Here are 9 of my favorite best practices for designing stellar responsive landing pages. You can use these with or without a platform to ensure you are building landing pages that not only respond, but convert! Read More.
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Landing Page Design
Here are 9 of my favorite best practices for designing stellar responsive landing pages. You can use these with or without a platform to ensure you are building landing pages that not only respond, but convert! Read More.
As post-click marketers, we understand that every click your visitors make leads them somewhere and we happen to think that should be amazing post-click experiences. The only way to make them amazing to your paid search visitors, is to ensure that they’re giving visitors the right information in the easiest to digest format. Read More.
Each online marketing campaign is a marriage of three key elements: strategic advertising, high-performance landing pages, and efficient post-conversion execution. Before you launch your next campaign, run your landing page through this 13-point checklist and make sure that you have the basics covered. Read More.
Fear of the unknown: not knowing why a new experience won. This is the exact reason innovation in testing is often rare — it’s scary and feels very risky. However, repeated cycles of innovation is an absolute necessity. A single innovation cycle is of huge value. But multiple innovation cycles are of even higher value. Read More.
Marketing ideas havehistorically had to filter through layers of design, production and technology before they become reality. This has robbed marketers of the immediacy and agility fast becoming the hallmarks of successful online campaigns. Testing is bringing marketing ideas and alternatives to their audiences. Agile testing empowers marketers to take their ideas to their audiences quickly and easily — without code and without IT.
The freedom that marketers gain from ‘going direct’ with their ideas leads to revolutionary changes in how marketing gets developed and delivered. These changes are even more revolutionary than the desktop publishing revolution that turned print upside down in the late eighties. Giving marketers the ability to cut out all middle men and put themselves in a direct feedback loop with their audience finally delivers the two-way conversation that has long been imagined.
Gone are the days of dogmatic defense of abstract ideas. ‘Let’s test it’ replaces ‘that’ll never work’. ‘We can do that today’ supplants ‘let’s look at resources and schedule some time to decide on a go-forward plan’. The new reality of forward-thinking marketing organizations is both fast and free. Fast to execute and free to excel.
LiveBall is optimization software designed to eliminate friction for marketers looking for a way to ‘try it’. Instead of hearing how long it will take or that it simply can’t be done, LiveBall embodies a new culture of ‘yes’. Yes, you can try it. Yes, you can make it happen today. And yes, you’ll know how it worked tomorrow. Testing is simply trying new things. And LiveBall lets non-technical marketers try new things without code, without IT, without a degree in statistics and without friction.
Optimizing the first impressions you make on users is a proven step towards improving your online marketing results. Creating and testing sophisticated, high-performance landing pages and matching them to specific streams of traffic makes the most of those critical first impressions.
LiveBall enables landing page conversion rate optimization with both A/B and multivariate testing — without code or IT. Begin by A/B testing different concepts against each other. Run parallel controls and compare those results against your LiveBall pages — in real time. Once you have a champion, refine it using LiveBall’s multivariate testing tools — by varying page content and forms. LiveBall does the heavy lifting so you can focus on what’s being tested and free your mind of how it gets accomplished.
Creating and testing multipage, navigable user experiences can be daunting and time consuming. Even the most sophisticated content management systems are outside their core competency when multiple independent experiences are required.
Microsites perform well when what’s needed is a deep dive into a narrow topic. Conversion-focused microsites — with lead-gen, add-to-cart or social conversion on every page — are great performers with high-ticket or complex sales.
LiveBall makes complex microsite creation and testing simple. Using a standard web browser, non-technical marketers can create, deploy and test feature-rich navigable microsites without code or specialized resources. A/B test microsites against one another to optimize flow, navigation, messaging and conversion. Refine content and test form variations within pages of your microsites using LiveBall’s code-free MVT features.
Most content management systems (CMS) were designed primarily to edit websites. As websites become less relevant and users demand more specific and more contextually pertinent content, the CMS gets further and further away from its roots.
Conversion paths shine when segmentation into specific groups helps refine messaging and improve visitor engagement. Less specific traffic drivers like paid search engine marketing often benefit from message-matched user experiences that speak very clearly and simply to visitors.
Conversion paths appear very simple to users, but are in fact quite complex to assemble and test — unless you’re using LiveBall. ion’s LiveBall platform makes the creation and testing of complex, multipage, multi-branch conversion paths easy. Market segments can be created as tags within LiveBall that can be applied to any action a user might take. This allows marketers to see and focus on the sources of traffic that convert the best for their most wanted market segments. Conversion path testing is accomplished in three clicks using LiveBall’s A/B testing features and it can be augmented with multivariate content or form testing within pages. All testing is accomplished without code, help from IT or other specialized resources — putting all of the power and control within marketing’s hands.
Online marketing — especially search engine marketing — provides an almost instantaneous channel for generating targeted traffic. This is a tremendous opportunity for controlled message testing. Instead of focus groups and usability tests, controlled experiments can be run on real web traffic in real time. How people respond to messaging in real experiences is invaluable data for organizations to carry forward into broader applications.
