Are You Focusing on Conversion Before You Have Traffic?

Cole Wiebe
January 20, 2014
Read time: 5 minutes

SEO content vs conversion copy

SEO copywriting focuses on creating quality, relevant, extremely helpful and hopefully interesting content that attracts visitors to your blog again and again. You're building rankings, authority and traffic, and encouraging visitors to share your content.

Conversion copywriting focuses on making a sale, or 'converting' your visitors into email subscribers and eventually clients.

In this article I will be discussing the former. A major mistake many business bloggers make is trying to sell before they've delivered on their initial content promise or demonstrated any value. "Hello, here are our products and services... which ones can I show you today?"

Visitors are persuaded to stop by the blog, through social media posts and mentions or Google search results, with enticing promises of valuable, useful information that will improve their lives in some way. It's so disappointing and just plain annoying for visitors when every post is saturated with an extremely shortsighted, "buy this now" message. It's not what they signed on for when they clicked an inviting link to receive "help", and they feel justifiably cheated.

Give your gift with no strings attached

Some thirty years ago, I was a closer and sales trainer for a small TriStar vacuum cleaner sales outlet. The door-to-door vac' business was reputed to be a very sleazy way to make a living, but I learned a lot about sales from my gritty years in the trenches.

Our "booking girls" would offer door opener gifts like free rosewood-handle steak and carving knife sets, or perhaps a hard cover dictionary/thesaurus combo in an attractive case, in order to book appointments. The gifts were useful, desirable items. Our booking strategy was to impress the person on the other end of the line with the high quality of the gift they had "won", then book an appointment for delivery, with a "quick demo" of a new product we wanted their "opinion" on.

Our closers would arrive at the door a day or two later, create rapport, start out with a light and very entertaining pitch, build value, then high-pressure the bejesus out of the gift "winner". We used to teach our recruits, "There are only two ways you're leaving that house; with a signed order, or physically tossed out with the vacuum cleaner hurtling through the air behind you."

If one of the booking girls was sick, I’d take over the phone at times, to make sure the guys had demos to go on. I learned the hard way that selling too early just closed doors. I carelessly let myself enter into a mini presentation on the phone a few times. Big mistake! The only purpose of the phone call was letting the prospect know about the free stuff we were giving them. If we were ravenous direct sales wolves, they were Bambi, and we had to make sure we didn't scare them away before we came anywhere near the jugular.

We were some of the most aggressive, high pressure salespeople on the planet, but  we realized there was a time and place for selling. Throw the pitch in with the gift, or begin selling before building rapport and demonstrating value, and we were dead at hello.

Some sales reps would only hand over the gift at the end of the presentation, and only if a sale was made. I made a point of giving the hosts their gift before even entering the door, and I instructed my team to do the same. Once inside, I would spend a half hour getting to know my new friends. Here's the thing... I wasn't looking for "a sale"; I wanted several. These people had friends and family. It was important that they really liked me.

Did I get burned a few times by people that just grabbed the knife set and slammed the door? Absolutely. We paid for these gifts out of our own pocket, so that hurt. I believed that we had offered them a free gift and that my new friends deserved more than just a pitch. I became the sales trainer because of my closing ratio, and keeping the gift separate from the pitch has served me well over the decades that followed.

What is your gift: valuable local information and expertise that improves the lives of your visitors? Your blog should be a welcoming place to share your free gift. There's no way to be subtle about your agenda when you finish a blog post with a pitch, or "Call me today at..." Sprinkling your posts with links to sales pages, or popup messages, can also send your quarry bolting for cover.

If you've enticed visitors to your blog with the promise of valuable information, deliver on that offer; no strings attached.

Does that mean you can't include a call to action? Not at all. Instead of pitching them, it would be appropriate to offer a free white paper that provides information in addition to the post. In other words, offer even more value.

For example, if your post was about buying and selling Vancouver condos as an investment strategy, a free downloadable ebook entitled "8 Things You Must Know When Selling Your Condo for Top Dollar", with a link to a landing page, would offer added value. People love receiving high value free stuff, and this is a great way to transition blog visitors into subscribers you have permission to influence again and again.

