Copywriting

The Non-Gimme-Gimme Approach to Writing Lead Generation Pages

I want your email…

I want your NAME…

I WANT YOUR SOOOOOOOUULL!

SUBMIT TO MY AWESOME POWWWWWERRRRRR!

Yikes.

But sometimes that’s how lead-generation pages come off, right?

Sure, you’re a grown up with free will, so you can go full-on gimme gimme gimme with your lead gen page, if that’s what floats your boat. Maybe that’s your brand personality. Maybe your second corporate value is Take Take Take, right after Sell Crap People Don’t Need. I dunno.

Or maybe you just don’t know how to ask visitors for their email addy in a way that, y’know, works.

Either way, let’s be honest. Gimme-gimme still never gets. Even if it does get, is that the way you wanna get what your prospective customers got to give you? Is this:

Screenshot of lead generation page gone wild
The ultimate experiment in self-centered lead capture

For the page above, I laughed, sure.

A lot of us did.

But I didn’t put my email in.

It got my attention, but not my interest.

(Ok, full disclosure, I maaaay have put an email address into that form just to see the next step, but it was my fake one, bonerjamz2006@fartmail.gov. Spoiler alert: the confirmation is an underwhelming “You are now subscribed” pop-up.)

It got my attention, not my interest.

Put differently, it got my lizard brain to look but kept my thinking brain peacefully sleeping and my heart beating a slow, steady, uninterrupted pace.

Put differently still, it got 51K unique views and 1600 email addresses. A 3% conversion rate. Pretty solid, actually.

And that speaks to the problem of looking at conversion rates only when we’re measuring lead-gen pages. Because, in the case of the MoneyLab.com/Email page above, those new subscribers didn’t sign up to receive value. They signed up largely out of morbid curiosity. And partly out of being nudged to do so repeatedly. So a 3% conversion rate doesn’t actually mean much at all – in this case or on many lead-gen pages.

What matters – and what you’ll actually be measured against as a marketer – is not how your list has grown but how your business has.

You’re creating lead-gen pages because you want to grow your list – not for the sake of growing it and not for the sake of vanity.

But because you want quality leads you can convert into happy customers that pay you and refer more business to you.

That’s what lead-gen pages are for.

We’re gonna dig into how to get your lead-gen page to do more of all that great stuff. But first, if you want to create a page that gets you quality leads over quantity leads, remember two things:

#1 – You have 5 seconds to convince your visitor to stay. It might even be less.

#2 – Your visitor needs to recognize and realize value when they sign up.

So, for a lead gen page, how do you use copy to convince your readers not just to stick around but also to hand over their real, non-@fartmail.gov personal info – all in just a few seconds?

Give your visitors relevance, value and a single action for them to take. In that order.

Today, I’m gonna break down each of those pillars: relevance, value, action.

And I’m gonna do so step by step.

So you’ll be prepped to write your next high-converting lead-gen page the moment you finish reading this post. (Just after you share it wildly, of course.)

And just so we’re all on the same… page… before we dive in, when I say lead page, I’m talking about a landing page that exists for the single purpose of capturing leads. Ads generally drive to these pages. They’re low-friction ways to capture email addies.

Sometimes a lead gen page is called a “squeeze page,” and other times an opt-in page.

Whatever the case, it’s usually going to look something like this:

MMA lead page 2

Or this one, with a longer form and a little more info about the opt-in offer:

landing page with form 1

Or this one, which will make you sexy like Detlef D! Soost:

pasted image 0 7

Get it? See what all those examples have in common?

Good.

Ready set go.

Step 1: If your offer ain’t relevant to your visitor, poof! No sign-up!

You’re not writing yet, are you? Please don’t start writing your page yet.

I know you know all about you and what you can do for your prospects and how mind-blowingly brilliant your product is and you’re excited to tell the world. Love the enthusiasm.

But your lead page isn’t about your business.

It’s not about your services. Or your product.

not everything is about you 1

Actually, the only part of your page that’s about you is that you are the one who will be giving away something in exchange for your reader’s info.

BTW, that’s not a typo on that apostrophe. Reader’s. As in, singular. As in, you’re looking to acquire one reader’s info at a time. As in, the first step toward proving your relevance to a reader is to show him or her that you know who they are.

Who’s your audience?

Whatever your business, your lead page audience is going to fall into one of three categories:

  1. Existing customers who have paid you money,
  2. Subscribers who have opted into your list without purchasing, and
  3. New prospects who aren’t on your list at all yet.

