Why traffic, leads and sales are bad for business

By Andrew McDermott Analysis, How To, Research

“I need more traffic.”

You’re on social media. You’re writing. You’re advertising.

Customers are trickling in on one end. But they’re pouring out the other. You can’t get them to stay. They’re engaged but they’re not buying.

You find yourself wondering…

“Is this ever going to work? How long do I have to stick it out?”

You’re frustrated.

It feels like you’re spinning your wheels. Like you’re literally throwing your time and hard earned money down the drain.

Because you are.

Traffic, leads, and sales? They’re hurting your business

Wait. What?

Don’t rage quit just yet.

Hear me out.

Traffic, leads and sales hurt your business if you’re missing the right ingredients.

Seriously though, that’s a problem.


Because many, many entrepreneurs are unprepared. They’re top heavy, their businesses are focusing on the problems here:

HooktoWin iceberg #1

Click for larger view.

And completely ignoring all of the problems below the surface, here:

HooktoWin iceberg #2

Click for larger view.

You’ve probably seen content that reads like this:

  • How to increase email sign-ups by 1,800 percent
  • How to get 950 email subscribers from a single guest post
  • How to get an unlimited supply of customers from _____

Make no mistake, material like this is incredibly important. In fact, your marketing won’t get very far without it.

But these strategies and tactics, the kind most businesses, entrepreneurs and startups are focused on, are actually the tip of the iceberg.

Which means…

Many businesses aren’t prepared for traffic, customers and sales.

They haven’t fixed the problems lurking beneath the surface. So customers show up, and then they leave.

These problems below the surface outnumber the problems we expect to see above the surface.

But it gets worse.

Many of these problems are things customers expect, look for or want fixed on a conscious or subconscious level.

Top performers in every industry have conditioned customers to expect a certain “experience.”

Take Zappos for example:

Zappos offers free shipping both ways, guaranteeing your package will arrive within 4 – 5 business days.

Zappos conditions customers to expect a higher level of service. They redefined industry standards and gave competitors two choices. Follow our example or lose your customers (to us).

Customers want the vast majority of these “hidden” problems fixed before they buy.

But most will never, ever tell you about these problems.

You’re probably wondering “What problems?”

We have a hard time solving problems we know nothing about, so understanding what we’re dealing with is obviously pretty important.

Here’s a starter list:

