Landing Page Makeover Clinic #18: UnderstandingSharePoint.com

Landing Page Makeover

This is another addition to our ongoing series of tutorials and case studies on landing pages that work.

Bjorn Furuknap wants to improve the work lives of SharePoint users with great information. I don’t know how many tech-types use SharePoint, but as a major Microsoft product, I’m thinking big numbers.

So two things occur to me:

  • There’s a pretty big prospect universe of SharePoint users to draw from.
  • There’s gotta be a lot of competition for the SharePoint user eyeball.

Despite the obvious competition, Bjorn’s online journal, “Understanding SharePoint”, should be a bigger sales winner than it is.

 Let’s look at the stats and see what we can do to pop the numbers for Bjorn.  

  • The Goal: Increase subscription sale conversions from a current base of 500 unique monthly visitors.
  • The Problem: Conversions are low. A few newsletter sign-ups, but not sure as to what the main problem is – which is why he’s asking the Copywriting Maven for advice!
  • The Current Landing Page: http://www.understandingsharepoint.com/journal/volume-1/issue-1
  • Value: $14.95 per issue? **

** My confusion will be addressed below.  


The Maven’s 10-Point Critique

Bjorn has published additional issues since he asked for a makeover. The landing page listed above reflects only his first issue. Subsequently, each issue has it’s own ‘landing page.’ After navigating his site for a bit, I found this page on my own, and this kind of page should be the primary landing page. It’s where prospects can see the benefit of the journal as a whole, as opposed to a series of parts.

I strongly recommend Bjorn combine the elements of these two pages into a single, more effective landing page for the journal. (He can keep the individual pages per issue but sell the journal as a complete concept.)


Understanding SharePointClick image for larger view

#1 – Declutter your landing page of all distractions – sidebars, widgets, etc.


If there’s any song I sing more than any other, it’s this. A cluttered page will distract your visitor from even the most compelling selling message. I realize, of course, that as more of us use WordPress and other CMS platforms, getting to a clean, pristine field of white nothingness isn’t easy. But there are ways around it. Use the “page” as opposed to “post” format – some CMS-themes will allow you to specify how many columns/which widgets are used where. Or create a static html landing page and link to your main CMS from there.

But if you’re serious about landing pages, you gotta clear and clean the decks so that the only “shiny, sparkly” object on the page is the copy/design elements that direct them through your sales message toward your conversion flavor. Also, remove the Comments function from the page, as well. A landing page is a solo act with a single voice.

#2 – Create a headline that immediately addresses your prospect’s “pain point.”

If everyone knew everything, no one would have a reason to buy information. We’d all be wise and wonderful. But since we’re not, pain is usually the main driver toward an information product sale.

Prospects want to do something easier, faster, better. Perhaps they want to be the SharePoint Hero/Guru at work. Whatever the core reasons, Bjorn’s copy has to show how “Understanding SharePoint” will help lead to a happier, more productive SharePoint user experience. That’s the job of your headline. Begin the promise of pain relief and connection right upfront.

#3 – Define the product you’re selling and specify your offer … and test.

Even if each issue covers a different topic, what can a reader expect in every issue? What are the common elements? How can you pull individual issues under a single umbrella? An easy, every issue of “Understanding SharePoint” contains (or covers): 1 … 2 … 3 …, etc.

In reviewing your site, I wasn’t sure whether I’m being asked to pay for $14.95 per issue or for a full subscription of XX issues in Volume 1. (If it’s there, I missed it. If I missed it, so have thousands of other prospects since you launched.) I’d recommend a simple, 2-tier subscription model. Order individual issues at $14.95 or a full volume/XX issues (depending on how many issues in a specific timeframe), a $XX annual price. Test price-points and time-frames.

#4 – Show the product with a strong visual.

If it’s a journal – print or online – it has a cover. Even if you can’t tell a book by its cover, show one anyway. It makes “real” a virtual purchase. Add a little depth to the cover, give the impression of pages. (You have a 60+ page periodical. Don’t be afraid to give it its due.) 


