5 Tactics to Improve Online Sales

There’s an old saying that nothing happens until someone sells something. It is still true for any business.

Every month at the Sales Rescue Team, we provide free insights and ideas to small business owners about their websites. We’ve done reviews on all types of companies:  product, service, niche or mass market. Over 18 months of doing reviews, we’ve learned that five tactics improve time on site, click through, and conversion to sales.  Here are the 5 tactics:

1. Have a Super Clear Call to Action

This is 80 percent of the game. Really. What are you asking the prospect to do?  What is the one thing you most want them to do?

I know your answer:  TO click on the BUY button!  But getting them there still has to be done tastefully and professionally. You still wrap other content around your main offer, but you make it really obvious what you want them to do and, if at all possible, the benefits they receive should be close by so that clicking through is quickly compelling.

Most companies try to jam all of their content into one screen because they’ve heard that you have only seven seconds to capture attention.  Not seven seconds to confuse, mind you.  Seven seconds to communicate. Let me be clear that the alternative isn’t the Squeeze Page that is sometimes common where they have no other path to take except the Buy button.

Here are two sites that are converting customers that we reviewed and who are still doing a great job in 2010. This first image is for Dot Girl First Period Products.

2. Less Copy, More Filling

This rides with #1, of course, but if you can’t boil it down to the equivalent of a 30-second elevator pitch, then you need to rethink your messaging. This isn’t to say that you should have all images, far from it, but you want to keep testing your message and the mix of images versus copy.  Less is often better.

This screenshot is from custom energy bar maker, Element Bars, and achieves a clear call to action and less copy.

3. About Us

Prospects like to know with whom they are doing business. If you look at your analytics, as a small and less-known company, you may find that a lot of people click through to your About page.  If it is generic and doesn’t tell who you are and why you do what you do – change it. Use the advice found in “Trust Agents” by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Be transparent.

I am not saying that this item drives sales directly, but it has an impact. Look at your analytics.

4. Real Testimonials

I have had arguments over this one with new small business owners, but market experience and data supports it —  lose the “testimonials” like this:

Umm. No one believes those.  If they do, you probably don’t want them as a customer.

What works:  Use LinkedIn and ask your best customers to join you on LinkedIn and to give a recommendation there.  It is verifiable. Believable. Use Facebook and build out a fan page. You are better without testimonials than to put practically anonymous quotes up, even if they are true. They don’t create trust.

5. Online Video

Have you heard that YouTube is the #2 search engine?  Have you also heard that people admit that they don’t read much anymore? Those two go together and should help you decide on entering the online video race.

Video creates a stickiness factor you can’t get with almost any other web tool. People prefer to watch and learn.

One specific item that I’ve seen increases views of video.  Put a caption that says two things:  (a) the video duration; and (b) that it is “safe for work” (or not) because you want to remove doubt that if they click the video their boss won’t hear obscenities or worse.

At a minimum, even if you create a simple screencast demo about your product or service, you will be ahead of the competition that are still building text-heavy websites.

Let us know what else is working to increase sales on your own small business website.  Leave a comment below.


TJ McCue TJ McCue served as Technology/Product Review Editor for Small Business Trends for many years and now contributes on 3D technologies. He is currently traveling the USA on the 3DRV roadtrip and writes at the Refine Digital blog.

28 Reactions
  1. Thank you for emphasizing a super clear call to action. So many sites miss this key component as they worry about colors, fonts and layout. In 7 seconds your user should be able to tell exactly what you wanted them to do and why they should do it right now. Even the Element Bars page doesn’t make it readily apparent what I’m supposed to do.

  2. These are really good reminders TJ. Especially the less copy and you make a good point about testing which is often forgotten.

  3. TJ: I am getting hungry for a customized energy bar!

  4. TJ,

    Great post! Timely, too.

    I’ve sent the better part of 2 days working on a landing page. i got some help from some folks I know. Thank goodness.

    I now have a “landing page” No sidebars. I’ll have to show it to you sometime.

    Good examples of the “call to action!”

    The Franchise King

  5. Hey, TJ, Great article. Your readers should know that to create compelling video, they don’t need to to be ‘on camera’, and they don’t even need a video camera. I explain it all here:


  6. TJ,

    Great post. Another good way to improve online sales is to have lead capture surveys that send triggers to your sales team.

    This is a great feature that many people are using Qualtrics survey software to do. We’ve seen a great deal of success in following up with these leads. It’s a great way to connect with clients, especially if there is not an immediate purchase option in place.

