Every e-mail, ad and search engine marketing placement entices a click by making a promise. Most of the time that promise is immediately broken and the brand behind it is tarnished.
Marketers work very hard at enticing that first response. We treat the click as the objective and consider the battle won as soon as that first action takes place. Little thought is given to what happens next. Sure, a few of us have some topic-specific landing pages or microsites, but most of us are still landing our traffic on our home page — or somewhere equally irrelevant. It’s fair to say that little consideration is given to keeping that first promise.
You can understand the size of the problem by looking at a simple statistic: While US$15 billion worth of clicks are generated each year, a whopping 97 percent of them amount to nothing more than that first click. Only 3 percent convert. If we’re keeping the promises we make to entice our clicks, then why are all of these interested people so fast to leave? We’re not. We promise the world to entice that first impulse and 97 percent of the time we under deliver. Billions of times each year marketers begin a relationship by betraying a confidence. That hurts.
Your brand is at stake. Think of the last time you clicked on a marketing link only to land on a page that had nothing to do with the message that captured your interest. It’s likely you felt a combination of disappointment, confusion and maybe even anger. The more respondents care about the initial message, the stronger they’ll feel when their expectations go unfulfilled. That means your most valuable respondents take the disappointment the hardest. When that emotion is taken to heart, your brand is damaged.
The enemy is post-click message mismatch. We can avoid it by objectively looking at what happens after that first click. When your click and post-click messages match, your promise is kept and your brand is enhanced.
Keeping your promise means matching the landing experience to the message that earned the click. It means treating the respondent as a person, not as a mouse button. And it means letting that person know that you appreciate their interest and will reward it by fulfilling their expectations. When you do these things, your brand is not the only beneficiary — you’ll also earn much higher conversion rates.
Rule No. 1: Be on Message, Not on Topic
Clicking on a marketing link is an impulsive reaction to a compelling message. Far too often marketers create topic-specific landing pages or microsites and use them in scenarios where they need message-specific pages. The result is a message mismatch — despite what the marketer perceives to be a relevant landing experience. Respondents engage when the first page they see is message-specific to what they just clicked on.
Take an example of a marketer targeting the healthcare market. Let’s say the call to action promises a free white paper. When the person clicks, they expect to see something about that free white paper. Their interest will wain immediately if what they see is a landing page about healthcare, a page about a product for the healthcare market, a company home page, or a even healthcare microsite. Healthcare is the topic. The reason they clicked was the white paper — and that’s the message they need to see.
Rule No. 2: Use Multiple, Single-Message Pages
Go back to the basic premise that a click is an impulsive reaction to a message. What comes next must be equally as simple and clear. This first impression should have a single, simple, message-specific purpose. It should capitalize on the impulse that enticed the click. Once we earn one more click, we have the respondent engaged and we can expect more effort from him — on the next single-message page.
Let’s say that same healthcare marketer knows that her best prospects are large hospitals. She can use her first page to keep her promise, engage her respondent and segment her traffic. All using one simple message that asks if the respondent would like a white paper specific to smaller hospitals or larger ones. The respondent clicks one way or the other — and in the process deepens their interest in something they perceive to be more specifically applicable to their needs. They also give our marketer the critical segmentation data she needs for her field sales teams.
Rule No. 3: Trade for Conversion
Let’s review how the respondent got here: A brand made a promise in an ad or e-mail. A person liked that promise enough to click. So far, that’s one promise from the brand and one action from the person. Then the brand presented a compelling, focused landing page that engaged the person — who was then invested — to click again. Now that’s two promises made by the brand and one kept. It’s the brand’s turn to come through.
What happens next for you depends on what your objective is, what constitutes a conversion for your organization, and what interest you have in deeper segmentation or qualification before conversion. It’s clearly the brand’s turn to keep the promise from the previous click and to make a third promise to earn conversion. Trading step by step lets us build trust to the point where we can credibly ask for personal information and expect to get it.
Going back to the healthcare example, our marketer could now present the high points of the segment-specific white paper to build interest even more. Along with that, she could present a short form for the respondent to fill out in order to download the white paper. There is a much higher-than-average likelihood that the respondent will now convert. Why? Because two clicks of trust have been established, and because they still want the white paper.
Staying Between the Lines
This step-by-step trust building is done using multi-page conversion paths. They can be as simple or as complex as the concept they are representing. Your conversion paths may need only three steps to build enough credibility to earn a respondent’s conversion, or you might need more steps.
What’s vitally important is that you are aware of the levels of engagement and trust at each point within the path. When marketers overstep the boundaries of earned trust, respondents abandon the path. You cannot ask for what you want until you have given the respondent what was promised. When respondents feel that they are being treated fairly, they too behave fairly.
E-marketing offers a unique, immediate opportunity to enhance or degrade your brand. No other mass communication vehicle let’s you make a promise and keep it — interactively, on the spot. That presents an exciting opportunity and a tremendous responsibility.
What you do after the click dictates the impact your e-mail, advertising and search engine marketing will have on your brand. Remember to be on message; use multiple, single-message pages; and trade information within the boundaries of earned trust. You’ll get more conversions, increase your ROI and — most importantly — keep your promises.
Justin Talerico is CEO and creative director at ion interactive. He leads the experience design team at ion interactive, covering information architecture, user interface systems and content design.