 Don't give a crappy gift

Our local TD bank ran a promotion to attract new clients. I noted that they were offering an Apple iPod as a free gift, not a $5.00 toaster that was likely to catch fire the first time it was plugged in. Outsourced-to-the-lowest-bidder, automated or just plain crappy content = worthless gift. It sends a very negative message and is bad for business. Put your all into each post or hire someone committed to creating content excellence. Your content gift needs to be epic; that means better than any of your competitors are publishing.

Pitch too early and you may never be selling at all

Keep the "gift" — your informative blog posts, downloadable freemium item or something else of value — completely separate from your sales copy.

Of course you want them to check out your About Us page and what you bring to the marketplace. And once they've decided to look at the services and/or products you offer, it's perfectly okay to "sell" them. I'm assuming here that you have services and products your customers will genuinely benefit from, so do your very best to convert those qualified visitors into customers. On a "marketing page" it may even be a sin not to ask them to fill in an information request form. 🙂

Live up to the value expectations of your audience. Value is about "them." Pitching your product or service is all about "you."

Final thoughts

Would you agree with me that keeping the content gift and pitch separate is a sound strategy? Or are you still convinced that "always be closing" is the only way to go? Do you have a sales success or horror story to share? I welcome your questions and comments below.

Could you use some direction in your content and social media strategy? A free 20 minute coaching call could be a game changer.

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21 comments on “Are You Focusing on Conversion Before You Have Traffic?”

  1. Been there, done that, and I got the dirty rag from it!
    I remember getting made redundant quite a few years ago and went on the look out for another JOB.

    I came across a job of sorts in the local paper one day! "Be your own boss, earn up to £5000 a week in sales, free training provided. call 0121 439 SCAM".
    Well why not I thought and called the number!

    The job consisted of selling services, offers and memberships to home owners. My training consisted of me following a 'Sales Manager' as she knocked on peoples doors for the day and not earning a penny that day!

    Basically big companies like gym's or restaurants hired us to sell their offers and memberships to homeowners and we would get a small commission! No there was no phone call before and no free gift to give away!

    I think I lasted about 3 weeks doing it but I hated it, I learned that you had to have a certain personality and be ruthless to make a dent in this industry and be a person who never takes no for an answer! I was not that person!

    I also learned that people will buy from people they know, like and trust. thast one thing I am trying with my own blog, letting people get to know me and what i am about! I have started writing a book of no end that people can download first and then choose to subscribe or not and not the other way round!

    A great and inspiration post buddy! Thanks again for leaving your comment on my post!
    All the best...
    - Phillip

    1. Hi Phillip,

      Direct sales can certainly deliver a level of discomfort most people aren't willing to get used to. It requires a very thick skin towards rejection and the ability to think very quickly on one's feet. It is estimated that 90% of the world's direct salespeople are not suited for it either. I earned the best money of my life grinding it out, selling everything from vacuum cleaners to Encyclopaedia Britannica. So why am I not still in direct sales? Instead, I sell from behind a computer now, writing direct response sales copy for emails and websites.

      When we went on sales presentations, we had 20 to 30 minutes to build sufficient rapport and trust. After that it was do or die. As you've pointed out, we have the luxury of building a far deeper relationship with our readers when we blog. Not everyone is suited for blogging either, but the level of discomfort is certainly not as acute as it was pounding vacuum cleaners down peoples' throats.

      Speaking of discomfort... The most uncomfortable moment I had in direct sales was doing an Electrolux presentation in a home late one evening around 1980. Electrolux had some unresolved labor issues in Canada at the time, and laborers had been forced back to work. My last demo had resulted in a sale, so I stopped by the office to pick up a brand new machine before heading out for the last appointment of the evening. I built up rapport with the elderly couple, then cut the tape on the carton, popped out the styrofoam insert and produced the machine with a bit of flair. Hmmm, I thought, I must be building muscles manhandling machines all day. I pulled out the cord, plugged it in and hit the switch. Nothing! Puzzled, I removed the bag and exposed the cavity where the motor usually resided. Some joker at the factory decided to make a statement at my expense. I could feel the blood drain out of me. I made a brief mention of the labor dispute, then took a few seconds to compose myself, "Nothing phases a true professional. You are a professional." It was too late to return to the office for a replacement machine, so I improvised. I gave them some BS about getting paid to do demos (we were on straight commission), and asked if I could go through the presentation with a dead machine. The man had offered me a beer when I arrived and I suggested we have those beers now, as this was going to be quite the performance. They were great sports. I muddled through the presentation with a lot of flapping of my arms and joviality, describing what I would have showed them if the $&*#^@ vac' was running. When we got to the close, I smirked and remarked that this was the place where I asked them to buy this remarkable machine... wink, wink. We discussed payment options, I pulled out the contract and asked them which would be best for them. To my considerable surprise, they picked one and I wrote up the paperwork. A brand new machine, with a motor ;-), was delivered in the morning.

