I can’t dance.  With the ballroom dance craze sweeping the U.S., I shudder thinking of all the poor men (or women) being dragged to dance lessons to learn the Fox Trot, Mamba, and other impressive (for the gracefully talented) dance steps. 

What’s interesting about ballroom dancing is how one dancer leads the other to produce the dramatic outcome – a stellar dance routine.  It’s a “two-step” process.

Now you may ask – “what in the world does this have to do with paid search?”  Well, I’m not really too sure how ballroom dancing applies…But the “two-step” process has major significance.

With paid search, a marketer’s thinking is often focused on the immediate sale.  Driving paid visitors to a landing page that presents a product or service is the common strategy.  But does it always work so easily?  My answer after working with hundreds of clients is NO, it isn’t that simple.

You see, not every visitor is looking to immediately buy a specific product or service even if your landing page presents it in the most articulate and sizzling persuasive manner.  If the visitor hasn’t emotionally recognized the immediate need to purchase – they won’t. 

In some cases, a persuasive landing page with excellent sales copy may connect with the latent need of a buyer to bring out the immediacy but more often, people like to browse, research and spend a little time considering their options.  

It’s a common mistake of marketers to think that customers move through their buying process in a linear fashion.  As human beings with often unlimited choices, we think sporadically.

So, what’s the alternative strategy if expecting immediate sales from paid search doesn’t always happen?

The alternative is doing the two-step.  Let me explain:

The first step is to send your paid search visitors to a landing page that only offers them something of high-value like an email course, e-book, or other informational gift that requires them to provide their email address (or other form of contact information) in exchange.

The landing page you use for this first step is simple, to the point, and focused entirely on generating an opt-in and bolstering the value (e.g. benefits) offered to the visitor through the gift.  Make sure that the opt-in form on the landing page is above the “fold”.  Because you are giving away a free gift don’t write lengthy sales copy.   

Your opt-in conversion rate (defined as paid search visitors who opt-in with their email address in exchange for your gift) will be high if the item you are offering connects with the visitor (it has appeal) and it is perceived as providing value.   Depending on the niche market you are serving, opt-in conversion rates may range on average from 6% to 65%. 

Why the extreme range?  Because giving away a free item isn’t as alluring as it was years ago.  People are a little more weary about giving their email addresses even for free information.  You have to sell them on the value of your content and build credibility in how you will handle their email address (or other personal information).  This can be achieved through stating testimonials, presenting privacy policies, and even in the words and phrases you use in your sales copy.

The second step is to add the email address to an autoresponder series that delivers the free information over a few days or weeks.  The ideal situation is to offer a special report relating to your customer’s problem that is immediately available for download but is also broken into segments and sent out via autoresponder.  In this scenario, you’re able to leverage your content for dual purposes.

The purpose of the autoresponder is to up-sell your email recipient to the actual product.  Now depending on the price of your product, you may even include an intermediary step.  This step may offer a 30-day “discounted” trial to get the recipient comfortable transacting business with you.  Or present your visitor with another “lower commitment” but still transactional step prior to a larger purchase.  You want the email recipient to sample your value further in exchange for a greater commitment.

The strategy supporting the “two-step” has been around in the direct marketing realm for quite some time.  It works and it enables you to cost-effectively use paid search to produce sales. 

The key is to stop thinking linearly and start thinking about how to begin any form of relationship with your visitors.  If you have a great product, priced favorably then your greatest barrier to sales is getting a visitor to commit to the relationship.  

Sometimes, the “lead” objective like producing immediate sales doesn’t produce the outcome – instead, it needs a partner for the two steps.  With the two-step process, the lead is the email opt-in, and the sale is the follow-up.  The end result is sales from paid search but in an unconventional way; kind of like starting this article confessing “I can’t dance”. 

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