LiveBall enables targeted message testing — letting marketers float ideas to narrow slices of traffic. This allows for quick learning that can be applied to broader campaigns or across corporate messaging development. Test copy, design, Flash, forms, video and nomenclature with point-and-click simplicity. Insert your ideas into streams of traffic and siphon off as much or as little as you like. Get instant feedback from users and fold that new knowledge into your future creative. LiveBall gives you more knowledge in less time, using fewer resources.
Warming pages can provide significant lift within e-commerce experiences. By inserting a warming page between a paid-search ad and a catalog/product page, a significantly higher percentage of visitors may be inclined to add to cart. What’s more interesting, is that a higher percentage of carts may complete their transactions.
Many shopping cart experiences are sub-par and difficult to improve. Pre-cart warming pages help visitors see more value in the product and the brand behind it. By increasing the value proposition, marketers are providing more fuel to propel people through a likely sub-par cart experience.
LiveBall makes it easy to create and test pre-cart warming pages to find the right ones for the job. The platform provides tracking code that can be inserted during or following the transaction within the cart to track conversion as well as other data like average order value (AOV) — all in real time. By making it fast & easy to increase the value proposition, LiveBall can help improve e-commerce performance.
Forms, like shopping carts, are obstacles to ease of use and visitor satisfaction. The best forms are the ones that make it easy, fast, intuitive and trustworthy for users to share their information. There are many variables involved in finding the ‘best forms’. The number of fields, their labels, their presentation, the number of steps in a wizard, the number of columns, button design and labeling — all impact the usability of forms and hence the ROI of the business behind them. Varying and testing these elements can be time consuming, resource intensive and costly.
LiveBall enables no-code, dynamic form testing using both A/B and multivariate (MVT) methods. The platform separates presentation from data collection to allow for easy, independent testing of alternatives without affecting data integrity or CRM compatibility. Marketers can directly control all aspects of data collection and form presentation without code or help from specialized resources like IT. Form experimentation can have a measurable, immediate and direct impact on conversion rates.
Social marketing can sometimes struggle to show its ROI within the marketing mix. But engagement with a brand is highly valuable and often quantifiable. Social conversion — the idea that there is great inherent value in creating or adding to a brand’s tribe — is an idea whose time has come.
LiveBall supports the use of social widgets as engagement mechanisms to put social on the same level as lead-gen or transactional conversion. Creating and testing user experiences designed to engage is only the beginning. Leveraging and escalating participation within your tribe to shake out the most passionate advocates can lead to business opportunities. LiveBall provides the agile infrastructure needed to create stimulating, flexible user experiences to transform casual engagement into passionate participation. Social-specific user experiences can range from Twitter landing pages, to micro-blogs, to follow-pages and much more. The list is ever expanding and demands flexibility and agility to deliver great brand experiences.
Idea-driven marketing flourishes in a culture of ‘yes’. Agile marketing is unimpeded and free to succeed in a fast-paced world where change is the only constant. Trying out ideas in real time on real people is the foundation of high-speed, high-performance marketing. Testing those ideas in landing pages, microsites, conversion paths, messaging, warming pages, forms and social marketing is the constant that drives innovation, performance, revenue and ROI. It’s the culture of ‘yes, we can try that — right now’. And it’s made possible with LiveBall.
According to eMarketer, 39% of marketers are not satisfied with their conversion rates. When I first read that, my immediate thought was how can that be? How can nearly two-thirds of marketers be satisfied with their conversion rates?
The Fireclick index at about the same time as the eMarketer article showed keyword & email conversion rates of 4.00% and 3.10% respectively. So a small leap of faith tells me that most marketers believe that it’s okay for 96%+ of their campaign traffic to walk away.
The only explanation for this being ‘okay’ is that it’s normal. The thinking must be that if the average is 4% and I’m in that neighborhood, then status quo is good enough. It’s normal.
It may be average, but it’s not normal. In fact it’s orders of magnitude removed from normal. Normal needs to be re-calibrated. There are many marketers today that have successfully re-calibrated the notion of what’s normal. For them, normal is now 12% instead of 4%. Their cost-per-acquisition is dramatically lower than their competition’s and they’re winning more customers.
But who are these companies that are redefining normal? How do they do it?
I wanted to write this paper because it’s inconceivable to me that more than 1% of marketers are satisfied with their online conversion rates. I’ve seen the competitive advantages taken. I’ve seen the momentum change. I’ve seen the online budgets expand and I’ve seen the champions get promoted. How come everyone isn’t on the bandwagon?
More than anything else, what’s required to shift normal is a change in attitude. The new attitude appreciates the potential and the payoff of the new normal. And it accepts nothing less than monumental improvement. It pushes aside the perceived barriers to success and asserts that the status quo is broken.
Instead of examining a single case study, I’ve tried to weave a few of these marketing leaders together into a story. What they have in common is that they made significant positive business impact to their organizations in a very short time. They truly changed the game — not only for themselves, but also for their competitors.
It’s not only about how many people click, but also who they are. When the right people click, they convert too. And they buy. And they stay. When you’re transparent about who you are, you get the same in return. When both the marketer and the user are honest, everyone finds success. It’s like matchmaking.
That transparency makes it much easier to see where your best customers and prospects come from. When you can see that clearly, you can also see where they don’t come from. Then it becomes easy to shift your spend to the best sources. It’s much harder to confidently make that call without trustworthy data beyond click-through-rate. But that’s really the weeds-eye view.