Understanding SharePointClick image for larger view

#5 – Promote your value proposition early and upfront.

I talked about competition for the SharePoint user eyeball in my introduction. There are books, ebooks, and a ton of available information. Some of it free, some not. So, where’s the “Understanding SharePoint” value proposition? There’s a dry, little bit of business on the welcome page. But you’ve actually written an effective value proposition elsewhere.

I found it in your introduction to Volume One. Use these ideas for the core of your promotional copy and accessorize from there.



#6 – Highlight all the “sweeteners” that helps to reduce perceived risk and smooth the way to conversion.



Use subheads, bolded text and image elements to highlight the Free Issue Preview and your money-back guarantee. Add testimonials from everyone who uses your material. (Bonus – don’t forget to “ask for the sale” on the last page of the free preview!)

Understanding SharePointClick image for larger view

#7 – Have all content proofed by folks with standard English spelling and grammar skills. Use standard nomenclature.

I appreciate anyone who’s more than merely functional in one language. Two or more languages? You are a person to be respected! (My grandmother was fluent in 5 languages as her little corner of Hungary was an intersection of several other central/eastern European countries.) But when you’re committing to print, you need to up your spelling and grammar game.

There are typos and some odd turns of phrase in the copy that made me stop and re-read sentences. You don’t want to throw any obstacles in the way of your prospective customer. (I’m the world’s worst proofreader so please do as I say, not as I’ve been know to do. :)

I wasn’t sure if your $14,95 was done purposely or not. To my eye, it looked like a typo. That made me stop. Again.

#8 – Listen to your customers. Give them what they want as long as you can still make $$$ from it … and test.

I noted in a comments section that users were asking about permission to share an issue. (How honest!) You responded that you were working on finding the right model. Don’t work on it too long. Start testing some possibilities now. 

In the traditional B2B publishing world I grew up in, we had different subscription rates based on whether the subscriber was an individual, or representing a corporate or not-for-profit organization. How did we know? We looked at where the subscription was registered, residential or business address. Is there a way to translate that to today? Corporate credit card versus an individual PayPal account? A corporate email address vs a hotmail account? Does the software-model work better for you? Ask your subscribers with a short survey. Who’s buying and for whom? Find out what they want, and if you can, begin delivering it immediately.  

#9 – Make your order buttons larger, brighter and test the button copy.

Prospects can’t click what they can’t see. (Why does Amazon use orange? Because it’s bright and jumps off the page. You just can’t miss it.) Also test your button text. You’d be surprised at the differences in click-thru rates just by testing this one element alone.  

#10 – Enhance readability with more contrast between text and background color

Designer aesthetics aside for a moment, if you’re serious about closing sales, you want to do everything possible to increase readability. Darken the text, lighten the background. I might also pop the point size up a little. Don’t make it hard for your visitor to read your material.

Understanding SharePointClick image for larger view

BONUS: Be strategic in your use of pop-ups/pop-unders … and test some more.

When I visited your original landing page, I got a pop-up in my face well before I had the chance to read word one of the page content. Very oft-putting to me. (For some visitors, it might be reason enough to exit the site right then and there.) It interfered with my ability to engage with your message. I also noted that the pop-up didn’t support a sale, but offered me the chance to get on your mailing list – again, well before I had enough information to make a decision about you, your product, or your company.



I’d recommend testing some sort of “pop” when a visitor tries to leave your page. You could use the pop as a reminder about the free, no obligation preview or, to help ensure folks don’t leave without leaving something of themselves behind, invite them to join your mailing list. Keep the message short, concise and to the visitor’s benefit. 

My thanks to Bjorn Furuknap for his supreme patience and support of Heifer International. Look for my next makeover in approximately 4 weeks.

Here’s your chance to be the Copywriting Maven’s next landing page makeover!

