Are You Wasting Money on Your Website?

June 16, 2012
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During the course of any given week, I talk to at least two dozen business owners - many of them home service contractors (plumbers, hvac, roofing, etc.) - and more than half of them are wasting money on their website. The most troubling part is that virtually none of them even know it.

If you own a home service business and you have a website, there's a good chance you're making some of the same mistakes the folks I talk to are making.

Let me explain...

A lot of business owners think of and treat their website as if it were a digital brochure. Your website is NOT a brochure, and if you treat it like one, you're wasting money. An intelligent online marketing strategy for an hvac company (you do have a written online marketing strategy, don't you?) demands that you treat your website just like a sales rep - a sales rep complete with a built-in sales funnel.

If you want more sales from a sales rep, what do you do?

That's right - you get your rep to make more calls and/or convert more leads/appointments into sales. It's really is that simple (hire a sales trainer, and $10,000 later you can tell me I'm right). Increase activity (calls) or increase effectiveness (close rate) - those are your options for getting more sales from a sales rep.

Your website is no different. If you want to get more sales from your website, you need to get more traffic to the site and/or improve your site's close rate - aka your site's conversion rate or visit-to-lead conversion rate.

So, which should you try first - increasing traffic or improving your site's conversion rate?

Some people think this is a question without a definitive answer... but they're wrong. And, not knowing the answer to this question is the root cause for why so many business owners waste money on their website.

You see, just like industries have fairly consistent gross profit margins, they also have fairly consistent (and repeatable) website conversion rates.

If you're an hvac contractor serving residential customers, your website should have a visit-to-lead conversion rate that exeeds 10 percent. If your business falls into that category and your site isn't converting at least one in every 10 visitors into a lead, you're throwing money out the window if you're investing in web traffic (i.e. spending money on the Internet Yellow Pages, Pay Per Click, or SEO).

Spending money on website traffic with a website conversion rate of less than 10 percent is a big problem, but an even bigger catastrophe is not accurately tracking your site's visit-to-lead conversion rate!

Most hvac companies that think they're tracking this number aren't. Frequently, they'll have Google Analytics installed, but improperly configured (goals set up wrong, not filtering out internal and partner traffic, etc.). Or, they'll have web analytics set up right, but no call tracking. Or, they'll be investing in call tracking, but not using a separate number for organic search. Do all of your website visitors live within your service area? If you're like most hvac companies, the answer is, "NO!" So, you've got to take that into account too.

Better data equals better results. Larger companies track things in more detail - from their financials to their marketing. If you want to grow out of the "one man, one truck" world, ACT AS IF you are already a larger company!!

So there are no misunderstandings, if you own an hvac company and your website's visit-to-lead conversion rate is less than 10 percent, invest your money in improving your site and then invest in traffic.

For those of you lucky enough to have:

  1. Accurately tracking on your site so you can see your site's conversion rate and
  2. A conversion rate that exceeds 10 percent (it really should exceed 15 percent, but that's for another blog post)

Stop fiddling around (this is the politically correct way to say it) with your site and start investing your money on strategies and tactics designed to increase your website traffic. (i.e. drive more qualified visitors to your site).

For hvac companies, at a minimum, this means testing and tracking:

  • Pay per click (PPC) advertising - If you don't think PPC is worth it, you're not doing it right.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - If you're not "all in" with SEO, you're going to get beaten by those that are. In layman's terms, SEO means adding content to your website, blogging, guest blogging, posting relevant and interesting content on your social media profiles, building microsites, and more.
  • Email marketing - Sending helpful hints, service incentives, etc. to past customers and recent inquiries that have not yet converted into booked jobs.

When your site's visit-to-lead conversion rate exceeds 10 percent and your traffic is less than 3-4K per month (for most markets and company sizes), any additional time spent on the aesthetic side of things is a waste.

I can't tell you how many business owners will tell me that they desperately need more leads and then waste three months contemplating some irrelevant design change - like a new banner for their homepage. This would be analogous to failing to send your sales rep to meetings because you aren't sure he is wearing the absolute best looking tie!

Let me tell you a little secret - In nearly every case, your sales rep's tie - and your website design/banner - don't really matter! Your success does NOT depend on having a great site design or banner. Don't believe me?  Set up web analytics and TEST IT!

The average time on site for most "need based" home services (like hvac) are very low. Every one online has ADHD. They just aren't spending enough time on your site to be impacted (positively or negatively) by the little nuances that drive you crazy!

In summary, many business owners waste money on their website because they don't really know what their website's problem is. The two big website problems are: lack of traffic and low conversion rate. In most geographic markets, if your traffic is less than 3-4K, you have a traffic problem. However, if your site isn't converting at least 10 percent of your visitors into leads, you will probably be wasting money on traffic unless you first improve your site's conversion rate. 

One note about traffic and conversion rates - if your traffic is SUPER low - like 200-300 visits per month, you really don't even have enough traffic to gauge your visit-to-lead conversion rate. If this is you, invest in traffic (preferrably using traffic generation strategies that offer residual benefit - like SEO) first and then see how your conversion rate numbers look after a few months.

Use this summer/fall slow down to track your site and this winter will be your best one yet!

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