Using post-click performance and behaviors to impact the streams of clicks that feed your marketing machine represents a strategic overhaul. It means that a sizable piece of your marketing emphasis moves from ads to pages. It means treating pages like extensions of ads. It can’t be the web content team that makes this happen. It has to be the advertising or marketing teams.
Extend the ad through the pages that follow. Learn more about users. Use that learning to optimize your spend. Here are a couple of examples of this strategy.
Bronto Software focused their pay-per-click (PPC) spend by using post-click metrics to determine where the right people were coming from. A click was not a click. A click became a person with intent. Understanding that intent lead to a 65% reduction in paid-search spend resulting in a net increase in the number of leads and the quality of those leads.
Bronto’s post-click emphasis informed their media spend. How did they get at user intent? By asking. They attached meaning to the decisions that users made in highly specialized landing experiences. For Bronto it wasn’t about behavioral targeting or inference, it was about the explicit choices users made in navigation- and distraction-free environments. These campaign-specific pages were nimble extensions of their marketing messages — made possible by Bronto’s decision to have them live outside of their website infrastructure. Only there could they exercise the message and offer agility they needed.
Specific options were put in front of users in the form of targeted landing experiences called conversion paths. Within two quarters of adopting this strategy, Bronto had multiplied their conversion rate from 2% to over 18%. They did it with 159 conversion paths on 80 specific sources of traffic. Over 800 campaign-specific pages drove this unprecedented change.
Today, Bronto Software is nearly two years into this online marketing strategy. They are running 728 landing experiences on 406 sources of traffic with a lifetime average conversion rate of just under 22% across both PPC and email marketing. That’s over 3,600 agile web pages delivering remarkable value.
Bronto’s online marketing success is truly game changing. The company enjoys a three-year growth rate of over 284% and was recently named number 1,096 on the Inc. 5000.
Another example of click optimization comes from Citrix Systems. The $1.2 billion enterprise software company adopted a similar strategy to that of Bronto, but they did it while micro-targeting via paid search. They found their needle in a haystack niche of hospital administrators, but they also found that over 70% of the clicks they were paying for were not even in the neighborhood of their target audience.
They too moved to agile pages outside of the confines of their website infrastructure. Beyond the grind of IT and multi-departmental processes, their landing pages flourished. They created these pages without navigation or other distractions and as extensions of the ads that were feeding them traffic.
As it turned out, Google was much more likely to deliver the target than Yahoo was. So after a year of splitting the spend between the two vehicles, post-click data empirically revealed the truth within two weeks of the strategy change. The Yahoo spend was moved to Google and the post-click landing experiences were further optimized. Ultimately, the result of the three-week effort was 2,500% improvement over the original baseline.
This all happened when marketing took ownership of campaign-specific pages. Those pages became tightly integrated with the ads that fed them and the result was game changing for Citrix.
American Greetings toiled for years with just a few landing pages. This was despite the knowledge that they had highly diverse streams of traffic feeding the $1.7 billion company. But their landing pages were part of the multidisciplinary website team’s responsibility. And they just weren’t a top priority. But lowering the cost-per-acquisition on their millions of monthly unique visitors was certainly a top priority.
American Greetings had already tested and optimized a few landing pages using multivariate methods. They needed something much more dramatic to move their needle much further. American Greetings’ marketing team took ownership of their campaign pages for paid search and began their effort to redefine what they considered to be ‘normal’.
In the first three months of their new strategy, American Greetings deployed over 40 campaign-specific multi-page landing experiences. They tested a wide variety of diverse pages, offers, price points and messaging on over 200 audience segments.
Almost immediately, American Greetings saw an unprecedented 30% increase in conversion rates resulting in a 20% reduction in fully loaded cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Multiply that performance times millions of monthly uniques and you start to see what’s at stake.
Within five months of beginning their program, American Greetings had created over 700 unique landing pages being tested across hundreds of sources of traffic. Today they have 989 landing experiences across 489 sources of traffic. That translates to thousands of unique, audience-targeted, campaign-specific pages — all driven by marketing. All driving ‘normal’ online marketing performance to a whole new level.
American Greetings continues to push higher and higher with conversion goals set 40% higher in 2010 and another 33% higher in 2011. That’s anything but status quo.
I hope you’re seeing the patterns here. It’s pretty exciting stuff. When marketers take control and produce niche, long-tail pages, good things happen. In fact great things happen. Things that are so far beyond the average that everyone should be doing them. And then we’d have a whole new average to exceed.
But there’s some between-the-lines learning here that I want to point out too. My motive for giving you a shower of big numbers is partially to show that this strategy is realistic, but also to illustrate a little-known facet of what’s going on here: these campaign-specific pages are highly disposable. They have to be. If marketers are married to their landing experiences because of over-investment of time and money, they’ll never be willing to kill the poor performers.
The somewhat cavalier sales saying goes ‘some will. some won’t. so what. move on.’ and the same could be said of online marketing funnels. Some will work. Some won’t. Kill the ones that don’t. In order for that approach to work, you cannot over invest in any one funnel.
I’m in no way advocating unprofessional, ill-branded or half-hearted pages. You need an agile method to deliver nimble, professional pages in minutes — not hours, days, weeks or worse. You have to keep the total cost of a page relatively low and the quality very high.
