Nailing the Landing: Forms and landing page optimization


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Your guide to B2B landing page optimization and Web forms:
-Sharpen the hook with forms that increase conversions and improve data quality
-Prepare the lure with landing page content and design that works
-Check your line with this guide to form maintenance
-Use a "fish finder" to catch the biggest prospects hitting your landing pages

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Nailing the Landing: Forms and landing page optimization

  1. 1. Nailing the LandingFour Steps For Optimizing Landing Pagesand Forms To Improve Conversions
  2. 2. The Web-Empowered Prospect $1000 PROGRAM INVESTMENTNot so very long ago the litmus to a successful Home Page: 5000 visitorsfirst-time business meeting involved the time- 4,750 visitors Average B2Bhonored exchange of business cards. That card (5% conversion) Landing Page Offer Page: Conversionand its contents represented a tacit agreement 250 visitors 240 visitors Rate is 3-5%that one or more follow up meetings were likely (4% conversion) 10to occur, leading at least to the prospect of a sale. ConversionsToday, however, those same initial steps in thecorporate courtship process often can be con- INVEST $1000 FOR $1500 WORTH OF LEADSdensed to a Web page and, if all goes accordingto plan, a single mouse click on the “submit” but- Home Page: A 2 point increase 5000 visitors in conversionton at the end of an online Web form. 4,750 visitors rate from 4 to 6% (5% conversion) Offer Page: could drive 50%What a difference an Internet makes. 250 visitors more conversions, 235 visitors doubling ROI forIn much the same way those early business card (6% conversion) 15 the program.exchanges were based on the degree of trust and Conversionsconfidence a prospect had in the sales executive,so too are those same attributes a must in an or-ganization’s landing page—especially if you want thatprospect to honestly and accurately fill out a Web form. pitches are delivered and, if all goes according to plan, some form of prospect “conversion” takes place.The challenge, however, is that prospects are becomingincreasingly reluctant to share their personal information Today a significant amount of new business originatesfor a number of reasons including, among other things: via Internet searches and despite the pervasive growth of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the company • Like all of us, they are saturated with requests for website remains the “hub” through which most corporate contact information; marketing, communication, and customer contact takes • They know they can discover a lot about your place. In fact, studies from DemandGen Report have indi- products and services via Web-based message cated that not a single B2B sale occurs without the pros- boards, forums, social media channels, etc.; pect visiting the corporate website. • They may not find your conversion offer a Not surprisingly, a growing number of consumers and sufficient tradeoff for the information you ask for businesses conduct product research independently and in your Web form. silently, gathering the research that will inform the deci-This means that as buyers’ research methods change, the sion about whether to engage their subject at all. ThisB2Bs eager for their business must also change. Money premeditated research has the illusory affect of shorten-and resources are dedicated to driving traffic to offer ing sales cycles since prospects increasingly are enteringpages, but without optimizing the pages and forms for the cycle more deeply informed, engaged, and preparedconversion much of that money is wasted. Fortunately, than in years past. This, in turn, means companies mustthere are a number of marketing best practices and pow- take great pains to ensure their campaign landing pages,erful new identification technologies that can be used contact forms, and other tools of engagement are prop-not only to optimize your campaign landing forms but erly attuned to identify, understand, measure and ulti-also improve your form conversion rates. mately meet the needs of this new breed of customer, sometimes described as “Buyer 2.0.”The Changing Digital Arena Since these individuals know a lot more about whatAs the “face” of the modern corporation, the corporate they’re looking for, the B2B may truly get only one shot atwebsite is where first impressions are formed, persuasive making that all important good first impression. | 2
  3. 3. Consider, for example, erroneous information that identify those fish as “red her- a marketing campaign rings.” (Back-end identification systems help to overcome where bundles of time such challenges, but more on that later in the document.) and money are invested These “red herrings” drive up your average conversion in driving a large vol- costs but, more importantly, may have actually repre- ume of leads to a landing sented a prospect who was spooked off by some appar- page, but little or noth- ent “friction” on your landing page or form.1ing is done to optimize said page for conversions. The It is for these reasons, as well as the growing popularityresult? Lots of “nibbles” —accounts that take the bait but of the Web as a lead-generating resource, that the properthat you are unable to hook, which translates to wasted optimization of landing pages and their CTA forms hasopportunity costs and low campaign ROI. become a critical component to any B2B marketing andSometimes those “nibbles” fool you into thinking there is sales effort, and why we have laid out this plan for opti-a big fish