Put your audience into one of those buckets first.

In doing this first, you’re essentially segmenting by stages of awareness, like so:

pasted image 0 3

Your current customers are on the extreme right: they’ve already bought into your value and should need less convincing because, well, it’s easier to get someone who already loves you to give you a little more info than to get a first time visitor to spill their guts.

Subscribers tend to be right of center since they’re aware of your solution but haven’t bought in yet.

And, for the most part, prospects who aren’t already on your list tend to fall on the left half of this chart.

With that in mind: Where does your target reader fall on this chart?

If you end up with more than one answer , that’s fine. You’re just going to need to make different lead pages for your different segments.

“But I don’t wanna make multiple pages, Jon.”

Fine. If you’re just starting out, don’t. But somewhere down the line, you should. Because companies see a 55% increase in leads when increasing their number of landing pages from 10 to 15.

Alright, you know who you’re talking to. Time to write.

And we’ll start with some sage advice from the inimitable Doug Kessler of the Content Marketing Agency of the Year 2016, Velocity Partners.

We’re only going to write ONE WORD.

The same word you should be writing down before you start anything content marketing related.

Start a new page and write this one word: GOAL. Here’s the question you’re answering when you figure out your page’s goal:

“Why do we need this lead capture page?”

I know, I said this isn’t about you. And it still isn’t. For the most part.

But once you know who your audience is, take a minute to decide what you’re going to ask of them.

Why address what you’re going to ask up front in the “relevance” section? Because 61% of B2B marketers say that “generating high-quality leads” is their biggest challenge. Because if you’re list building for the sake of list building, you’re missing the point.

Defining the business goal of a lead page sounds rhetorical, I know. This is a lead generation page. The goal is the lead, right?

Sure, but get specific. It’s a whole lot easier to come up with a relevant, valuable lead magnet and messaging when you know what information you’re going to be asking for. And you’ll have prepared for anyone who’s less than ready to give it up.

what do you want from me

Like Doug Kessler says,

“Built into [your] goals statement is also the seed of another key question, “How will we know if we succeeded?” (We’ll know we succeeded if we achieved our goals).”

Success with a lead page isn’t measured in sales. You’re giving them just enough to opt in to receive the next round of relevant content. Content like the lead magnet you’re offering in exchange for their information.

If the goal is prospect-level list building, asking for an email, or a first name and an email for personalization purposes, is good enough to get started. If you’re looking for more qualified leads, set your sights on asking for more information.

The big idea to keep in mind here is the long term goal of the lead page is really to gauge the level of interest inbound leads have in the product or service you’re planning on selling to them down the road.

More specific products and services usually require more advanced level info to be sure that the prospect is a fit.

Adjust your goals (and your success measurements) for your lead page accordingly.

You don’t need a bigger list to be more successful. You need a better list. And that starts with your lead-gen form’s fields.

Ask for what you need.

What do you need to know from these leads to keep them moving forward?

For now, don’t get caught up in whether or not they’ll actually give you the information. That’s a quandary for how valuable to make your offer. And you can always scale back your ask later or make form fields required or not.

The point here is to have a starting point for what you want.

That’ll help you find out exactly how big a slice of cake you’re going to need to give your reader to get them to give the slice of their info you want in return.

But remember, when they get to the lead page, that cake offer better not look like crudités…

Screen Shot 2016 09 26 at 2.23.03 PM
If I’m Deacon, I’m pissed. (source: reneessoirees.com)

Match the message that got them to the lead page

If you’re AdWords or Facebook ads or emails are doing their job in driving traffic because your message is relevant to your audience, do you reader the favor of letting them know they’re in the right place.

Match the message that got them to the lead page. When this doesn’t happen, it’s one of biggest blunders that torpedos lead page conversions.

Poor message match is the ultimate failure in being relevant to your audience.

bad 2

The perfect pug is not a rescue cat. Ever. (source:disruptiveadvertising.com)

Don’t invite me to a party, and then put balloons on the mailbox with “HAPPY INTERVENTION!” written on them.

I’m not sticking around.

Same goes for someone who clicked on an offer for a “FREE Demo” that has a little *credit card required for access* buried at the bottom of the form.

That isn’t what I signed up for.

Don’t change the subject. Don’t change the offer. Don’t make me confused. 

You already got me to click once. I’ll click again for the same reason. If you don’t echo that reason, I’m probably not going to opt in.

So, what’s driving traffic to the lead page you’re creating?