Got a landing page that’s more poop than pop? Willing to share with Copyblogger readers? Prepared to put a little of your own “skin in the game” for a Maven Makeover? Then follow your click to Maven’s Landing Page Makeover page for all the details.

(The response to the return of the Copywriting Maven Makeovers has been tremendous – thank you! The downside is I’m booked for new gratis critiques until 10/15/09. If you’re interested in a private critique/makeover or other services, please email me directly.)

About the Author: Roberta Rosenberg is The Copywriting Maven at MGP Direct, Inc.

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Comments

  1. Great advice.

    Pop-ups are the number one reason I escape a website.
    It hardly matters when they pop, I like to be romanced.

    Jim

  2. Great tips as always Roberta! I would suggest using lightboxes instead of pop ups and a better design instead of plain black and white. This way when the lightbox comes up its visually appealing and will not look like 99.9% of pop-ups. :)

  3. I’m a fan of lightboxes, as well. Just don’t show it to me too early. Like Jim, I need a little romancing first.

  4. Roberta,

    Your advice is most helpful, and I look forward to implementing your suggestions.

    From the time I launched the journal and until now, I have learned a great deal about such landing pages, especially from your earlier makeovers. My latest landigpages utilize many of the tips you have mentioned here, for example http://www.beginningsharepointdevelopment.com/.

    Thank you so much for your help, and to anyone else considering getting Roberta’s help, I highly recommend her services :-)

    .b

  5. You’re very welcome, B!

  6. An excellent Case Study, Roberta. My e-business guru, Jiri Kram, is a great fan of SharePoint but, IMHO< it doesn’t appear to be as well-known as you’d expect outside the big corporate I.T. departments. Maybe, there’s another audience who first needs to know what SharePoint is and how it can benefit them, you know, WII-FM? (Every consumer’s favourite radio station, ‘What’s In It For Me’?).

  7. I am not great fan of pop up. However, I am also aware that they can be effective if it is used properly. For instance some pop up are enoying. You try to close it and you face with another message saying are you sure you want to close it? You close that one and get another one saying there won’t be another offer like this again. First one i can understand, but second one is enoying and makes me leave the site as soon as possible. I think pop ups should be used, when the visitor leave the site.

  8. Great Advice. I really like how you use SharePoint as a specific example instead of just listing 10 tips to improve your landing page. It makes the post really easy to understand and paints a clear picture. I also like how you have declutter your landing page of all distracts as your #1. People don’t have time or desire to search for what they are looking for these days. Making things as simple as possible is definitely the way to go.

    Thank you for a great post.

  9. If you believe me, the only way to killer pitch page is;
    1. Rocking product
    2. Easy on navigation
    3. Appealing and asking to take action
    4. Describing a need of customers

  10. What great information! I love the way you are demonstrating the how and why landing pages should be completed in a specific manner. This is quite helpful to those of us who are truly wanting to learn the correct way of designing our landing pages.
    Thank you very much.

  11. You did a great job in the makeover of the page, but the old page illustrates an issue with Microsoft’s marketing that has nothing to do with the design. They assume that everyone thinks the way they do and that’s how they write.

    As a tool, SharePoint may be managed by folks who would really appreciate this newsletter. However, those who bring SharePoint into an organization are folks like me in marketing who wouldn’t spend a micro-second on the first landing page or the second. They have to get better at speaking the language of their audience of buyers, not just users.

    Melissa Paulik
    (former marketer at Microsoft)
    @melissapaulik

  12. Thanks for the helpful advice i will be sending some of my subscribers to this link and retweeting it as its great info.

    kind regards

    sam
    X

  13. Huh, interesting Melissa. In my old organization, it was IT all the way who would bring SP into an organization. Without IT buyoff, no way would marketing be allowed to purchase it.

    This product doesn’t seem, to me, designed to sell SharePoint to organizations. It’s an educational tool for developers who are going to use it. So unless I’m missing something (always possible), I think Bjorn has the audience right.

