In practically every major marketing teaching, course, or seminar I've come across, I have found that almost all successful marketing on the Internet really boils down to two essential factors: traffic and conversion.
Simply put, visitors and sales.
In fact, I've been to two-day Internet marketing seminars and workshops, where the first day focused on generating traffic and the second day on building sales.
That's all well and good. However, I believe there's one more key component. It's one that's growing not only in popularity, but also in need and importance. It's the one factor on which the other two hinge. And it's one that seems to be the least talked about.
In my career, I've seen the proof again and again. If you incorporate this third element into your business model, chances are you're going to see substantial, continuous growth in your business — with a lot less effort than you've originally thought possible.
What is it? What is this third, missing element?
First, let's talk about traffic for a moment. I'm sure you'll agree that one of the most common and largest source of traffic is, without question, the search engine.
But when I hear marketers talk about search engine strategies, optimization techniques, submission software, etc, it befuddles me to see there are still some marketers out there who rely heavily on them. And for a few, only on them and nothing else.
Don't get me wrong. Search engines are important and they are an essential part of a marketer's strategy. Learning and applying SEO are undoubtedly crucial and necessary.
But search engines — or any other traffic-generation strategy by itself — are not, and should never be, regarded as your sole source of traffic. While marketers must never discount the search engines, a savvy marketer's portfolio must go beyond them.
Marketing requires an investment of time, money, and energy. And like all other investments, the key is to diversify. You should look at managing your marketing portfolio just as you would manage your financial portfolio.
A well-balanced marketing portfolio consists of a combination of diversified strategies that are executed synchronously, diligently, and intelligently.
Look at it this way: many reputable entrepreneurs state that the surest way to achieve wealth is through multiple streams of income. Online, the surest way to achieve success is through multiple streams of both visitors and sales.
Your traffic must originate from different sources. The adage “don't put all your eggs in one basket” applies just as much with your traffic as it does with your income.
Whether you write articles, buy classified ads, advertise with banners, bid on keywords, publish fresh content, interact in social media, manage an affiliate program, or submit to the search engines, your marketing efforts must never rely on a single source.
An individual traffic source may generate just a small stream of visitors. There's also the risk it may even eventually dry up. But when you invest in multiple traffic sources and add them together, the total equals a high, reliable, and consistent stream of visitors.
On the other hand, a single source may be more rewarding and effective than all the others. But just like a prudent financial investor, the key is to diversify by investing your marketing efforts into multiple traffic sources in order to reduce your risks.
Makes sense so far? Good.
Sales are no different. If your business consists of only one website, or if it sells only one product, diversify your sales and develop additional streams of income.
There are two ways: in addition to looking at multiple ways of increasing an individual income stream (e.g., through split-testing, list-building, adding upsells, making backend offers, etc), you should also look at building supplemental streams of income, too.
For example, join third-party affiliate programs to sell related, non-competing products. Monetize your opt-in subscriber list with special cross-sell offers. Sell ad space on your blogs. Develop joint-venture alliances to bundle products or traffic sources together. Create continuity programs and membership sites. And the list goes on.
Just be careful not to overextend your core funnel, dilute your brand, or lose sight of your target niche. In other words, don't be a jack of all trades and a master of none.
Diversify, but don't dilute. Stay focused.
Sure, build multiple streams of income and traffic. But start by looking at multiple streams of traffic for each stream of income, and multiple streams of income for each stream of traffic. In short, start with what you already have. Optimize first. Maximize later.
Nevertheless, if one source of traffic slows down, dries up, or depletes entirely, the loss is minimal when compared to the whole picture. But if you only have one stream of income and it slows down to a crawl for whatever reason, you're dead.
However, earlier I said there's a third element that has become an essential process to building a successful online business. Why? Because visitors and sales are not enough.
While everyone on the Internet extols the virtues of driving traffic and increasing conversion rates, this one element seems to have slipped off of many people's radars. It's the one element that probably deserves more attention than the other two.