The disposability of pages does not lend itself to the web development world. In web dev, pages and their links are preserved. In the online marketing world, links are divorced from pages, so that they can persist even when the pages behind them die. The way to think about it is that you link to a place — what gets displayed in that place changes all the time, but the place itself is stable. It’s unlikely that a website content management system is going to make that sort of flexibility easy — if it supports it at all. Your website is about stable pages in stable places. The best online marketing experiences are always in flux.
This is the crux of testing that yields dramatic results. The re-calibration of normal happens when you can easily vary what’s shown to users. Why? To find the pages that are most likely to convert them from casual, impulsive clickers into engaged prospects or customers.
American Greetings, Bronto and Citrix are three examples of the redefinition of normal. Their businesses have been transformed by online marketing. In all three cases the transformation happened within weeks or months. They let nothing stand in their way and they were rewarded for their persistence.
What reasons could organizations have NOT to make this change in strategy an imperative? What could be more important than this sort of impact on revenue and income? The reasons I hear most often are trivial.
What wouldn’t an organization trade to triple its return on advertising or marketing investment? What wouldn’t it be worth to reduce customer acquisition costs by 20%? Ask the CEO, the CFO or the CMO for the real answers.
To reiterate: According to eMarketer, 39% of marketers are not satisfied with their conversion rates. The Fireclick index at about the same time as the eMarketer article showed keyword & email conversion rates of 4.00% and 3.10% respectively. A strategy exists that redefines online marketing’s value proposition. Normal should be 3x today’s ‘averages’. It’s doable. And doing it changes the game.
Landing pages, landing pages, landing pages. If you are driving clicks through paid advertising, you are probably using landing pages. And if you are like most marketers, your results are probably “so-so” or “unremarkable”. On average, only about 3% of paid clicks convert. That’s a lot of conversions left on the table. Luckily, there are things you can do right now to help immediately and dramatically improve your online conversions.
Make a paradigm shift to stop thinking in terms of “pages” and focus instead on creating conversion-focused experiences. It’s hard to convince a respondent to convert by dumping them into a single page. But a well-designed conversion experience can seduce a lot more conversions from your audience by creating a relevant path from the click through to the conversion.
Make sure your ad message and your landing experience match. And I don’t mean colors or pictures. I mean messages and promises. In order to get the user to click, your ad implies a promise: CLICK HERE. GET THIS. Your landing experience needs to immediately, directly and simply pay off that promise. Whatever your ad says, make sure your landing experience fulfills that message and promise. When you do this, you will build trust with your respondent, and when you build trust, you will automatically build desire. We call it the conversion path trust cycle: Make a promise, pay it off on the next page. Continue doing this until you ask for, and receive, conversion.
When you have message mismatched ads and landing pages you are damaging your brand and making your respondents less likely to click the next time they stumble upon you. Ouch.
When users click on your ad they aren’t making a considered choice. They are reacting to a simple little ad message. Whether a banner, an email or a paid search ad, the click on your ad is a split second impulse. Either the user saw something that caught their eye, or they were searching for something and your ad seemed like it might lead somewhere relevant. When we dump those ad respondents onto a landing page with a ton of copy, links, choices, or a form, we are breaking the rhythm and expecting them to do all the work. No wonder our conversions are at 3%! This “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to building landing pages doesn’t work.
In order to keep users flowing through our conversion experience we have to simplify each page. Get rid of all the distractions. When we simplify the page, including the message, the copy, and the choices, users will ultimately flow through at a much higher rate of conversion. Create an experience that keeps them in the “split second” flow that they are in when they click on the ad. Keep them moving by presenting them simple, relevant choices and letting them flow through a conversion path to the point of actually converting. When you simplify your experience, your conversions will increase.
The way you can keep your experience simple is by using strategic respondent choices within your experience. A page with a ton of copy, links or a form is WORK for the user. Too many choices, too much distraction. Rather than putting everything on the page, create a simple page with a couple of choices. Once the user makes a choice, the next page pays off that choice with relevancy.
Let’s say I am running an ad for a credit card. I could dump respondents on my application form. Or I could send them to a page of long copy about the credit card and then take them to the application form (if any of them actually make it through my long page of copy).
Or, I could usher respondents to a simple landing page that has three-way choice for information on the card that’s right for establishing new credit, rebuilding bad credit, or rewarding great credit. I give the respondents a simple choice (they know which group they fall into) and they don’t have to think; they can make that simple choice and move on. Once they have made the choice, the next page can pitch and persuade in a meaningful way. Rather than reading about the card that’s right for everyone, the respondent sees copy thats right for them. I’ve created an experience rather than a page, built trust by matching the ad, and kept the pages simple by giving the respondents choice. Bang, my chance of conversion is going through the roof!
Giving your respondents choices lets them have a more relevant experience. And when an experience is more relevant, you will be far more likely to get a conversion.
The final thing you can do right now to improve your landing experiences is to test, test and then test some more. As opposed to page optimization, around here we talk a lot about “apples to oranges” testing in order to achieve dramatic improvements to conversion quality and quantity. If you test a single page to optimize it (headline color, image, call to action), you will probably increase your conversions a little. And when you are testing the footer font on test number 5,488, you have definitely lost sight of the big picture.