    For more info about Qualtrics visit: http://www.qualtrics.com

  7. Good practical advice TJ, thanks for sharing what’s been working to improve key metrics you mentioned. Isn’t it interesting that “less is more” improves time on site?! I also believe relevancy and trust play big into conversions. Great tip too on including video.

  8. I just read a book by Mark Joyner and in one of the chapters he talks about how powerful a testimony is on a website and the social aspect it creates for online businesses. I never really understood the full benefits of a testimony. Very important for sure.

  9. Thanks all for the discussion! All good points. Robert, I agree a bit with you on Element, but not entirely (not that its necessary to totally agree). I have not been a consultant to them, but I’ve seen many iterations he’s made and like this one. You don’t get there cold, right? You are looking for energy bars. So you are more likely to dwell longer than 7 seconds. The discreet bar popups can catch attention. But if you put yourself in energy bar purchase mode (which I assume a visitor is in because they did a search and got here), then you ponder the bar for a moment. At least I do. Then my eye wanders to the lower right of that large image and spots the “Build a Bar” section. I like that it isn’t super blatant. But let’s talk!

    The boxes below I might remove, but they don’t distract. I think his bar-builder tool is really cool, by the way. Plus, I love that I can name my own bar. A great giveaway during special events (very special events given the price point).

  10. Thanks for the excellent advice you have given there TJ, much appreciated!

    I fully agree on making sure that you have a very, very clear Call To Action. Thats an important aspect that you need to get right if you want to do well on the net these days.

    Also, great tips on the ‘About Us’ page of a website, you have convinced me that I need to create one too.


  11. A video is more difficult than anything else as it requires, creativity, script, acting, recording and sound.
    Too complex for most of us.

    Capturing a demo of your solution or service is much easier.

    The easiest is to convert a presentation into a video. (Acoolsoft has a free presentation to video converter).

  12. Rightly said. I believe that proving your credibility through all of the above tactics and offering live chat solution to your visitors is a great way to increase conversion rates.

  13. I think taking the time to write an authentic about us page that includes the company owners’ actual story as to why the business started and what the company can actually do to improve a customers life or a clients bottom line makes the company real.

    People want to work with or buy from companies that they trust and like. So important in a time when large companies, financial institutions, insurance companies are not worried about the everyman or Main Street America.

    Include a photo of the owners and employees. Keep it real and friendly.

  14. Everybody thinks making money online is incredibly simple and doesn’t take in a lot effort. On the contrary, it takes lots of effort and it isn’t as simple as everybody thinks it is. It took me a extended time prior to I began to create a beneficial funds online, but I had family members problems and I stopped to your year. I then came back and had no clue what to do. What I found is a great method to make money – this is not a scam and it took me an hour to set up – I’m so pleased I discover this loophole mainly because I have created around $3000/month. In case you want to examine it out – I promise you – this is not just an ebook but a whole solution, then click on a link in my name. 🙂

  15. I think I stick to the good old affiliate marketing method from my blog. Getting on page one in Google with my product reviews is what I’m going after. And it’s working 😉


  16. I’m in the retail/clothing business here in California. Most of my competitor as well know are big. However, I have a really specific audience. These are the schools, parents, educators, proud people of Orange County. I’m definitely going to take a crack at making a video for a “web” commercial. As TJ implied, a well planned out video is effective. It has to be engaging. I’m still working hard on my appeal online. Face-to-face, local venues are different. It’s not easy but I love it when we make progress.

    Thanks for the advice!

    • Hi Ron, sorry that i missed your comment. I would love to see the final product, video that you created. Drop me an email or comment here. Q4Sales at Gmail.

  17. “If you look at your analytics, as a small and less-known company, you may find that a lot of people click through to your About page.”

    ….I can back this up, I reckon about 30% of people check out ours, especially if they are interested in buying/signing up.

    • Thanks for the confirmation, Duncan! Much appreciated. That’s a lot of people heading to your About Us page. Cool.

  18. great article. I’ve just learnt alot about call to actions and content position. Keep up the good work. Video’s and information is definately the way to go.

  19. Increasing online sales has always been a big concern for me. Thanks for the amazing advice TJ, I’m going to see if I can incorporate some of these into my own website.

  20. Hi,

    I have checked your post but I found that its more for the product based website, like the first 2 examples are good but only for product based website but when we talk about the services the below points can help you, like I am working on a Job / Study portal and for that I need to do some different things, like mass mailing to the corporates, Facebook Page, Twitter, always update content.