Brand guardians must understand that landing page testing can be an excellent way to conduct market research and understand the changing audience's needs.
In my previous column, I looked at the roles that are typically needed to implement a landing page optimization program. You need the active cooperation of the team to pull off the project. Although there are common difficulties with some of the required team roles, there are ways of mitigating these issues.
Each department in your company serves a needed function. But eventually they can also take on a life of their own, and like any power construct, their primary goal seems to become self-perpetuation and reputation building. This is often done by exerting influence in the form of noncooperation. Departmental silos and territorialism are often the biggest obstacles to successful landing page optimization. The power of these people is the ability to withhold permission. Remember, it only takes one "no" from any of these people to stop your landing page optimization program in its tracks.
The brand guardians within your company can include elements of advertising, marketing communications, product development, and product management. These functions can be augmented by outsourced support from your ad agency, media buyers, or public relations firm. Tangible embodiments of your brand include your logo and acceptable logo presentations, website style guides, public relations messaging points, and color choices.
Of course, a brand can be one of the most powerful assets that a company possesses. It can cut through the clutter in a prospect's mind and serve as a shortcut to decision making. Many companies spend huge sums of money promoting and building their brands for this reason. They also vigilantly guard against distortions or miscommunications of their competitive positioning and messaging points. There's a danger of a brand becoming fossilized. As the brand becomes increasingly powerful, it takes on a life of its own. The stronger the momentum of the brand, the more difficult it is to make significant changes to it. For better or worse, this is not an issue for many online companies that are contemplating landing page optimization. Chances are your brand isn't that well known (at least to the new visitors who arrive on your landing page as a result of your traffic-acquisition efforts).
One of the biggest problems encountered by brand guardians is the lack of consistent messaging about the product. Because of this, brand guardians are often insistent that the key messaging point and look and feel must be repeated across all media outlets and marketing channels without variation. We once had a multibillion dollar company have us digest a 179-page brand guideline document before we could propose changes to their home page for a landing page test. Unfortunately, these guidelines were developed in the age of printed materials and were against many Web best practices. Although consistency is generally a worthwhile aspiration, remember that the goal of landing page optimization is to find a landing page design that your audience responds to best.
As part of this, you're trying to find the right message and the best presentation of it. So brand guardians' insistence on messaging orthodoxy can often shut down the testing of revolutionary new sales copy or headlines that represent outside-the-box thinking. If one of your alternative messages draws a better response, it means that it resonated better with your target audience. The winning element can in fact become part of your new and improved product messaging.
Brand guardians must understand that landing page testing can be an excellent way to conduct market research and understand the changing needs of the target audience. They must not simply insist on the endless (and sometimes mindless) repetition of the current approach. The original messaging and presentation may very well beat out any of the tested alternatives. But at the core of testing philosophy lies the possibility that you may not have the optimal solution, and that you may find better performance through the testing of alternatives.
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Tim Ash is CEO of SiteTuners.com, a landing page optimization firm that offers conversion consulting, full-service guaranteed-improvement tests, and software tools to improve conversion rates. SiteTuners' AttentionWizard.com visual attention prediction tool can be used on a landing page screenshot or mock-up to quickly identify major conversion issues. He has worked with Google, Facebook, American Express, CBS, Sony Music, Universal Studios, Verizon Wireless, Texas Instruments, and Coach.
Tim is a highly-regarded presenter at SES, eMetrics, PPC Summit, Affiliate Summit, PubCon, Affiliate Conference, and LeadsCon. He is the chairperson of ConversionConference.com, the first conference focused on improving online conversions. A columnist for several publications including ClickZ, he's host of the weekly Landing Page Optimization show and podcast on WebmasterRadio.fm. His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
He received his B.S. and M.S. during his Ph.D. studies at UC San Diego. Tim is the author of the bestselling book, "Landing Page Optimization."
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