Have you been to a website recently where you read every word and absorbed every image on the homepage, but you still weren’t sure what the business actually does? Those companies have spent a great deal of time developing a beautiful website and probably even more time on the product or service. But, they have overlooked a crucial element that can make the difference between a lead and a bounced visitor – the messaging.
Considering all the time you put into your business and website, it would be disastrous if no one understood what your business actually offers. Your website messaging, including texts and images, lie at the core of how you communicate the benefits of your business. Clearly communicating the value a business creates is something all business owners and website owners must get right.
Your Website Visitors Are Impatient
Your business solves a problem and creates value for your target audience. But, first-time visitors don’t know that yet, and they are quick to judge. Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, says an average reader will stay on your page for just 15 seconds. This is a very small window for you to convince them that your product/service meets their needs.
Website aesthetics are important and should not be ignored, but tweaking website design elements to increase clicks will go only so far. A green or red CTA button won’t make a difference if people don’t understand in those first moments how your business creates value for them.
This article will look at the components of successful website messaging and how you can apply (and test) on your website to bring in more leads for your business. To demonstrate just how powerful the correct messaging can be, I will provide A/B test results of changes in just a few lines of text on our website that boosted conversions by up to 27.3%.
How to Get Your Messaging Right
Communicating your message clearly isn’t always as easy as it sounds. First, it’s a common mistake to believe your visitors see your website the way you do and already know the benefits of your product/service. They don’t, and educating them is dependent upon your website messaging.
Second, many website owners fall into the trap of throwing around buzz words that sound great but actually tell little about what the business provides.
Eugene Schwartz was a legendary copywriter whose material is still highly applicable to marketing and business today. He encourages us to enter into the conversations your prospects are having in their own heads. To get your messaging right and capture your visitors’ interest and trust, you must answer the questions running through the minds of your target audience.
There are three important components of website messaging that we will cover below:
- What is your business about?
- What makes you different?
- Have you set the right expectations?
Three Components of Website Messaging
1. What is your business about?
It’s important to quickly communicate the value your business creates for your target market. Although this sounds obvious, there are many websites that overlook this.
Think about your homepage elevator pitch text. When you meet someone for the first time and describe your business to them, do you use those same words (shown on your homepage)? Do the new acquaintances understand, or do you need to tell them more so they really get it? If they need further details, then perhaps your homepage text is not clear enough.
Here’s a fun social experiment: Ask some people who are not familiar with your business to read your homepage. Don’t let them click through to different pages. (If they need to click through your site to understand your business, then that is a problem.) After they have read your homepage, ask them to explain to you what your business is about. This can be a funny task, but their responses may shock you.
People don’t know your business like you do. To get them up to speed in a matter of seconds, you have to be crystal clear.
Let’s take a look at Zuora, which has a nice website, but its homepage text makes it a little difficult to understand the value it creates.
The Zuora website has a very nice, modern, and cool-looking homepage with some very eye-catching moving elements. It’s a great design. Unfortunately, it’s not clear from the homepage what they actually do. The elevator pitch informs visitors that it has something to do with the way people buy.
Scrolling down the homepage, we learn that this product is targeted at subscription-based businesses. This means that I personally fit in their target audience, so this homepage should really have struck a chord with me. But, based purely on the homepage, it’s not crystal clear how they create value.
As I said, I like the design of the Zuora website and think they have done a great job there. But, I think they can better explain to new visitors the value they create for SaaS businesses by improving a few areas of their homepage text.
Next, let’s look at Clarity, which has great messaging in their homepage elevator pitch heading: “On Demand Business Advice for Entrepreneurs.”
That’s a great heading to open with, and it paints a clear picture. The first sentence under the heading (“Clarity is a marketplace that connects entrepreneurs with top advisors…”) really makes it very clear what the business does.
The next example is Kinnek:
Simply based on what you see in the above screenshot of their homepage, you learn that this website provides businesses with a better way to order supplies, giving you a very clear impression of the value they create for their customers.
