5-Step Formula for Creating Effective Landing Pages

by 
Annie Maguire

Annie Maguire is a conversion copywriter.

She has worked with fortune 500 companies, startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs to help them better understand their target customers and increase online revenue. 

She joined us on Wynter Games to talk through her proven 5-step formula for creating landing pages that work. 

The 5-step landing page formula.

To walk through her process, Annie used a real-life example of creating a new landing page for TaxExact, a tax verification tool that helps accountants avoid costly errors.

Step #1: Know the basics

The better you understand your audience, the more successful your landing page will be.

You also need to have a clear goal in mind.

“What is it that you want to accomplish with this landing page?” Annie asked.

“How does that translate into what you're asking your leads to do once they're actually on the page?”  

  • Identify your target audience - Who are you building the landing page for?
  • Identify your goal - What do you want to accomplish? What do you want visitors to do when they arrive on your landing page? 

A solid understanding of these two things will provide the foundation you need to move forward. 

Applying Step #1 to TaxExact

The target audience was founders of tax accounting firms.

While founders would not be the ones using TaxExact themselves, they were the decision makers who could decide whether or not to invest in the service. 

The goal was to get leads to join a waitlist.

That way, the client would have a list of warm leads to tap once the product was officially ready to launch. 

Step #2: Consider your target’s position in the sales funnel 

Once you’ve identified your target audience, it’s time to identify where you can find them. 

The answer is that you can find leads throughout the sales funnel - from the top to the bottom. 

Why it matters where your leads are in the sales funnel

According to Annie, this influences several aspects of your copy, including:

At the top of the funnel, your goal is awareness. These leads may have never heard of you before.

They have a low intent to purchase and will benefit from a multi-touch sales experience highlighting free content, educational tips, and a link to your newsletter subscription.

At the bottom of the funnel, your goal is conversion. These leads already know who you are and have a high intent to purchase.

Here you’ll want to focus on things like results, proof, and bonuses or discounts to sweeten the pot and trigger conversion.

How to determine where your leads are in the sales funnel 

The truth is that finding out where your leads are in the sales funnel will be a different process for every business.

“Some businesses have a ton of data and they're really savvy on their audiences. And they're going to know exactly where their leads are in the sales funnel,” Annie said. 

“Other businesses, you're going to have to rely on making some assumptions first and then validating those assumptions later with some data.”  

As you go through this process, you’ll want to focus on questions like:

  • Referral source - Where are they coming from? How will they get to the page?
  • Level of market sophistication - Does your target audience already understand your product category? Or do you need to explain it?
  • Stage of awareness - How familiar is the target with your brand/product?

    Are you a household name, a new startup, or something in between?
  • Level of intent - How likely are they to take action? How badly does the pain hurt?
  • Offer - what would entice your target audience to take the desired action? 

These things will influence the length and content of your copy.  

“If we're talking to somebody who isn't even aware that they have a pain, there's going to be a much longer sales process,” Annie said. 

Applying Step #2 to TaxExact

The referral source - the client's network (founders email list, industry contacts, LinkedIn). 

The stage of awareness - pain/problem aware (they feel the pain of making mistakes & losing clients), but unaware of a potential solution. 

The level of intent - medium (skeptical audience that was more likely to “learn more” versus buy immediately). 

The offer - early access to the product (in exchange for their email address). 

Step #3: Do some research

This step is where you validate your assumptions by collecting data. Like with the sales funnel process, this will vary based on the business. 

“Some businesses invest regularly in research. They have tons of different data points to work off of,” Annie said. 

“But if that doesn't sound like you, you might need to get your hands dirty and do a little bit of research on your own.”  

Customer interviews

While data collection can span the gamut of review mining to surveys, Annie chose to focus specifically on the value of customer interviews. 

During interviews, you'll want to want ask questions like:

  • Goals unachieved - What do they want (but don’t have)? 
  • Current challenges - What’s holding them back from getting it?
  • Current solutions - Why don’t these work? Why are they lacking?
  • Preconceived beliefs - What do they believe about their problem?
  • Drivers - What will nudge them toward your offer?
  • Barriers - What’s pushing them away from your offer? 
  • Triggers - What do they need to believe to buy?
  • Questions - What are they wondering about? 

You won’t want to ask these high level questions word-for-word in your interview.

Instead, you’ll need to think of natural ways to tease the answers out of your customers.

Then, you can use the answers to those answers to validate your assumptions and pull out Voice of Customer data.

It is the the words and phrases that your customers use to talk about your brand or product. 

“When you go to write the copy, it's just great to pull back from that bank of words and phrases that are actually coming out of the minds and mouths of your customers, versus you coming up with it on your own trying to pull it out of thin air,” Annie said. 

Applying Step #3 to TaxExact

Example customer quote: “It's like a second set of eyes while preparing your return...It's a safety check.” 

Example headline: TaxExact is like a safety net that protects your team from making mistakes that cost you (and your clients) money. 

Step #4: Information architecture

Information architecture is a sophisticated way of describing the content outline of your landing page.

Included in this outline are things like the hierarchy of the messages, the order of the content, and what kind of content will go where.

“Because if you already know a bunch of stuff about your audience, you have some general ideas about, okay, how long should the page be?

What kind of offer messaging makes sense for my audience? Do I need multiple landing pages?

What kind of sales experience am I creating here?” Annie said. 

Once you outline the page, you can use landing page copywriting frameworks to start fleshing it out further. 

Applying Step #4 to TaxExact

For TaxExact, Annie put together a comprehensive outline of the landing page.

The content item appeared in a column on the left, while the goal of each item appeared on the right.

Step #5: Write the copy 

There’s no need to freeze up when it’s time to write your landing page copy. 

Between your Information Architecture outline from Step 4 and your Voice of Customer data from Step 3, it’s really just a matter of putting it all together.

  • Start with your Information Architecture - Use this as a guide for when you begin writing content
  • Use Voice of Customer data - You should have plenty from Step 3
  • Incorporate conversion best practices - Focus your message, break up long copy with bullets, use a clear CTA, incorporate keywords if applicable, etc. 

“Start matching up your Voice of Customer data with your structures,” Annie said. 

“You can say oh wow, this is a really great way that this guy described the product. I'm going to use that in my solution section.”

You can use direct quotes from your Voice of Customer data if it makes sense, or you can use it as an inspiration point to find the perfect words.

Best practices

Then of course there are conversion writing best practices, like breaking up text with bullet points and visuals and including a clear CTA. 

“The call to action is like the most important part of the landing page, so you want to make sure that

A) you don't forget it,

and

B) you're only focusing on one and it's in the right place,” Annie said.

Applying Step #5 to TaxExact

Annie clearly mapped out a document with headlines and subheads, and passed it off to the TaxExact designer, who quickly brought it to life using her outline.  

Bonus step: Analyze performance 

After you create a new landing page using the landing page formula, it’s important to monitor its performance and ensure that you are getting the result you intended.

  • Keep an eye on Google Analytics 1-3+ months after implementing
  • Use on-site recordings and heatmaps to track user behavior
  • Add on-site chat or an entry-exit poll to learn more about visitors
  • Run A/B or split tests
  • Test copy/design ideas via usertesting.com, 5-second tests, etc. 

Watch Annie’s Wynter Games talk here.

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