Missed Opportunities?

Having landing pages on the brain (like you do), I was swapping grumps with my friend and colleague, Brad Powers of NextResponse, a marketing delivery and analytics company.

One of the most obvious ways to channel your visitors successfully into the persuasive architecture of your site is to understand and acknowledge the nuances of your traffic (you can get our latest white paper on Persuasion Architecture in pdf-format). Where did these folks come from? What was the implicit promise you made to them that brought them to you? What action are you motivating them to take? Where do you want them to go?

Higher-Powered-Beings know, we aren't talking rocket science. But this isn't always obvious to some folks. So let's make it real obvious.

In our chat, Brad related several recent, perfectly ordinary experiences. A Netscape banner ad - real big and compelling - got him juiced about a chance to win a Cooper Mini. Brad clicked through on the ad and landed on a page that informed him "This promotion has ended." Score one for successful creative, zip for successful follow-through. Nice Mini picture, though.

Brad's wife got an email about beauty products, with a suitable and prominent call to action to get more information about a hair-care line. She clicked the link and landed on a Web page that asked her ... drum roll, please ... to click on a link to get more information about this hair-care line. She was not impressed. Neither are we.

See where I'm going with this? It's the precise place where lots of folks wind up shooting themselves in the foot. They pay money - precious marketing dollars - to pre-qualify their visitors, yet they pay scant attention to what happens beyond creating a blip on their prospects' radar screens. It's like they caught the fish, reeled it in, but forgot the net.

More than that, these are major faux pas that really undermine your attempts to foster the valuable relationship that is going to encourage your visitors to become returning customers (which is the goal you are really aiming for). Whenever you fail in your implicit promise - the purpose of the click - you compromise the confidence and good will your visitors might otherwise extend you.

Where do we fail most spectacularly? We fail with banner ads, emails, organic searches and pay-per-click searches. These are all filtering channels that should be bringing you traffic that is substantially better predisposed to take action with you, because they have already taken action. A very specific action.

You need to give them a specific reply. Not just a stock answer, but a response tailored to all those critical details. Like, who is the visitor? How'd he get here? What was the promise you made to him? You can use your landing page to feed your visitor into the larger persuasive architecture of your Web site, which can handle many other questions he might have. But that landing page is the key interface for transforming the marketing process into the "sales" process.

So you gotta make that landing page super specific. How? Brad suggests these strategies for banner ads and email.

Banner Advertising

Banner ads represent a cost effective means of tickling consumer interest and setting the stage. Think of banners as greetings to strangers. You want to be warm, polite and make a good impression in fewer than 5 seconds. Now because you want to attract those strangers who are most likely to buy from you, you also want to speak to their interests, needs, wants and desires. Follow through by putting them on a landing page that builds upon the greeting you have just given - keep the messaging on the landing page scrupulously consistent with the specific creative that sparked the interest.

Email Advertising

Email marketing strategies offer you an opportunity to explain and expand upon your product or service in more detail, to craft an explicit "pre-sell." In your emails, you can tell a story, so make certain you are telling an interesting one that gives your readers a reason to click through.

However, unlike the folks who come to you from banner advertisements, your email readers hopefully have already expressed interest in, and are more familiar with, what you have to offer (you are paying attention to CAN-SPAM, right?). Consequently, the landing pages associated with your email campaigns should reinforce the messaging and benefits you communicated, but they can be more transactional than landing pages associated with banners. It is important to provide a clear way for those consumers who are ready to buy directly off the click while also providing an opportunity for those consumers who need more information to explore the full value of your offerings.

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is a hot topic these days, and lots of "experts" are jumping on the SEM band wagon with strategies to help you get the traffic you are longing for. That's great. But the really important question is: What happens to those pre-qualified prospects who click through to your site? The landing page you bring them to can make or break the marketing momentum generated in those search results.

You have fairly close control over the tone, content and context of your banner ads and emails. In contrast, you have less to control over the context of your search engine results, whether they are the result of organic searches or pay-per-click searches. Your key sources of context here are the words and phrases folks type in to the search engines. These queries indicate your prospect's interest and desire to find information on products, services and providers.

Organic Search

This is the new-fangled term for what lots of us were doing before folks started codifying Internet terminology: you type a query into a search engine and then wade through the results. Stuff catches your eye based on its relevance to the query (we call those "trigger words"), and you either click through or keep scrolling for more results.

Organic search is your most passive marketing strategy. To make it work well for you, you must make your Web site monumentally search-friendly. Identify the key words that will work for you, then beef up the copy throughout your site. Search engine spiders collect content to produce their results, and they love crawling text and hyperlinks. As Frederick Marckini, CEO of iProspect, says, "Search engines do two things primarily; they index text and follow links. The more indexable text available, the better job search engines can do in understanding the page's content."

To make your landing pages search-engine-friendly, avoid technology barriers (Javascript, frames, etc.), and pay close attention to the exact wording of your page titles and tags. Then strike a balance between the copy that meets your visitors' emotional needs and draws them into your persuasive process, and the key word density that will lure them to you in the first place.

Pay-Per-Click Search Advertising

We've talked a little about pay-per-click advertising (PPC) before. These are the ads that appear in special areas of search engine results - the search engine displays relevant ads based on the key words used in the query. These are like targeted banner ads with the added refinement of key word filtering. You wind up with traffic that might not know you, but is theoretically even more interested in what you have to offer.

Do not squander this opportunity by directing the prospect to your home page. Suppose I type in "wireless telephone services in Brooklyn." On the results page, I see a PPC ad that reads "Brooklyn Cellular Telephone Service." I also see a PPC ad that reads "Cellular Telephone." Guess which one feels the most relevant to my query. Guess which one makes me feel I won't be wasting my time clicking through. Guess which one predisposes me to take action.

Relevance, check. Confidence, check. Now, guess what that landing page should look like. What do I need to see on that page? What will reinforce my feelings of relevance and confidence?

You can tell me in the blink of an eye that if the landing page doesn't have anything to do with Brooklyn, I'm outta there, right?

Good. Now you're getting the idea!

Volume 92: 5/15/04


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