Let’s start with a little background. A good marketing strategy usually has at least these three components:
1) An acquisition strategy – how will we get our potential customers, wherever they are, to start to think about us?
2) A conversion strategy – how will we turn interested prospects into paying customers?
3) A retention strategy – how will we keep these paying customers?
Marketing consultants the world over have a diagram of this in their powerpoint presentations; it is, after all, a good conceptual framework for understanding marketing. But when you map tactics to these categories – building a website, for instance – the clear boundaries tend to break down. I want to argue that this is okay: don’t panic. This is the real world, not business school!
The title of this post is, “does a website really attract customers?” The answer is: “it depends on your website.”
A website is not automatically an acquisition strategy. When you buy an advertisement, it goes in front of a group of people that are already doing… something. When you build a website, it goes in front of… no one.
Your website doesn’t have a storefront window looking out onto a popular pedestrian walkway. There are no people casually walking through the Internet window shopping your website. Parts of your website meant to acquire visitors (like a blog) aren’t truly acquisition strategies. They still need to be driven to from something else (like guest blogging at another blog to promote your own).
People need to hear about your website – through a link, word of mouth, or an ad – before they can visit it. So, if you’re treating your website like an advertisement, you’re going to have to advertise your advertisement (since not many people serendipitously link to advertisements), which is both a mouthful and a colossal waste of money.
You’re much safer thinking of your website as part of your conversion toolset; its job should be to turn visitors into customers. Now, if the way you go about converting customers is by providing information, tools, resources, and other compelling content, you’re probably going to end up with a website that acts as an acquisition asset as well; you’ll show up in Google searches, other websites will send you traffic, and you’ll be the hippest cat on the Twitter scene. Just kidding; no one on Twitter is hip.