Present a Visual of What Your Business Does
It’s not always easy to clearly communicate what your business is about in a short, concise elevator pitch. The good news is that we are all visual learners, and “a picture is worth a thousand words.” You can use an image on your homepage to help visitors perceive the value your business creates.
However, you must be careful with this. The wrong picture will communicate the wrong words. Your homepage image should fit your elevator pitch and support what your business does.
Now, if we move back to the previous example, Kinnek, we see a woman picking up packages in a warehouse. The warehouse setting is very suitable when someone is thinking about ordering supplies for their business.
Dropbox has a changing image on their homepage. The same screen content is displayed on a laptop, tablet, and phone (shown below). Then, the screen content updates across all the devices. This depicts how you can access your files anywhere, and it reinforces the short (but strong) title on the right-hand side: “Your stuff, anywhere.”
When you can clearly communicate to a new visitor what your business does in the first few seconds, you answer the most important question in their mind.
2. What makes you different?
We work in a competitive world where, regardless of how unique we think our product is, there will be a similar service out there. If you don’t communicate how you are different, your visitors may assume you’re the same as the rest, and bounce. Try to prominently highlight the strengths of your business or product on your homepage.
With your website and messaging, your goal is not to convince your visitors to buy something, but to reveal their needs and highlight your product as the solution. Think about your target audience, their problems, and professional interests. Which of your USPs will appeal to them the most?
Not only does Xero have a great elevator pitch heading (“online accounting software for your small business”) which instantly tells us what their business does, they have listed the top five reasons for choosing Xero. Each point highlights a strength of their service that they believe will appeal to their target audience. This is a very strong way to communicate to someone from their target audience why they should be interested in signing up for Xero.
Next, let’s look at Shippo:
Shippo is an example of a business which prominently displays the three benefits of its service on its homepage. In fact, other than the elevator pitch, a header, and a footer, there is almost nothing else on the homepage. They really want to highlight these three benefits to all their visitors, and they do a good job of it. You instinctively read the text and quickly learn that Shippo (1) has an easy shipping process; (2) integrates with many services; and (3) has simple, cheap pricing. Within a few seconds and without clicking anywhere else, all visitors have a clear understanding of Shippo’s strengths.
Have you set the right expectations?
Web Psychologist, Nathalie Nahai, explains that “one of the biggest barriers to gaining new clients is lack of trust” and that the context of your website messaging can influence your online credibility.
Not only should your website messaging communicate the value you create and what differentiates you, it also plays an important role in establishing credibility and converting visitors into leads.
Unfortunately, many websites lure visitors in with clever messaging, promising the world, but they fail to deliver. This makes the average visitor skeptical that you are the “Real McCoy.” Therefore, your messaging must set the right expectations and reassure visitors that you will deliver on your promises.
Let’s start with Huddle and how they communicate openly and put the visitor at ease:
The Huddle sign-up page is a simple and effective page that sets the expectations for what will take place after signing up: new users will get to see Huddle in action. The CTA button text, “Next,” tells a visitor there will be a second step in the sign-up process. If that button said “Get Started” and then asked for more personal information, this would have gone against the visitors’ expectations, and Huddle would have lost credibility. It’s also clear that Huddle won’t require new users to provide credit card details, which makes signing up for a new service more tempting.
Another good example is Campaign Monitor which, with just a couple of lines of text above the sign-up form, does a great job of assuring visitors they can test the full service without paying a cent:
There is an abundance of services out there with “free trials”; however, many come with limited functionality. New visitors interested in testing Campaign Monitor know they get access to all features and won’t be charged until they send their first email campaign. Also, as opposed to Huddle’s sign-up process, Campaign Monitor uses “Create my account” as its CTA button, which tells visitors there is no second sign-up page and therefore no credit card required.
When asking visitors for personal information, you will gain their trust by being open and up-front about the process you are asking them to engage in, whether it be a download, a sign-up form, a purchase, or a contact form, etc.
