In an earlier post, I likened customer interaction with your landing page to a dance between 2 parties. The primary point of that article was to understand the questions and barriers facing your potential customers, and to unlock a strategy for dealing with these issues.
Key to this process was understanding what your customer is thinking during their visit. We learned that there are 4 primary questions to be considered:
Working backwards from these questions we are able to establish the 4 pillars, or truths, of the conversion marketing process, and then we can begin to design landing page experiences that answer these questions – which will naturally evolve into better performance.
What is this?
An unfair statement perhaps, but it’s the best assumption to make if you want to design your landing pages with simplicity and clarity in mind.
Upon arrival at your landing page a visitor will have immediate questions:
These questions pose the first potential stumbling block, where the quality of your message comes into play. Your visitor clicked an ad of some sort after being seduced by it’s message, and your design must reflect/repeat that same message along with a clear reference to your brand.
Common mistakes that can create barriers to conversion at this stage are:
Here’s how it works:
While in a meeting, quietly tear up 4 strips of paper and roll them into balls under the desk so no one can see.
Then to demonstrate the importance of focusing on a single message, toss 1 paper ball over at the client. Chances are they’ll catch this easily.
Then say “and here’s 3 messages at the same time” – throwing the other 3 balls. You can predict where this is going; the client will fumble and become disoriented as they try to catch 3 objects flying at them, and will invariably drop (miss) all 3.
So, now that we are aware of the first hurdle (or barrier) that your visitor needs to jump over, how can we improve the landing page to ensure a greater chance of success? There is a simple usability test that can be leveraged to test how small or large the first hurdle is. (Remember we want the hurdle to be really, really small).
The 5 Second Rule was explored in an earlier post. Essentially, you show a test participant your landing page for 5 seconds (you can make this 8 or 10 if you want, as opinions on how long you have to be effective vary across the industry), then hide it and ask them the same questions we posed above (in what is the customer thinking?).
The 5 Second Rule applied in context
For a more genuine test, supply the test users with a simple page containing an advertisement (banner, Google paid search ad etc.) and have this click through to your landing page.
The diagram below shows the process involved in using this test to improve your landing page.
If your test participants are failing the test, you need to refine the messaging or design of your page, and can use these tips to get started:
To continue the previous example, you could say “Win a $50 Starbucks Gift Certificate” as the primary headline, and use a smaller “By answering our 6 question survey” beneath it for clarity.
Keep refining and testing until you have users answering your questions in a way that you’d wish your customers to answer them. The participants can be friends, family or people from your company, but it’s best if they have no understanding of the brand or particular offer your landing page is presenting.
If you have the money, you can post a message on Craigslist for participants (or use a recruitment company). A typical hour long usability session would cost you $40-$100 depending on the equivalent hourly rate of the demographic you are using. However, for a test this simple, you can probably get away with paying people $5-$10.
If you are feeling especially creative print out your ad and landing page, and get out on the street to ask strangers to click on your paper prototype. Having a basket of candy will be enough to entice people to join in if you can make it fun.
Ok, so we’re made our landing page totally awesome right? Not quite. Even though that seemed like a lot of work, we’re only a quarter of the way there. The next rule is concerned with relevance.
How can it help me?
This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. You want to state more than just what your product or service is, you need to show how it will improve an aspect of the buyer’s life. This could be improved efficiency or workflow at work, or a more entertaining personal life.
At this point your visitor is thinking:
In order to answer that question, you need to answer some more detailed personal questions that deal with the specifics of your audience.
Looking at the questions above, we can identify several momentum barriers:
To quickly and effectively educate your visitors about what your product or service can do for them, you should focus primarily on benefits rather than features. Head & Shoulders wouldn’t be the world leader in dandruff shampoo if they’d come out trying to explain the scientific properties of their shampoo’s ingredients. By suggesting that the product can improve the health of your scalp or fix your itchy head, they got right to the relevant and personal questions that a customer would have about the product and it’s benefits.
As mentioned in the Hurdle for this Truth, an effective tactic can be to show your product/service in use. Think of the new wave of netbook laptop computers. The primary benefit is it’s tiny size. If all you do is say “We have really small laptops”, you are discussing a feature and are requiring the customer to piece together how it could be used. By showing a photo of someone using it on the food tray of a cramped airline, you are showing a benefit and usage in one go. Couple that with a headline that says “work on your presentation even when you’re sitting in economy” and you identify a real world problem, and provide a solution.
Here’s AT&T illustrating this concept through video:
At this half way stage of the process you have hopefully grabbed the customer’s interest. However, not every interested customer is ready to buy at this point in time. With standalone landing pages, it’s critical that you offer up a “soft exit point” that allows them to leave, but remember you when they are ready to purchase. Remember, they got to you by clicking on an Ad and they might not be able to re-create the circumstancs by which they saw that Ad.
Provide your visitor with a low commitment method escape pod by utilizing one of the following techniques that keep them within your sphere of influence:
Why should I trust you?
Online transactions are second nature to most people nowadays, but the same types of fear regarding security and trust remain. There are many subtle or unconscious triggers that can influence our customers belief in our authenticity and trustworthiness.
Your customer has decided that your offering is interesting, and now they’ve moved on to the validation phase. Questions they are asking now include:
There are many factors that have the power to trigger a negative trust response from a visitor. Anything that causes a person to stop and question the validity of your message is a barrier to entry.
Common trust barriers:
When it comes to trust issues, you really have to learn to think like your customers. Look over your landing page and take note of any items that could match the trust barriers listed above. Ask yourself honest questions about whether you would trust this page/company yourself? Would you happily give your credit card to a company that presents themselves as you are doing?
When trying to design your landing pages without trust barriers, understand that subtle cues can be used to help allay the fears of your potential customers. Professional design and usability best practices can go a long way to remove the instinctive negative gut reaction that can occur.
7 things you can do to counteract commitment phobia:
Remember to test your new page vs. the old one to determine how effective your changes were. Ideally, you’d test after each change to see which are the biggest influencers.
Another thing to consider is that trust extends in both directions. Not only do you want to convey a sense of trustworthiness, but you should present yourself in a way that is open and transparent, which shows that you are placing trust in your visitors. Somewhat akin to putting your head in a lions mouth (maybe).
How do I participate?
If a customer is ready to purchase, they should be given the white-glove treatment and gently and clearly guided toward the point of conversion.
In other words:
Let them put the coin in the slot, and make the slot very obvious.
Oli Gardner, circa about now
Ok, you’ve made it all the way to the point of conversion, the customer us primed and ready, they have their proverbial credit card out and are poised, anxiously anticipating “the thrill of the shop”, that beautiful moment where you get to engage in a decision to purchase. Shopping is fun right?
So what are they thinking?
You can tell by reading these, that your landing page has some focus and directional issues.
This is the worst time to piss off your customers with a poorly guided experience. They want to give you money (or their email address etc.) but they are momentarily stumped because they’re not sure what to do next. If you’ve done a good enough job to get them here, you must convert – so make the final action the most obvious and clear part of your whole page.
Some of the things you could be doing wrong if people are not converting at this stage:
The key to closing the deal is to make it so obvious that an idiot with poor mouse skills could still get the job done.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind the ensure your customers can find their way at this most critical of times:
Phew, ok, that was a long long post. I hope you were able to learn something useful from it. Just remember that you can attack your landing page optimization in stages that are applicable to the phases of human interaction.
In our next post regarding the 4 Truths, we will be sharing our Conversion Marketing Scorecard that extends this process to the measurement realm, and will allow you to rate your landing pages (hot or not).