    It’s a very good and important point that you have to know (and talk to) the person who pays the bills. But for a $14.95 product, very few organizations will need marketing directed at an exec who’ll need to sign off on the purchase.

  14. It’s true that clutter can kill any sales presentation, no matter how compelling. It’s the number one goal in sales…know your goal. If the goal is to get subscriptions, nothing should distract from that, even if it’s “good” content.

  15. I appreciate your input, Melissa, but I agree with Sonia. This is a user-centric resource. At $14.95 the user can afford it to purchase him/herself or get a quick sign-off for a company purchase. A $1495 SharePoint system? Now that’s a whole ‘nother kettle ‘o IT fish.

  16. thanks for impressive advice i am going to visit your blog daily

  17. Nice take Roberta. I also hate pop-ups. I agree with InternetHow Blog, pop-ups should only be used when the visitor leaves the site. And only once, don’t make a follow up “Are you sure you want to leave.” It’s really annoying!

  18. I personally do not like pop up,pop in, pop over – Pop anything, but if you want to build a business sometimes they are a necessary evil. The ones that I will be personally using are the ones at the top (now that I writing about it the name escapes my mouth) you know the ones that play peak a boo. Great sentence for the business world. And the new one or at least new too me – the ones that slide up from the bottom. They are not to intrusive and do not take up the page.

    I had one earlier today come up and there was not X to close on it and you could not get rid of it -so I got rid of the page.

    I like what you are doing with the critiquing and will continue to look forward to more so that I can hopeful incorporate the suggestions and make my url (see above) better.

  19. This is such great advice. In particular the visual aspects of landing pages, which many don’t highlight — believing it’s all copy. I love the way you highlight layout, visual, and perceptions from the users stand-point — all very important in successful landing pages! Kudos :-)

  20. When I’m not busy annoying the world in general on the Internet, I make my living as one of the top SharePoint people on the planet. Bjørn Christoffer Thorsmæhlum Furuknap is one of the top 5 SharePoint people out there, and it’s unfortunate that his site(s) suck.

    I like Bjørn, but he needs a lot more help with his sites so that people can find him and the super information regarding SharePoint that he offers.

  21. Thanks for your comment, Mike, and experienced eye. Bjorn, I’m here. Just say the word. :)

  22. Mike,

    Thanks for your comments, I certainly appreciate your kind words.

    Keep in mind that the entire journal was conceived, created, and launched in less than a week while I was otherwise very busy writing on my ‘real’ book.

    However, compare the USPJ-related sites with my blog, and I think you will agree that the layout is a lot easier on the eye.

    My first order of business now, however, is to address the issues Roberta has mentioned, and then, perhaps I can increase the revenue enough to be able to afford a full makeover :-)

    .b

  23. Melissa,

    The USP Journal is not targeted at buyers of SharePoint or SharePoint services at all, but rather the users looking to master SharePoint. Those users are very seldom corporate users, but developers, administrators, and end-users who more often than not pay for this from their own purses.

    I’m not sure if I completely understood your reference to Microsoft marketing, but I have absolutely nothing to do with Microsoft. In fact, after I released the SharePoint 2010 Beta series of the journal (http://www.sharepoint2010beta.com/) containing information that Microsoft had not intended to be public, they hate me, truly, madly, and deeply.

    .b

  24. I dont get why people still use Pop-up boxes or those annoying little ‘don’t leave yet offer boxes’ I assume its cuz they work? I hope not, but I assume so… Thoughts?

  25. @Maren, it is, indeed, because they work. I have friends for whom they’ve increased conversions by 2 or 3 times.

    However, they make me insane and I just can’t make myself go there. Exit pops don’t bug me nearly as much, though. (As long as it’s just one.)

  26. Maren and Sonia,

    The popovers I used were insane on conversions. Th latest version, having my pic instead of the banner, had a 12,9% conversion rate from visitors (2279 unique displays, 2295 total displays). The one you see above had 9,4% (3627/3615). I ran these for the first two or three months the journal was up.

