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The art of simplicity in online sales

5 min read
Sam DeBord

If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably have a bit of sales in your personality. You believe in what you do and have a real desire to tell people everything about it.

That's a problem online. People have a finite attention span in general; it’s even shorter on the web. Marketing pitches fill up our inboxes. Ads and videos crowd out our social media feeds. Search engine results are wrapped in spammy sponsored websites. The tentacles of marketing are grasping at our eyeballs from every corner of our screens.

Whether you're selling luxury real estate or ugly Christmas sweaters, your ability to garner a consumer's attention and hold it long enough to convince them to take action is crucial.

The timeframe within which they will click the "Delete," "Spam" or "Back" button is short, and your communication to potential customers should always be focused on that sense of time.

Email marketing: Keep it short

Have you ever read an email from a retail store that explained, in-depth, what kinds of products they were selling, where they were made, and all of the reasons why you should buy them? Of course you haven't. You either clicked on the big button that said "Get 20% Off" or deleted the email after the second sentence.

The shorter your email message is, the more likely it will be read. If your message is simple enough that a consumer can't help but reach the decision point, you've written it correctly. Allowing them to trail off during a long diatribe about your company's greatness is letting them off the hook.

Ask them to take action and make a decision, and don't let them avoid that decision.

Personal experience has driven this message home for our company. We used to thank consumers for signing up with us and explain all of the benefits of our website and our services … blah, blah, blah. The subject line of the email was about 10 words; the body was about three paragraphs; and literally no one ever responded.

As we honed our messages over time, they always became shorter and the response rates kept rising. Today, the subject line of the first email to our new customers has just two words. The body consists of a single sentence (a question). The signature is merely a first name. Ten to 20 percent of recipients actually email us back with personal information and the beginning of a conversation. That might sound small, but considering business email open rates are about 15 percent and of those, only one out of four click-through or act on those emails, our conversion rates are probably four times higher than average. It has had a significant impact on our long-term sales.

Website marketing: Be bold

I've written before about converting traffic with a simple website pitch, but it really needs to be at the forefront of everything you're doing online. Decide what it is you want the user to do, and then don't let them avoid that decision. Maybe they'll buy your product or contact you. Maybe they won't -- but if you make sure that they know you've asked, you're on the right track.

Make your sales pitch big, bold, front and center.

You've got lots of great information about yourself, your company, and your product. Those things can always be available through menu options and supporting content somewhere down the page, but if a consumer is landing on your website looking for your product or service, smack them in the face with the option to purchase it immediately.

Your pitch doesn't have to be gaudy or cheesy; it just needs to be so obvious to the eye that the consumer can't avoid making the decision to take action on it or not. Keep it simple. Tell them exactly what it is, why they want it, and how to get it in as few words as possible. Use active wording. Save your diatribe about your company supporting orphan Dutch dogs with sustainable wooden shoes for the content below the fold.

If the customer lands on the website and already knows what they want to buy, don't get in their way.

Social media marketing: Curb the chatter

It's getting difficult and expensive to attract business through social media advertising. With that in mind, creating succinct messages that convert engagement is crucial to your ROI.

Forget what you want to say. Think about what you need to say so that someone will comment, share or click.

Facebook posts with less than 80 characters get 66 percent more engagement than longer posts. People don't want to read a novel on Facebook; they want to interact. Twitter may allow 140 characters, but you'll get more retweets if you stay closer to 100. That includes links and hashtags, so your message should really be 10 words or less. On Google+, your best bet is just 60 characters.

Social media advertising is a great exercise in minimalist marketing pitches, and the more you practice it, the better you'll become.

Corral the ego and pitch with precision

Salespeople, you've got to stop talking so much. That's a hard thing for all of us to do. Selling online requires it, though. You don't sell more because you've said more -- it's usually just the opposite. Take the time to craft your words wisely, and simplify them wherever possible. Build out your company profile and complex sales pitch, and then put them where they belong -- as support material for those doing in-depth research. For the average consumer, the more obvious and concise you make their options, the more likely they are to take action -- and that conversion is where your bottom line lives or dies.