Chasing conversions might get you big numbers, but they’re rarely a reliable indicator of success

By George Easton

The internet is not Field of Dreams. You don’t just “build it, and they will come”. Businesses need to make noise in the marketplace if they want to attract customers but even experienced entrepreneurs don’t always know where to start.

It’s this naivety that makes them easy prey for incompetent marketers, the ones who chase conversions without providing real value and are able to bamboozle small business owners with good-looking graphs and happy statistics.

Measurements that matter

What these marketers are measuring is conversions – numbers they already know they can deliver. What they’re not measuring are the things you actually care about. Things like sales volume, profitability, client demographics. In other words, the factors that will help you attract and retain your ideal clients. To truly understand the quality of your marketing, you need to measure throughout the entire sales cycle. Otherwise you’re just measuring what happens on the doorstep rather than what’s going on once clients get through the door. Those conversion numbers may look impressive but quality isn’t about volume and more doesn’t always equal better. 

That’s why it’s important to nail down your definition of ‘better’ from the very beginning. Of course, that’s easier said than done for our naive entrepreneur who doesn’t quite know what better means because they haven’t had enough exposure to their client base to figure out what works and what doesn’t. 

Bad marketers will convince these clients that more conversions are the ‘better’ they’re chasing. Then, after a month or two, the duped business owner realizes that even though the wheels have been furiously spinning, the car hasn’t moved.

Beware snake oil salesmen

So how do you avoid bad marketers and work with someone who actually knows what they’re doing? You look out for red flags and don’t rely on their resume. 

We all do it to some degree – we see a badge from Google or a certification from Facebook, and we assume that these people are qualified to a certain standard, and that creates a level of professional trust. But in the wild, wild west (or wild, wild web), of the internet, that’s not always the case. In reality, those badges, bells, and whistles are only as good as the certification process behind them and you’d be surprised how often it’s just a matter of filling in a form. 

Rather than succumbing to this appeal to authority, it’s a good idea to ask from the outset exactly how the marketing team defines, identifies, and measures quality. If they simply sit down and offer you a boilerplate solution that ignores the subtleties of your business in favor of boosting conversions, they haven’t done their homework. 

Good marketers take a holistic view. They don’t just focus on figures, they look at how the numbers can be used across your organization – deployed in your CRM, for example, so they can help you observe and understand your sales pipeline. If your marketing consultant knows nothing about your sales pipeline, they can’t ready you for scale. 

Another glaring red flag is accessibility. Often consultants come in and set up a range of tools, accounts, and platforms on behalf of your business. If they load your data into these programs, but don’t give you full access or control over them, they’re not following industry best practices. These are your assets, they shouldn’t be hidden away from you. 

When marketers aren’t fully transparent, it’s usually a warning sign that they’re either lazy, incompetent, fraudulent, or a dangerous mix of all three. Once the initial fanfare is over, the strategy is laid out, and the first reports start to come in, your consultants need to keep proving their worth and that often leads to tweaking things just to bump up those conversion numbers. The goal of your business is revenue, not conversions, so they’re essentially creating busyness for themselves rather than business for you. These are snake oil salesmen, and they’re just selling you the feeling of doing more.

Attribution modeling

Getting to the heart of conversion quality and producing real results, starts with getting more information about how your clients engage with your assets. 

There are some very expensive tools out there that do the full gamut of attribution modeling so you can track every touchpoint clients have as they move around your social media, your website and your affiliates. But these are often out of reach for cash-strapped small businesses. Lightweight or multi-touch attribution modeling is a budget-friendly option that gives businesses a birds-eye view of their clients movements without sucking up funds they don’t have. 

Using the lightweight model, you capture first touch and last touch so you know two crucial things – firstly, what you’re doing to make potential customers aware of your brand and, secondly, what you’re doing to close the sale or get customers to directly engage.

It also enables businesses to hone in on which of their content drives awareness, and which drives actual engagement. It’s not enough to just generate conversions, clients need to know how many of those conversions turned into qualified leads and then actually closed, and how many hit their target profitability.

The scientific method

Marketing shouldn’t be an art. Done well, it’s not subjective, it’s a science. And, like any science, it needs to be done with scientific rigor where you follow your progress from initial concept all the way through to the end results. Don’t be fooled by flashy shortcuts, find marketers who do the work of attribution modeling and know that their job is to measure quality based on the goals of your business. 

After all, who would you rather have on your team- the marketer who produces 1,000 leads with a low profit margin and a long sales cycle? Or the marketer who produces 40 leads, all of which are clients who fit your niche and generate a huge profit margin with a relatively short sales journey? 

I know which I’d prefer.

George Easton is ion8’s CEO. He’s a master of making digital technologies work for business by streamlining operations, improving online presences, creating and reinforcing brands, and selling products and services effectively online. George is a certified Google AdWords & Analytics professional, a certified Google Educator and a cloud communication technology guru. Additional skill sets include: Clio Certified Consultant and Certified Zoho CRM Consultant.