      - Cole

  2. Hi Cole,
    How right you are. My own history was not in door to door but retail sales selling appliances, furniture and flooring but the story runs the same. If you don't build something of a relationship with your prospects it is highly unlikely that they would ever become customers. However once you had some sort of relationship going it was a small step to becoming 'their' expert who they would not hesitate to come back to when they were looking for the next TV or fridge.

    Building the relationship, or building trust to put it another way, gave you a far better chance of making the next sale. To get to that next sale it was always a matter of making sure that the customer was delighted to have parted with their hard earned money on the first... and that was all about building trust by providing value! Donald

    1. Hi Donald,

      In brick and mortar establishments, repeat and referral business are their lifeblood. People generally get that. It's refreshing to see web based and affiliate businesses take the same approach. I have purchased from some websites, and clicked through on affiliate links, repeatedly after a relationship has been established, I grew to trust the people and the first purchase really impressed me.

      - Cole

  3. Hi Cole,
    The on thing i liked the most was that you must not entice your customers or clients with a cheap gift. That instead of making them more loyal, sends a negative mesaage to them about you.
    Simple traffic is not even enough sometimes to get sales. The conversion rate should be improved as to get more and more profit from less and less traffic.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    1. Hi Vineet,

      Recently I have seen quite a few blog posts that advocate posting every day, even if the quality is marginal. To me that definitely falls under the "cheap gift" category.

      I'm with you; I'm a "quality trumps quantity" proponent. I believe the gift of premium content develops quality traffic and builds a loyal readership. With feed and list subscribers, we have the opportunity to influence our readers over time, converting them to customers.

      - Cole

    2. Well this is a different thing and we have to focus on it. As per my personal opinion traffic is more important to me instead of a conversation. As a new blogger I not much a familiar with blogging too much. and by the way this is very nice post mate. 🙂

  4. Hi Cole,

    I really love this post. I never, for the life of me understood how some people can have put junk selling blogs out there, and be OK with it.

    I agree with you, we should never be to hasty in doing our pitch. I know for me my blogs are pure darn good content that people can learn a lot from. No selling. And the reason I know this is that I'm told that regularly.

    I do not use my blog posts to sell, but to give, and then if the reader is interested in my services, there are pages, links and banners they can click on if they choose to do so.

    You seem to be a heck of a good salesman. Good for you, it's the hardest thing on earth 🙂

    1. Hi Sylviane,

      It's said that less than 5% of us are actually suited for sales as a career. I put in some years in direct sales, but it did not come naturally to me. There were banner days, times when I was on a roll, and soul withering slumps when I couldn't sell to save my soul. I imagine that's why these days I do my selling from behind a computer instead, writing sales copy. The high rejection rate is less personal that way. 🙂

      - Cole

  5. Hi Cole,

    I was in sales at one time. It was furniture sales though. A little different from door to door. At least I knew when they came in it was a possibility they would buy.

    You said it all in this one. Relationship building is a huge part of our online success. Building those relationships allows you to do so much such as tapping into their networks etc.

    You may be able to get one sale but a relationship that leads to referrals and multiple sales will be more beneficial any day!

    Take care Cole!

    1. Hi Steve,

      Many people speak of word-of-mouth advertising, as if it's a relic of a bygone era, pushed aside by the Internet. As you've said, relationship building, and spin-off sales are a big a part of marketing online as well. The person we're chatting with in comments may never buy, but they may mention us in a post or social media and inadvertently send a few buyers to our site.

