High-performing websites don’t convert traffic accidentally. They do so because of the overall GTM strategy that turns website visitors into leads.
Unfortunately, too many marketers base their landing page design on industry “best practices,” treating them as sacred. The problem is that “best practices” are generic: they tell you nothing about your buyer and their intent when visiting your landing pages.
For your landing pages to drive high conversion rates, you must align each element of those pages with buyer intent—before, during, and after they fill out a form. This strategic and thoughtful approach may take more time on the front end, but will pay dividends later.
Where do landing pages fit in your go-to-market strategy?
We’ve all heard that landing pages capture traffic at specific points along the buyer’s journey, enabling you to qualify and engage those leads in sales conversations. While this functional answer is certainly true, we need to dig a little deeper.
In any go-to-market (GTM) strategy, there are three major ways to get customers:
- Outbound. This can either be sales outreach via email and phone, or marketing tactics like branded chocolate boxes. Depending on the channels you deploy, this can end up being costly.
- Network. Here you leverage people you know to drive referral business. Although you can get highly qualified leads this way, it’s usually unpredictable and spotty.
- Inbound. This includes every interaction that comes through your website on a landing page. Key to exploiting inbound traffic is optimizing your webpages to capture their attention, persuade them to dive deeper into your business, and a user-friendly way to capture their information.
At the risk of oversimplifying, outbound is mostly active marketing, while network is mostly passive. Inbound, on the other hand, is a strange mix of the two.
Inbound is passive because you aren’t going out and broadcasting your message to an unfamiliar audience. But it’s also active because the actions you take—copywriting, messaging, form optimization, design, automation, qualification, scheduling, routing—all impact whether your landing page traffic actually converts into leads and pipeline.
Rather than treat inbound as an “extra,” it should be a core marketing and sales priority. Otherwise, the thousands of people (if not more) visiting your website each month represent literal money you’re leaving on the table.
Where do marketers often go wrong building landing pages?
A typical marketer’s approach to building landing pages is two-fold:
- Start with industry “best practices” as a baseline, or model your landing page after another company you really like
- A/B test each element, hoping to eventually hit on something that resonates with your audience
There are serious weaknesses to this approach. First, most “best practices” are rarely anything but. There’s a lot of content out there that regurgitates the same “top tips” that really aren’t anything mind-blowing (we all know you need to have a good headline and a mobile-responsive design, etc.).
More to the point, best practices are an aggregation of what’s worked, on a surface level, at various companies. For sure, this can be helpful as a kind of sniff test. But they tell you nothing about your target audience and their buying intent—this information is general, not specific. There’s no guarantee that what’s worked in one vertical will work in another.
This leads us to the second problem: A/B testing. Because typical marketers don’t start with knowledge of their buyer intent, the only way they can optimize their landing pages is to test each element over and over again, throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
To be clear, A/B testing is important. But it’s not a great way to figure out basic information about your buyer. Once you understand your buyer intent and have built your landing page in accord with buyers, then you can use A/B testing to tweak, test, and improve your conversion rate.
How to strategically build a landing page that converts
Building a high-converting landing page isn’t just about font size and form placement and image use, although those things definitely matter. Before you start building, you need to understand the following:
- Audience. Who are we trying to reach? How much can we know about them?
- Attention. Why are they here in the first place? What path led them here, and what caught their attention enough that they clicked onto the page?
- Value. Why should they take action on our page? How do we show, not tell, that we’re worth further engagement? What’s their reason for engaging further with our brand?
- Nurture. What is our plan for managing the people who convert on our form? If we promise value, how do we plan on delivering?
Now, let’s go from theory to practice. Here’s how to take those questions and apply the answers you get to the process of building and optimizing your landing pages.
1. Understand lead buying intent
“Know your audience” is perhaps the most common piece of marketing advice out there, and for good reason. But it’s become so ubiquitous that, unfortunately, it’s lost much of its meaning. So let’s be more specific here: you don’t just need to know your audience, but their buying intent.
Let’s illustrate this point with three examples:
- Audience #1: Mid-level marketers at Series A SaaS startups
- Audience #2: C-suite financial executives at Fortune 1000 companies
- Audience #3: Education administrators at public, state-sponsored universities
The way you build your landing page is going to vary significantly depending on which audience you’re trying to reach. Here are just a few considerations:
- Audience #1 will want to see short-term ROI proof points—likely not in terrible detail,—and is likely the only decision maker in the process, meaning that appealing to emotion could work well. Likely they’ll resonate with a product that’s “modern” or looks like Linear.
