Have you ever visited a site and felt something strange? It's subtle at first, like some force is tugging at the front of your shirt. Then it gets stronger and stronger. You can no longer control yourself. You are sucked into a whirlwind of content and when you emerge, your toes hang over a precipice, and before you lies a landing page with a form; the gravity of its siren song pulling you over. You slip off and before you know it it's done. You are now a lead.
We've all done it. But discovering this whirlwind might cause you to wonder about how you can turn your very own website into a black hole that devours all that dare to visit, too. Well, I'm about to give you some tips that may just help you achieve critical mass. These are the four things all the best lead generation websites have in common.
First impressions are very important, That's why we need to talk about brand consistency. Too often I'll go to a website and see 20 different font styles, five button styles, drop shadows sprinkled around all willy nilly and enough colors to make Sherwin Williams sweat. These design issues are going to make your visitors turn tail and run — giving your site no chance to make them a lead. Why? Because the lack of a consistent brand erodes the trust of your visitors. Imagine going into an Apple store and noticing that some of the display signs are written in different fonts. The employees are dressed like they're going to a Hootie & the Blowfish concert. They are playing Jock Jams over the PA. Would you maybe feel like this wasn't a legitimate place — or at least not a place you could trust to be consistent with its products? Same thing applies to your website. Create a style guide (or better yet, get a professional to create one for you) and follow it. Use only brand colors, be sparing with your type styles and avoid the CTA circus.
So let's say your visitor has seen that your site is not a trap and is ready to start running around. The next thing that they are going to see is your hero messaging. One thing that I see over and over again is weak messaging. A company will spend countless hours perfecting their website only to fill it with copy that sucks. The slick appearance of the website almost makes it worse because it stands in such stark contrast to the copy, like a beautiful, hand-carved frame around a terrible painting, or a 16-year-old driving a Ferrari. Your messaging needs to speak to your visitor's deepest desires. Don't say what you do. Don't say how you do it. Say why you do it, and express why that matters to your visitor. If you're going to harpoon this whale you'd better have a good sharp hook.
Alright, so now the visitor is really feeling good about the site. The brand makes them feel safe; the copy lets them know they're on the right track. Now they want to dig into some other pages. The important thing here is to make sure that your site isn't a confusing rat's nest of links, shotgunned all over the place. Try to keep no more than seven top-level links and never have any third-level dropdown menus. Think of the screen as equal to the attention span of your visitor. Now imagine that every choice that you supply them with cuts a little chunk out of that attention span. If you have too many links, your visitor is going to just ignore them. So keep things simple.
Another important thing to consider is what you write on each link. Don't use your ridiculous internal jargon when talking to your visitors. They will understand what "Blog" means. They will not understand what "The Boiler Zone" means, and they probably won't click it.
Now your visitor has made their way to one of your landing pages. They want your content offer, which is great, but BEHOLD, your inbound form stands in front of your e-book. It's a daunting sentinel with a wraithlike visage, broadswords tightly grasped in both of its sinewy hands. (Roll a d20 to see if the beast notices you.)
A form can be intimidating for your visitor. It is a trade. They want your e-book on the "Top 20 Reasons Why Data Processing is the Best Way to Lose Weight" and you want their information. Their delicious information... Anyway, you're going to want to make sure that your form is as easy to fill out as possible. Here are some easy form strategy wins:
• Limit your form to one column, as people have a difficult time going from side to side in a form with the exception of the first and last name fields. Look up "The Axis of Interaction" if you don't believe me.
• Make sure you have labels and error messages. If nobody knows what the form wants, it will be abandoned and your misunderstood form may go on to lead a lonely life as an outcast or a website developer.
• Don't make your form too long. Just get the information that you need. You don't want your user spraining their finger while scrolling down your site, then coming to you for restitution.
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So there you have it. Follow my advice and you'll be well on your way toward having a website that converts so well that it'll be declared a religion and you'll get tax exempt status in the US.
Pete Emerson is a former New Breeder.