This is a guest post by Peter Sandeen of Affect Selling. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and learn a ton!
Your website’s home page is the most important page you’ll ever build. It’s also the most important landing page for any business.
It will invite people in, or kick them away.
Do you know if your home page invites visitors in or kicks them out? Have you tested it, so do you really know?
One important thing to understand is that you can almost never sell anything on your home page. What you can do instead, is capture the visitor’s attention and interest. And lead them into your sales funnel.
The following steps can be used for any type of business and for any goal, but they’re written with the assumption you’re trying to capture people’s email addresses. That’s a reasonable goal for a home page, and email marketing is very effective if used well.
And there’s a crazy example at the end, which demonstrates the ideas in this post 😉
1. Get into Your Prospect’s Brain. Deep into it.
The first step in building a home page (or doing any marketing) is getting into your prospect’s mind. Really knowing their psyche. Their emotional state. What they’re afraid of. What they’re desperate for.
You need to know what they’re looking for that you can provide, what about it is important to them, and how do they talk about it. In other words you need to have a solid framework for your marketing.
The three basic pieces of the puzzle are:
- Know the problems your prospects have that you can solve.
- Know the benefits your solution has.
- Use your prospects’ language to describe the problems and benefits.
The point is to know what you’re actually offering and to whom.
But to capture email addresses you need to offer something free (eBook, email course, etc.). If you’re not asking for email addresses then you could push people toward some free information on your site.
Whatever you offer should be related to your products/services but more importantly it should solve a problem your prospects have. Something that will demonstrate your expertise and create trust
You can try to skip that step (go straight to selling something), but would you buy something from someone you just heard of? That’s what direct mail advertising does, and it works, but having a 5000-word sales letter on your home page isn’t pretty 😉 (nor effective compared to other methods).
2. Choose The Right Format
Okay, you now what you’re going to offer. Now you need to offer it in a way that will interest and attract your prospects to take action.
That might be an eBook, video, webinar recording, email course, etc. it’s different for everyone. If you’re selling a book, you might want to offer an eBook. If you’re selling houses, maybe you’ll offer an email course about buying a house. If you’re selling a coaching program, a series of videos is probably the way to go.
To find the best freebie format to offer, you need to go back to your prospects’ pants, and figure out what will resonate with them. And you should always do something that feels unique to them; they’re not interested in anything they think they’ve already seen.
Check out your competitors. What are they offering? What format are they using? How can you stand out in the crowd?
3. Learn from Cults
If cults do something well, it’s leading people into their sales funnel.
They start by asking questions their prospects are curious about and will always answer, “yes”. Then they’ll offer something for free to create trust. When you’re interested enough, they’ll offer something inexpensive you can buy. And only when you’re neck deep in the cult, they’ll ask you to donate all your money to them…
Sure, you’ll skip the last step. But the first three steps demonstrate extremely well what you’re supposed to do: capture attention, create trust, make offers that don’t exceed the trust you’ve built.
Your home page should accomplish the first and the second steps. And it can also take the third step (with the freebie). But you have to concentrate on the first and second steps before anything else.
The key point about attracting interest and capturing attention is to provoke a thought. That thought is about the problem you can solve; and the thought has to be powerful.
Then you can tell them you have a solution to that problem. And it’s free!
But it takes a bit more than that to get visitors to take action…
4. Putting Things In Place
Next step is to look at all the things you’re supposed to do with your home page.
- Tell who you are
- Tell what you’re about
- Communicate the value you offer (go back to their pants if this feels difficult)
- Create trust that justifies the next step
- Make an offer (anything from clicking a link to opting in to an emailing list)
- Make navigation easy
- Copyright, contact info, and other jargon…
So, there’s a lot to do. But that’s the order of importance.
Why navigation is second to last? Because you want visitors to take action towards buying, not towards wondering around your site, right? That doesn’t mean navigation has to be at the end of the page. It just isn’t the first thing to think about…
Obviously you’ll build your site in a way that sucks people into your sales funnel even if they don’t take action on the home page. But ideally they’ll take the step you want them to take on the home page.
