Barbra Sundquist and her site, How to Write a Short Bio, makes it an even 10 for the Landing Page Makeover Clinic Series for 2007 (ok, with a little squeak into 2008.)
There are numerous copy and layout issues which I’ll explore in a moment. But I’m going to do this last makeover a little differently since it’s a great example of why a solid promotion plan is so critical—and why is should be crafted BEFORE anything else is done. I’m going to quote Barbra from time to time for this critique to give you a sense of her thinking along with my comments.
Here’s the background:
- The Goal
Increase sales from 8 to 45 bio templates per month.
- The Problem
Site is receiving several thousand visitors per month. Conversion is far less than 1%.
- The Current Landing Page
- Page/Ad that Generates the Click-Through
99% of traffic generated through organic search from Google, other search engines
- Template cost: $49.00
The Maven’s 10-Point Critique
I have purposely made this page low-key from a sales point of view. I wanted it to appear professional but not too slick, and I really wanted to stay away from the ubiquitous “internet hyperbole”.
1. Before you decide on whether a page needs to “shout or whisper”, you need to consider your target customer’s “problem” and their level of anxiety/need for your specific solution.
I think every online marketing newbie with a product/service to promote could have written what Barbra shared with me. (I’ve had big-time clients who should really know better come to me with similar thoughts.) I call this the “hold-your-nose” marketing approach. Low-key isn’t always good and sometimes slick is what you want to ultimately drive home your sale. If you’re not the target market for what you’re selling, take yourself out of the equation and leave your personal aesthetic at the door. Do your research, review your competition and begin your creative approach based on what your prospective customer needs, wants and expects when they land on your page.
My idea was to provide good content on the left side, which would establish my credibility and quality, and then give people an easy way to order using the column on the right side.
2. Unless you’re already a web designer, use standard design conventions when formatting your landing page.
Yikes, this page is a visual mess. (Sorry, Barbra, but there’s no nicer way to say it.) It looks amateurish and I have no idea where to look or what to read first. Whether you use a one or two column format, your page has to give your reader visual cues and directions to follow. Your page has to look professional and polished. If you don’t want to hire a designer, think about buying a template or using a free service like Weebly. I’ve used templates successfully for many years. The simpler the design, the more professional it usually looks. You have many, many low-cost options available to you.
3. Use a 2-column format: 1 wide, 1 skinny.
Right now you have two columns of equal weight that compete with each other and confuse the reader. Try the wide-skinny 2-column format. The wide is for your main content/sales message. The skinny you can use to list the templates available as well as other sales supportive components. Get rid of the BUY NOW links and simply link the titles to your shopping cart.
4. Focus your content on the ultimate goal and then follow through.
When I take an initial quick read through your copy — just like any prospect — you give me a lot of detail on why a bio is important and some tips on creating one myself. That’s fine if you just want to provide basic information. But if you’re looking to generate template sales your content has to contain a strong and compelling SALES message. Otherwise you’ve positioned your templates as an afterthought.
5. Craft a compelling headline and lead that will immediately resonate with your prospect.
Since we can assume that no one is casually browsing for how to write a bio, we can then write directly to the many benefits of using a pre-written template, such as “save time, effort, even if you’re not a writer.” Next to public speaking, writing can be a paralyzing act for many smart people. Even if someone IS a writer, writing about him/herself can be daunting. A template makes it super easy to write a professional bio in the right style and format without the headaches, etc. You do a little of this far, far below the fold. My guess is that not enough folks will read that far. Also, don’t forget to ask for the sale with a text link/button at least once per full screen.
I’ve wondered if I should put a link to a sample product, since people might think that all they get is what is illustrated by the business coach sample in the article.
6. Show me the product, folks using the product, or the result of using your product — How about showing your own bio with a photo?
The current page is deadly looking in part because there are absolutely no visuals. Granted, your templates are simple documents but you can still add visual interest. Show a few screen shots of completed sample bios from a variety of nicely designed websites and blogs representing different trades and industries. Show images of sample bios from magazine articles or book jackets. Offer a before/after of what a prospective customer can expect. Remember, your customers aren’t buying a template, they’re buying “relief” and a helping hand toward a final goal.
Of the approx 75 bios I’ve sold in the past 6 months, I’ve only been asked for a refund once. I think that speaks to people’s satisfaction. I also have lots of happy unsolicited testimonials that perhaps I should include on the page.
7. Build more credibility with testimonials. Mention your guarantee more than just once.
I think you’ve just answered your own question. Good content certainly is a credibility builder but you need to take it several steps beyond with testimonials and a strong guarantee repeated often.
8. Build more credibility and list your name, company name, address and phone number.
I don’t give up my credit card number or PayPal address to companies that don’t identify themselves and I know I’m not alone in that. If you’re concerned about privacy, rent a private mail box from the post office or the UPS store.
9. Conduct some pricing tests, $49 may not be your best price point.
Sometimes no matter how well we craft/design our message, our products don’t sell well because of price. Sometimes we price too low and sometimes too high. That’s why you need to test your price points. My reaction is that $49 for a template is too high considering I could pay someone to write a bio for me for $50. I’d test $9.95, $19.95, and $29.95. With practically no production or mailing costs, you realize almost all profit no matter what you price it at.
Standard wisdom says “the money is in the list” and I realize I am missing an opportunity by not building a list with this site. But I am stumped as to why anyone would want to join a list for such a narrow niche … What would they be interested in beyond what’s on the site?
10. Think beyond selling the product to establishing the relationship.
Consider the demo/psychographics of the people who need to write a bio. Who are they? What do they do that they’d need a bio in the first place? What other business writing-presentation-speech tips, information, and products/services might they also need? Are there other sites offering complementary services with whom you could work? Repurpose some of your more informational product into a tip sheet and offer it in exchange for a first name and email address — then start brainstorming the possibilities.
My thanks to Barbra Sundquist for her patience and support of Heifer International.
Introducing the New Copywriting Maven Makeover Series for 2008
I’ve been dropping hints about the new series in both the #9 and #10 makeover posts, but here’s a little bit more before the big reveal in a few weeks.
One of the things that struck me about critiquing the previous 10 landing pages was how flawed many of the original marketing/promotion premises were. To paraphrase a hackneyed expression – “If you build it, big whoop-de-do.” The key is devising a smart promotion plan to not just drive traffic, but relevant traffic that’s ready to convert in some tangible, quantifiable manner.
That’s precisely going to be my focus for 2008, giving Copyblogger readers a chance to have their initial promo plans reviewed and made-over BEFORE a single word is written or formatted. How much fun will that be! So stay tuned for specific details by January’s end.
But Roberta, what about the landing pages?
For ready access to one of the best (if not THE best) resources on landing page writing, design and strategy, you’ll want to grab a copy of Marketing Sherpa’s Landing Page Handbook 2008 (aff) and keep it handy. Pricey? Yes. Worth every dime? Only if you’re really serious about crafting the most effective, response-generating landing pages you can. (Of course, I’m always available for a private Maven landing page consultation. Email me for details.)