How to Find Thousands More Prospects for Your Business

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Ever wonder why conversion rates are so low?

A “good” sales page will usually convert between 1 and 5 percent of its readers. Those numbers vary wildly depending on about a zillion factors, but that’s the middle of the bell curve.

So that means between 95 and 99 percent of people reject what you’ve got to offer. Seems a little depressing when you look at it that way, right?

So are those 95–99 percent just a write-off, a necessary cost of doing business? Do you have to do the work and/or spend the money to get nearly prospects to make 1 sale?

Not necessarily.

Note: No actual statistics were harmed, or even used, in the writing of this post. In other words, these numbers are theoretical. Use them to illustrate the principle, and for back-of-the-envelope planning. The real numbers always come from your own business and your own individual situation.

The desperate buyers strategy

According to sales strategist Chet Holmes, at any given time, about 3 percent of your market is in active buying mode. So if you sell furniture, about 3 percent of adults in your town are looking for some piece of furniture right now. If you sell fancy cages for naked mole rats, about 3 percent of naked mole rat owners are in the market for a new cage.

Traditional internet marketing is all about finding this 3 percent. The smartest Adwords, SEO, and affiliate marketers are all trying to selectively find that 3 percent and weed out the other 97. You can call this the Desperate Buyers Only strategy, which is the title of a very solid program by Alexis Dawes on writing and selling ebooks.

The trouble is that the desperate 3 percent are expensive, because everyone wants them. What are called the “converting keywords” (the keywords that are proven to attract the 3 percent who are ready to buy today) are expensive to buy with pay-per-click. Those same keywords are usually highly competitive for SEO, and getting more so every day.

You’re competing with thousands of hungry internet marketers for that 3%. It can be done, but you have to be at the top of your game.

But there are more buyers out there, if you know how to treat them.

The conquer-the-universe strategy

Holmes’s research goes on to say that about 7 percent of any given market is receptive to the idea of buying, even if they aren’t actively looking. Given the right offer, they could be talked into it. We could call these our Not-So-Desperate buyers.

If you can pull them in, you’ve more than tripled the size of your potential buying pool, going from 3 percent to 10 percent.

Another 30-ish percent will buy one of these days, but it’s not on their radar right now. Call them the Not Yets.

About 30 percent are mildly turned off on the idea of buying your product. Holmes calls them the Soft No.

And about 30 percent are highly turned off. They hate something about your company, or they never pay for information, or their spouse has threatened them with grievous bodily harm if they spend any more money on what you sell. They’re the Absolutely Nevers.

What happens if you start creating marketing communication that entices the Not-So-Desperate, the Not Yets, the Soft Nos, and even a few Absolutely Nevers?

You can scoop up all of those potential buyers and keep them close until they’re ready for you.

  • You can develop enough trust and rapport to warm up the Not-So-Desperates, and even light a bit of a fire to get them moving today.
  • You can make yourself the natural choice when the Not Yets are ready.
  • You can answer objections and reverse the risk for the Soft Nos, which often turns them into Yeses.
  • And you can even get a handful of Absolutely Nevers to act as your unpaid salespeople.

While Absolutely Nevers might never buy themselves, if you’ve set up your marketing correctly, a surprising number of them will pass the word along to someone else who will buy. The product may not be right for them, but they know someone who can use the content.

The key is the content net

What kind of marketing attracts all the potential buyers, rather than the ones who are hot to buy right now?

It has to be marketing that doesn’t look like marketing. Advertising that’s too valuable to throw away. Communication that delivers a real and compelling benefit, with the sales message presented only after you’ve earned the right to sell.

And what kind of marketing keeps them around and engaged until they’re ready to buy from you?

It has to be marketing that’s delivered over time. Advertising that arrives on a predictable, regular schedule. Communication that’s repeated enough times to develop trust and rapport.

And the two best tools for that at the moment are probably a blog combined with an email autoresponder.

