"Web designers want pretty people's heads on a home page," says Ken Kornbluth, President MarketingPilot. "They fought us like crazy on our design."
Built in 1999, the home page's goal was to entice prospects to start clicking deeper into the site to learn more about the company's software, and ultimately register as sales leads. Kornbluth's prospects, executives at large companies with six figure budgets for software, would only give a typical vendor's home page a few seconds of glance-time before moving on.
"Marketers have very short attention spans, so you have to get them there in a few hops." Why waste any of those precious seconds on happy people photos or by forcing a visitor to roll over a menu with their mouse to discover what their navigation options were?
Intead, Kornbluth forced the Web designers to strip off all photos and extraneous graphics, colors, and information. The Home page became extremely focused on getting that next click. It contained nothing more than a giant, black-text on white background navigation bar along with a brief non-buzz-wordy summary of what MarketingPilot is.
In effect, the home page was nothing more than a site map.
And goodness, how it worked! "You can tell your navigation is good when people actually call you and send you emails about it. We get notes 'We love your navigation!'" But, the Web's changed since 1999. Like most well-promoted sites, MarketingPilot now gets far more clicks deeplinking directly into internal pages than it does to its home page. Email newsletter links, press release links, paid search links, links from search engine optimized pages, deep links sales reps send to prospects, etc.
Interior pages are now the new "home."
Kornbluth realized he had an entirely new design problem. How do you re-design your deep interior pages so they work as well as your traditional Home page in terms of generating more clicks and more sales leads? CAMPAIGN
Kornbluth asked his Web designers to create the cleanest, clearest, easiest-to-use left vertical navigation bar in Web history.
Most Web sites' vertical navigation bars are colored -- either the background or the text or both. However, that's hard for the eye to read.
Instead, the team made the navigation bar strictly black and white. Lists of underlined text is also hard to read, so instead of underlining everything to indicate a hotlink, the team had the lines appear as a mouse scrolled over them.
They also added "folder" and "document" icons in front of each item on the list. This helps the eye separate different items from each other (normally hard on a long list of text), plus it intuitively feels very useful. Everyone is used to these icons from various computer applications for their own email and Word files. (Link to sample below.)
Next, they began refining four specific types of pages to increase sales lead generation (links to these below as well):
-> Revamping Product Info Landing Pages
When a prospect clicked on a specific product or solution page from a link in search advertising, email campaigns, or a sales rep's notes, Kornbluth didn't want to risk losing their attention by mentioning (or obviously linking to) extraneous information.
So, he ripped off the intensely clickable left vertical navigation bar and replaced it with specific calls to action instead. Visitors could request a white paper, call a phone number, sign up for a webinar, or take a product tour.
-> Revamping Product Tour Pages Kornbluth tested two different types of navigation to increase conversions on the product tour pages. The first test was using big fat "back" and "next" buttons on the page to allow visitors to click through the tour. The second test was replacing these with a detailed tour navigation list of hotlinks, so prospects could decide which tour page they wanted to see when.
Would more control be too much "work" or would busy prospects appreciate it?
In addition, he wanted a hero shot on each page so prospects could see something specific visually about the product. But, how do you show a compelling picture of enterprise software without resorting to happy people pictures?
MarketingPilot's clever solution -- take a screenshot of their software in action, but "rip" off a jagged edge so it looks more interesting than a rectangle. Plus, by ripping away part of the rectangle, there's more room to blow the screenshot up so visitors can really see details of the exciting part of the screen.
(We think more software marketers should steal this idea.)
-> Revamping White Paper Sign-up Forms
Next Kornbluth asked the Web team to make his white paper sign-up forms higher impact in four ways:
Change #1. They stripped off the vertical navigation bar (why allow a prospect to stray once you've gotten them down the funnel to register?)
Change #2. In the nav bar's place they added several copy blurbs hoping to increase conversions, such as a glowing testimonial from a white paper recipient about the quality of the paper, and email privacy information.
"I hoped if we had a testimonial, people would be reassured that what they're getting is worth the trouble. People don't want to register to get stuff. You're always sitting there going 'Do I really want to do this?'"
Change #3. They reviewed every single entry box on the registration form to make sure MarketingPilot really, absolutely, needed the information from the prospect at that stage of the relationship. If it was nice-to-know but not need-to-know, they canned it.
Example, they removed the box asking for fax number, and a menu item asking "Where did you hear about us?"
Change #4. Killing the "reset" button. Originally the form had two buttons at the bottom -- "submit" and "reset." Kornbluth had no idea why the reset button was there in the first place -- probably added by a Web designer years ago who re-used a script from a form elsewhere on the Internet. Then it got added to future forms out of habit more than strategic thinking.
Reset buttons can reduce your conversion rate because people may click them by mistake, thus wiping out the name and address they've just laboriously typed. Most prospects will give up in disgust at that point rather than retyping.
-> Revamping Webinar Sign-up Forms
The team also revamped the webinar sign-up forms by stripping off vertical navigation. The form included several dates in the upcoming two week period, so prospects can quickly choose the date that's best for them rather than being shoehorned into a one-size-fits-all time and date.
Plus, to appeal to as many prospects as possible, Kornbluth added two clever alternate options to the webinar sign-up form:
( ) Please have someone contact me for a personal demonstration.
( ) Scheduled seminars don't fit into my schedule; contact me to set up a briefing at a convenient time.
Although Kornbluth is very happy with resulting leads from all the site tweaks, he says, "One result statistic really blew us away. People are really calling from our landing pages. Ten times more people call now. The reason is we ask them to call. Most landing pages don't do that!"
Why would these busy executives call rather than read online info and fill out online forms? Kornbluth suspects it's precisely because they are so busy. "It's simple. They don't want to waste time."
More interesting results:
o The self-guided site tour where visitors can choose from a list of pages to visit won hands-down over the tour with "Next" and "Back" buttons. Executives preferred having the control over which content to view in what order. And, they tend to view twice as many pages on average per tour -- on average six pages per tour.
o Prospects love the extra webinar options on the sign-up form. People at the start of the sales cycle or from smaller companies tend to pick a pre-determined time. Kornbluth guesses, "It sounds like there's less commitment."
However, prospects further down the sales cycle or from very large companies tend to prefer requesting a custom time for a personal webinar. "They may have a very specific question so they want the presentation customized. Or they are from such an important company they feel they deserve a personal webinar."Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples - screenshots of pages discussed above: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/marpilot/study.html