Drawing upward arrow indicating growth on a chart on glass

You’ve read the case studies and articles about how to rank and how to get your message or products into the faces of customers. The internet is filled with them. If it’s not shady media companies selling their services to help you boost your sales, it’s clickbait headlines with 15 shocking marketing insights you won’t believe.

Attributing a lead with a direct action from a campaign – a sales conversion – is the main approach. Numbers numbers numbers that link an advert click with the tracking code on a website to rack up a sale. With no other compelling avenues to draw you in to buy ads, such companies need to prove that it’ll have a positive effect on engagement and sales, which will offset what you pay them to advertise.

In other words, statistics.

Let’s briefly analyse the effect of this ethos with an analogy. About socks.

Closing the sales loop

Toe poking through sock with smiley on big toe

Imagine you want some new socks and pop into a high street store to buy them. At the cash desk, the sales clerk asks how you found out about the socks. Was it an ad on a bus or billboard? In a magazine? On TV? Radio? The attractive window display? The poster on the A-frame outside?

You supply an answer and they tick a box, sending that information back to the marketing department who tot up the figures and smile, knowing that a particular method of advertising worked better than another.

That’s what analytics is doing. Linking cause (ad) with effect (sale).

This approach misses some important nuances of commerce, however. At no point was the clerk interested that your existing pairs all had holes in. Nor that you visited because the store was conveniently en route to the post office. Those drivers aren’t a tangible, demonstrable need in the eyes of those who calculate Return On (advertising) Investment. But that doesn’t make them irrelevant.

Corporations that sell advertising space need to convince you to spend more on ads for a greater slice of the sock market; preying on your FOMO because Scroggins & Co up the road have bid higher on the ‘warm socks’ keyword combination.

What can you do about that? Plenty.

Become self-aware

Pear with a maniacal face drawn on it

Self-awareness – not in an Artificial Intelligence, Skynet manner – is the first takeaway. If you’ve not opted out of interest-based ads, watch how they follow you around as you view products. And notice the effect it has on your browsing; your perception of the company that is stalking your every click. Do you admire them? Do you feel as if you want to buy from them?

If the answer is no, then you’re already on the stepladder, climbing away from low-yield advertising.

Counting ads that have been clicked, not seen, doesn’t capture the full spectrum of what it means to be in business. How to connect with a customer. Just because your ad didn’t generate a click or a sale now doesn’t mean it’s worthless. The impression might trigger a sale later, perhaps an in-store purchase or online from another retailer, but the analytics won’t necessarily count that.

Overall, writing ads for the sake of increasing conversion figures is a massive time suck for very little gain.

Beware case studies with fanciful claims

Someone pointing at a graph

The sales pitch that big tech peddle is they can algorithm their way into the minds of customers for your benefit. Look at how profitable Google is and then consider who it’s really benefiting.

People have been conditioned into thinking that buying Google ads or boosting Facebook posts, jumping through all the SEO hoops and posting on social media at exactly the right times of day, has a huge effect on conversions.

It doesn’t.

Sure, in the cited case studies, they might have. And people in the industry like to publish huge-sounding numbers like “150% improvement in conversions for client such-and-such” because it sounds impressive. But when you look behind the numbers, two things jump out:

  1. Conversions “up by 150%” when they were running at a pitiful 2.5% already (which is a fairly standard global average over the last few years, prior to 2020) is still only a 6.25% conversion rate. i.e. you’re not appealing to around 95% of your visitors.
  2. It’s not the act of creating the ads and the timing and SEO that causes the hike in conversions. It’s a by-product of the process of looking at your marketing strategy and actually thinking about how to present yourself. And then writing great, focused content to reflect that, and getting it in front of people.

The latter is the real value-add, not the timing or the ad content. That just made the ad company richer, not your company.

Start with trust and build from there

Hosepipe spray

Attributing numbers to visitor actions – especially with more people opting out of tracking cookies or running ad blockers – is hard work. There are ways round it and there are (paid) analytic alternatives to “free” (using that term loosely) Google Ads. Some of the newer trackers don’t use cookies (great for GDPR) so are more reliable. But you still end up chasing numbers and spending more time wringing your hands going “why am I only getting 3.5% now, when I had 3.6% last month?” instead of doing something about it.

Generating leads for any industry is all about trust. That is where you should start. Show people that you can do and that you get it done. Show them through the information you publish about your products and services. Don’t write an article for the sake of publishing something. Don’t run an ad campaign that erodes trust in your brand. You’re in business because you care and because it means a lot to you when your customers are happy. That’s what differentiates you from other businesses: quality, not quantity. So why spray everyone in the hope that one message sticks, when you can craft amazing words that deliver actual value to potential customers?

You need to create a trust bond between your brand and your customers’ minds. People are then more likely to remember you and buy from you and, ultimately, recommend you, than by force-feeding drive-by sales pitches. That all begins – and ends – with high-quality content.