A content net weaves a nice, friendly web of communication around all the categories of buyers, and keeps them interested.

It’s a terrific tool for your Desperate 3%, because it educates them about why you’re the unquestionably perfect choice. But it also takes the other 97% and nurtures them, training them to become your ideal customer.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

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Comments

  1. Great post!

    “It has to be marketing that doesn’t look like marketing. Advertising that’s too valuable to throw away. Communication that delivers a real and compelling benefit, with the sales message presented only after you’ve earned the right to sell.”

    So this post is all in favour of email marketing and giving consistent value.

    So that means that we stand a higher chance of converting (greater than 3%?) through email marketing/auto responders.

    Kindest,
    Nabeel

  2. Hey Sonia,

    This is amazing! Thanks for putting this together. I know that sales pages only convert 1-5%. But I didn’t know the rest of the story that you just spelled out. Thanks!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  3. I had some questions:

    “A “good” sales page will usually convert between 1 and 5 percent of its readers.”

    Are we talking about sending a visitor directly to a sales page or sending them to a sales page after providing value for free (like ebooks, newsletters)?

    “According to sales strategist Chet Holmes, at any given time, about 3 percent of your market is in active buying mode.”

    Is this the case even after people are on your list? Shouldn’t this be higher once people enter your list, as they are more targeted customers/visitors?

    Kindest,
    Nabeel

  4. I concur that a blog with an email autoresponder is the best way ot go. Add to that a well tested PPC campaign, and you have the best of both worlds. They though is lots of testing, which most business owners and even marketers are severely weak at.

  5. This is awesome. This goes along so well with your Internet Marketing for Smart People newsletter in that the newsletter gives you a great foundation to work off of and this post tells you why/how of going from targeting the 3% to generating sales from all 100%.

    @Nabeel Definitely have a better chance of converting. Your email list is more targeted than your blog in general, so readers are more in tune to you.

  6. As a customer I feel a little leery now. Am I being “trained” by the crafty salespeople out there? I don’t like feeling like a pet rat being maze trained.

    On the other hand as a marketer, this could work for me.

    I feel so hypocritical. :)

  7. “It has to be marketing that’s delivered over time. Advertising that arrives on a predictable, regular schedule. Communication that’s repeated enough times to develop trust and rapport.”

    Love this statement. Being predictable is a form of control. For example a good parent is predicable. A kid knows exactly how a parent will react and that the parents actions are stable.

    Take a look at your own life. Didn’t you like the parent or person in you life that was predictable?

    Be consistent and predictable. A good mantra for my marketing.

  8. Excellent article, I couldn’t agree more on this being the right approach to take.

    I would love to hear more about building a blogs followers to help get the most out of it. Most of our blog followers are clients and business associates so we do not have the opportunity to appeal to the Soft Nos or Absolutely Nevers.

  9. I am really impressed with the information you have presented in this article. Conversion rates are an important factor I consider each time I launch a new business venture. Keep up the great work with this blog. I hope the articles really help start up affiliates as well as accomplished veterans.

  10. Sonia,

    I’m very glad that no stats were hurt during the writing of this post. I actually half-dialed the number to People for the Ethical Treatment of Statistics (PETS) until I saw your disclaimer.

    I really dig your concept of the content net. Never thought of it in that light. In my experience, using articles and squeeze pages to wet the appetite, then keeping them around the capfire for storytime with a blog and/or email list is the way to go.

    Really concise way of putting it. Thanks.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  11. Dorothy Ray :

    This great article only makes me wish I was in the class right now. A real saver.

  12. In an age where information travels through the internet instantly, it’s nice to know that marketing that happens over time works. We run a business where products are rarely impulse buys, by running a blog to better educate subscribers and visitors, we hope that they will convert to clients some day.
    I would also love to know how to reach out to the soft-nos and absolutely nevers as well.

  13. Very thoughtful article.

  14. Hey Sonia, thanks for sharing this advice on trying to get more potential customers to buy your product. I wouldn’t doubt that 3 percent of any market is willing to buy your product, but you can always raise that number through writing sticky and compelling content.

