When Prescriptive Landing Pages Are A Bad Idea

5 Comments Written on February 28th, 2011 by
Categories: Landing Pages

I was reading comments made by a guy who said he can’t find any decent search marketing help. He is selling a cloud computing service.

The marketers he talked to wanted to create landing pages and copy that read like a Blu Blockers advertisement. Buy now! Two for one deal! Constant calls to action. Twee headlines, along the lines of “They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano But When I Started to Play!”.

They were advising a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all direct marketing approach.

He felt they were totally wrong.

Marketing approaches need to gel with the client, product and the audience. If used with the wrong product and audience – in this example, those who equate a hard sell with low quality – prescriptive direct marketing approaches can have a negative effect.

Consider Apple

Apple market to creative, hip individuals, or, more accurately, people who perceive themselves to be creative, hip individuals. Apple is not for everyone, it is “exclusive”. “Think Differently”, not the same as everyone else. Apple frequently invoke modern art and visual design reference points. There’s an elitism about Apple.

This brand positioning comes from understanding the desires of their customers. Apple know their customers aren’t buying on features (Apple’s products often have fewer features than their competitors), price (Apple are often more expensive), or flexibility (Apple tend to lock the user in).

They’re buying into something more universal: a desire to belong, and to be cool. Apple’s entire marketing approach orients around this truth.

Hard Sell = No Sell

Now, imagine a Blu Blocker, hard-sell pitch to this audience? Would it work?

Highly unlikely.

This group would respond to pitches that involve belonging. Of cool. Of indidividuality. A hard-sell “call to action” is unlikely to work on consumers who are making lifestyle choices based not on need, but desire.

Here are a few tips on how to think about landing pages in a less prescriptive way. The key is not to put the cart before the horse. Seek to understand the audience first, then work backwards.

1. Put The Audience First

First, decide who the audience is, and what they want.

The landing page is not simply a device to get someone to react, like an unthinking robot. Click here! Buy now!

A landing page is something that can be used to draw someone deeper into your world. Reflect the audience back at themselves. Reflect their values and desires. Are they urbane? Security conscious? Conservative? Anti-authority? Homely?

Your landing page should look like what your audience expects to see. It should use language that sounds like how your audience talks.

2. Integrate Direct Marketing Tactics Carefully

Take a look at this Apple page.

The Apple aesthetic is strong, as is the sense of community and desirability. They’ve also worked in the price point. The hand grabbing the iPad implies you should purchase one. The pitch is not far removed from a hard sell pitch in terms of what it achieves, but it does so in a rather subtle way.

It doesn’t push too hard.

3. Design Is Important

Your visual design is important.

We’re a visual culture, and react to visual ques. Make sure, like Apple, that your design reflects the values of your audience, and the values of your product, else some of those click backs will come from people – rightly or wrongly – judging a book by it’s cover.

This is not to say all landing pages must have high-end, glossy design.

On the contrary. High-end, glossy design may alienate, say, academic audiences. An academic audience may associate glossy design with the frivolous. A design that is likely to appeal to an academic audience is probably more Wikipedia, less Coca Cola. More depth, less flashy teen culture.

The design, like your pitch, and like your writing, should reflect the values of your audience. Once you understand your audience, take your ideas to a designer, phrased like I did with the Apple description above:

Apple market to creative, hip individuals, or, more accurately, people who perceive themselves to be creative, hip individuals. Apple is not for everyone, it is “exclusive”. “Think Differently”, not the same as everyone else. Apple frequently invoke modern art and visual design reference points. There’s an elitism about Apple

….and see what they come up with.

Simply changing the “cover” might get you higher click-thrus and conversions.

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5 comments “When Prescriptive Landing Pages Are A Bad Idea”

It’s funny – I’ve actually had to go the opposite direction (probably more proof that one-sized-fits all doesn’t work). I was so convinced that punchy headlines and gimmicks were terrible for users, that I forgot they sometimes work. I’m trying to put away my biases and be more data-driven, even when I think I’m right (which is always 🙂 ).

Well written article Peter. Every time I come across first time marketers, I point them to only two articles: 1) Internet Marketing Icons and 2) A Marketing Driven SEO Strategy and I tell them to click on your name and read every single article.

+1 for Dr. Pete’s quote – ego-driven decisions have also made me do some really dumb things.
Data-driven decisions tend to be spot-on. Go figure .
That iPad ad is genius though – they do have the elitism of ownership down to a beautifully rendered art form. Everything they send (Mac), they play on it. Their packaging is bold. Their copy is minimalist, and often silly – but plays always to the realization of self. Look at how cool this/we/you are. Awaken.
But whatever else it is, Apple is put forth as being waaaaay different than anything else you’ll buy.
That’s not my own preferred Kool-aid, but I do appreciate the execution of a slick ad. And as you say, it reflects the values of their demo so well.

These 3 tips are totally right on! Using language and design to directly reach your customers are great marketing approach.

Due to how large the mobile ad industry is becoming, which of these main points do you see carrying over into mobile ad campaigns? Many people have smart phones with full browsers, but these browsers also come with longer load times in many cases. So, with those two things in mind, how would you address mobile campaigns? For a reference article on mobile campaigns, check this out — http://www.ppchero.com/case-study-refining-mobile-campaigns/

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