on the line. Forms may be completed, but with mizing your forms and landing pages for conversion.STEP ONE: Sharpen the HookIn our metaphorical fishing world the landing page acts sion rates), or more. Making matters worse, the data thatas the lure, but no lure is effective without a hook. The sales often insists on capturing is frequently bad—thinkhook on a landing page is the Web form, as it is the spe- Hollywood-style 555 phone numbers and 12345 ZIP codes.cific apparatus that delivers the prospect straight into the There are a number of steps that can be taken to “sharp-B2B database. While many B2B marketing organizations en the hook,” including: shortening the form; identifyinginvest significant resources in crafting marketing out- the optimal fields for your needed sales business intel-reach campaigns, engineering effective SEO strategies, ligence; and going behind the scenes to identify—andand designing provocative websites and landing pages, speak directly to—those visitors.they erroneously assume that the contact form is littlemore than a formality.In reality, the Web form is no less important tothe success of your marketing efforts than areall of the previous steps taken to deliver yourprospect to that point. The loss is most pain-ful when it occurs here, when you get the fishclose to the boat but they slip off the hook. Yetall too often this is indeed where the prospectis most at risk of abandoning his initial engage-ment with the B2B.Often, the Web form hook is made dull by datarequests from inside the organization, whenmarketing is squeezed by sales to improve leadquality by demanding more data, such as a ZIPcodes (for lead routing/assignment), a phonenumber (which is the single field proven tohave the most devastating impact on conver-1 Friction is defined by Marketing Experiments as psychological resistance to your conversion offer. | 3
  4. 4. A. Shorten the Form and then use a third-party system to augment the data. For example, companies that use Demandbase to aug-This is far and away the most important step a marketer ment the data on leads captured on Web forms are ablecan take to improve conversions, and it is a piece of ad- to supplement those short-form leads with richer datavice every landing page expert will agree on. But there’s and get accurate, standardized company data into thea catch: shorten the form too much and you risk diluting lead management and scoring queue that much faster.the value of the lead.“Finding a balance between gathering relevant informa- B. Choose the Best Fieldstion from your leads and not sacrificing your conversion So just how many fields are ideal? For many industriesrate can be difficult,” says Billy MacDonald at the HubSpot and organizations the number can vary, but in one studyblog. “You want to generate as many leads as possible Marketo found that five fields produced the optimal cost-while hooking your sales team up with information that to-conversion rate.will help them establish connections, build relationshipsand close deals.”MacDonald and others suggest the following tips in strik-ing the right balance: • Survey your sales team for the data they most need to get the sales process rolling and construct your form around those elements • Ask only for the information that is imperative to that stage of the sales cycle • Consider drop-down menus, which shorten forms and provide ready-made answers (and also helps to segment and target)Also, match the form length to the quality of yourcontent offering. If, for example, you’re offering a simplenewsletter subscription, all that may be required/justified, is an email address request. On the other hand, In its own real-world practice of helping B2Bs developa lengthy ebook or white paper is of far greater value and and implement high-converting lead construction prac-can legitimately justify additional contact information. In tices, Demandbase has identified specific steps and dataa sense, the prospect is entering into a compact with your fields that are critical to most B2B sales operations.organization that says, “I want this badly so I’m willing to For starters, only ask for the data fields you absolute-give more of myself in exchange for it.” ly need at this stage of the sale cycle. Remember, youAlthough many companies might be tempted to choose aren’t trying to close the sale, you’re trying to start ora longer form to sate the data-rich appetites of sales ex- facilitate the journey and get more prospects into yourecutives, Jon Miller, Marketo’s vice president of Market- lead nurturing programs. And recall that a real-timeing, points out that “people lie on the forms all the time.” identification service like Demandbase working behindMeaning that not only will the inclusion of more fields the scenes can effectively provide the data you wantreduce conversion rates, all that additional data won’t while allowing you to stay true to the shorter form bestnecessarily translate into more qualified leads. “Why,” practices.concludes Miller, “should I ask for data, hurt my conver- Similarly, using backend auto-complete widgets cansion rate and get bad data when I can buy it cheaper?” ensure greater accuracy of input data, reduce abandonAs Miller points out, it is more cost-effective for his com- rates, and even curry goodwill with the prospect (whopany to enjoy higher conversions through shorter forms appreciates your help in fast-tracking the process). | 4
