sense to gate content deeper into the funnel, at a point where a buyer may be compiling a short list or looking for technical content to influence other decision makers at his or her company? Probably.
It all depends on the content, the customers, and the nature of what you’re selling.
If the website is really effective, the buyer should have to fill out a form only once and then be recognized from then on. That creates a better experience for the buyer, and it also sets the stage for the buyer to spend much more time with your content.
That gives you a more complete view of the customer’s stage of readiness to buy, lets you know what content has been viewed in order to set up sales to deliver additional value that complements the buyer’s experience thus far, and allows the website to better fulfill its educational responsibility for potential buyers.
Repeated requests to fill out forms drive visitors away from the website. It’s more than annoying, as customers recognize that it’s no longer necessary, and it comes across as disrespectful of their time.
Tracking website visitor behavior doesn’t just generate more leads — it generates higher quality leads that come with context and with data that can help sales prioritize them based on the nature of their visits.
Marketers often apply lead scoring to website behavior, which is good for qualifying leads, but an understanding of the specifics of the behavior gives sales a secret weapon for delivering value in the sales process.