Here’s one more example from Marketo that does a great job making the connection clear and the matching the offer in the AdWords ad. The ad says 100+ and the page 150+… but that’s the only difference between what you click and where you land:

pasted image 0

Alright, if you’ve gotten this far, you still haven’t really written very much. But that’s totally fine.

Because what you do have is a clearly defined audience, the ideal set of info that you want from that audience and you know exactly what message is getting your reader to your lead page. And that puts you about 300 steps ahead of where your competition is when they start writing a lead page. So well done, you.

Now comes:

Step 2: If your offer ain’t valuable to your audience, poof! No sign-up!

If you’re not familiar with the term “lead magnet,” you will be after this section because I’m going to use it fifty times or so. If you don’t like that term, sub in any of these:

  • Opt-in bait
  • Opt-in bribe
  • Ethical bribe
  • Carrot
  • Cupcake

Whatever you call it, your lead magnet is the thing you’re giving away to attract your leads. Lead magnet. Specifically, it’s a freebie that’s going to demonstrate your value as an expert by providing a sliver of that expertise in the form of an informational resource.

Like I said before, the long-term goal of the lead page is to gauge the level of interest inbound leads have in your product or service. So you can sell to them down the line.

And that’s still down the line.

First, you have to get their attention with something that they perceive as valuable. Your lead magnet.

Lead magnet.

What does your audience want right now?

This is the be-all, end-all question for creating a lead page that converts.

Finding the answer can seem complicated, but it isn’t.

And it’s not because you’ve been good and done your research so you know who your audience is.

In truth, there’s only one answer.

People want results.

how to get anything you want 1
Marie Forleo knows nothing’s more valuable than literally ANYTHING YOU WANT.

You’ll notice that the question isn’t asking what they actually need. For lead magnet purposes, “want right now” means “think they need to get results right now”.

So let’s talk about what you’re giving them and what they think you’re giving them.

Actual value vs perceived value

People are looking for a quick result.

Even if it isn’t going to actually make a big impact.

What they want upfront is something they can understand as valuable – understanding what they’re getting and how it’ll make their lives better.

pasted image 0 8

I don’t know what an automobile is.
Sounds complicated. Just give me more horsepower.

And for great results, people also want to believe that if they have the same tools as the pros, they’ll perform like the pros.

  • A first-time golfer wants the same clubs Rory uses.
  • Or a novice musician wants the same production software they use at Def Jam.
  • Or an amateur photographer wants a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR that’ll cost them six months’ rent.

What all three actually need to achieve success is much more complicated and labor intensive.

Apply the same principle of promising results with your lead magnet.

The immediate result is what drives the immediate opt in for low-awareness prospects.

pasted image 0 5Just push the button.

Alright, I’m going to arrange the following types of lead magnets in ascending order of how long it’ll probably take you to make them and the actual value of what’s in them. (Granted you’re writing/producing them to be genuinely helpful to your audience.)

  • Checklist (LEAST FRICTION TO CREATE)
  • Cheat sheet
  • Ebook
  • Ecourse
  • Slide Presentation
  • Webinar
  • Full online product demo
  • Podcast (MOST FRICTION TO CREATE)

Feels like a lot of value once you get to those last few options, right? And that’s great.

IF.

If your audience perceives them as having a lot of value.

But that’s where what they want to have right now and what you’re offering them need to match up.

And you need to ask yourself: “Do they?”

Does your visitor want what you think is valuable? They don’t care how long it takes for YOU to make something. They only care about how much value THEY are going to derive from it.

Higher actual value doesn’t necessarily equate to higher perceived value. This is Leadpages’s highest-converting lead page. Its offer? A list of 5 tools in a single click:

pasted image 0 4

The above is a great example of what we as marketers might think of as relatively low value information… but readers see as a quick list of a pro’s tools that’s really easy to get and implement.

Let me pause now. Because it feels like a formula is in order:

Lead Magnet Value = Perceived Results / Perceived Investment

If your offer lines up with the results your reader is looking for and seems easy to get, your lead magnet is super valuable to that reader.

For prospects who aren’t already on your list, your lead magnet should promise them results with as little effort as possible. That’s why the above-mentioned Leadpages offer converted better than a video course, an ebook or an hour of time with their CEO.

That’s right. Leadpages’ audience perceived a list of tools to be more valuable than an option to spend an hour with their CEO.

An hour with their CEO sounds hard. And intimidating.

A video course is just something else they need to do. Their to-do list is already jam-packed.