    Like you say, you don’t always have to get the “Not Yets,” “Soft Nos,” and “Absolutely Nevers” to buy something from you, but as long as you can communicate with them in a way that makes the trust you, there’s always a chance that they might consider buying your product in the future.

  15. When I first got interested in journalism, I stumbled across this site. I was interested, but didn’t think the information could help me; I was a “not yet.” When I became a copy editor for my school’s newspaper, I needed help learning not only that, but more. The natural place to turn was copyblogger, because of the expertise they offered, the personal feel in the posts, and frankly, they sucked me in!

    I am proof of the power of pulling in “not yets” — this post is dead on! Great job, Sonia.

  16. I think what is interesting here is that it is increasing getting more competitive for keywords and basically getting noticed at all on the web. Succesful Business people who relied on their old 5 page website for the past 5 or more years are quickly getting buried in the websphere by these more sophisticated techniques mentioned here. The issue is many don’t have the time, the knowledge or even the awareness to compete online at this level. Technology once again changes the playing field and the losers never see it coming.

  17. Sonia:

    As a member of PETS (People for the Ethical Treatment of Statistics), Im am glad that No actual statistics were harmed in the writing of this post.

    The content net is an intersting concept. For me, my content net would first be a squeeze page so I can capture email addresses and then send interesting and valuable content to stay in touch. Another content net for me would be blogging and other Web 2.0 properties.

    Staying in touch is key, as the percentage of Desperate Buyers stay the same, the actual Desperate Buyers constantly change. We need to make sure we are constantly reaching out to those desperate buyers.

    – Rick

  18. Great post Sonia. It is a solid approach to improving those sales conversions and the emphasis is on trust.

    I think a large % of unconverted sales can be attributed to the fact that people don’t know your business from a bar of soap. Without that newsletter/email responder, chances are that most of your visitors wouldn’t return to your site. Kind of difficult to build a relationship on a once off chance meeting.

    @Dean I think you are spot on. The complexity of technology is increasing at a rapid rate. For those who naturally understand technology it’s great, for the majority of business owners it is another reason not to get involved. Unless someone can hold your hand through the entire process… if you have the time.

  19. Awesome explanation.
    Ah, the joy of converting a “Not-So-Desperate” – that’s gotta be a great day!

  20. Great post. The method of using a blog and autoresponder to slowing drip your marketing message on your prospects is definitely the way to go. If you are not constantly in front of your target audience they will forget about you and when they do decide to buy it will most likely be from someone else. Once again great content.

    Nick

  21. I think that the idea of a Bums Rush at the 3% can cause your business to look a little more desperate than the buyers your hoping to sell to. I think that offering the best of what the 3% want is enough to sell to them. Desperate doesn’t mean buy anything close to the best you still want the best for your money desperate or not. I just don’t see how you can split the search for customers without splitting the message and stay on track.

  22. Converting a not so desperate buyer can lead to a no return customer. A fine line between staying in contact and bugging someone all of the time. It seems like a tough call to me.
    I will be the first to say I have lots to learn but I love it.
    Ken

  23. I had a lot of adsense ads and then realize that I was getting no conversions because of those pesky things. Now, I have them more strategically placed, and things have been working out quite a bit better.

  24. This is Interesting, I really never heard of these stats.

    Well that is explanatory!

    Matt

  25. This is a post that I think every small business needs to read because it basically tells them how to get more customers online

  26. I like the concept of delivering it over time – all marketing messages need to consistent and continual – with out this, how do you build credibility?

  27. Thanks for sharing this Sonia. I know that only 1%-5% converts, but I was amazed when you’ve pointed out the other types of customers. i agree, if you just give them all an opportunity to see your offer, a lot of people might be potential buyer, not just those 1%-5% sure buyers.

    Regards,

    Gary

  28. Great article!

    Thanks for sharing this Sonia.