  5. 5. C. Use the Right LabelsStart at the bottom, with the button.The often overlooked CTA button should matchthe conversion offer. If you’re offering a whitepaper, for example, label the button “Download”rather than “Submit.” Aside from the psychologi-cal implications of selecting a button named“Submit,” the word “Download” is a more accu-rate description of what the prospect expects tohappen after they fill out the form.Moving back to the top of the form, and asidefrom the requisite first name/last name fields,Demandbase recommends the following datafield labels:Title/Job Function – A key ingredient to any B2Bsales process is understanding as much as possi-ble about who, within an account, you are sellingto. Simply asking for “Job Title” instead of “Title”will avoid gathering a few of the inevitable Mr./Ms. you may capture along the way.Business Email – Many people have “junk” emailaddresses or use personal email addresses. Save your cleanly with internal CRM and sales automation tools,organization a lot of time and money by eliminating and assist the prospect in completing the form. (More onunattended email accounts from your database. this later in the document.)Company Name – By employing an auto-complete Lastly, Demandbase recommends you match your ques-widget that encourages prospects to simply select their tions with your internal needs and scoring criteria, whichcompany name, you reduce errors, synchronize more are essential to testing and determining conversion costs.STEP TWO: Prepare the LureWhile dedicated landing pages have become common- that delivers the greatest probability of identifying, quali-place across virtually all types of organizations, they are fying and landing targeted leads.particularly important to B2Bs. Recall that the B2B is not The typical landing page usually can be identified bycasting the widest possible net in search of high-volume, the absence of any global navigation and the use oflow-cost transactions; it is baiting (landing page) a hook dedicated entry points (from PPC, email, banner ads, or(action form) for a select breed of customer. unique website offers), says Oli Gardner, co-founder ofAs such, a landing page is the ideal mechanism for in- (While there often are links to thosecorporating the disparate elements of design, content, landing pages within the corporate website, most oftenanalytics, SEO, testing, and Calls to Action into a tightly they are from external campaigns.)insulated, highly targeted, easily measurable package2 DIY Landing Page Platform | 5
  6. 6. Most important, the landing page is home to a single ob- tions. Test different content types to determine the bestjective: to encourage the visitor to take action (convert) response (most often you can repurpose content acrosson a specific offer. multiple media). If you are selling to the C-Level, then eBooks and white papers might perform better than“Without an objective, optimization is simply pushing webinars and podcasts. Don’t just test the landing page,things around on a page. Optimization cannot occur in a test the content offer as well.vacuum. A page, a process, a message, etc., is optimizedfor a certain desired outcome.”3 Make headlines – It’s a journalistic mainstay—don’t bury the lead. The headline is “…your pickup line,” says FlintThat offer may be as simple as a compelling content McGlaughlin, CEO and managing director of MECLABS,pitch coupled with a sales contact form, or it could be the “it is the place where the sales conversation begins.” Addspromise of a white paper, demo, ebook, webinar or some Chopra: “The headline … makes the difference betweenother piece of content. Regardless of the approach, the the visitor reading any content and going for the dreadedgoal is the acquisition of personal data about the pros- ‘X’ button.”pect, captured in the contact form. Give them what they want – If you are offering a whiteToday’s landing page is a far cry from its earlier ances- paper, deliver it. Nothing will sour your fortunes than ators. Thanks to increasingly sophisticated analytics and bait-and-switch, or linking the prospect to the companyrigorous A/B testing regimes, the modern landing page homepage and leaving it to him or her to find the white“incorporates ideas from content marketing, social me- paper.dia marketing, HTML 5 interfaces, marketing automation,and the explosion of mobile marketing.”4 Honor Their Privacy – Landing page visitors bring with them a modicum of anxiety over the prospect of beingBut regardless of the content, platform, channel, design marketed/sold to. As such it is extremely important to al-mechanisms or interface, there are a number of proven leviate any concerns they may have about you sharingdesign and content principles that will help generate their contact information with others. Ensure your priva-higher conversions. cy policy is readily visible and easily accessible.A. Landing Page Content Organize – Along the same lines as streamlining the eyepath, B2B marketers should avoid “fragmented orThe presentation is only half the battle, of course. With- scattered content,” says Hebeisen. Beginning with theout compelling content the prospect will not respond headline, the copy should flow toward a singular goal:to your CTA. Here are some suggested steps to optimize conversion. “Disorganized copy impedes the prospect’syour landing form content. path through the sales cycle,” adds McGlaughlin, whoseFocus – If your conversion offer is built around a white company has conducted thousands of optimization re-paper or webinar, don’t mix your messages, attempt to lated tests.5fasttrack the sales process, promote your company or Validate – Customer quotes, professional affiliations, lo-other offers, etc. Instead, tailor the content toward the gos of prominent clients, and other forms