When you are selling a product online, it’s pretty clear what you want your visitors to do: hit the checkout button.

But what if you’re selling a service that can’t be packed into a box and shipped to your customers? That’s a whole different ballgame, right?

Wrong. You should approach selling a service on your website just as if it were a product. Even though you can’t physically sell a service to customers, you still want to guide them through your site as if that’s what you’re doing.

The danger of selling services

The problem many service-oriented websites face is a lack of clear structure and focus. Often visitors are expected to slog undirected through a mass of information in the hope that it will inspire them to pick up the phone.

For instance, I was recently on a site promoting outdoor exercise classes. Though the site was full of great content, I had to search for five minutes just to find the location of the classes. Most visitors don’t have this much patience, especially with the competition only a click away.

You can solve such problems of disorganization by creating a goal – a ‘product,’ if you will – that you guide visitors to your site toward completing.

Turn your service into a product

Part of the problem with services is that they aren’t tangible. Before you buy a product you can look at pictures, product features, and technical details to figure out exactly what you’re getting.

But services are often ambiguous and from a customer’s point of view, ambiguity is bad. People like to know exactly what they’re getting for their money. So you have to make your services as tangible as possible, turn them into a product, if you will.

Be specific. Let customers know exactly what they’re getting when they purchase your service. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create ‘packages’ with a specific offering of services at several different price levels. This will provide structure to your site and make purchasing much easier, preventing visitors from getting lost or overwhelmed.

Drive visitors toward completing a goal

The next step is to determine a goal that you want visitors to complete, one that will help convert them from visitors into paying customers. Depending on the nature of your business, you maybe be able to sell your service packages right there online. In this scenario, selling a service really is almost synonymous with selling a product.

If this isn’t feasible the next best thing for most businesses is to get in direct contact with potential customers. In this scenario it’s almost as if your contact info is your product.

Obviously it needs to be clear and easy-to-find. But you can’t just hope visitors will contact you. You need to make them go beyond viewing your content and take action. In marketing parlance this is known as a conversion.

When you’re selling a product, a conversion is usually pretty simple to define – it’s the point of sale, when the customer pays you money. For services it’s a little less cut-and-dried, but the basic principle holds true. You want to define an action that will help you sell your service and funnel visitors through your site toward completing that action.

If you can’t make a sale right there on your website, perhaps you could get visitors to submit a contact form that gives you their information. Or you could allow them to make an appointment right there online – think how easy ZocDoc has made it to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Other conversions could include creating an account, registering a membership, subscribing to a newsletter or email, requesting a sample, etc. Just be sure it will ultimately help you make a sale. Getting visitors to complete a conversion that doesn’t drive increased sales isn’t very useful.

Treating your service like a product won’t just make your site more user-friendly and drive your visitors toward taking an action that actually increases sales, it will also help hold your website and marketing efforts accountable. How can you assess the effectiveness of a pay per click (PPC) or affiliate marketing campaign if you don’t have a metric for conversions? How about determining the most effective content on your site?

Selling your service with the same focus that other sites sell products will increase sales and make sure your marketing efforts are getting the job done.