The Formula for a Website That Sells

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Module 2: How to Plan a Website That Sells
Section 1: You and Your Website
Post 2: The Formula for a Website That Sells

A high-performing website is a complex creature. One little tweak here or there may make a BIGG difference.

We want to take all the complexity and reduce it down to a simple formula:

Sales = (Traffic x Subscription Rate x Conversion Rate) x Average Sale

When you look at that formula carefully, you realize it’s been the formula for success in business all along. It’s true offline. It’s true online.

The terms may be different, but the principles are the same. For example – in some businesses, “traffic” has traditionally meant “incoming calls.”

Let’s talk about the three factors inside the parenthesis – traffic, subscription rate and conversion rate. Each one represents a challenge to optimizing how much money you make.


The more people who visit your website, the better.



The wrong people get in the way of the right people. That’s why we started with who you do NOT want to serve when we discussed attracting customers in Module 1.

Here’s what you really want – visitors who fit your customer persona (the one you developed in Module 1).

These people represent high quality traffic – often called “targeted traffic.” This is the traffic you want. The more the merrier – as long as service doesn’t suffer.

Subscription Rate

There’s a second caveat to that last sentence – as long as you have a website that sells. Most websites don’t. Your website will.

It starts with knowing what you want them to do. (That’s why we discussed the purpose of your site in the first post in this Module.). Then you have to get them to actually do it.

We call this next step “Subscription Rate.” It’s the percentage of visitors who take the next step in your sales process. It’s the main action you want a person to take when they hit your site.

For example, you may want them to sign up for your email list. In other cases, it may be a free trial. These are examples of the sale before the sale.

Many business owners and professionals don’t understand why this is so important. Buyers today want to learn as much as they can before talking with a company representative. Content or sampling does the selling.

  • Content

In the first case (content) – if you don’t provide the information they want, they’ll find someone who will. The business with the best content wins!

Businesses have been providing content for years. Now there’s a critical difference – it needs to answer questions early in the buying process, not just late.

But old habits die hard. One study showed that over two-thirds (68%) of most firms’ marketing materials are late stage. Yet as we’ve already said, research shows that four out of five of your future customers will find you before you find them.

If all your marketing focuses on your product or service, you’re marketing to the late stage. You’ll turn away many potential customers who are looking for the right firm to give their business to.

You’ll succeed by providing information which matches a potential customer’s place in the buyer’s journey. A visitor turns into a prospect when they opt-in to an offer which allows you to continue the conversation.

  • Sampling

The second case (sampling) may seem odd at first. But it also has its roots in the real world. Debbi Fields (Mrs. Fields Cookies) built her business on it. Jimmy John Liautaud (Jimmy John’s) did too, only with sandwiches.

But restaurateurs aren’t the only ones who use sampling. Manufacturers do it too. You’ve probably sampled a product at the grocery store.

As with these businesses, you’ll likely gain more customers by giving them a little “taste” of your product or service.

What’s a good subscription rate? It depends on a number of things – one of them being your traffic. Higher quality traffic generally leads to a higher subscription rate.

However, it’s also important that you have a compelling “offer.” So really think about what you can do to entice visitors into giving you their email or signing on for a free trial.

Even then, it’s important to realize that the business is a numbers game. Many online businesses are happy with a subscription rate as low as 1% to 2% of unique visitors. Now you understand why traffic is so important.

Conversion Rate

Your Conversion Rate is the percentage of “subscribers” who become paying customers. It should be higher than your Subscription Rate, but it may still be a relatively low number.

Prospects turn into customers when you make the right offer with the right message at the right time. The simplicity of that statement masks the complexity of its execution.

So you always need to be testing and tweaking for two reasons:

  • even though it’s working well, something else may do better
  • what works today may not work tomorrow

The key here is to really understand your customers. Think about your customer persona, the buyer’s journey, vital moments and your HIPODs.

There’s a conversation going on in your customer’s mind. In the past, marketers tried to interrupt it which is why people tune it out.

You’ll be most successful if you add to it. Speak their language. Prove that you understand them. Discuss their alternatives. Acknowledge their objections. Answer their questions. Stamp out their doubts.

Conversion is about leading subscribers through the buyer’s journey. It’s a nurturing process. Focus on building the relationship and the transactions will take care of themselves.

Baking up the formula for success

We thought it might be helpful to share an example of the formula at work. To make it more interesting, let’s look at how the same business could use it in three different ways.

We’ll look at a business you’ve probably patronized – a bakery. In its simplest form, it’s a retail business. They sell baked goods in their store.

  • Option 1: Site visit to store visit

In this case, the main purpose of their website is to spark store visits. So they may feature today’s special prominently on their site.

  • Option 2: Sign up to store visit

Another way to accomplish the same purpose would be to ask site visitors to sign up to receive notice of the daily special. These messages could be sent out via email or text.

  • Option 3: Sign up for “BIGG ticket” purchases

Yet a third possibility would be to have a sign up form for prospects considering a BIGG ticket purchase. Think wedding cakes for brides-to-be.

Upon registration, future brides could download a guide which helps them avoid mistakes. The bakery could follow that up with a series of emails which feature options, tell stories, and help them select the perfect cake for their BIGG day.

This example demonstrates that, even in the same business, there are many ways for your website to work for you. Think about what you want from your site and then determine how to guide people to do it.

Next Step

With this background, you can either go through Part 2 of the You and Your Website Guidebook or go on to the next post. (We recommend that you dive into the Guidebook, but it’s up to you!)

Also note – if you have any questions, email us at
with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.

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