of third-partypromoted product and let your sales team take it from validation should be included as means of reducing pros-there. “When you design a page with a single focused pect anxiety and providing peer-driven “social proof.”6message,” says Gardner, “you create a simplified experi-ence that better represents the expectation created by B. Landing Page Designyour upstream [campaign].” From its colors and imagery to its layout and functionality,Mix It Up – Remember that different forms of content the myriad elements of the landing page must operateresonate with different people, industries and organiza- as a single, coordinated unit aimed at driving the visitor3 MarketingSherpa – 2011 Landing Page Optimization Benchmark Study4 Scott Brinker, co-founder and CTO, Ion Interactive.5 Hidden Friction: The 6 Silent Killers of Conversion6 Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion | 6
  7. 7. to a desired action: conversion. Some critical and com-monly discussed guides to landing page optimization via BONUS TIPdesign elements include:Build Trust – Your landing page may stand alone, but itis imperative that its design is in line with your corporate Consider Going Formlessbrand. “Your search marketing landing pages should be Consider the lead source. If a prospectconsistent with corporate logo, color, font and language is hitting an offer page after clickingstandards,” says Amanda Simmons of SearchEngine through on an email campaign or nur-Land.7 ture program, then you already knowStreamline the Eye-Path – The mind works best when who they are. “Blind” form submits orit remains in the flow. Avoid designing landing page ele- simple email click tracking can be usedments that force the visitor’s eye to jump horizontally or to identify conversions when the targetvertically across the page.8 list is full of prospects you have already identified. Another effective practiceEliminate Distracting Media – For a time it became is called “progressive profiling” and itpopular to auto-play video, Flash, and other multimedia. is typically made possible by using aBut in these media-overloaded times, these applications marketing automation tool to host yourare more likely to drive away than attract prospects. Use Web forms and landing pages. If, fora single compelling graphic or compelling headline in example, a prospect you have alreadyplace of multimedia. identified clicks on an offer, you can useFocus on the Payoff – “Anytime you ask people to do a customized form to ask them only forsomething, you are creating a point of friction,” notes Lary information you don’t already have. ThisStucker of FreshClicks. “Your audience will not continue additional, unknown information canunless the reward is greater than the friction they are ex- be used to more accurately score a leadperiencing.” As such, ensure that the page is designed to or identify where they are in the buyingreinforce the conversion offer, and more specifically the cycle.value they will get from your offer if they choose to re-spond to it.Limit Navigation – As with every other element on thepage, the navigation should serve one purpose: convert- Make it Visible – Studies consistently confirm thating the visitor. The best performing landing pages “func- above-the-fold designs behave better than do those thattion like a cattle chute,” says Bob Hebeisen, a Boston-based bury content and CTAs below the fold. If at all possiblemarketing consultant. “Your landing page will be much design your page with all of its key ingredients wheremore successful at converting if you eliminate links that they are immediately visible.allow visitors to leave.” Simplify – Marketers should steal a page from GoogleAvoid Discordant Colors – Too many marketers make and the many new daily offer services (e.g. Groupon, Liv-the mistake of thinking multiple splashes of color will ingSocial, Woot, et al) in the way they design clean pagesadd flavor to their landing pages. “Use color sparingly,” around a single objective. “These sites capitalize on thesays Taylor Kennedy, research manager at Marketing Ex- fact that they sell one item per day by featuring it alone,”periments, and only use it “to draw attention to a specific says Paras Chopra, director of Wingify. “You can borrowsection of the page or a call to action.” their techniques to improve your site.”97 5 Tips to Improve Conversion on B2B Landing Pages8 Marketing Experiments saw a 47% increase in conversions when it simplified eye-pathways.9 Wingify, owns Visual Website Optimizer. | 7
  8. 8. STEP THREE: Check Your LineBy their very nature, forms and landing pages are not the Synchs – Many B2Bs run multiple campaigns across dif-sexiest of Web properties. But given their immense im- ferent geographies or languages. Ensure that each formportance in capturing lead data, it is critical that they not works with its local target built and forgotten. B. Test Your DesignA. Test Your Forms It’s been said more than once that there are no expertAs with the landing page(s), forms should be tested and marketers, only experienced ones. Every market is dif-retested to ensure, among other things, that the form: ferent, meaning that response rates will invariably differ. Test design elements to see what performs well with theWorks – A broken Web form is akin to a retail establish- audience you want to convert. Test often, adjust, and doment that forgets to unlock its doors. Test the form to see it again. Your results are almost guaranteed to improve.if a) it captures the lead and b) does it deliver the contentthat the LP promises.Matches – If you upgrade your content offering