Attracting a thousand visitors during a month is a reasonable target for most company websites. This allows for a fair dollop of traffic from Google’s search engine, perhaps a smattering from paid advertising and the rest made up from those who know the businesses’ url and arrive as direct traffic. A thousand visits breaks down to approximately 50 each working day – or an even more approximately one every 10 minutes.

Just imagine that amount of real person traffic walking around your offices. Six every hour moving around you and your team, wandering from room to room. It would be quite a fast “wander“ though. Expect some speed in their steps as they take less than a few minutes for their visit, before leaving through the nearest window. Then there will be those who just “bounce” into the first room they find and then leave – never to be seen again.

Very occasionally you may have one who will raise his/her hand and ask for some help. Perhaps they might complete a form or even use their mobile phone to ring your office. Nevertheless, the vast majority will just hang around, look, read and then move on. A silent ongoing procession of reasonably inactive people.

Just image if you owned a retail store and your actual shop visitors acted in this way. Lines of them entering your store, looking around, picking up product – not asking any questions – and then promptly leaving without saying a word. Now there would be some who would purchase and, if we use some standard credible online e-commerce conversion rates, they should represent between 3 and 4% of the total crowd.

Online these percentages work but offline – in the world of real leases and staffing costs – these figures are a fast track to financial ruin. Here, a retail operator needs to hit conversion rates of 5 to 6 times these figures to make things pay.

Anyway, back to the hoards of people walking around and doing very little. So what would the smart retailers do in a situation like this? Well, the last thing I would expect is for them to sit back and do nothing and let all their hard work just fail in front of them. Nope, they would go through a long list of things to try and entice these visitors to release the grip on their wallets. Ideas like a) laying out the store differently to make some stock easier to get to, or b) reworking their range to better appeal to their visitors, and perhaps even c) improving the lighting so the darker areas at the back of the store are now a breeze to fossick around in.

I’ll give you an example of the smarts that can be applied in the retail space to extract as much money as possible from your wallet. A friend of mine owns the local pharmacy. He is a very smart operator and recently decided to grow his business by taking over the shop next door. This meant he had the opportunity to completely re-design the shelving and stock layout for the whole store. So because he knows what he doesn’t know, instead of sitting down with a piece of A4 paper and a cup of coffee and figuring it all out over a lunch break he spent the money and brought in a retail expert.

This person analysed the floor area and the types of products shown and then drew up a complete map of where to place what product – even down to the height they were to be placed on the shelving. For instance, the more profitable lines were placed at eye level in easy-to-spot locations. The spacing between the shelves was fixed too – just so two people could bend over and look at each shelf and not touch bums. Yep, making people go bum to bum is a definite no no. Anyway, the upshot of all this work was that his business grew in floor area by say 20% but his sales grew by an even larger amount.

Here’s another example – this one is from my history of selling business form printing way back in time. I joined the company the same week they had taken delivery of a new fandangled printing press from Japan. This was able to produce very specialised business forms – think invoices and packing slips – that combined a piece of paper on one side and an adhesive label on the other. Now it was possible to print both a packing slip and the delivery label all in the one place.

My job was to visit businesses in Auckland promoting this solution. It was a job that the directors of the company told me in the interview was the easiest in the whole company. Such was the obvious and immediate value this solution offered.

The only problem was that no one wanted to hear my story. They all thought it was too hard to alter what they were doing and, what’s more, nobody wanted to be the first to tackle this new technology. I probably presented my story to over 50 companies and they all said NO. Some quite forcibly.

I was a reasonably thick-skinned sales person but still, once I reached a month with no sales after 50 presentations under my belt, things were looking grim. Even the directors were starting to question the merits of the expensive piece of Japanese Iron they had sitting idle in their warehouse. So we all sat down and, in a caffeine-induced haze, decided that the sales message needed some serious changes and with it the inclusion of just one happy customer to give it some credibility.

So my job changed to finding not a list of customers but just one who would take this product on for FREE for two months and only continue to use it if it cost them less than their existing product. Fortunately for me, Kodak Auckland were keen to take the “no risk” option and within two months they were happily churning through their own forms with no desire to let them go. Once we had one well known customer, then doors started to open and the product started to take off.

Both of these examples support the case that when problems or opportunities are right in front of our faces we generally do the right thing and a) call on help to fix it, or b) get together as a group and find a way to wade through the mess to find a solution.

However, when it comes to matters online the story is very, very different. Here, where the action is hidden, any such failings in the vast majority of cases are left to fester away, causing a steady stream of harm.

So how do you avoid this occurring for your website?

Well, first you need to correctly configure your website tracking to make what lays hidden more obvious, so that you too can “see web people” and the problems they are having. One of our customer coaching calls a few months ago discussed the selection of tools you can pick from. Google’s Analytics product is a good one to start with. Once set up, this will allow you to see the web pages (think aisles of your shop or parts of your sales message) that either assist or inhibit your sales process. For instance, problems may occur when visitors are unable to find the product they want or perhaps locate the answer to a question they may have. Or your website navigation could be so poor that visitors arrive and leave after just seeing a very small number of the pages you would like them to.

Some smart tools even allow you to virtually follow your visitors as they click through your pages and skip from page to page. I talked about this in last month’s newsletter. By using these tools you really do feel like you are wandering the halls of your website with your prospects.

Secondly, once you have all the recordings you want and more Google Analytics data than you know what to do with, then you will need to call on some independent advice to tell you what is and isn’t working. This requires some specialised skills and there are a few companies that offer this service. You should be able to find a business that can sell you a small “tasting plate” of consultancy to point out a few good and not so good parts of your online presence.

For instance, here at Permission we offer an Online Marketing Business Opportunity Review. This costs less than $500 and includes some service guarantees that should make even the most tentative of buyers feel comfortable to proceed.

After this short engagement you should have a better feel for the size of the challenge ahead. For instance, do 100% of your visitors fail to engage with your online sales presentation – as was the case with my printing story? Or are your e-commerce sales so bad because visitors are struggling to navigate through your virtual aisles – as could have been the case with my retail friend if he didn’t call in the experts when setting out his new space.

Fortunately, every website will have its own collection of problems to work on. Its just that some are more severe than others. Knowing which ones you have to battle with all depends on your desire and willingness to “see your web people”.