And that's credibility.
With its vastness and lack of one-on-one, face-to-face interaction, the Internet adds this third dimension to the mix that's often not as apparent. It's the need to develop credibility, as well as to look at multiple ways to communicate it and boost it.
Don't just be credible. Look for ways to increase credibility and maintain it, too. There are a great variety of ways for doing this, from adding seals of approval to your website and adding elements of proof to your sales copy, to interacting in social media.
However, one of the easiest ways to improve your credibility…
… Is to develop and nurture relationships.
You may have some traffic and it might bring in some sales. But if you don't have credibility, you have nothing. Nothing will grow your traffic and your sales more than the relationships you create and keep. And relationships are built on trust.
So to that end, look at every relationship that's tied to your business as a partnership — whether it's with your subscribers, your referrals, your affiliates, your joint-venture partners, your suppliers, your service providers, and of course, your clients.
Every person connected with your business, regardless of how they are connected to it, is, and should be considered as, a partner in your business. And every relationship deserves the attention, care, and concern that a partnership typically requires.
When compared to traditional offline businesses, online people are more important than ever before. Why? Because the Internet is cold and impersonal, and takes away the human element from the sales process. So people are easier to forget online.
Too many marketers nowadays look at their clients not as partners or even as people, but as hits, clickthroughs, conversion rates, units sold, and dollar amounts — or, as my late wife would say, as a bunch of “nameless, faceless wallets.”
Therefore, it goes to reason that we can use the Internet to supplant what is often easier to do offline, such as meeting people and interacting with them.
The more robotic, cold, and impersonal our lives become through the use of technology, the more we will crave, seek out, and use technology to allow human interaction. It's the reason behind the rise of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
(It's also the reason I love social media. Personally, I don't use social media marketing as a way to drum up traffic or sales, but to create trust and build relationships.)
Trust is also the area on which the other two highly depend. Why? Because it is never enough to simply attract visitors. And it is never enough to simply sell visitors, either — as strange as that may seem. If you don't believe me, ask the following:
Are your visitors highly qualified or simply curious? Are they impulsive and trusting, or cynical and skeptical? Are they one-time customers, or buying from you again and again? Are they keeping to themselves, or telling the world about you, good or bad?
So regardless of the business you're in, a successful marketing portfolio consists of numerous strategies focused on three core elements, and on developing them equally:
- Building Traffic
- Building Trust
- Building Sales
You need all three (i.e., visitors, sales, and relationships). Solid, sustainable growth relies on all three key factors. It is no longer enough to simply build traffic and converting that traffic. Today, it is just as important to build and maintain credibility.
Therefore, keep in mind that every single marketing activity you perform, from search engines to social media, must revert to, result in, or improve upon all those three.
Look at the successful, long-term, growth-minded marketers out there. Many will tell you their success is not based on a single source but on many. They are focused on all of the above three areas in some way, shape, or form. You should do the same.
Unfortunately, the web is also replete with marketers who rely on one area alone, on the lowest hanging fruit, or on a mere handful of tactics that amount to meager results. If they do produce results of any significance, they're short-lived at best.
Should you work with only one traffic-building source, one income-building source, and one credibility-building source, chances are your business will do poorly — either that, or it will be built on a shaky foundation that could crumble at any time.
So, think like a savvy investor.
Expand, balance, and diversify your online marketing portfolio. Focus on multiple ways to build traffic, trust, and sales. If you do, you will multiply your chances of online success.
Michel Fortin is a strategic marketing consultant and certified digital marketing expert who specializes in helping professionals, experts, and skill-based entrepreneurs build their practices or businesses. With his unique combination of copywriting, SEO, and CRO, he can help improve traffic, leads, and revenue for his clients. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless wins, generating in excess of $300 million in sales and results that have broken many industry records. He's the author of two top-selling books and often speaks at industry events.