from a C. Test Your Contentnewsletter to a white paper, be sure to up the ante on the As with design, test offers often to determine which head-form as well by adding (or subtracting) the appropriate lines and copy resonate best with your target market andfields to the form. specific campaign sources. A white paper that performed well for one content syndication program might not work well for an email campaign to your install base.STEP FOUR: Use A Fish FinderIn the same way that improved analytics and testing have etc.) and then integrating it into a marketing automationcombined to dramatically improve the effectiveness of or CRM tool, the B2B is now able to:landing pages and their forms, the advent of front-end • Increase marketing program ROI by convertingidentification and targeting technology like Demandbase more leadsis taking landing page and form optimization to entirelynew levels. “Without such real-time identification tools,” • Improve lead data quality with the standardizedsays DemandGen CEO David Lewis, the B2B will continue data that sales needsto “suffer a lot of lead duplication and lack the ability to • More accurately route leads in accordance withdo the kinds of scoring, nurturing” and other tactics so lead management standardscritical to modern marketing organizations. • Identify which content (lead bait) drove the leadsWith these tools in place a B2B isn’t forced to compromise from the most valuable accountswith sales over the number of fields, the size of the form,or which fields it is limited to. By implementing Demand- • Score your channel and lead source effectivenessbase, for example, a B2B can recognize a prospect and • Incorporate lead source and campaign into theappend a variety of account-based data to that individual lead scorevisitor, including company size, annual revenue, industry, Additionally, Demandbase enables the B2B to convertphone number, address, account status, and more. more of the accounts that are likely to become revenueBy combining this account-specific data with campaign by removing the Web form friction that has historicallydata (e.g. delivery channel, campaign ID, lead source, been created by sales-driven data requirements. | 8
  9. 9. IN CONCLUSION: Staying One Step AheadAs the Web becomes an increasingly important resource And your content might be the piece that helps to dictatefor corporate buyers independently seeking information the requirements of their request for proposal. These newabout specific products and solutions, it is incumbent real-time identification technologies and form optimiza-on B2B marketing organizations to align their websites, tion best practices will help your organization meet—andcampaign landing pages, and action forms to those pros- guide—those prospects exactly where you want them topects’ unique requirements. go: your sales database.By following some of the form optimization best prac-tices outlined in this document, marketers can improvetheir landing page conversion rates and, down the road, Landing page optimization increasesincrease sales. By adding real-time identification tools conversions, and shorter forms isinto that mix, these B2Bs can truly maximize the sales the most important componentsupport potential of their landing page properties. of LPO. For more informationAfter all, gone are the days when sales engagements lit- about Demandbase, or to requesterally began with that initial handshake or business card a complimentary audit of yourexchange. Step one is now typically a visit to your web- Web forms from a lead conversionsite, but often only after they are deep into their own salescycle. If you can simply convert a few more of your top specialist please go toprospects the first time they visit your site, you will have a shot at influencing how that sales cycle shapes up. | 9
  10. 10. About Demandbase Demandbase is the first real-time targeting and personalization platform for B2B, transforming the effectiveness of marketing programs and Marketing’s ability to impact revenue. While personalization tools have long existed for B2C, until now, none were geared specifically to enable B2B marketers to make online interactions more effective, delivering the right message at the right time. Without the use of cookies, Demandbase’s Real-time Identifica- tion service bridges the gap between known and anonymous web visitors by identifying and segmenting the companies vis- iting a website, and providing detailed, targetable business attributes in real-time. Demandbase integrates with other sales and marketing technologies to deliver unique intelligence about web visitors, and better attract, convert and retain the right cus- tomers. Enterprise leaders and high-growth companies alike use Demandbase to drive better marketing performance. For more information visit MarketingProfs MarketingProfs is a rich and trusted resource that offers actionable know-how designed to make you a smarter marketer— from social media and content marketing to lead generation and online conversions. More than 405,000 members rely on our free daily publications, podcasts, virtual conferences, and more to stay up-to-date on the most important trends in marketing, and how to apply them to their businesses. Plus, MarketingProfs delivers enhanced professional development training through online seminars and short webcasts, in-depth how-to reports, research, interactive planning tools, online courses, and in- person events. MarketingProfs helps the smartest marketers worldwide turn even the toughest marketing challenges into success stories. Basic membership is free—register now. | 10