An ebook needs to be read. Who has time?

A list of tools? One click and done.

So why is that powerful? Because you don’t have to give them mountains of real value and the secrets of your expertise away up front. Give them what think they need now so you can have an audience open to buying the thing they actually need later.

Because you aren’t going to give that away for free.

So what does that look like in practice?

In practice, figuring out what to give away as your lead magnet takes a lot of testing. We know first-hand. We test like mofos ’round these parts.

So lemme share what we’ve found with you.

At Copy Hackers, we use opt-in boxes and lead pages to fill our list with happy subscribers. Now, we don’t use lead-gen pages exclusively. We use lead-gen pages along with opt-in boxes. So our results reflect our combined efforts.

For a long while, before we segmented our audiences, our one lead magnet – our “Stellar Messages” ebook – was converting at over 4% across our whole site.

Solid conversion rate. But, well, there’s always room to optimize. In this case, there’s TONS of room.

Today, across all of our lead magnets that we use, we’re averaging 5-7% conversion.

ThriveLeads for WordPress
We use ThriveLeads for WordPress – we’re not an affiliate, we just really like them.

Naturally, we see swings and shifts, depending on traffic. And when we put a new lead magnet up for existing Copy Hackers subscribers, conversions spike to 11-12% because of the “new factor.”

Here’s what we found when we tested lead magnets

We segmented our users into copywriters, growth marketers and freelancers and started testing providing specific lead magnets to each of those groups.

What we found supports the need to 1) know your audience and 2) give them a lead magnet that they value – not the one that seems valuable to us. Here’s how they’ve performed:

  1. Copywriters are offered The Diva List – a checklist of best practices for freelance copywriters – which is performing the best out of all three.
  2. Freelancers are offered The Ultimate Guide to Landing Pages, which is performing about 1% less than The Diva List.
  3. The worst performer by far was a Startup Playbook, made especially for Growth Marketers. It converted at less than 1%.

The Startup Playbook took a ton of energy and time to create. But the perceived value for growth marketers has not proven to be high enough to earn the sign-up. While a step-by-step guide for growth marketing in start ups seems valuable to us and the perfect resource for growth marketers on our site, maybe it sounds like a lot of work. Maybe they’re too busy for a guide.

So we’re going to come up with something that has a higher perceived value for our growth marketer targets AND that sounds easier.

Which brings us to the third and final step when writing lead-generation pages:

Step 3: If you don’t make your offer easy to get with a single action, poof! No sign-up!

A single action to take is easy for us to process as a reader. So easy is a part of our overall goal of having a single action: eliminating friction.

Your goal with your form and your CTA is putting the least amount of obstacles and distractions between your lead and putting their info in and clicking through.

1. Leave no doubt

Tell them exactly what they’re getting for entering their information. Unbounce does a killer job of this:

pasted image 0 2

With Unbounce’s page, the reader knows right from the start that they’re getting The Ultimate Guide to Landing Page Optimization.

Unbounce breaks down their offer too, giving the reader 4 bullets that explain the benefits of taking them up on their offer.

2. Why should they trust you?

With prospects, another big barrier to opting in is trust. They don’t know you yet, so the bottom of your lead page is a great place to put some social proof.

Right Signature screenshot
Testimonials that get straight to the point

Show them why your expertise is worth getting more of beyond just this piece. Tell them how many other people have downloaded this resource, how many people are coming to the webinar, or a few quotes from your current clients about what an invaluable resource you are.

An anti-spam statement is another place for trust and overcoming the worry that you’ll just be another in the long line of crap in their inbox.

pasted image 0 6

3. No sharing before the sign up

Social icons on a lead page are just another distraction. Go ahead and include them on your confirmation page or thank you page, but they’re just one more way your reader can get lost and not finish your form.

4. Make your CTA a giving CTA

Rule #1 for submit buttons: Don’t have them say “Submit.”

Your readers are giving up their information, so do everything you can to make it feel like they’re really getting something great from you.

Screen Shot 2016 09 26 at 3.51.04 PM

Screen Shot 2016 09 26 at 3.52.28 PM

The second button would be even better if it said “Get YOUR FREE Ebook now!” Make it about them. 

So now they don’t have any distractions, they know what they’re getting, they trust you, their information is safe and they clicked through to send you their information.

It’s all coming together now.

And it’s not as hard as it may seem. That said, it’s not as easy as those simple image + form pages seem.

