For years Barry Reichman, President Multimedia Tutorial Services (OTCBB:MMTS) has relied nearly 100% on television and AM radio advertising to get parents, adult students, and teachers to phone his in-bound call center.
Call center sales reps would convert as many callers as possible to buy Math Made Easy™ video courses at an average price tag of $150 a pop. The tactic worked; Reichman's team sold more than $25 million in videos that way over the years.
Then last year he decided to run a quick paid search marketing test on Overture and Google, just to see what sort of sales leads it could generate.
Math Made Easy didn't have any online campaign landing pages per se, but Reichman didn't want to send the leads directly to his site's main home page because it wasn't designed purely as a response device.
Instead, he had the ads link deeper into the site directly to an existing lead generation form offering a free sample. Then he assigned his best sales rep to follow up on resulting responses with outbound calls.
Results were far better than he expected -- 4.7% of visitors converted to requesting the sample, and of these the final conversion to purchase was about the same as it had been for leads generated via TV and radio.
But, at less than 20% per sale, the cost per customer acquisition was lower with online marketing than it was for offline.
Elated, Reichman decided to focus energies and budget on expanding Internet marketing dramatically, while retooling his phone sales operation and tweaking his landing page to maximize results.CAMPAIGN
Math Made Easy's Web site was designed in 1998, and it looked its age. Design that, back then, wasn't bad now looks amateurish and outdated. Reichman knew that to make the most from online marketing he had to invest in building a new site from scratch sooner or later.
However, being a smart direct response marketer, he decided to put a hold on that major investment until he'd tested key elements of the proposed design changes first. Why work in the dark when you can work from test results?
So, he commissioned a specialist firm to test design for the most critical part of the site -- the campaign landing page. They conducted tests in two parts, first testing a new "generic" design to collect leads for the entire Math Made Easy product range.
Then, as the investment proved worthwhile, Reichman had an entire series of landing pages rolled out, each using the same basic layout, but with headline and copy altered for each niche item in his product line that he planned to run a search campaign for. (Link to sample screenshots below.) Example headlines:
Original site form headline:
"Fill out form for your free sample"
Generic benefit-oriented headline:
"Looking for some help with math?"
Product/search term specific headline:
"Looking for some help with algebra?"
The new landing pages used seven best practices to convert as many visitors as possible into sales leads:Best practice #1. No hotlinks besides the submission button
The only thing that's clickable on the entire landing page is the button to submit your request form for the sample. Not even the logo is clickable.
That's because if you add hotlinks to other information, you drive traffic away from your form -- and they rarely return. Best practice #2. Compelling benefit copy in readable type
Many sites make the mistake of assuming that because a consumer clicked to a registration form, the consumer is already "sold" on filling it out. In reality, you need to keep pitching via copy and graphics instead of just presenting a "naked form." This is especially true for a paid search campaign where consumers have only seen a tiny amount of copy prior to clicking.
Plus, studies show that when researching higher ticket items, search engine users tend to open multiple windows from the search results page. They are comparing your landing page to your competitors' -- and people don't like filling out forms at all, let alone multiple ones -- so your page has to be the most compelling one to win the registration. (Link to recent study data below.)
So, the team crafted five to seven paragraphs of copy about the product for each landing page. Instead of talking about features (ie. how long each video is), the copy focused on benefits, such as getting good grades and building children's self-confidence.
The words "you" and "your" were scattered liberally throughout to make the copy even more compelling. For example, instead of saying "Contact us," the copy asks, "Why not see for yourself?"
Last but not least, the typeface was carefully chosen for usability. The short headline is in oversized Courier -- a typeface long regarded by traditional direct response marketers as the most personal-feeling and friendly.
However, usability studies show that sans serif fonts tend to be easier to read online. So for the body copy, the creative team chose 9 point Verdana, which is large enough to read pretty easily without scrolling too far to see the entire text. (Note: if you have shorter copy, we'd recommend you test a larger typeface than this, but under no circumstances should you use a smaller typeface.)Best practice #3. Lead generation form above the fold
People's eyes tend to view Web pages initially in a very similar way to the way they view print. When a page opens, their eye starts at the upper left corner and flicks across on a diagonal line to a point on the mid-right side.
