Early in my digital-marketing career working with water-treatment dealers, I encountered a unique scenario with a client whose website had a low conversion rate. Our job was to assess the cause behind the poor performance, then ideate and test a better solution.

Our typical process was to review the website to find the pages with the most visitors and the lowest conversion rates. This would narrow down the pages that, if improved, would garner the most significant lead-generation wins for the client. We use the Pareto principle to look at what 20 percent of website pages, if successfully improved, will generate the 80 percent increase in leads.

After going through this process, it became clear that the highest-value product page was related to water softeners. From there, we identified areas on the page for improvement, including homing in on the value proposition, headline, subhead, calls to action, conversational copy, and a layout that optimized a thought sequence.

Our goal was to use a principle based in science and psychology to help people feel confident about contacting our client to get more information on water softening for their homes. Over the next few months, we employed all the strategies we knew to work well. Yet, to our dismay, the web page’s conversion rate never improved.

A conversion rate is the rate at which a page on a website or the entire site itself converts people into leads (for lead-generation-focused sites) or sales (for e-commerce sites). For example, if 100 people visit your website, and 10 of them fill out a form or call you, the site has a 10 percent conversion rate.

Frustrated and confused, we finally turned to the ultimate source of marketing information and strategy: our client’s customers.

We asked them to tell us specifically what they were looking for in a softener and water-treatment company. We asked why they were visiting the softener page, what type of information they wanted to see on the site, if they found what they were looking for, and how we could improve their experience. We did all this in the form of a quiz that we added to all relevant pages of the website.

It didn’t take long for a pattern to emerge.

We discovered that 85 percent of people who were searching for softeners and landing on the site already had a water softener. It was a mature, replacement market!

Armed with this valuable information, we went to work creating a new version of the water-softener landing page that put less focus on why someone needs a softener, the benefits of a softener, and how softeners work, and more focus on why this particular softener was superior and this particular company was the best option to do business with for water treatment.

We addressed the questions people asked in the quiz and organized the site in order of the market’s priorities. The results were astounding! The new page outperformed the original page by a whopping 212 percent at a 98 percent statistical significance.

This meant our client was now enjoying more leads without investing any more money in paid advertising. Plus, people were enjoying a better user experience. What a powerful learning opportunity for our team.

Through this, it became clear that when it comes to water treatment, every market is truly unique.

Unlike HVAC, plumbing services, or appliance repair, water-treatment marketing should vary from market to market to meet the knowledge level and needs of each homeowner and each home’s water-quality demands.

Dealers of all market types, regardless of water quality, will benefit from employing this methodology of asking the end-user what’s important, testing the ideas, and improving based on market data. It’s also why you should not assume your website or marketing is meeting the needs of your market.

How does a business assess what its market wants and execute a successful strategy to meet the needs of its target audience while increasing leads and driving down marketing costs?

Simple: Ask questions methodically, intentionally, and proactively.

The first step is to take a hard look at your baseline metrics.

Most companies, in my experience, fail at this very first step. While it’s not rocket science, it isn’t as simple as it may seem. Engaging a marketing professional who has experience in full-funnel lead tracking is imperative.
Let’s assume the goal of your website is to generate quality leads for your business. From there, you want to set an appointment to then make a sale. In this case, you must track all the ways people can get in touch. This typically consists of form submissions, phone calls, and live chat. It is important to ensure all of these avenues are trackable and what generated the click that led to the conversion (form submission or phone call) is tracked, as well.

For call tracking, most call-tracking software will track click identifiers if you use dynamic number insertion. (See the July 2023 Water Conditioning & Purification International article “5 Reasons to Record and Review Inbound Calls” for more information on call tracking.) Form submissions can be a bit trickier depending on what software or plugin you’re using. Discuss this with your web developer and marketing team to ensure that when someone submits a form, the source of the traffic (paid ads, organic search, a referral, or direct traffic) is being collected and any related click identifiers are being retained.

Once you have this data tracking set up, it’s time to set up your key performance metrics. For most of our clients, this includes website traffic, form submissions, phone calls, and conversion rate. We also suggest tracking which form submissions and calls are truly leads and are not current customers, vendors, or solicitors.

The next step is to start asking questions.

We use Hotjar for simple polls that we can add to a website and Typeform for more detailed quizzes and surveys. Hotjar also lets you view through heatmaps and click maps how people move through a site and interact with it.

Asking the right questions is key.

Start with very simple questions (yes/no or check-box questions) to get people committed to starting the quiz before asking for more detailed information, such as in long-form text boxes. Don’t ask for contact information while you’re trying to gather data—you’ll get more responses if people feel like you won’t contact them later.

We are often asked, “How many responses are needed to make decisions?” While a statistician will likely have a specific number to meet before being certain your data is statistically valid, I encourage you to be realistic about the size of your market and website traffic. Essentially, when you start seeing patterns, you can create a hypothesis to test on the site.

Once your data is gathered and a hypothesis is formed, it’s time to test.

Work with your web designer and marketer to create a landing page that addresses your market’s top concerns, lists in priority order what’s important for visitors to see on the page, and uses a good amount of user-experience best practices.

Be sure to make it very easy for people to contact you. Sprinkle calls to action, your phone number, forms, and reviews throughout the page to help visitors get in touch and feel confident that other people have had a great experience with your company.

Don’t skimp on the social proof—it’s essential in today’s world.

Lastly, set up the test.

Software like Convert.com, VWO, Optimizely, and AB Tasty are all options with varying costs and features. Whatever you use, ensure the conversion tracking for form submissions, calls, live-chat engagements, and sales are all set up properly. It’s equally important to accurately send data into your reporting so you know which page is winning over time.

Because water treatment varies from market to market, don’t assume what works for another dealer will work for you. It’s best to test and follow the data wherever it leads. Always have your end-user’s best interest at heart, and you’ll see improvements over time.

You’ll be one of the few who enjoy a high-converting website that generates quality leads for less money with a marketing strategy that adapts to changing water quality and consumer needs.

About the author Amanda Crangle and the team at Lamplight Digital Media help residential and commercial water-treatment companies profitably grow their dealerships using digital marketing. They have worked with over 100 water-treatment dealerships spanning North America, managed millions of dollars in ad spend, and performed over 1,000 scientific website split tests. Crangle intimately knows the water industry, having worked in a dealership as a sales rep and as a general manager.

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