  • Marketing masturbation. A self absorbed, self congratulatory form of communication that’s focused on the sender rather than the receiver. Customers find this form of communication disgusting, instantly tuning out the message.
  • Four ears failure. What you tell your customers isn’t necessarily what they hear. This mistake creates misunderstandings, turning virtue into vice and admiration into insult. Used accidentally, it has the power to ruin or pigeonhole relationships.
  • Information asymmetry. Are you giving customers 100 percent of the information they need to buy? 60 percent? 30 percent? Customers won’t buy if it’s not 100 percent. Even worse, customer needs vary from person to person.
  • Classism and class compatibility. Social class impacts communication at every level. Your industry, the words you choose, the jokes you make, the images, idioms and metaphors you use all control who you receive as customers. Get it wrong and you and your business will be typecast… forever.
  • Poor uniqueness. What’s the one measurable thing that makes your business unique? Why should customers do business with you? If any other business can say the same thing (without copying or stealing) you’re not unique. If you’re not unique, you’ll be forced to beg, haggle and fight for business.
  • Missing trust marks. When customers decide to buy, their fear and anxiety flares up. Which trust marks are you using to calm their fears? Are they working? When do you use them?
  • Value system mismatch. People with aesthetic value systems use “beauty” as their measuring stick. Theoreticals crave knowledge and education. If your value system matches theirs you’re more likely to win the sale. What about the other four? Which one is dominant for your customer?
  • Presentation mismatch. Presentation is the most important factor in marketing. A conversation can’t start without it. But it’s more than just looks. It’s a mix of tangible and intangible factors. Get these two ingredients wrong and you lose the sale before a conversation even begins.
  • No expectation sculpting. Customer expectations need to be directed and managed. Negative reviews, angry customers and poor repeat sales are all signs of expectation mismanagement. Shaping expectations is a delicate process, ignore it and you’re at risk.
  • Focusing on the wrong problem. It’s an incredibly common problem. A startup sees a problem, then decides to “solve” it. Until they realize customers don’t want their solution because it doesn’t mirror the actual problem.
  • Poisonous Blah Blah Blah content. This type of content instantly causes customers to shut down and tune out. At worst, it implies deception and at best, serious incompetence.
  • Missing or misinterpreting customer buying signals. Customers are constantly sending signals, if you know what to look for. Most don’t know how to read the signs.
  • Not fixing the problems your product creates. Every product or service creates more problems, which customers expect you to solve. Repeat sales and upsells are no-brainers when you understand this simple concept.
  • Not accounting for customer misunderstandings. Would teachers give 1st graders calculus? That’d be crazy right? Businesses make this mistake everyday when they share content their customers aren’t ready for.
  • Order fulfillment glitches. Customers are less likely to buy from sellers who make fulfillment mistakes. Repeat sales decrease with each additional mistake.
  • Customer humiliation and ego stomps. Humiliation triggers our psychological defense mechanisms. Defensiveness, denials and rejection increase dramatically with this communication mistake, turning burned customers into permanent enemies.
  • Losing revenue to customer predators. Weak marketing attracts predators, putting your business and your customers in danger. Most don’t spot the damage until it’s too late.
  • Poor emotional intelligence. Toxic sellers use very different words and phrases in their marketing. Customers with high emotional intelligence use these words to screen out and avoid toxic sellers. Are you healthy enough to attract the customers you want?
  • No “what’s next” planning. Often times we’re too close to our product to realize customers don’t know what to do next. If your product solves a problem or creates a delight customers need you to spell out the next step. Do you? Will they go for your next step?
  • No economic moat. An economic moat enables you to fight off competitors looking to steal your customers. They come in six flavors; most businesses don’t even have one. An economic moat works hand-in-hand with your uniqueness. If you’re a new company or you’re in an unstable industry, this gives customers peace of mind. There’s a good chance you’ll be around in a few years.
  • Selling to the wrong customers. Choosing the right target audience doesn’t mean you have the right customer. Your ideal customer is an all-star who’s willing and able to buy. Selling a product no one wants means you don’t have an ideal customer and you’ll soon be out of business.
  • Quality, service and price mismatch. Wouldn’t it be weird to see a luxury or designer brand (e.g. Hermes, Prada, Givenchy) running a fire sale? Every product or service comes with implicit and unspoken expectations. Are you in-line with these expectations? Should you be?
  • Ethos and morality mismatch. Is your sense of morality black and white? Or is it shades of grey? How does it fit with your customers? Are both of you on the same page?
  • Triggers mismatch. Triggers get immediate attention. The method you use may be incompatible with your audience or the people you’re trying to attract. Donald Trump uses rebellion successfully but he’s turned off a significant amount of would-be supporters.
  • No risk reversal early warning system. Do you have safeguards in place to protect your business and customers from predators? How do you differentiate between a spoiled customer and a predator? How do you keep them out of your business?
  • No response to purely emotional objections. Some objections (e.g. do you offer this feature) are utilitarian. Others are purely emotional (e.g. this is too expensive) which usually means there are no easy or right answers. How do you respond? Which response will diffuse your customer’s objection?

Whew! That’s a long but incomplete list.

When these issues are handled the wrong way customers leave, costing you time, money and resources.

Customers not converting the way you’d like them to? These issues (and others like it) could be causing major problems for you.

At this point, I’m guessing you feel overwhelmed.

  • “I’ve never heard of these before”
  • “How do I fix these problems?”
  • “Where do I start?”

Deep breaths.

It’s normal. When we first discovered these problems we felt it too.

Anxiety. Panic. Fear.

Here’s the good news.

These problems hurt, but they don’t all hurt the same.

Fix the right ones and some customers are willing to bypass or ignore a few others for a bit. This gives you the breathing room and momentum you need to continue making improvements.

So where do you start?

Start with presentation and communication issues

Focus your attention on the problems that hurt your ability to present and communicate clearly.

Remember: Clarity trumps persuasion.

I’ll show you what I mean.

Let’s use marketing masturbation, one of the items on our list, as an example.