The designer took advantage of this eye-pattern by creating a three-column format, with a photo of happy children at the top of a thin left column; the headline and body copy starting a bit lower in a wider middle-column; and the registration form starting a bit lower in a far right column.
If you tend to be a reader (as many women are), your eye will settle on the copy; but, if you want to cut to the chase (as many men do) you can focus on the registration form immediately without scrolling or clicking anywhere.
As past MarketingSherpa Case Studies in the business-to-business marketing arena have shown, keeping the registration form above the fold has a profound impact on response rates. (In fact, some B-to-B marketers test by deliberately placing it below the fold as a method of pre-qualifying leads for their expensive sales team to follow up.)Best practice #4. "Light" page
Multiple studies over the past five years have shown it's critical for your Web site to load very quickly. Consumers have short attention spans (especially when they have a list of links on their search results page that they also want to check out).
So the design team limited graphics as much as possible to only what was needed to convey a warm, professional-looking environment. Aside from the photo of happy children and some rounded-edge graphic design elements, the other graphic was a classic red "as seen on TV" icon. Best practice #5. Narrow page
(Note: Naturally, if your policy is much more complicated or you plan to use data in other ways, you'll need to link to a longer formal policy.)Best practice #7. Prominent phone number
Multiple response channels usually equal more overall responses. So, a toll-free phone number was placed in large type at the very top and bottom of the page to entice calls from consumers who prefer phone.
While the new landing pages were being designed and tested, Reichman also began to hire a new team of call center reps to handle the resulting leads.
He explains, "TV attracts people who are buying off of impulse. Internet searchers are a little more serious. A weaker salesman would probably do better off TV or radio than off of Internet. With the Internet, you're making a sale on a rational basis. It's less dependent on the excitement, emotion, or stimulus of the TV or radio ad.
"A good inbound salesperson knows how to take advantage of emotion. They know how to talk smoothly, how to close the sale. They don't like to sit there and tenaciously go through a lot of outbound calls to try to reach people. With outbound you need people with more patience."
Reichman found he also had to pay outbound staff differently, even though in the end the total per sale was about the same. Inbound reps were happy working on straight bigger commission. Outbound telemarketers preferred an hourly wage plus slightly smaller commission.
He carefully trained the outbound reps on their pitches. "What we stress as number one is the fact that we can help their problem immediately; we've been in business a long time and have helped many other customers. We also give them free hotline service for up to two hours of free counseling so they can get help in addition to the video material."
Plus, he also extended the 100% money-back guarantee policy from 30 days to 90 days, so consumers felt as safe as possible.
The first revised landing page -- the "generic" version -- lifted registrations by 93% to 8-9% total registrations. Then the niche-topic landing pages raised registrations on average another 30-50% depending on the term. (Proving it's often worth investing in landing pages for each main search term you advertise under.)
Roughly 10% of conversions came from consumers calling the landing page's phone number rather than typing their information into the form. These are leads Reichman might have lost if he'd depended on the form alone.
With the new outbound team in place, Reichman was able to convert customers at about the same rate as he had been with the offline commercials. However, because he was getting almost 140% more leads per thousand clicks, average customer acquisition costs dropped to less than 10% per sale.
Average refund requests didn't change at all, even with the longer guarantee. (In fact, Reichman is now considering testing raising it to a year.)
Delighted, he switched the overwhelming majority of his 2004 advertising budget to search marketing. "We'll still keep a little radio and TV to keep brand awareness of the products fresh. But, we want to get most leads from the Internet. It seems to be a much more efficient method. You're going after people who already want your category instead of trying to blanket your method universally." Useful links related to this article:
Before-and-after samples of landing page tests:
Landing Page Interactive - the agency that created Math Made Easy's online campaign landing pages:
Study data on how consumers use search engines for high ticket items (free but requires registration)
Math Made Easy's main site: