You’ve got a new service or a new product. You’re going to drive traffic to a new landing page through PPC, email, affiliates, traditional media, and other sources. You’ve got white space staring at you but the landing page needs to be ready in a few weeks—perhaps sooner.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to producing a landing page to establish a control. Once you have the control, you can improve revenue by testing variations against the control. But the control needs to have at least a ‘decent’ performance from the start. Results may vary but a landing page with warm traffic should start with around a 2.5% conversion.
In marketing, a control is the ‘winning’ creative—the landing page or email or direct mail package that generates the most response. The ‘king of the hill’ to use a hackneyed phrase. Direct marketers are always trying to beat a control.
Think of the control as the ‘record’ in a sport like marathon running. Everyone is trying to beat the current world record. But—at some stage several decades ago—a runner established the first world record. Every product or service started with the initial control.
Here’s how to establish that first control.
Step 1 – Understand What the Customer Wants
In a previous article, I describe the research in detail. But here are some simple questions to start the homework.
- Who is most likely to buy the product?
- What is the psychographic and demographic characteristics of the customer?
- List the three most important benefits of the product or service.
- Which problems can the product solve?
- Legally—what can you say…and not say?
- What’s THE most important benefit?
- What’s the price? What’s the offer?
- What’s the next step you want the reader to take?
The latter question can be especially important. The bigger the step the more copy you’ll need.
If you simply want the reader to provide basic information like an email address and first name, the landing page will likely work without being too long. Here’s an example of an elegant and effective page from Marketing Results, a digital marketing agency based in Brisbane, Australia.
However, if you want the landing page to persuade the reader to spend a chunk of cash directly online then you’ll need a ‘big budget’ number with long copy, plenty of photos, plus ample proof. This page for a copywriting seminar asks the reader to spend almost $5,000 and that’s before travel expenses; the page has 10,346 words of copy.
This landing page asks the reader to spend $39; it’s ‘just’ 2,629 words.
Here is what these three landing pages look like side by side,
You may have heard football coaches say, “we win games on the practice field.” It’s similar with landing pages. Your homework establishes a solid control well before writing, designing, and coding. And there’s more preparation to come.
Step 2 – Determine the USP
What’s the unique selling proposition? How can you position the product so it’s different—and better? I like Entrepreneur Magazine’s definition of a USP.
The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.
Step 3 – Poke Around
Look at the competition. What do their landing pages look like? What’s the copy? Look at the offers and related elements. Obviously, you must not plagiarize but you can learn a lot—especially from larger companies.
Many companies with a large online presence will have close to 100 full-time employees and/or consultants who create landing pages, test them, and perform ancillary work. If you’re a small company, you can leverage their testing horsepower.
For example, you can be totally certain that outdoor retailers L.L. Bean and REI test like crazy.
Interestingly, their basic product page layout is remarkably similar.
That my friends, is the result of millions of dollars worth of testing.
Step 4 – Gather the Goodies
Which bonus items can you provide to improve persuasion. What’s the offer? What’s the guarantee?
Here’s an example of adding value just before the customer is going to make a decision about whether or not to buy.
This inversion table ad includes 1-On-1 support and FREE Shipping.
Step 5 – Gather the proof
Proof sells. Testimonials. Excerpts from articles. Research. Photos of happy people with the product. Before and after photos.
Note how the testimonials are beautifully stacked in a sidebar on this landing page.
Step 6 – Gather More Information
Landing pages that inform with relevant and salient facts that resonate with the reader are more likely to convert.
If the reader is genuinely interested in what you are selling, you cannot provide them with enough information. At a seminar, copywriter and marketer Bill Glazer told the audience he was thinking about buying an Aston Martin. He said he was reading everything he could about the car.
Step 7 – Select Photos
Many high-converting landing pages do not include photos. Others rely heavily on photos. Generally, if you’re providing a consumer-oriented product, photos can be valuable. VW’s landing page for the Golf is highly visual.