    I stopped using them since I had gotten a few complaints, but I’m seriously considering re-implementing them for some of the pages to test if conversion is still as high.

    .b

  27. B, you’ve done the testing and it works for you. Keep testing! I’d test the exit pop-up and lightbox already mentioned. I’d test holding back for a few extra seconds before popping on the initial page visit.

    Test it all. :)

  28. I love these makeovers. And there is always something that can be taken away to improve my landing pages and blog.

    I now need to investigate WordPress to see if I can remove my column on landing pages :-)

  29. @Pat, your theme might already give you the flexibility to remove columns. If not, a WP code maven should be able to assist.

  30. @Pat Bloomfield You can most certainly remove the sidebars from any WordPress page. You have to create a custom template. Some more info here (if you’re technically inclined). Not sure if this helps, but it is certainly possible to remove all of the side navigation from a WordPress page.

  31. I used this series of articles to help me decide how to revamp my Pallets for Profit site. Your lessons helped turn my old landing page into this. Thank you for the invaluable research you continue to share! By all means, if you feel inclined to critique, please fire off the suggestions.

  32. Wow, Max – very impressive! So nice to see the principles I cover illustrated in such a dramatic way. How have your sales, CTR, etc. improved since you made the changes?

  33. Traffic and visit time has increased and so has subscriber counts, but, sales are about the same. No real increase. I wonder if the cheesy old page did something more than the new one. Your thoughts?

  34. @Max, that’s hard to say. Cheezy can underscore cheap, easy and that can certainly work for a lot of products, especially one-shot sales.

    But what I’m looking at is that you’re building a bigger subscriber base – that’s an incredible asset. In fact, it’s your most important asset.

    Now you have a growing list of folks who WANT to hear from you on a regular basis. Drive-by sales are good, but your subscriber list represents the real gold you want to mine.

  35. Max,

    Growing your list is as important as the short-term sales. People may need time to make up their minds about any purchase, and simply reading a page may not provide them with enough time. They may not be in a position to purchase right there and then. There are numerous reasons why people do not jump into a buying mode right away.

    However, they signal their interest in hearing more by signing up for your mailing list. That means they actively ask you to convince them.

    Sign-ups are very, very important for your future business, but may not put cash in your pocket right now.

    .b

  36. So true! Learning all this requires huge steps and paradigm shifts. Τρελαθικα! As they say in Greek, which means “I’m going crazy!”

  37. This was very interesting and yes, when I enter a landing page and see a pop-under I just leave. Those things annoy me to death.

  38. Would you say then that landing pages are more for sites that have a product or services they are promoting whereas a site where the “product” IS the blog (like this one) it’s best to jump straight into the blog? Or is this a case by case situation? Thanks!

  39. @Leslie, any place a visitor ‘lands’ from an email, a PPC ad, search engine result, etc. is a landing page. Some folks, as perhaps you’ve seen through the makeover series, consider their homepage the landing page. This could apply to an e-tail store or certainly a blog.

    But if you’re looking to sell something or generate a lead toward an ultimate sale or specific action, then you need a specific landing page. Just ‘dumping’ folks off at the front door isn’t enough. The landing page provides direction to the visitor’s journey through your product/service messaging.

  40. Great tips. The almost instant pop would typically make me leave, but I stuck around for the sake of review the page and your tips. So much copy along with the call to action being somewhat hidden.

  41. @Roberta & @Doron, thank you for your feedback, I think the best option is to create a new page template. Then I won’t need to keep re-inventing the wheel every time I create a landing page :-)

    @Doron I can’t see your links on how to create a template. Could you post again?

  42. @Max Your new landing page looks awesome but I suspect the first may work better as it’s easier for viewers to scroll a page than try and jump backwards and forwards through multiple pages.

    As the first page is such a good hook, an idea might be to keep that but then have everything else on the next page so they won’t need to navigate back to original landing page.