Writing your lead-gen pages comes down to this each and every time:

  1. Show your relevance
  2. Demonstrate your value
  3. Offer a single action for visitors to take

To make sure you get real email addresses added to your list, have the last step in your lead page be a confirmation email that sends them a link to download their content.

Now they’re on your list, you know they’re real, they actually wanted what you were offering and you can work on nurturing them into an even better lead.

This is the part where you admit your lead gen pages have a problem you CAN solve

Relevant messaging plus a lead magnet that’s inherently valuable to a specific your audience lets you create a list of people who aren’t just saying “I want that free thing.”

You get a list of people that are saying, “I want that free thing AND to hear from you about other awesome, relevant stuff in the future.”

And that’s when you’ve got them.

SUBMISSION COMPLETE!!!

MUUUAHHAHAAHA!

Kidding.

But yeah – go turn your eager list into an email marketing, cash-spraying juggernaut.

~jon

About the author

Jon Lamphier

Jon is a content strategist and conversion copywriter at Copy Hackers.

  • Kim Bischoff

    The reader’s perceptions are the crux. Sometimes we’re too close to the product/service to imagine that not everyone sees the actual value. The “curse of knowledge” is a very real thing.

    I love your advice to use the stages of awareness to plan lead magnets and nurture quality lists.

    Great post, Jon!

  • Love the idea of creating different opt-in guides based on awareness. Through research, I’ve found that you have to dial back the information you give to people with low-awareness. You have to show them the value of the alternative to “faster horses.”

  • I especially love your evil laugh Jon. People are so interesting aren’t they! To paraphrase Shakespeare “There is no good or bad [landing page] but thinking makes it so”. I feel like you know me so well 😉

  • “… if you’re list building for the sake of list building, you’re missing the point.” LOVE this. Great post, Jon — but I especially love that you’re asking us to consider who we’re inviting to our email list. “Everyone” is not a feasible target audience if you’re actually expecting results from your email marketing.

  • James E. Turner

    Love this: Lead Magnet Value = Perceived Results / Perceived Investment

    So true! The value is dependent ENTIRELY on the reader’s perceptions.

    Working with clients, I’ve found this to be a really tricky one for business owners to get their heads around. They’re just too close to the product/service to actually know or see what their people want. (Of course I mean usually, often, etc – always room for exceptions!)

    Thanks for laying this out so well, with such clear takeaways.

    Relevance, Value and a Single Action…what more could a prospect want!? 🙂

  • GREAT article. Thanks for the tips!

  • Ron

    Step 4: If all else fails (which it did with me) throw up an annoying ad that covers 1/3 of the page on the right with no way to close it except to enter your email address.

    Seriously? Not interested. Couldn’t read this whole article. Don’t care enough to give up my email address. Even had to refresh the page to see the post button. FAIL!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      You can close all of our pop-ups, Ron. They don’t fire on mobile, where they can be tough to close. Perhaps there’s a browser issue for you.

      • Ron

        Using a laptop. 3 different browsers – same result. The “Sign up to get our FREE landing page guide” ad that sits the height of the page OVER the content on the right has no way to close it.

        Turns out if I resize the browser window it properly resizes it and shows the X at the top right. Clearly a responsive issue on your end.

        Don’t assume that everyone sees it exactly the same as you do. 🙂

      • I don’t see what Ron sees, either. Looks great to me. 😉

      • I don’t see an ad popup at all either …

      • We try to be respectful about our opt-in timing/display settings. It’s not perfect, but if you’re a copy hackers subscriber, you should see many opt-ins… if any. That doesn’t apply if you’ve deleted your cookies recently… or if you’re viewing the post from a device that is not your usual… or if we’re targeting a segment of visitors (of which you’re part) with a special offer… then you’ll likely see something. 🙂

      • Ron

        I was merely giving my opinion as a brand new visitor. I saw what I saw and was trying to help and yes, I was blunt about it. Apparently the “community” here doesn’t want to hear that.

        Whatever! Lots of other places I can go.

        1st visit -> 2nd visit -> Last visit

      • Rob

        I see a pop-up every once in a while on the CH site, but the hassle of clicking it shut is far outweighed by the value of the content I get. That doesn’t seem unfair. Nice write up, Jon.

      • danielgonzalez

        Don’t be mean Ron! We <3 us some Copy Hackers around here!

      • I never see popups when I visit this site and I come here frequently. Gotta hand it to CH because managing popups is an undertaking many businesses are still ignoring. I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with popup surveys and found the technology isn’t black and white 🙂

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