However, the landing page for the copywriting conference I mentioned earlier has just 12 photos. To establish the control, I would recommend photos that clearly illustrate the benefits of the product or service—but make sure you include captions and I’ll tell you why in a minute.
Step 8 – Choose the Formula and the Design
The ‘classic’ copywriting formula is AIDA.
A = Attention
I = Interest
D = Desire
A = Action
I like Gary Bencivenga’s Persuasion EquationTM.
Alex Mandossian writes about the equation in more detail here.
Copywriter Michael Fortin uses a formula he calls QUEST.
Now you’re thoroughly and totally prepared. It’s time to start creating.
Step 9 – Select a Design
Landing pages come in a wide variety of formats—from the most elementary to the complex. If the landing page is simply asking the reader to provide basic information, then the classic ‘squeeze page’ format is effective.
Here’s an example of a squeeze page that asks for name, email and website,
When you’re selling a product directly, you’ll need a longer page with more graphical elements. Here’s an example.
Step 10 – Remember How People Read and Digest the Information
Now it’s time for the copywriter to create the outline. I create this outline based on how people read copy.
- They look at the headline.
- They look at the photos and sub-heads. They read the captions under the photos.
- If they’re interested, they will base the buying decision on the ‘meat’ of the copy—and will read everything.
Step 11 – Determine the Tone of the Copy
Amped-up ‘hype’ copy can sell. But subtle copy can be more effective. It depends on the product.
I have a ‘volume’ scale I like to use. Level 1 is for professional type products. Volume 11 is for boring products (like cleaning fluids) that need a lot of help—and hype. You can look at your competitors to see what’s working. But to establish the control, I would start with clear, enthusiastic, straightforward language.
Step 12 – Create a Wireframe
A wireframe is a simple mock-up that is used to formulate the layout for a design.
The wireframe could be sketched with a pencil and paper or developed using a tool, Balsamiq for example.
The copywriter or art director can collaborate or a creative supremo can be the ultimate decision maker after approving the wireframe.
Here’s an example with the wireframe on the right and the finished product on the left.
Step 13 – Write the Copy
Start with several headlines; the headline is the advertisement for the landing page. Write the sub-heads. Then write the body copy. Break up the copy with bullets, Johnson boxes, and photos. Keep the copy from becoming too dense. Sentences and paragraphs should be short—but readable.
Step 14 – Keep it Simple
Remember—you’re trying to get started. Keep the first landing page basic and straightforward.
Here’s an approach.
Here’s your problem.
Here’s how we’re going to solve it.
Here’s proof the product works.
Here’s what you do next.
Here’s the product.
Here are the benefits.
Here’s proof it works.
There’s no risk.
Get the product now.
For the first landing page control, keep it simple…BUT…
Step 15 – Create Something Radically Different
If you have the bandwidth, create a ‘B’ version of the landing page…something that’s totally different from your ‘A’ version—and totally different from anything else in your space. Yes—it’s a luxury, but having these two versions can help you establish a control faster.
With a fairly standard approach going up against a radically different version, you know which type of approach resonates with your audience.
Step 16 – Revise and Perfect
Go through the revision process with the goals of clarity and simplicity—especially for the ‘A’ version. Hire a proofreader before the page goes live so you eliminate typos. In certain industries, you may want to have an attorney review the copy to ensure compliance.
Step 17 – Test the Technical Side
Make sure the page displays in different browsers. And make sure the forms and the checkout pages work.
Step 18 – Get the Page Live—and Let it Run
You have traffic and depending on the tools in your tracking toolbox, you’ll get valuable data. Now you can start to test the following:
- Body Copy
- Placement of graphical elements like forms
Pretty much everything on the page.
If you’ve already created a radically different version of the landing page—excellent. You know if it works. Once you keep testing, you will likely establish a new control.
Establishing that ‘made from scratch’ landing page control takes effort—especially before the writing, designing, and developing takes place. To make the process easier and more focused, keep it straightforward, basic, and simple. You may discover the control is difficult to beat—even with several months trying.