Let’s start from the beginning: Who are you and what are you about?
You should be able to communicate that in the header section of your home page. What comes after the header can add to what the header already told, but you should answer those questions at least 90% in the header
That means you need a great tagline. “Insurance Company” isn’t a good tagline. Nor is “Car Dealership”. The most important thing about your tagline is specificity, and then comes emotional associations and perceived benefits.
Next up: the value you provide. Usually it’s a good idea to talk about the value you’ll offer with the freebie because you’ll lead the visitors to a free product. If you start selling something, things get more difficult (but not impossible).
That shouldn’t take more than a few sentences after which comes the justification, trust building, and offering the free (or sometimes paid) product.
Finally once you’re confident you’ve persuaded people to take the action you want them to take, you can think of the site navigation.
Please, please, please remember that the home page doesn’t have to have the same site navigation as the rest of your site. Really, most of the home pages I evaluate, would be so much better if they just changed the navigation.
How prominent should the navigation be? It only needs to be prominent enough to be clear. Anything more than that will divert attention away from your call to action.
There is no such thing as a “set and forget home page”. As mentioned before, your home page is the most important landing page you’ll ever build. If you don’t keep testing it, you lose profits … a lot of profits.
The home page is also the best example of a landing page that offline businesses need as much as online businesses. So, even if you don’t sell anything online, don’t try to skip optimizing your home page.
Optimizing a home page is about four things:
- Optimizing the goals
- Optimizing the offer
- Optimizing the copy
- Optimizing the design
Again those are in the order you should use.
Your goals should be the first thing you look at; what exactly are you trying to accomplish with your home page
Are you building an emailing list? Are you directing visitors to more focused content on your site? Are you building trust? Are you increasing your products’ perceived value? Are you doing something else?
Next you should consider what you offer. Its one and only goal is to get the visitor closer to your goal for the home page.
Would the same content in video format appeal more to your audience? What about something else to offer?
Third step: copy. You will never find the “perfect copy”. Hiring a copywriter who understands websites will get you closer, but it should always be tested (though that’s something many web copywriters will avoid talking about).
What if you’d change the headline? What if you’d change the emotional cues you’re triggering? What if you’d change the order of benefits? What if you’d talk about different benefits? Use A/B-testing to know for sure what works.
And finally design; something many optimization “gurus” talk about all the time and claim to be the most important part in optimization. Sure, it’s very important and design changes can double or triple your conversion. But it’s still the last thing you should optimize. A “good” design is a must if you want anyone to pay attention to you, but anything better than “good” shouldn’t be your first priority.
Okay, the big question: Where should you put the call to action (opt in form, etc.)?
The not-so-simple answer is: Introduce the call to action as early (high on the page) as possible, but you must have created enough trust to justify the call to action.
The traditional optimization wisdom says, “Always have the call to action above the fold (no need to scroll down the page to see it).” But that’s not true; if you ask for too much, people are likely to leave. But if they’re presented with other options and the call to action isn’t too “aggressive”, they won’t go away, they just won’t take the intended action.
There is no universal answer to where you should put the call to action. An expert can give you a good idea about it, but again you can’t know for certain without testing.
Where are You?
I’d love to see your examples and hear your questions. Use the comments below to ask whatever is on your mind.
And if you’re more serious about making your online conversion higher, consider a full evaluation of your home page (and/or other landing pages).
…and the Crazy Example
Here’s an example of how a “real estate company” could build their home page. Note how it starts by creating promises and an image in the reader’s mind. Then it offers “self-selection” options of different kinds of houses (though they’re not working on the example page). There are testimonials that showcase the benefits. And finally it asks for your email address.
Want to Get More Customers while Raising Your Prices? Check out what marketing experts say about Affect Selling by Peter Sandeen. You’ll learn persuasive copywriting techniques, landing page lessons that increase your conversion, and the real principles behind effective marketing and business success (and no filler-content).
Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.