Accidental Publisher: How to Convert Website Visitors to Customers
By Liza Horan
Your business card says you work in the tennis industry, but does it ever feel like you’re in the publishing business?
Working in tennis is largely an off-court venture, but these days much of it is an online adventure. Whether it’s producing an email newsletter each month, writing copy for your website, or designing a coupon, it’s probably enough to make you feel like a writer, editor, and publisher.
The fact is, you fill all of these positions. Using a mass medium to communicate what products and services you sell has been the domain of publishers for centuries. The internet has made publishers out of all business owners who have websites.
“Anyone who has deep domain knowledge of their field, and sells products or services related to that field, can now choose to become a for-profit publisher” on the internet, says Don Nicholas, chief information architect and managing director of The Mequoda Group (mequoda.com), which advises publishing companies such as Time Inc., the Taunton Press, The Motley Fool, and Harvard Health Publishing on marketing their messages online. “The primary job of a website is to attract and convert. It’s doing more for the customer and making sure you make a buck in the process.”
For example, just as a boating magazine can provide a “Guide to Purchasing Your First Vessel,” which would be a paid product separate from the magazine, a teaching pro could offer technique tips or written summaries of lessons either for free or for sale on the club’s website. Either way, the pro is providing extra value for website visitors and encouraging them to become (or remain) paying students. It’s about engaging a potential or current customer enough to sell them more.
If you are an “accidental publisher,” here are some tactics gleaned from a publishing summit conducted by The Mequoda Group:
People respond to the human visage, so work a photo into a website logo.
D-I-Y: Tennis is a service business, so place a close-up photo of one or two or three staff member(s) on the heading of your website. Visitors will see the personal touch and feel like they know you before you’ve met. Take things a step further on your ‘About Us’ page by listing staff members and identifying them with a photo and short biography.
Position yourself as an expert
Every magazine is master of whatever subject to which it’s devoted, and its editors often appear in advisory roles on talk shows and roundtables to provide opinion.
D-I-Y: You and your staff are professionals in tennis, so share your knowledge just enough that website visitors will seek you out for more. You want to be upbeat and approachable, not arrogant.
Join the conversation
Not only are you an expert in your field, but also you are connected to the local scene. Use your website and email newsletters to talk about what’s happening.
D-I-Y: Beyond the basics of location, hours, contact info, products, and programs, your website can be a resource for the local tennis scene. Include a short note in an email newsletter or coupon mailing about your Sunday match, or your thoughts about the pro tour, or how tennis is growing in the U.S. Or post your musings on a blog. Or list the local high school and college results. Or give the weather forecast. All of these add a unique, personal message to keep your communication relevant.
Your website is an excellent lead generator for future sales. By visiting your site, people already have qualified themselves as potential customers. To give your business a chance to win them for paid business, you must promise or provide enough value that each will hand over an email address.
D-I-Y: To spur email sign-ups, run a promotion such as:
- Enter your email address to be entered into our random drawing for a tennis goody bag.
- Sign up now and receive a 15 percent discount at our shop.
- Subscribe to our email newsletter and receive a free gift. The “gift” can be an editorial product, such as “Our Guide to Buying a Racquet,” or “Five Tips from Tennis Director Jane Doe.”
Offer many chances
Many people need to see an invitation several times before they commit. Be sure to explain your experience and the value they will receive by subscribing.
D-I-Y: Make sure an email sign-up is on every web page, printed brochure, receipt, and program enrollment form you have.
Must-Have Elements for Every Website
Don Nicholas of The Mequoda Group says that to be successful online, every for-profit website must have:
- An internet hub with valuable content and a clear editorial voice.
- A free email newsletter that notifies loyal readers when new content is available that will be relevant to them.
- A search engine optimized (SEO) information architecture that makes the website content “findable” for those who are looking.
- An XML RSS feed that allows bloggers to easily monitor and write about and link to the content on your editorial hub.
- Clear navigation between the publishing (editorial) and retail websites with strong linkage to drive retail traffic.
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