Rather than focusing on optimizing elements on a page to increase conversions, think about testing widely differing experiences in order to see what really moves more people through your funnel. Sure, maybe the headline size on my credit card landing page is going to entice a few more people to convert. But by testing the choices I offer, the number of choices, and the total number of pages, I have a lot more freedom and flexibility to see which experience is most conversion-friendly. Take a big picture, somewhat heretical, approach to your testing and you will see bigger changes in your conversion rate.
If you implement the five action items above, I know you will increase your online conversions or improve your conversion quality. Above all, have fun and start thinking out of the box with your landing experiences. And gosh darn it, No More Landing Pages.
How are landing pages for large organizations — post-click marketing initiatives at the enterprise level — different than landing pages for anyone else?
The objective is the same, to provide a better experience when respondents click through from online advertising and email marketing, and to thereby increase the conversion rate and ROI.
Arguably, even the tactics and creative options for the design and content of the pages — the best practices that are usually written about the subject — are largely the same:
The big difference is behind the scenes. Enterprise landing pages have:
Although these aspects may seem tangential to most landing page best practices, these factors have an enormous impact on the implementation of such best practices in large organizations.
In an enterprise-scale environment, an under-the-radar, ad hoc approach to landing pages is almost guaranteed to underperform, because the absence of structured processes for post-click marketing robs them of attention, budget, and priority. To thrive and succeed, an enterprise post-click marketing program must be well-defined, systematized, and integrated with the overall marketing engine.
The goal to to turn your size to your advantage.
Here are specific ways to make that happen, to help define your ideal team and supporting infrastructure, and to address the challenges of enterprise post-click marketing on each of these 5 dimensions.
Call it the axiom of the org chart: the larger the company, the more people involved in an activity. Online marketing, however, is a particularly chaotic intersection of marketing managers, web site managers, search specialists, product managers, business intelligence analysts, IT administrators, legal, and at least one floating contractor. Then you go up: your boss, your boss’s boss, your dotted line boss, and probably a committee.
And that’s just inside the organization. There are potentially a plethora of outsourced vendors and agencies in the loop as well: a search agency, an ad agency, a brand agency, a web development firm, an email marketing company, a PR firm, a social marketing consultancy, etc. And across all of these constituencies, personnel are constantly in flux.
This large cast of players isn’t a bad thing, per se. Online marketing is multidisciplinary, and as the centerpiece for almost every company’s interface to the market these days, it’s well deserving of the attention and input from these disparate groups.
To survive this juggling gauntlet of many hands though, post-click marketing initiatives need to meet the requirements of each group — and leverage their talents and contributions — in an efficient and orderly fashion.
Here are 9 steps for incorporating post-click in online marketing with a large cast of players:
Of course, more people are inexorably tied to more complexity and more scale — so many of the suggestions in the next two sections will also help maximize the productivity of this larger cast.
Just remember: more people should be an advantage, and the foundation of successful enterprise post-click marketing is to make that statement true.
To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke: any sufficiently complex system is indistinguishable from chaos. And let’s face it, enterprise online marketing is a pretty darn complex system. To properly incorporate post-click marketing into a large organization, the goal is actually to simplify processes as much as possible.
Landing page production in large organizations must deal with:
Overall, more coordination is required with more other things in the organization as a whole — more channels, bigger channels, more independently moving pieces in The Great Marketing Machine.
The impact of this complexity is an inflation of the “soft costs” — overhead and time — for producing and managing landing pages and post-click marketing. Every touchpoint adds delays and indirect costs, diminishing your agility and ROI. It’s not unusual to hear tales of big companies taking weeks to launch a new landing page.
Some people might object that formalizing post-click marketing will only make things more complex. But post-click marketing happens whether you consciously manage it or not — people click on your ads, land somewhere in your web universe, and experience an impression of your company. Letting this happen on an ad hoc basis ironically creates more complexity because it causes a drag on the performance of the entire marketing funnel — like trying to bicycle uphill with your brakes on — and generates interrupt-driven exception management every time someone tries to fix the post-click experience for a one-off campaign.
The antidote to that inefficiency is partly organizational structure, partly business process management, and partly software automation. Ultimately, all these ideas share the same underlying strategy: reduce the number of manual touchpoints when launching and managing landing experiences. The goal is to asymptotically approach frictionless post-click marketing.
Here are 10 suggestions for taming post-click complexity:
By structuring your post-click marketing so that responsibilities are cleanly separated into Lego-like blocks of functionality — that can be quickly and safely assembled into new landing pages experiences by front-line marketing staff — you can keep the complexity under control while increasing the overall sophistication of your post-click capabilities. Expertise is leveraged where it delivers the most value — in a business process architecture that emphasizes reusability — and is not unnecessarily ensnared in day-to-day production or management.
This distributed approach can dramatically reduce your soft costs, making individual landing experiences much more cost effective. This, in turn, sets the stage for scaling up.
Marketing in a large organization is all about “more”. Not just more personnel and more processes connecting them — which we covered in the previous two sections — but more prospects and customers, and more vehicles to reach them in more markets.
As input into post-click marketing, this means:
All of this translates into the need for more distinct landing pages, scalable on demand, with targeted landing experiences designed to match the expectations of each of these streams of respondents.
