When you click on an online ad that interests you, you expect to be presented with a way to buy that item almost immediately. Right? But far too many businesses advertising online do not give you this logical next step.

For example, while perusing the BBC News website, I stumbled upon a heavyweight sweatshirt advertised by L.L. Bean that appealed to me. But the process I endured to buy it seemed designed to convince me not to buy it.

Looks good.

When I clicked through to the landing page there were about a dozen different shirts, sweatshirts, and sweaters… but the sweatshirt from the ad was nowhere to be found.

Click, click, click…

I tried looking in Outerwear and Men’s Clothes. I searched for “Sweatshirt.” Finally, I searched for the exact product name, “Katahdin Iron Works Sweatshirt,” and found it. (I believe I was more pertinacious than the average Internet user.)

But even this doesn’t look like the sweatshirt that was advertised. To see the one that was advertised, you would have to click through and select the correct color. And it still looks different than the picture in the ad.

It took me eight clicks, including three searches, to find something roughly approximating the sweatshirt in the ad.

No, I didn’t buy it. I gave up — as would most Internet users — after the initial failed landing page. But, being an Internet marketing consultant, I kept pushing through to see what would happen.

Everybody who clicked on that ad no doubt had the same negative experience. So will L.L. Bean determine that advertising on the BBC News website is a failed proposition? Perhaps. But is that the correct interpretation?

The ad is good. It got my attention. But nobody will persist to the extent that I did and spend so much time just trying to find the product. It asks too much of the customer.

L.L. Bean should have a landing page that matches the ad I clicked on. Instead, it directed me to a page that made me think I was at the wrong place rather than the right place where I could take the next step.

I see this a lot. When I click on an ad, I am instantly wading through a confusing morass of irrelevant information. Sometimes I end up at a company’s homepage even after clicking on a very specific offer.

Think of a funnel — big at the top, narrower as it gets closer to the exit. Online marketers use a funnel as a metaphor for the “conversion process” — the process of moving the prospect closer and closer to making a purchase (or taking another desired action). The online ad is the first step in the process. And every step should move the prospect to the next step. Unless the action L.L. Bean wanted me to take was to write an article about poor conversion processes, I’d say their ad campaign was a dud.

When developing your online ads, sketch out (on a piece of paper, wallpaper, napkin, etc.) your conversion process — the path or timeline you want your prospect to follow in order to make a purchase, sign up to receive your e-mails, etc. Then make sure that each step in that conversion process moves the prospect closer to taking that action.

Every online ad should connect to a landing page that logically moves the prospect to the next step. Always.

Do yours?

[Ed Note: Having a logical “funnel” from your online ad to a way for prospects to order your product may seem obvious. But it’s something many Internet marketers fail to do. And it’s just one of the countless strategies, techniques, and “secrets” that can make or break an online business.]

At ETR’s 5 Days in July conference, you learn how to overcome these obstacles and quickly build a profitable online venture. Come to this conference with nothing — no website and no products — and you’ll leave with a fully operational Internet business.]

Although David hails from Blackpool, England – which is often referred to as the “Las Vegas of England” – he shunned a career in show business and instead followed a meandering career path overflowing with “life’s great experiences,” working or living in over 20 countries along the way. Chef, teacher of Transcendental Meditation, guest presenter on QVC, earthquake relief volunteer, CEO of a web hosting company, marketer at a radio station and all combined with years of direct marketing, PR and sales experience for clients as diverse as health food stores, small charities and right up to multinational public companies.
David brought unique talent and experience to his role for six years as Senior Internet Consultant to Agora Publishing Group. Working closely with Agora’s publishers and marketers to test new ideas and marketing campaigns, Agora’s Internet revenues topped $200 million in 2007. David understands and can communicate fluently with creative “right-brain” marketers and analytical “left-brain” IT and software teams, all with equal ease. He has a proven track record for generating results and creative thinking and excels at making trouble to find new ways of making things happen!
He lives on a small farm close to Mount Hood in Oregon with his wife Cinda, a veterinarian, and their four children and a menagerie of animals (no more, please!). When not marketing or brainstorming you’ll find David following a dream of self-sufficiency for food, power and water within 10 years, tending the land and caring for the farm and animals. Not surprisingly, David is an engaging and knowledgeable speaker with many amusing anecdotes from his work and travels over the years.