Brian Carroll

Six Places to Focus to Make your Website a Revenue Generator

May 24th, 2016

We have more digital marketing channels than ever before, but it’s become even harder to connect with customers. In my role as chief evangelist for MECLABS Institute, MarketingSherpa’s parent company, I get to talk to marketers and thought leaders daily.

One thing’s become clear, that there is a growing divide between those who are fully engaged with digital marketing and those who are still figuring out the fundamentals. When I read the report by Kristin Zhivago, President of Cloud Potential, on “revenue road blocks,” I wanted to see what she’s discovered to help marketers quickly close this digital marketing gap and do better.

If marketers directly address getting six key focuses right, you can move forward and close the gap between digital and customers.

Brian: What inspired you to do your research on revenue road blocks?


Kristin: Actually, it was our day-to-day experience working with company managers that drove us to these conclusions, combined with our research on the best practices of digital market leaders in more than 28 industries. The gap between the companies that are successfully using the newer methods and those who are not is growing wider by the quarter.

What is really concerning is we are seeing otherwise solid, successful companies slipping behind their more digitally adept competitors, and they can’t figure out why. They’re doing what they’ve always done, and it’s not working anymore.

Of course, that’s the problem. Buyers have radically changed the way they buy, especially in the last couple of years, and these sellers haven’t changed the way they’re selling. Mobile and the cloud have changed everything; today’s buyers are not the obedient, pass-through-your-funnel buyers that we used to be able to depend on. They are looking for any excuse to say no, because they are sure that there’s another solution only a click away. There is absolutely no risk for them to reject you. In fact, rejection is the safest option for them.

Can you tell us more about your background and where all this came from?

As you know, I’ve always been passionate OK, maybe obsessed with the “buyer” side of the buyer/seller relationship. I’ve written two books on the subject, the most recent being Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy.

This was one of the first books that looked at selling from the buyer’s perspective. In it, I identified the types of buying processes (Light Scrutiny, Medium Scrutiny, Heavy Scrutiny and Intense Scrutiny). Knowing where your product or service falls on the scrutiny scale helps you avoid some of the most common selling mistakes.

If you try to sell one type of product as if it were another, you’re not going to serve up the content the buyer wants to see, at the right time, and you’re going to lose the sale. This is as true now as it was when I wrote the book; in fact, it’s even more important now because of the way people buy in the age of mobile and the cloud.


What were the big “learnings” or “ahas”” you took away from the two years of research you conducted?

The research on the best practices of digital leaders convinced us that 1) it was possible to excel in today’s environment, 2) that the leaders focused on six key areas, [and] 3) that if you don’t get those six areas right, it really doesn’t matter what you’re doing with your website. Everyone focuses on their website, when in fact there are six elements related to a site that, if handled right, will make the site a revenue generator.

The six areas are: customers, search, paid search, conversion, competition, and technology. Taking them one at a time:

  1. Customers: Obviously if you don’t know exactly what your customers are searching for, what they care about and how your customers are buying, you won’t be relevant to them.
  2. Search: If you don’t get search right, you won’t see any customers anyway you’ll be invisible.
  3. Paid search: [This] can actually work, using the new tools that show you how your competition is already winning in that space.
  4. Conversion: For us, it is always about revenue. Everything you do for marketing has to be about revenue, including what you measure and adjust.
  5. Competition: You need to know how your competition is doing overall, and what is working for them, because they are part of the buyer’s choosing environment.
  6. Technology: If your site loads too slowly, or is not truly mobile-slick, you will be losing about half your buyers. A year ago, Google decided to view mobile as a completely separate category, giving it as much (or more) importance than desktop searches.


What are the some of the problems you see companies repeating over and over again?

As we have been helping company managers put best practices to work, we have found that there were barriers to adoption of best digital practices. They fall into five categories:

Building a new website. This is a knee-jerk reaction to “not enough revenue from our digital efforts.” It is always a mistake to start here. First you need to understand what’s really broken, and where your competition is eating your lunch. (We do this with a digital impact appraisal.)

You don’t want to spend five disruptive months building a new site when the problem could be elsewhere (and we usually find it is in one of the six areas). For example, one company owner was getting literally millions of clicks per month, but he wasn’t converting. Activity should never be mistaken for revenue.

Focusing on too many metrics. You can measure all sorts of things now. But we always go back to that revenue rule. When a customer does make a purchase, what are the pieces of information that satisfied the “micro decisions” he made along the way? Start at the end, not the beginning. Forget the funnel. Start with revenue and work backwards. What you learn should determine what you should measure.

Paying for design instead of using templates. I’m sorry to say this, because it will not be happy news for designers, but the age of the artisan is past. There are dozens of template companies with thousands of very professional templates to pick from. When you use templates correctly, you can put up a new site in days, not weeks or months.

Setting up your own technology. Ditto for applications. Don’t build it. Get a cloud app that is close enough and make it work, then get on with making money. Marketing has become its own IT department; marketers don’t have enough time as it is. The skills required to evaluate, build and maintain marketing systems are completely different from those required to run marketing. Dedicate an IT person to the marketing department as soon as you are able; it will pay off.

Ignoring best practices. This is the one that’s really killing companies. The competition not even your direct competition has set the bar in your industry. They are meeting your customer’s expectations. If you are not meeting your customers’ expectations and Google’s expectations, and always driving toward revenue, you will fall behind.


What are tips or advice you have for leaders who overcome these five roadblocks — or better still prevent them from happening?

As we talk about in our guide, there are solutions to all of these problems, but you have to start by getting a good, solid look at the current situation. We use literally dozens of tools to provide a digital appraisal, but at the very least you should be using tools such as Google Analytics, Moz and SpyFu to see where you stand compared to your competitors.

Managers now have more ways than ever to know what is really happening in their digital environment. Armed with the reality of the situation, you start working on the low-hanging fruit. We often start by improving the technology behind the site, as it sets the foundation for all other changes. And if your back end is bogging down your site, nothing you do on the front end will make a difference.

Frankly, the most difficult part is giving up on the things that you believe are correct. Buyers have changed. We all have to change what we’re doing to accommodate them. Fortunately, new tools make this a factual exercise, not a guessing game.


Do you have any tools or templates leaders can use for inspiration to get things going in the right direction?

Great template sites include, and


You can follow Brian Carroll on Twitter at @brianjcarroll.


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