7 ways to keep the conversation going

Ian Lurie

Dear brands: Why are you so freaking anti-social?

Companies and organizations put a ton of time, money and hard work into attracting potential customers to their web site. But then those big brands abandon you: They seem to say “buy now, or we’ll ignore you forever”. That’s not very friendly.

The average Fortune 500 CEO will growl that Friendliness doesn’t count, Lurie, and until you’ve been in my shoes you should shut your mouth.
OK, let’s talk dollars and cents, then.

Getting a previous, non-purchasing visitor to return to your site and buy costs 90% less than getting a new visitor to buy.
In other words, if you spend $1 to get 1 me to visit your site, and then I leave without buying, you’ve got two choices:

  1. You can go find another person, for $1.
  2. You can get me to come back and buy something, for $.10

Hmmm. Let’s see.

Assuming your job is to improve corporate earnings, Ms./Mr. CEO, you’ll want to keep me around a tad longer. Here are a bunch of ways to do it, in no particular order:

1: Ask for my e-mail address

I mean, really ask. Don’t bury the e-mail signup in the footer, or make it a teeny tiny link. This really doesn’t make me feel wanted:

toys r us e-mail signup

Pottery Barn isn’t great either, but at least I can find it:

Pottery Barn e-mail signup

2: Offer me a Tweet

Hee hee. Get it? A Tweet. It’s like a treat, but on Twitter…

If you’re a typical, consumer-focused business, then Twitter is not your best selling platform. Most of your customers don’t use it. But it can’t hurt to have a Twitter account and invite folks to follow you.

Just a few quality Twitter followers can do a lot for your brand and your sales.
Again, make it easy. Put a nice, obvious Twitter button on your page. And, as Dan Zarrella pointed out, you should tell people to follow you. Don’t ask (sorry, Dan, I couldn’t find the link to your test).

3: Gimme some Face(book)

There are more consumers on Facebook than Chihuahuas on Rodeo Drive. So yeah, you want to be on Facebook. But more important, you need to make it easy for me to subscribe to updates from you. On Facebook, that means I have to ‘like’ you. A nice, simple Like box on your site can do the trick.

4: Provide RSS

If you don’t know what RSS is, don’t worry about it. Just tell your developer you want an RSS feed that contains the same stuff as your e-mails.

For those of us nerdy enough to use (and love) RSS feed readers, you’ll be a hero.

5: Offer me something digital, for nothing

Once you have 1-3 in place, offer me something. Nothing that requires shipping or hard dollar costs for you. Try something digital. For momAgenda we started a printables program: Simple PDFs that folks can download, print and use for tracking their week.
The printables drive e-mail signups, Twitter follows and Facebook likes. momAgenda doesn’t even require visitors to register or subscribe. They just say “If you liked this, give us your e-mail address and we’ll let you know when we’ve got more”.

6: Be predictable

People hate spam, or anything they think is spam, or anything that slightly resembles what they once heard could potentially be spam. So don’t do anything remotely like spam. Be predictable:

  • Tell people how often they’ll receive e-mails, Tweets or Facebook updates.
  • Tell them what they’ll receive in those updates.
  • Don’t do anything else.

Avoid being defined as a spammer. Don’t play the rules lawyer, either: If 100 of your subscribers report you as a spammer to Twitter, it won’t matter if you technically weren’t spamming them. So think about what your customers might think is tacky, and don’t do it.

7: Throw me a freakin’ bone

Every now and then, reward me for being a subscriber. Give me a little discount, just for being one of the Inner Circle. Even better, just send me a note with a tip, a hint, or a special downloadable something that no one else will get.

You don’t have to spend money. Just make me feel a little special. My ego resembles a small, damp piece of lint.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Ugh. I get you. I just bought an e-book from smashingmagazine.com and haven’t received it!! An e-book. So to add to you list; When someone buys something from you and it can be delivered electronically at the checkout, er … “Deliver it”.
    I didn’t mean to diss the company, it just felt weird and inauthentic to protect a vendor who’s giving me an awkward time for my $10.

  2. Well, those two comments get filed under “do what I say, not what I do.” – You’ll get there. As will we all, I hope.
    I’m a long time marketing nerd who’s trying to get up to speed on social media so I can drag my clients there. These are great suggestions and I plan to share them.
    Thanks. There’s room for improvement for us all so keep slogging, we’re on our way.

  3. Good stuff, thanks Ian. This is one of those head-slapping moments when you say, “Well, yeah, who wouldn’t do those things?!” except then you tiptoe back to your own site and quietly do items 2, 3, 5 and 7 before too many people notice. Now I’ll be tippy toeing along. . .

  4. Thanks for a great post Ian, all of these things are so important in getting a returning non purchasing client coming back and perhaps getting them to buy from your site. Offering something to draw them back is huge, especially in an economy where every penny counts!

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