- Audience #2 will be patient, want to consider long-term success metrics, and will almost certainly be involving multiple stakeholders. They want stable, reputable, low-risk options.
- Audience #3 will likely be interested in intangible benefits besides ROI, and will likely want to see a track record of working with governmental organizations.
Each of these audiences express a different buying intent. A landing page optimized to speak to Audience #3 won’t convert anyone in Audience #1, and vice versa.
There are plenty of ways to capture this information:
- Talk to customers—ask them questions about their buying experience
- Listen to sales calls—look for buying signals and their most probing questions
- Analyze CRM and website data to see where visitors have engaged and converted in the past
- Follow customers on social media and see which content they engage with and comment on
- If you have the resources, invest in market and user research to identify buyer mental models
2. Tailor copy to lead intent
There’s no such thing as “good copy,” at least objectively speaking. There’s only “effective copy” that works for a particular audience. In other words, copy that works for Audience #1 won’t convert Audience #3.
This means that unless you have a good understanding of buyer intent, you won’t know what kind of copy will convert.
Here are some more focused questions to ask to help figure out how to write copy that actually converts:
- What’s the length of their buying cycle? If it’s a short buying cycle, then punchy, “buy now” language could be helpful. If it’s long, then you want to invite them to learn more and start a conversation.
- What does “value” mean to them? Are you saving them money, or helping them to make more money? Are you saving them time? Are you making them more efficient? Are you eliminating boring, monotonous work? Be specific.
- Does your copy “weed out” bad fit prospects? You don’t want to be all things to all people. Your copy should make it clear that conversion means taking the next step in engagement with your brand and product. If they’re not interested, they shouldn’t convert.
- What next steps are you prepared to support? You don’t want to promise that someone will “talk to sales” if you don’t have a system in place to route them to a rep. Or to join a newsletter if you don’t have the content and automation in place.
3. Show, don’t tell: put the lead in the driver’s seat
If a buyer intends to purchase your product, they should feel good at the prospect of using it. This simple psychological trick (called “liking”) can help turn a mediocre webpage into a high-converting landing page.
In short, you should show landing page users what it’s like to use your product. Put them in the driver’s seat. If their intent is high, then that simple practice will generate such positive sentiment that converting them will involve less friction.
Some examples of how to do this:
- Use product screenshots
- Provide first-person demos of your product
- Use case studies and testimonials that prospects would identify with
- Explain how the user gets value out of your product (“you” language, not “we”)
4. Align conversion processes & systems with lead intent
Conversion involves three components: content, form, and automation.
- Content is the WHY. It’s the reason they convert—a newsletter, eBook, webinar, one-on-one discovery call, online course, etc.
- Form is the HOW. It’s the means by which they go from not having that value to acquiring it—it’s the “bridge” between the landing page and the value on the other side.
- Automation is the WHAT, or the means by which you deliver that value to them. This is the automated email that sends the eBook link, webinar link, or calendar link to set up a meeting.
Most companies focus exclusively on that middle step—the form—without paying attention to the other two. To illustrate why this is such a mistake, let’s take a look at a common conversion problem most companies face: lead dropoff.
Generally, leads dropoff for three reasons:
- The content wasn’t compelling enough to follow through on form submission and subsequent interactions with the brand. In this case, the content was misaligned with the buyer’s intent.
- The form wasn’t optimized to the buyer’s intent. Either you were collecting too much information, irrelevant information (at least, information the buyer perceived was irrelevant), or were inefficient in capturing that information (creating friction).
- The automation was either misaligned with your conversion copy and form, creating a jarring user experience. Alternatively, the automation was not optimized around buyer intent, resulting in drop-off as you tried to schedule meetings, deliver content, capture more information, etc.
It’s not enough to identify that dropoff has occurred. You need to know where that dropoff happened. And once you know where, that’ll give you a clue as to why.
Then comes the more ambitious task of updating your conversion processes to address these issues. With content, it means improving the actual content to be something of value. With forms and automation, it means improving the tools and platforms at your disposal.
If you take this idea of aligning processes to buyer intent seriously, then you need platforms that enable the following:
- Intuitive, user-friendly forms that make the data capture process quick and easy (limiting dropoff or churn!)
- Adaptive forms that capture progressive information based on data already in your CRM
- Access to third-party enrichment data so you can limit the data captured in the form (target field count for maximum conversion is three to five)
- Automated actions that take the user to the next step—and are built to scale as your audience grows over time
- Built-in systems to automatically qualify, schedule, and route leads based on their demonstrated intent
If this is the kind of platform you’re looking for, you need Default. Set up some time with our team today to see how we provide the infrastructure and automation for high-performing landing pages.