Larry Chase's Web Digest For Marketers

14 Ways To Increase Internet Response Rates

In this column, Managing Editor Eileen Shulock and I put our heads together to give you some of our best insights from our combined experience of over 20 years in this business. We offer you 13 insider tactics to boost your response rates. They range from tips on solo emails to registration forms to social media platforms.

1. Click Everywhere: Recent research shows people very often click on everything on anything and everything, whether it's obvious there's a button there or not. Some buttons are obvious, some are embedded, while others (especially graphics) look like buttons but aren't.

For many, the mouse is akin to a controller on a twitch game. So you might as well have lots of live zones for readers to click. They can go to the same landing page, or different ones. Do track what is being clicked on so you know where your hottest spots are.

2. Ask For the Sale a Few Times: Sometimes the buying cycle is 3 months, 6 months or even 18 months long (in many B2B cases). But sometimes a buying cycle might range between 6 and 60 seconds. People may be ready to buy two-thirds of the way down your page, whereas they werent just half way down.

So offer frequent opportunities for readers to pull the trigger. This doesn't mean you want to ask for the sale at the end of each paragraph, but asking every few paragraphs probably isn't a bad idea, depending on what you're selling and how much convincing is needed. I once tested over 8 call-to-action links in a single solo email. I will share with you that the greatest number of clickthroughs came from the first and last links, but every single link in between got at least a few clickthroughs.

3. Offer Primary and Secondary Options: Many sites ask for the sale way too soon. Often enough, prospects are visiting your site on a "wool-gathering mission", which means they're not in buy mode yet. Yes, you might be able to bump them into buy mode right then and there. But barring that, you want a secondary action for visitors to take.

Secondary actions might be in the form of signing up for a newsletter or RSS feed. In this way, you can keep in touch with your prospects and hopefully lure them back to your site when they do finally get into buy mode.

4. Test Button Wording: Many in-the-know marketers test the wording of their buttons very early on. Yet we see many sites that simply use the default "Submit". "Submit" is probably a holdover tech term that meant submit the request for action to the server. But it isn't an attractive marketing word. You would never ask a prospect in person to submit. So don't do it online either.

Try button wording that explicitly explains what users will get should they click on it. "Sign me up so I can receive Malcolm’s Marketing Tips Daily", as an example.

5. Get Rid of Lame "Thank You" Pages: One of the most valuable pages on your site is the page seen after someone has taken an action. Yet that "Thank You" page often just sits there like a latke doing nothing. Here you have someone who's just taken an action and he or she is then given no other action or offer thereafter. How lame is that?

Give those valuable, action-oriented visitors another reason to take another action. Once people have taken one action, they're quite apt to take another. Crosssell me, upsell me, offer me someone else's products or newsletter. Something.

6. Use Registration Forms to Qualify Prospects: It's pretty well known that the more fields of information you ask for, the fewer people will complete the form. Here are few things to keep in mind when setting up your registration form:

  1. The more valuable the offer, the more likely people are to fill out your form. If you're offering a dumb tee shirt to a high-flown B2B audience, they're apt to bail out quickly, if they come at all.
  2. Don't overreach with your questions. It should be obvious to the visitor why you would want the information you're asking for. I notice I bail out when I say "You don't need to know that much about me yet".
  3. Ask better questions. Common wisdom is to ask for less to get more completed forms back. But if you plan to have your sales team follow up on these leads, you've probably budgeted out how much each call costs you. So you don't want your sales people calling unqualified leads.

More of the right kind of questions can better qualify your leads. Yes, you'll get fewer leads, but if the offer is a really good one, they're more apt to convert to prospects and sales thereafter.

7. Shorten Your Ad Copy: It's an ongoing debate whether copy should be long or short. The long proponents say people can always stop reading when they want to, and there's truth in this. But in ads appearing in newsletters or sponsored listings, short copy is where it's at, due to space considerations and the attention span of the reader.

Bullet points outlining the value proposition quickly make it easier for the reader to digest your offer and see why he or she should keep reading and take action thereafter. Get rid of hyperbole and bombastic ad words. Use facts and relevant keywords that resonate with your reader if you want he or she to reach for that mouse and respond.

8. Think Big: If you want someone to click on a link on your website or email, the bigger and/or more graphically exciting that link is, the better your response rate is likely to be. We have looked at thousands of websites in both the B2B and B2C space. It is amazing how frequently a featured whitepaper or other goodie is presented in tiny 8-point type on the home page or wherever. The same goes for the invitation to subscribe to your email newsletter. If it is relegated to a link in the footer of your site, don't be surprised if your response rate is practically nil.