      Many years ago I was demonstrating a vacuum cleaner for an elderly couple and two other couples dropped by, the kids and in-laws. I was disappointed and was about to pack up, but was encouraged to continue. It was very distracting. People were coming and going to grab snacks and beers. Next the TV came on. I put on the best show I could under the circumstances, but wasn't expecting anything. At the end of the presentation, I was surprised when both of the guest couples decided to buy. Then, one son asked the parents if they were going to get one. The mother admitted that they couldn't afford a machine because they were on a fixed retirement income. He responded, "if you want one, it's yours," and asked me to write up the paperwork. It was a valuable lesson on the power of networks.

      - Cole

  6. Thank you for sharing your experience, Cole 😀

    I haven't sold anything through my blog (not yet), so I can't comment on this, but I have made observations (so, I will be prepared when I do launch my product).

    Based on those observations (and my experience as a customer), I agree...we have to connect with our future clients. With the right strategy, like you mentioned, we could get even more clients through recommendations 😀

    Right now, I am focusing on building up my blog (so, my blog posts are the value)...I will be switching my focus in March (to list to build an email list :D).

    Haven't prepared my incentive yet (eBook...but, I am thinking about doing something different. eBooks are so common!).

    Hopefully, I will be able to come up with something soon!

    Thank you for the tips, Cole 🙂 Have a great weekend!

    1. Hi Jeevan,

      You're absolutely right. The free ebook or white paper has to be desirable and different, addressing a need of your readership in a unique way. If it over-delivers on the promise, it will go a long way in building loyal subscribers.

      I downloaded an ebook last week that promised me 34 pages of quality information on a topic I was researching, but included a bonus section with 12 more pages, and links to download 2 additional videos. The next day I received the first lesson of a course I wasn't even expecting. Was I impressed? Hell yes! If they keep sending me good stuff like that I'll be a subscriber for life. It's so sad when it's the other way around. I'll download 3 pages of regurgitated rubbish that's not worth reading. Thanks for nothing, where's the unsubscribe link?

      Best of luck with a brilliant ebook,

      - Cole

      1. Awesome 😀

        We should all try to over deliver (of course, we should try our best to succeed with it....we don't want to disappoint our readers. Giving too much might also be an issue. We don't want to overwhelm our subscribers, do we? Who has the time to read a 200 page eBook?)

        Thank you, Cole.

        Sorry for the delay in replying!

  7. Hi Cole,

    Thanks for putting this subject out so we can discuss it. I have to say that it seems that people, mainly amateurs, think that blogging is all about making money. There is a blogger that I deal with for work on a constant basis, and instead of looking to create a better relationship, he looks to further himself every time. It's not just with conversions and traffic that bloggers look ahead, rather it occurs across the board when it comes to making money.

    Thanks for creating this great content.

    1. Hi Amiti,

      You're so right. It has been said that anything worth doing, is worth doing for money. And that certainly holds true for blogging. But, as you've pointed out, many bloggers are only interested in making a quick buck, inflating traffic with various schemes and then hard selling anyone that stops by. I don't see any longevity in that business model. Like you, I am convinced that most people buy from people they trust, and trust is built by demonstrating value over time, and a commitment to developing real relationships.

      - Cole

  8. Man Cole you knocked the cover off the ball with this post yo. Its all about the conversion with the people. Start the convo and the traffic will come. They work hand and hand. Thanks a million for sharing this.

  9. This is one of the best explanations for the need for great content. What I do on my websites is that I talk about the subject of the article separate from my offerings. I just make sure that my offerings are occupying the best spots on my sites. Even though they may think they made an independent decision their eyes keep going to the offer thanks to strategic placement.

  10. I think It's not a good idea, focusing on conversion without having traffic. Building authority should be the first step. You have mentioned quite good stuff in this post.

  11. Excellent advice Cole!

    Man, door to door marketing/selling! Now that's definitely being in the trenches! And a 30% closing ratio to boot! That certainly explains why your copy writing is so effective!

    You really understand how and why starting and establishing a real trust worthy relationship is your first and major priority!

    And like you said, if you attempt to close the sale too soon, you'll be shown to the door! Like you, I've also had the pleasure of both selling door to and via the telephone as well.

    And you're so right, you learn very quickly to track what works and to eliminate asap, what doesn't!

    Because your very survival depends on it! Great post! Thanks!

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