Your customers are unlikely to arrive at your web site without having been somewhere else first; even if they are time travellers, like Dr Who, and they suddenly port themselves from outer space to your web pages, they will have been somewhere else first. Understanding how people got to your site can help you improve your business since it enables you to put signposts along the way for them.

Some marketing folks call this the “pathway” to your site or the “journey”; it doesn’t matter what you call it, what’s important is that you understand how people get to your site in the first place. I was speaking about this very topic this morning to a group of Chief Executives in the Midlands. I arrived back in my office to find a podcast from the Online Marketing Show, which opened in London Today.

The podcast included interviews with Chris Dobson, from Microsoft and James Elias from Google. Both of these leading figures from the Internet industry emphasised the need for Internet marketers to understand the “end to end” nature of getting customers. Find out where they start and how they get to the finish line – your shopping cart receipt page…!

When I speak with businesses I find that too few consider this. They think it is a simple one or two step procedure, such as a click on a Pay Per Click advert, or a click on a well ranked web page. But in order to gain more business you need to understand what the customer was doing before they found your advert or link. What was driving them? Understand that, and you can gain more business.

Thanks to Search Engine Optimisation and Pay Per Click, many businesses have been fooled into believing that in order to grow their business online they simply need to tweak their web pages or change their advertising in subtle ways to get more click throughs. Companies are spending inordinate amounts of time and a great deal of effort on the last part of the customer’s journey. However, to gain more business, you need to think about the start of that journey or pathway.

In almost all cases that begins offline – not on the Internet. Few people make impulse purchases whilst surfing. They are online for a reason – to buy a product or service in your sector. But they started that journey offline – perhaps after reading a newspaper or article, or following a conversation with friends and colleagues. So, rather than concentrating on the online portion of the journey to your shopping cart, spend more time on the start of that pathway, in the offline space, and you will gain more business as a result.

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