This, however, is a key advantage for larger players. Your scale can enable broader coverage of The Long Tail, investing in more niche exploration, increasing the likelihood of discovering new segments with outsized returns. (This is also one of the secrets for dealing with more risk/reward, as we’ll examine next.)
Another benefit of scale is the ability to cost justify investments in talent and infrastructure. All of the people and processes discussed in the previous two sections are sources of competitive advantage. They’re also mostly fixed costs. With larger scale, you can leverage those fixed costs across a greater number of landing pages with a greater number of respondents, for more efficient utilization and faster payback. The same effort is required to create a landing experience that serves 1,000 people as one that serves 100,000 — but the latter delivers orders of magnitude ROI.
But to make scale work for you — and not against you — you need to structure your post-click marketing so that increases in the number of advertisements, the number of landing pages, the number of respondents, and the number of tracked audience segments in those respondents do not require a linear increase in your fixed or variable costs.
In other words, averaged out, you want more for less.
Here are 10 ways to achieve such scale advantage:
Remember, however, that the secret of scale is turning a tiny prize garden into a thriving farm — without sacrificing organic, homegrown goodness. You want to leverage economies of scale and optimized production processes, without forgetting that at the end of the day, the tastiest tomatoes win.
All the capabilities for scaling post-click marketing still rely on taking strategic and creative chances to deliver extraordinary landing experiences to your audience. So let’s talk about taking chances the smart way.
The difference between small business landing pages and enterprise post-click marketing is analogous to the difference between piloting a two-seater prop plane versus captaining a Boeing 747 jumbo passenger jet. Sure, it’s all flying — altitude, airspeed, compass — but the stakes are higher. Aerobatic stunts that would be fun for a single aviator would be reckless insanity for an airline pilot.
In the context of enterprise online marketing, more risk is perceived because, simply due to scale, a small mistake can quickly become a high profile failure, both inside and outside the organization. And to a real degree, there is — hopefully! — substantial brand equity and goodwill out there that you don’t want to tarnish.
However, the risk of inaction is arguably far more dangerous. The online marketing agility of smaller competitors can pose a serious threat to larger firms that get mired in either their own overweight processes — which many of the suggestions in the previous sections are designed to fix — or their own overly cautious worldview and a reluctance to conduct bold experiments. The market does not stand still.
The objective is to have the best of both worlds: safe and sensible agility.
Luckily, many of the capabilities that should be put in place for efficient scaling also serve as safety mechanisms:
But there are further ways to assuage risk in post-click marketing, where you can use your size to your advantage. Here are 4 recommendations for managing post-click risk:
Well-managed, the ability to take smart, calculated risks is a powerful cultural advantage. In an online marketing arena where you’re either the quick or the dead, being aggressively innovative — but never reckless — is key to staying ahead of the curve, ahead of your competition.
With intelligent risk can come great reward.
For all the challenges of post-click marketing at the enterprise level, the rewards of success make it all worthwhile. Conversion rate improvements as a percentage translate into much bigger absolute wins — a 100% increase in conversion rate is awesome in any context, but when it’s a doubling of millions of dollars in sales, that’s objectively even more impressive. After all, the bigger you are, the harder it is to move the needle.
Once you achieve this success, the tough part is over — congratulations on all your hard work — at least for that campaign cycle. However, there are 3 closing pieces of advice to keep in mind for making the most of your accomplishments:
Ultimately, all of the recommendations in this report — 36 in total — come down to one fundamental concept: agility. Speed and efficiency in post-click marketing translates directly into speed and efficiency in bringing new customers — the right customers — through your funnel. It’s not easy, but if you invest in the right structure, you can obtain a magnificent competitive advantage.
As Lou Gerstner, the famed turnaround chief of IBM in the 1990’s stated: who says elephants can’t dance?
Search keywords. Display ads. Email marketing. Affiliates. You pay good money for clicks, but what happens next?
Post-click marketing is about what people experience after you win their click. It may be as simple as a landing page, which builds on your ad or email, engaging respondents before forwarding them deeper into your web site. Increasingly though, the most effective landing experiences go beyond one page — using conversion paths and microsites to target specific audiences and deliver complete campaigns.
The goal is a high conversion rate. You want as many of those clicks as possible to convert into qualified leads, online transactions, new registrations — any metric by which you measure real online marketing success. The higher your conversion rate, the higher your ROI. See, the economics of online marketing pivot almost entirely on conversion rate. If you can acquire more conversions from your same advertising and email marketing spend, you win at two levels:
Paid clicks are expensive, particularly for desirable keywords or popular sites. Instead of always having to bid more and more to increase your net results — pouring more clicks into the top of your marketing funnel — it’s time turn more and more of your existing clicks into real business. It’s time to widen your funnel at the next stage forward.
After consulting to major marketing departments for many years, we developed a set of post-click marketing best practices for consistently generating strong conversion rates. In the past two years, we’ve seen more than 80% of our customers double their conversion rate — or better — by adopting these principles. Over the past year, the average conversion rate across all of our customers has been 11.1% — more than 4X the industry average.
