Q: How can we convert our website traffic into more sales leads?

Ken Kuang
Torrey Hills Technologies, San Diego

A: Even online, we are a society of window shoppers. On average, a measly 3 percent of visitors to a company's website make a purchase or fork over contact information, says Chris Golec, CEO of Demandbase, a Web-based lead-generation service. On the bright side, "the other 97 percent constitute a powerful silent majority that is already interested in your company," he says. "The key is finding out what their interest is and marketing to them."

Fortunately, your silent visitors leave footprints in the sand. Analytics programs -- Google offers one for free -- give you detailed information about who's visiting your site and how those people navigate the pages. You can use this data to tweak your site design so visitors can more easily find what they need. For instance, analytics software identifies which words people searched on to find you. Make sure the key content on your site jibes with these search terms, says Reid Carr, CEO of Web consulting firm Red Door Interactive. For example, he says, clothing companies should avoid waxing eloquent about apparel if shoppers are searching for clothes. Business-to-business firms can also use tools such as Demandbase, VisitorTrack, and LEADSExplorer, which tell you which companies have been traipsing through your digital aisles -- even if they don't deign to drop business cards -- and what they have looked at.

Another way to improve your chances of conversion is through conversation. Customers find it harder to slip away once they have engaged with a human being -- particularly a sharp one who answers their questions and smoothes away their reservations. Chat services such as LivePerson, WhosOn, and Olark let you and your employees track a visitor's progress in real time through your site. When you feel it's time for a little one on one, you can pop up a chat window.

Another way to get contact information is to offer a little quid pro quo. Effective quids include free newsletters or trials of your product. Carr suggests hosting a webinar on topics relevant to your customers. The short-term payoff: You learn a bit about them. The long-term payoff: They learn a lot about you.