    Consistent valuable content – marketing that doesn’t look like marketing – that’s what it is all about!

  29. 1-5% ? is also a rate based in our readership ? I mean, if I provide free content for one month, and then, I send them to a sales page, the 1-5% still stand ?

  30. Thanks for sharing Sonia. As you described, at the end of the day it comes down to nurturing those leads, providing them with quality valuable content and gaining their trust. I like your note about “consistent valuable content”, you do not want your product to become forgettable by inconsistent messaging and communication.

  31. I have always found one of the best ways to get good content that sells is to actually let the users create the content themselves. With so many social media tools out there, it’s a good idea to try and promote conversations or dicussions that are consumer led.

  32. I completely agree that building a rapport through valuable and consistent content is the key to converting Desperate Buyers as well as Not Yeters and even a few No’s into customers. In order to maintain a high conversion rate a long-term strategy such as this is needed.

  33. For those who have questions about specific percentages, refer again to the note about statistics. :) You can absolutely create a marketing message that converts a lot more than 5%. But that has to come from your own specific combination of market, product mix, your talent at creating valuable content, your ability and willingness to deliver a strong sales message, etc.

    @Rick Byrd, exactly.

  34. Hi guys. I’ve got some articles on my blog about marketing, and I’d love for anyone to check them out. I haven’t received any feedback yet, so let me know what you think.

    Thanks!

    Joseph

  35. I love your comments. I have starred this blog to share with all my sales people. Older people who started in sales, B.C. (Before Computers) have a hard time understanding the facts you are sharing. The only thing I can think of that is missing is a stress on patience. In the old days sales people were taught to make things happen. Social media takes time and patience to work.

  36. Great value. A little fine-tuning in marketing efforts will go a long way.

  37. Sonia, I love this line… “Communication that delivers a real and compelling benefit, with the sales message presented only after you’ve EARNED the right to sell.”

    I wish I could highlight that in yellow!

    It’s so tempting to jump to a sales or solution-oriented conversation early on. “I’ll just put on my Mr. Fix-it cap and get right to it.” Bad move. Where’s the romance? The goal is to build influence within a trusting relationship, not make a quick sale.

    Keep inspiring,

    Joe :)

  38. Hey Sonia,

    Great post.

    It is all to do with delivering value with content, give them great content for free , and they will follow. Build a relationship with your readership, make them trust you. Market only selective products that you believe in yourself. Bombard them with hypey crap and the chances are you will lose them.

    Unfortunately, too many marketers bombard their list with every product that says it is the great new thing for making you a millionaire within the next 30 days. It can turn many people off. They have seen and heard it all before.

    Many thanks

    Simon

  39. This is a nice post. Yes, I agree with you the better and punchy sales page with good and effective content can bring a lot of business.

    Robert

  40. It’s a very nice I have learned some things via your post as of now I am a beginner.

  41. Very interesting read…Good Job!!

  42. Sonia, great post. My favorite sentence is: A content net weaves a nice, friendly web of communication around all the categories of buyers, and keeps them interested.

    A “friendly web of communication” is effective because, in order to weave it, we have to think about what best serves the client or potential client. We have to focus on their needs and challenges and how we can help solve them. That gets us out of selling mode and into giving mode.

    Sara

  43. @Sara, I agree, except I don’t think “selling mode” and “giving mode” are actually different things. :) I’m not what you would call a natural salesperson, so for me, I’ve had to work out the sales techniques that are mostly based on peace, love, and granola. Interestingly, it turns out that they work really well, plus it actually becomes fun to sell.

    • “I’m not what you would call a natural salesperson, so for me, I’ve had to work out the sales techniques that are mostly based on peace, love, and granola.”

      ‘hearing’ you say that reinforces my confidence that it can work for me too!