However, you don’t need to be our customer to put these principles to work in your online marketing. The following five best practices — several of which go against the conventional wisdom of cookie-cutter landing pages — make the difference, and they’re yours to employ:
Landing pages, conversion paths, and microsites are like your virtual field offices — they speak directly to the people in a specific niche, more focused and approachable. These independent landing experiences are ideal for campaign-specific marketing, as their messaging can be tightly matched with the different vehicles that generate clicks. Greater relevance + fewer distractions = more conversions.
Conversion paths are friendlier and more conversational. Respondents are gently guided along a short two or three-step path that lets them indicate what’s most important to them. They become more engaged because each step is a quick 5-second click, which pays off with more relevant details. In addition to converting at a higher rate, this approach also “fills the gap” with insight into respondents who abandon along the way.
A more modern approach is to make segmentation open and participatory with conversion paths. Choices on a path are transparent to respondents — ways to match them with the most relevant content — without imposing on their anonymity. Because their choices are intentional and driven by self-interest, the accuracy of your profiling increases significantly. You learn how respondents differentiate themselves through their own eyes, an invaluable perspective.
Great testing starts with a genuine hypothesis about your audience — from which you can learn real insight — not a throw-it-at-the-wall jumble of disjointed elements. Bold ideas, such as alternative segmentation strategies and different types of landing experiences, are the key to double-digit leaps in performance.
Some landing experiences give great brand; others reek of amateurism. The good ones are crafted and deliberate, sending cues of excellence and trustworthiness, signaling to respondents that you value their experience. This is achieved with a blend of good design, good content, and zero tolerance for breaks in the experience: bad links, browser incompatibilities, inconsistent brand standards, expired information, sluggish response times. First impressions matter: make yours count.
Winning a respondent’s first click is important, but it’s only the beginning. Whether you adopt these principles or develop your own, the next level of online marketing effectiveness can only be achieved by looking beyond the click to what happens next.
We need to dramatically move the needle on what happens after the paid click. The solution? Post-click marketing. It’s a radically new approach to what happens after people respond to your paid search, email marketing or online advertising.
We need to think outside the box, because right now, the most highly optimized landing pages or microsites will only convert in the single digits. Why? It’s not because that’s the best that can be done, it’s because that’s the best that can be done within the constraints of landing pages. It’s time to throw them out the window!
The problem is short and punch ads that lead to convoluted, long-winded next steps. One of the keys to online marketing is brevity. We earn clicks with short and sweet messages that make vague promises. It works. We generate a lot of clicks from a wide variety of people, but then what?
The best of us use optimized landing pages or microsites to handle those clicks. And, generally speaking, the next thing that our respondent gets is a long, convoluted page that attempts to be all things to all people. It’s a huge mismatch. We get five seconds of a person’s attention and then ask them for five minutes to wade through a complicated page. It doesn’t work. The proof is in the numbers. According to Marketing Sherpa, we’re converting less than five per cent of all our paid clicks to anything more than one click. The problem is, we need more than one click. We need customers. That’s why we market.
Cast your mind back to the last time you clicked on an SEM ad or banner. It’s likely that the ad made you a promise, a “click here, get this” kind of thing that got your attention and made you click. You probably gave it hardly any thought.
Let’s say that promise was a discount on a Caribbean holiday. The next thing you need is a specific, short, easy page that gets you a little more engaged and excited. You don’t want to think or spend time. You’re willing to keep clicking, as long as there’s something in it for you. So, let’s say that next page presented a few options for your discounted Caribbean holiday—with kids, just the two of you, or traveling alone? You’ll click on the option that fits, because it’s making the original offer more valuable to you. Now you really want it.
Then you get an offer that’s hard to pass up. You’re traveling with the kids and you can get 20 per cent off a five-night stay at a family resort in Antigua. All you have to do is complete a short form and the resort will email the discount code, along with a brochure. Or, if you’re ready to book right now, by all means get to it. It’s fast and easy, so you complete the short form to get the discount and brochure.
You get a confirmation page. It thanks you for your interest with more rewards—take a virtual tour, choose activities, or connect to someone who can tell you all about the beach. It’s fast, easy and engaging. That process was a post-click marketing conversion path. When we plug conversion paths into online marketing instead of landing pages, microsites or deep links, we see 200-1,000 per cent increases in conversion rates. And that’s what I mean by moving the needle.
“No more landing pages!” should be the battle cry for online marketers. We’ve come to accept mediocrity in the form of “optimizing” square pegs for round holes. When you think like a user, you don’t want to see a landing page, regardless of how optimized it is. You want fast and easy. You want clarity and brevity. You want what was promised to get you to click, and you want it right now.
Conversion paths can segment, qualify, and convert up to 10 times the rate of outdated alternatives. They are multi-page landing experiences that reflect positively on your brand by keeping the promise you made to earn the click. They stop you form disappointing your users. Throw away your idea of a landing page. We must get more out of online marketing. And the way to do it is to think beyond the click and outside the box. No more landing pages!
The key to segmentation and subsegmentation is that each click pays off with a page that’s relevant to the respondent.
Flexible and targeted, conversion paths allow you to segment, qualify and convert your online respondents from paid search, display, email and other sources of paid and unpaid web traffic.
Let’s kick off the anatomy lesson by defining what we mean by “conversion path.” A conversion path is a conversion-focused, linear landing experience, specifically designed to catch and convert incoming traffic from your online marketing campaigns. Conversion paths live outside of the structure of a company’s main site, and are typically used in place of landing pages, microsites or deep links to improve conversion rates, lead quality and overall marketing intelligence for your respondents and traffic sources.