I stumbled across a post on marketing with LinkedIn. The headline caught my attention so I clicked on it.

Then I saw this:

Screenshot_2015-11-06-01-00-59 (edit)

Well that was… unexpected.

That my friend, is an ideological ambush.

My thoughts on the topic are completely derailed.

Was it morally wrong for the author to share his faith? Absolutely not. His intentions were honorable, noble even.

But it’s still bait and switch.

That hurt his ability to communicate clearly. It creates resistance and a whole new set of mental and emotional objections that weren’t there before.

Should he share his faith? Absolutely.

But sharing it this way, at this time, hurt both his marketing and theological message.

See what I mean though? A mistake like this makes it difficult to communicate clearly. If I’m disoriented, I’m less likely to convert.

(NOTE: want in-depth help to find and fix these hidden problem areas? Download the companion guide to this post. It’s full of actionable tips and resources you can use today.)

You know about these problems but…

You’re doing just fine so far.

It’s a comeback I hear from time to time. Ask them if they’d like to increase their marketing conversion rate and they say “of course!”

Then they ignore the connection.

These “hidden” problems, the ones customers aren’t telling you about, are conversion and retention rate killers.

Another example.

A company sells tech services in your town.

You’ve heard good things and you’re thinking about signing up. Then you find out they call their customers whores, c**t, a**hole Brown, dummy, Fat F**ker, and Super B**ch

Do you still want to sign up?

“Oh dial it back Andrew, no one’s foolish enough to do that.” If that was your response more or less, you’d be wrong.

Comcast did that again and again.

Time Warner cable did it too.

Businesses in a wide variety of industries, have all kinds of hurtful and bizarre names for their customers.

See the effect these problems have on conversion rates?

But strategies and tactics matter more!

You’re right, they do.


These problems that customers leave us to figure out on our own? You need strategies and tactics to fix them.

Those problems hiding below sea level, the ones waiting to ambush you? You fix those with strategies and tactics too.

Some of these problems are difficult to measure. Some are downright impossible.

Ignore them, and they do incredible damage.

Let’s be honest, all we want to do is ignore this

Tracking these problems down isn’t always so easy. Sometimes it’s really hard.

Customers are trained to be “nice.”

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news. But that’s exactly what you need. Okay, okay, let’s say you’re willing to work on these problems.

Where do you start?

You interview your ideal customer. Ask them specific questions about their problems, their views, their thoughts, feelings, etc.

Get as much intel as you can from the customer you want.

(NOTE: want in-depth help to find and fix these hidden problem areas? Download the companion guide to this post. It’s full of actionable tips and resources you can use today.)

Once you’ve done that head to Google and start searching. You’ll want to look for very specific things.

  1. 1Problems: What’s their biggest problem as it relates to what you do?
  2. 2Objections: What prevents people from buying your product?
  3. 3Turn offs: What about your industry, business, competitors, makes them afraid, frustrated, nervous, ashamed, shocked, makes them cringe, etc.
  4. 4Expectations: What are their expectations going in? Are they fuzzy, implicit or explicit? Realistic or unrealistic?
  5. 5Values: How do they view the world? What are their values?
  6. 6Goals: What’s the deeper goal here? What are they ultimately hoping to accomplish as a result of using your product?
  7. 7Desires: What are their deep desires (as it relates to your business)? The things that will leave them feeling deeply satisfied and fulfilled?

That should be enough to get things started.

Here’s the thing. Their answers identify the problem, giving you the ability to fix it, even if they’re unwilling to tell you personally.

What if you had more traffic?

More leads and sales?

But instead of customers trickling in one end and pouring out the other, they hung on your every word?

Wouldn’t it be amazing…

To have a long line of believers and admirers who were willing to spread the word about your business to everyone they knew? Who purchased each of your products and services at full price? Without haggling or fussing?

It’s yours for the taking.

It’s right there, at the end of your fingertips. No matter where you are now or where you’ve come from, this outcome can become your reality.

Ready for the next step? Download our free companion guide for more in-depth help.

  • Kevin J

    What a wonderful post. You obviously have a huge amount of knowledge in this area! Thank you so much.

    • You’re welcome @disqus_zwvOnWiOLZ:disqus. Glad I could help…