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Small is the New Big: How Small Conversions Equal More Sales

Have you ever tripped walking into a supermarket?

I mean really wiped out – went sprawling on your face, broke your glasses and twisted your ankle?

I hope the answer is no, but imagine for a moment that you had – would you be likely to buy something on your way out?

Odds are, the answer is no. Which begs the question …

In an online marketing environment, in which everybody is obsessed with the checkout process, why isn’t there more attention given to users as they’re making their way in the door?

I’m talking about micro conversions – getting your website visitors to take small actions, like clicking on a link, visiting a page, or watching a video. These are small things, but they can add up to big profits…

Macro Conversions, Micro Conversions

Let’s start by defining our terms: what’s a macro conversion, and what’s a micro conversion?

Macro conversions are the end goals. This is what we usually think of when we’re thinking about conversions – the checkout at the supermarket. Signing up to an email list, sharing with friends, and of course, making a purchase. These are very important – more conversions equals more dollars in your pocket, in a very direct sense.

Micro conversions are the steps along the way. In the supermarket, they’re the entrance, the brochure pick-up, the food tasting stations, and the different product aisles. These are actions like visiting certain pages on your website, filling out a contact form, clicking on a link, watching a video, or interacting with an online application.

These are often overlooked by online marketers, but they’re critically important, because your micro conversions, like page and video views, add up to more than the sum of their parts – they add up to macro conversions… like email opt-ins and sales.

Let’s explore how you can tune your micro conversions to make more money…

Tracing Your Customer’s Path to Purchase

In order to optimize your micro conversions, you first need to map out your customer’s “path to purchase”. In order to do that, you need to answer two questions: (1) Who are the customers, and (2) Where are they coming from?

Who are the customers? How old are they? Are they male, or female? What do they do for a living? What do they like? What do they care about? What do they need? In the supermarket context, are they single moms? Bachelors and bachelorettes? Families? Are the kids along for the ride? Rather than thinking about a faceless group of people, create customer profiles for each market segment that you are targeting – a picture of just one person, including information about demographics and psychographics, as well as needs, wants, and desires. This post isn’t about customer profiling, but you still need to know who you’re targeting!

Where are they coming from? In the supermarket context, are they just arriving as part of their regular routine? Are they tourists who found the place when driving through town? Did they come because a friend told them about a special? For your website, the question is how are they finding you, and what websites are they likely to have visited and considered – both immediately before visiting your site, and in the days, weeks and even months prior? This is important information, because it will create the context of their visit to your site, and inform the questions that they will want answered.

Having answered these two questions, you should know who you’re targeting, and where they’re coming from. You should also know what actions you ultimately want them to take (your macro conversions). Now you need to trace a path from the starting point all the way to the end goal. For example:

  1. Customer arrives on our product information page, after doing a Google search
  2. Customer watches our embedded video demo
  3. Customer clicks to magnify the competitor comparison chart
  4. Customer scrolls to the bottom of the page to review our testimonials
  5. Customer clicks to add the product to their shopping cart, and makes the purchase

Of course, this is just an example, and there are likely to be multiple possible paths through the site, depending on the different viewer in question. You might end up with a paths diagram that looks more like this (or much more complex!):

path to purchase diagram

Hypothesis Testing

Mapping out your customer’s paths to purchase is a great start, but the work isn’t done yet, because your map isn’t reality – it’s just your best guess about what reality might look like. The next thing that you need to do is to measure and see if your guesses about the paths that your customers take are validated by empirical data.

This is done by measuring micro conversions.

Each step in the path, and each arrow in the diagram, is a micro conversion. Which steps are your customers really taking? Which aren’t they? Are they really stopping at those food stations, and does that make them more likely to buy the product being promoted? Or is it just distracting them?

This is the sort of information that you need a premium analytics solution to track; free options like Google Analytics will tell you how many people visited each page, but you won’t get a lot of the detailed information that you need in order to really track your customers through each step in your funnel.

Once you start gathering data, you can start making decisions based on your assumptions – if you find that a certain step in the process is critical to making the sale, then explore ways of funneling more people to that step. On the other hand, if a step is not important, then maybe it is interfering with your conversion process, and needs to be removed.

Micro Conversions to Watch

Just to get your juices flowing, let’s explore some of the micro conversions that might be an important part of your sales funnel, and why your customer might be visiting them. This could be important information for you to track!

  • Product Information Page – Visitors to this page could be comparison shopping between you and your competitors, or they could have just stumbled onto your website, and been intrigued by your offer. In each of these scenarios, where do you think they’ll go next?
  • Pricing Information Page – If they’re really comparison shopping, then they might look at pricing information. They might check this out too if they’re budget-conscious, or unsure of the sale. Maybe they’ll want more validation, and head over to look at customer testimonials?
  • Competitor Comparison Page – Definitely a page for comparison shoppers. If they’ve already looked at the product information, they might go from here straight to checkout. If they still have questions, where do you think they’ll go to get that extra information?
  • Demo Video – Are they watching the videos because they want more information about the product, or are they watching it because they’re more visual people, and want to see case studies about how your product might apply to their situation? In each scenario, what other questions would they have? Where would they go to answer them?
  • Follow-up Email Open and Click-through – Which emails are being opened by your readers, and which aren’t? What does this information tell you about your email headlines, and about the needs and interests of your audience? Based on that insight, what additional information should you offer to them?
  • E-book or White Paper Download – Depending on the e-book or white paper that you are offering, what does its download tell you about your prospects? What are they looking for, and where are they in the purchase process? Based on that, where would they want to go next? Are you sending them that link? How many are clicking through?
  • Contact Page – When people arrive on your contact page, where are they coming from? What questions might they have? How many visitors to your contact page actually reach out and contact you? Why is that percentage what it is; are they deterred from asking their questions, or just looking to see if you provide meaningful support? In each case, where would you expect and want them to go next?

Measuring micro conversions is key, because even just make a small improvement at each step in the chain, the cumulative effect on your macro conversions (sales) can be dramatic.

Over to you – do you track micro conversions on your website or blog? Why, or why not? Which metrics do you follow?

Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!, or follow him on Twitter @DannyIny.

  1. Francois Mathieu Aug 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Implement the +1 button here. My micro conversion tip.

  2. John Manoogian III Aug 26, 2011 at 9:57 am

    The metaphor of stumbling on the way into the store is a great one. Micro-conversions are something I’m a big believer in, and the “whole-funnel” diagram above is a good way to demonstrate their value. The chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

  3. Shelly Kramer Aug 27, 2011 at 7:45 am

    In addition to the G+ button, implement the LinkedIn sharing button. My micro conversion tip :))


  4. Nice post! Our team began to measure facebook, google and tweeter actions as microconversions.

  5. David Ciccarelli Aug 29, 2011 at 11:41 am

    We even count soft micro-conversions such as time on site > 2:00 or pages viewed > 5. These give us the big picture to see if generally, we’re building a sticky site or if changes we are making are turning people away.

  6. Creating different goal funnels within Google Analytics is one way that we track what people are doing throughout the various stages leading up to the opt in form, or purchase.

  7. Coupons and clicks on social media buttons is one of our targeted micro-conversion. recently Pintrest button is on the top of the list for us as well as many. It is actually beneficial in a way to track micro-conversion as we can decide over the next step easily and can get a fair idea of what is important to target people belonging to that specific niche and what could be left out saving alot of extra effort.

    Good Read I must say :)


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