      Thanks, Fran

  44. Sonia, Sonia,

    I’d hire you as a sales manager any day (although I probably couldn’t afford you!). From a sales perspective, you obviously have the “know how” :)

    I couldn’t help but think about another side benefit to creating a “Universal Content Net” to capture all types of buyers. Sometimes, the most profitable prospect/customer are the ones that have had a less than desirable experience with a company that strictly focus on the desperate buyer. It’s kind of funny…sometimes, it’s the desperate seller that appeals to the desperate buyer, and the buyer gets burned in the end. It’s good to be on the lookout for those that had poor experiences because they are the easiest to transform into advocates, and they are usually the most vocal!

    Just a thought.

  45. I so loved this quote from your article “that means between 95 and 99 percent of people reject what you’ve got to offer”
    That is so true. However, that is where the real money is. It requires a real knowledge of just who you are trying to sell to. Great article.

  46. hey Sonia,
    i had fun going through the terms that you have put on such customers classified as such.

    Inevitably, it is exactly what every internet marketer should do when it comes to make money online today from their internet business. its is not about tapping the 3% sure buying mode customers, because these are the ones are really really highly competitive to get.

    It all runs down obtaining it in the log run. As what you mentioned, educating them and turning the not-so-want-to-buy into buying mode.

    Distinctively, it figures out that if one is working on PPC, they are eventually tapping on the 3% which makes it very hard for any beginners to even benefit from it. Therefore, as you mentioned, it is always better to start by providing valuable content and information to your potential readers and customers. Money will eventually present itself there after I believe.
    :)

    cheers

  47. As a terribly cynical customer web marketers need to be very subtle to get my attention!

    Very interesting read and I liked Andy’s thoughts about targeting those who have had poor experiences in the past!

  48. Really, really very interesting post.

    “It has to be marketing that doesn’t look like marketing” sound advice and something that I am slowly working towards. Interesting to note that you feel that a blog and auto responder is the best way to start to build this strategy.
    Thanks for all the advice in the post

  49. I found this article to be shockingly informative. Great Piece.

  50. “Shockingly informative,” I like that. ;)

    @Andy, this is a really good insight, thanks:

    sometimes, it’s the desperate seller that appeals to the desperate buyer, and the buyer gets burned in the end.

    No one wants to be in a shotgun wedding. :)

  51. A decent article, an effective content really creates more traffic and higher conversion rate. I did learn something today…unlike other blogs that talks about the same thing over and over…kudos.

  52. Great advice Sonia!

    You’re absolutely right. Staying in front of potential customers in a way that’s non-salesy (ok, so I made up a word), and helps build trust and break down objections is one of the most powerful ways to attract more sales. And the great thing about approaching marketing in this manner is it also builds word-of-mouth referrals.

    When you’re connecting with your prospects in a way that causes them to like and respect you, not only are they more likely to buy what you sell, but they also feel comfortable recommending you to their friends and family. Plus, the “Not So Desperates,” the “Not Yets,” and the “Soft Nos” will be more likely to think of your name first when they reach active buying mode.

    It all boils down to staying in the forefront of their mind in a non-threatening, non-pushy way.

    Thanks again for a great post!

  53. So connecting with potential customers is good. Is the best way to do this with frequent emails? Also, I think a good sales page can convert at higher rates depending the industry you are selling in.

    Thanks

  54. Sonia,
    I love the mental picture of a “content net”. Something that can feel comforting and fun (like the net under a trapeze) but can comfortably snare a prospect like a prize butterfly too! I feel like your post distilled a thousand thoughts that have been running through my head for a long time. Everything about what I love to do makes just a bit more sense to me now.

    Thanks much,
    Justin

  55. I’ve always wanted to set up a newsletter, and this post gives me more reasons to do so. I’ve been looking at possible auto responders and email list softwares to use. I’m thinking about Aweber. I’ve heard some good things about them.

    This is a terrific post. I love how you categorize the different visitors. I had no idea such a low percent are the ones who definitely buy your products. This gives me an even greater reason to put that newsletter into use.

    Good read.