How to Test Your Website Messaging
You may now be thinking of a few areas of your messaging that you can optimize to better communicate your business and boost conversions. One thing that must be stressed is, just like with any design or layout changes you make to your website, you should test and measure the results of changes to your messaging. You can accomplish this via A/B testing.
I recently ran several A/B tests on our homepage and a separate landing page where the results demonstrate the importance of good, clear website messaging. These experiments address the three components of good messaging covered above in this article.
Not only is website messaging crucial, it is also thankfully the easiest thing I have ever A/B tested as part of our CRO efforts. This is because it involved changing only a few lines of text and one image. In fact, the A/B tests in question each took less than 30 minutes to set up and start. Later, once I had the results, it took me even less time to implement the changes live on our website.
Test 1: What is your business about?
Our most significant improvement in the area of what our business does came from changing and testing our homepage elevator pitch image.
Prior to the test, the image was of a man sitting at a desk, wearing a headset, and working away at his computer. While this was suitable to our target market, it was also very generic and could be applied to many software solutions. We needed an image that would better communicate the value we create – screen sharing for online meetings.
We went with the image you see below. Simply by better depicting what our product does and the value our business creates, we improved our messaging and our visitors responded positively. We changed nothing else in this A/B test, and our conversion rate improved by 18.6%.
Test 2: Differentiate your business
You have probably heard this statement about A/B testing: “Choose and test one variable at a time.” This is great in theory and will allow you to pinpoint the exact changes that lead to positive results. (It worked for changing our homepage image.) However, for the text of your messaging, changing and testing one line at a time can lead to “inconclusive” results.
To obtain significant and conclusive results, my suggestion is to look at your homepage (or other landing page) messaging as a whole and optimize several different pieces of text on the page at once to better communicate your message.
Similar to Xero and Shippo from the examples above, I wanted to better communicate our strengths. In three bullet points, I summarized three benefits of our service that would appeal to our visitors and target audience. We also changed our sign-up form heading and CTA button text. This was to be more open and set the expectations. We wanted to assure visitors that there are no hidden steps in our sign-up process, and we wanted our CTA to better communicate what will happen when they click it.
The result of these changes was another 18.0% improvement in our homepage conversion rate.
Think about what you truly offer that stands out. What is it about your product or service that turns leads into customers? Why do your customers recommend you to others? Why do they buy your service year after year? The answers to those questions should be front and center on your homepage.
For the record, we tested these individual text changes separately, but the changes were nowhere nearly as positive as changing all those different areas together. We also made similar findings in the next test below, when we tested several text changes at once.
Test 3: Set expectations and establish credibility
Being open and honest is important to gain your visitor’s trust, and I felt that one of our landing pages was not doing a good job of setting expectations and reassuring our visitors. We ran an A/B test on the landing page in question and changed the CTA text and header (“Create Free Account”) to match the changes on our homepage. We also added a small line of text above the sign-up form: “No credit card or further details required. Just fill out the form below.”
The result was a 23.5% increase in conversions!
We then improved this even further (shown below). We changed the sign-up form header one more time so that it really told the visitor what they would receive by registering, “Experience all the features,” which is in line with the Campaign Monitor messaging from the example above. We also changed the small line of text just above the first field and replaced the “No credit card or further details required.” part with “No obligations. No risk.” which we felt was even stronger. And, we changed the CTA button text to “Create My Free Account.” Remember Eugene Schwartz’s advice to enter into the conversation your prospect is having in their own head.
We boosted conversions by another 27.3%!
By better communicating the value your business creates and how you differ from the competition, while setting and delivering on expectations, you can fully explain your business to visitors and boost conversions.
Have you made similar optimizations to your website messaging? Did you achieve similar results? Please share your findings below.
About the Author: Andrew Donnelly is the Online Marketing Manager at Mikogo. He manages the Mikogo websites and is responsible for coordinating all product marketing projects, including content creation, communications, CRO, social media, and press relations. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @mktad.