9. Email Follow Up: Do you thank a new email newsletter subscriber in a follow-up email? Does that email (and the subject line itself) contain an invitation to download an exclusive whitepaper or take a percentage off of his or her next purchase? Do you follow up a whitepaper download with an invitation for a brief consultation or some other special contact with your prospect?

We often find that an action on a website is simply not followed up in any way. Why not immediately cement the relationship with a meaningful first contact? This will not only increase your response rates; it will also prime your prospects to anticipate and then open any future communications from your company.

10. Ask For Opinions: People love to share their opinions. A brief survey (with an incentive attached) can, in many cases, generate a very healthy response rate. That increased response rates often applies both to the survey itself and to any follow-up call to action. For best response, the survey should be brief and meaningful. Don't just ask how the prospect liked his or her interaction with your site. Ask what he or she thought about the whitepaper downloaded or how your company stacks up against your competitors (the prospect is likely to be doing competitive research, right?). Ask what type of future information would be most meaningful and in what format. Offer an open-ended question that asks for new ideas.

In her work in the fashion retail business, Managing Editor Eileen Shulock found that a survey designed to understand why a customer returned a piece of merchandise was very insightful. This turns a potentially negative experience into a positive (and useful) communication with a customer.

In fact, we'd like to hear from you, dear reader. If you would, share with us success stories of increasing your response rates. Just reply to this email and let us know.

11. Segment Your Non-Responders: The more relevant your offer is, the better your response rate will be. You can create segments in a number of ways. For example, if someone is downloading a whitepaper, add a field that asks a meaningful question that will allow you to create several types of follow-up actions based upon the responses you get.

Another way to segment is to get to know the more advanced options that your email service provider is likely to offer. For example, Managing Editor Eileen Shulock is able to generate a list of those subscribers who did not open an individual email newsletter. That's an interesting segment right there. Obviously her communication to that segment is not working, so she tries other unorthodox tactics, such as:

  1. Sending a follow-email that directly asks the subscriber if she or he still wants to receive the email newsletter.
  2. Sending a sale or other promotional offer to a segment of the nonresponder list. Those subscribers who respond to such a promotion then get stored in her list of bottom-feeders for future mailings.
  3. Sending another segment of the nonresponder list an email that presents a very high-end designer or a unique piece of merchandise. Subscribers who open this email get stored in her list of high-end, big-budget shoppers.

TIP: Most email service providers offer all kinds of sophisticated tools that warrant a little exploration or even a customized training session for you.

12. DIGG It: Did you know that the most popular category on DIGG is technology, followed by science and business? You can lead dozens if not hundreds or thousands of interested prospects to your site – prospects who are likely to respond to the offer on your site to subscribe to your email newsletter or whatever – with DIGG posts containing relevant and useful information.

Here's how DIGG works: You create a profile (be honest and include the name of your company, especially as your user name). You then create a really interesting piece of information – perhaps a whitepaper, or a simple list of the top 10 ways to do something (people love top 10 lists), or the transcript of your most recent presentation at an industry conference. You then post that information to DIGG under your profile and tag it with relevant keywords so that it will show up when people search for your topic.

Those people then rate your information based upon how useful it is. The more votes you get, the higher your information rises in your DIGG category of choice. So if you are already publishing good content, why not try to drive even more qualified prospects to your site with a no-cost marketing tactic?

13. Multichannel Your Marketing: How coordinated are the multiple channels of outreach to your customers and prospects? Multichannel is the buzzword du jour at the time of writing, and for good reason. Is each channel isolated to itself or are they all interwoven as they should be? In other words, are you connecting the dots so that the end user has a 360-sense of c ontinuity about you and your brand? Research has shown that, in most cases, multichannel shoppers have a higher Lifetime Customer Value as compared to those who only interact with a company through one channel.

We all know that in-store pickup of merchandise ordered online is popular and getting bigger all the time. Another segment that is expanding are the online-only products and deals from big retailers such as and the like that can be found on the company's website, but not in their retail stores. Not only does this save on display space in the store; it also offers customers a reason to shop both the site and the store.

14. Use Your Website As a Test Bed: In her e-commerce job, Managing Editor Eileen Shulock uses her company's online store as a test bed for new fashion merchandise – new designers, new merchandise categories, new price points, etc. - to see what online consumers respond. This helps the company determine which products or designers stand a good chance of success if a larger amount of merchandise is purchased and put into its real-world stores. In other words, it helps the company make decisions about product price acceptance, how much inventory to stock or expand and also what to walk away from. For this online and offline retailer, their e-commerce site serves as the "canary in the coal mine".

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See Larry Chase's speaking topics

See Larry Chase's consulting packages

Request ad rates for Web Digest For Marketers