How To Diagnose Marketing Conversion Funnels

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How To Diagnose Marketing Conversion Funnels

Shannon asks, "What can I do differently to increase my conversions between home page —> contact page —> contact forms filled out?"

This is a more complicated question than you might initially think, because there are several factors at play here. Let’s think back to 1968 and Bob Stone’s direct marketing framework. In that framework, there are three key factors that yield conversions to sales (remembering that this is in the era of physical direct postal mail and the Internet wasn’t a thing):

  1. List
  2. Offer
  3. Creative

Stone posited that most direct mail campaigns fail because of one or more failures in this process. Do you have the right mailing list, do you have the right offer, and do you have the right creative?

Direct Website Marketing

Fast forward 53 years and the same logic still works for our marketing. In the context of your website and improving conversions, we have to ask the same three questions, albeit slightly more abstract.

  1. Do we have the right audience? This is a critical question, especially as it relates to things like SEO. If the traffic coming to your website is interested in, say, marketing books and we’re selling coffee, it doesn’t matter how good your website is, how clever the design is, how many A/B tests you run. You will never increase conversions because you’ve got the wrong people on your site.
  2. Do we have the right offer? Are we selling what our audience wants to buy? If our audience is interested in coffee, and our coffee is twice the price and half the quality of our competitors, we’re not going to do very well. If our audience is interested in regular coffee and we’re selling decaf, we’re going to have an uphill battle. Our offer to our audience has to be competitive.
  3. Do we have the right creative? This is where user interface and user experience come into play. Does our website’s design, navigation, and customer experience help or hinder conversion? Do people get lost on our site? Do we distract them from the things we want them to do?

How do we know if we’ve got the right audience, the right offer, the right creative? This is where analytics and marketing data science come into play.

The Right Audience

Determining whether we have the right audience is a blend of several different metrics. First, we determine where our traffic comes from. If it’s from a source that has audience data, like organic search or Facebook, we make the determination about our audience’s interests. Go into Facebook Page Insights or Google Search Console and see what your audience is interested in. What words or phrases do they find your site for?

Search Console Query Results

Are these search terms I want to be known for? Will this attract the right audience to my site? If this isn’t right, if this isn’t the audience I want, I need to change my demand generation strategies.

The Right Offer

There is no substitute for asking your audience what they want. I do this frequently, in things like email surveys, on-site surveys, etc. Every website owner should have a continuous survey in place asking users what they came for and whether they found what they were looking for. There is no analytical substitute for asking people what they want, why they’re at your place, and what you can help them with.

If your audience is the correct one but they’re not responding to your current offers, then ask them what they would respond to, what they want. You will either find you need to change your offers, or change audiences (because your audience is in fact not the correct one if no one wants to buy what you have to sell).

The Right Creative

This is where tools like Google Optimize, Microsoft Clarity, and many others help us determine the user experience on our sites. What things do people respond to? What creative choices are working for or against us? We check things like Google Analytics Site Search data (assuming we have site search set up and turned on) to find out what people are searching for on our website. If critical, core offerings are being searched for, it means our navigation isn’t leading them there naturally.

Microsoft Clarity
Microsoft Clarity dashboard of UI issues

This is where we do extensive A/B testing of layouts, text, images, the works – anything that affects the customer’s path to purchase. Running tests with a tool like the Trust Insights Most Valuable Pages assessment will help here.

The Wrong Order

Here’s where so many marketers go wrong: the order of operations. Too many marketers start with creative; they rush out and start doing A/B tests, they commission a website redesign, they hire a new product photography shoot. Creative is last in priority! Do the steps in order.

If you have the wrong audience, nothing else matters. You won’t sell anything.

If you have the right audience and the wrong offer, it doesn’t matter how your site looks – people still won’t buy.

If you have the right audience and the right offer, only then do you need to fix up your creative and optimize it.


Fixing up a conversion funnel isn’t rocket surgery. The challenge is to identify what’s broken and fix it, in order of importance. Make sure you’ve attracted buyers, presented them with a compelling offer, and gotten out of the way of the purchase process as much as possible.

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