Conversion paths move respondents from landing through conversion, using simple or complex branching experiences. Conversion paths comprise a series of connected pages:
The graphic above shows a simple conversion path flow of landing pages, where segmentation is represented by A and B, and subsegmentation represented by A1/A2 and B1/B2.
A conversion path always starts with a segmentation page—the page respondents land on when they click through from an online ad.
A segmentation page should be utterly simple, with just a couple of choices. This is the page that is going to take the somewhat anonymous respondents from paid media and segment them based on who they are or what they’re looking for.
For example, let’s say we are marketing a high-end Caribbean resort on Google. After users click on our text ad and land on our conversion path, our first mission is to target the right content to each respondent. We know they are interested in our resort, but are they interested in vacationing with children? Water sports? A destination wedding? Maybe a honeymoon? In this example, we might present two segmentation choices—romantic rendezvous or family vacation-—so users can learn about the resort based on their specific interests.
Of course, we could offer more than two options to respondents—say, golf, boating or diving—but it’s important that the segmentation page be simple, focused and clear.
Now that we’re pitching our resort to the user’s interest, we could segment one step further if needed. Say we have an initial “Island Wedding” segmentation. We can then subsegment wedding respondents based on whether they want to work with a staff wedding planner or plan the wedding themselves.
The key to segmentation and subsegmentation is that each click pays off with a page that’s relevant to the respondent. The bride who wants to plan her own island wedding should be directed to a different page than the bride who wants the help of the resort wedding planner. Rather than expecting respondents to randomly surf around on a site and find the information themselves, or expecting a single page to appeal to everyone, a conversion path makes it easy to serve up truly relevant content to your audience.
To the marketing manager running the campaign—aside from targeting the right content to the right respondent, which naturally improves conversion rates—the tracking of these segmentation choices reveals who’s responding to which ads, even if they don’t convert. This yields insight into segments and conversions—so instead of trying to globally optimize a marketing campaign for all, we can maximize each audience segment independently.
Make it compelling and make it clear—now’s your chance to get the conversion.
Now that we’re pitching our resort based on the user’s very specific interest, whether it happens to be the family vacation of a lifetime or the bride’s big day, we can tailor the offer accordingly and provide highly relevant and compelling information to help generate a conversion.
Every offer page will be different and every company will have a different idea of what a “conversion” means. For our resort, it could be an online booking or it might be as simple as a completed contact form exchanged for a vacation planner filled with local excursions and offers.
So, at the point of conversion, we ask for the conversion only after we have given them relevant information. And as a result, we get a higher conversion rate than we otherwise would have.
By segmenting our users according to their interests, we can apply highly relevant A/B tests for offers or fulfillment that enable us to quickly determine what works best. Again, by not trying to globally optimize our offer, we can really maximize the potential from each audience segment.
Whether respondents have booked a vacation or simply supplied contact details to receive their vacation planner, we should always thank them for the exchange in a manner that deepens our engagement and builds the relationship even further.
The thank-you page of our conversion path is our final opportunity to provide users with content that relates to their conversion. This is where we can introduce all the information that, had it been included elsewhere, would only have served to distract the user from our ultimate goal—the conversion.
Here we can deep link into a photo gallery that lives in our website, link to a customer feedback blog or serve up additional offers to further engage our user. The point is to do it only after we have achieved the conversion.
Saying thank you is not only the polite thing to do, but also a great opportunity to test offers or content. By including various links to resources after the conversion, we can gauge user interest without jeopardizing our campaign goals.
Overwhelming user interest in a resource offered on the thank-you page could provide fuel for an upcoming promotion or identify a vehicle for cross-promotion. Keeping our resources rich and tracking our clicks helps us uncover even more knowledge about our respondents.
Trying to cram as much of it as possible on to one page puts the burden on the respondent to sift through it. Unfortunately, most of the time, they’re just not that into you yet.
We’ve acknowledged the “good” things about landing pages—even though many of those things could be better served by more evolved post-click marketing. Much like Fox News, we want to be fair and balanced, so here are the top 5 bad things about landing pages (and to clarify on semantics, when we say “landing page”, we mean a one-page format for post-click marketing, as compared to just the first page of a multi-page landing experience):
The good news is that fixing these problems in post-click marketing really isn’t that hard. Stop thinking at the page level, start thinking at the path level. Leverage audience segmentation. And remember that your brand never gets a second chance to make a first impression.
Cheap should be measured by CPA (cost-per-acquisition), not just absolute dollars. If I spend twice as much on a 3-page path, but it generates a 5X factor on my conversion rate, I win economically.
Kicking the landing page habit is not unlike cutting saturated fat from your diet. You know it’s bad for you, but it’s wrapped up in french fries and chocolate chip cookies that are just way too tasty. If you’re going to give up the sat fat—to, errr, improve your brand—you still want delicious snacking.
So let’s deconstruct what has been good—or claimed to have been good—about landing pages to make sure that we incorporate the tasty parts in our next generation of healthy post-click marketing:
Of course, this begs the list of the Top 5 Bad Things About Landing Pages too.