A sad little homepage story
It’s late on a Thursday. I come off an overseas client conference and take an immediate oath to break up with our web conferencing software - the direct cause of my stress headache.
A couple of minutes of searching finds me some great reviews on a newer, cheaper, better video conferencing software, and with a smug feeling of vengeance for my incumbent, I skip straight to the homepage. My anticipation quickly gives way to bewilderment. Had I clicked the right link? Am I in the right place? Yes. Has web conferencing developed a brand new language, all of its own, and I am just out of the loop?
Suddenly, it dawns on me.
It’s not me.
Most people are not as confused as I am in this situation. They get cross and frustrated very quickly and bounce to the next supplier instead. Me, I know how hard it is to get homepage content right, so I linger, feeling a bit sorry for them to have such a seemingly great product, and yet so poor a description of what they do.
Software and tech companies are notoriously bad at their own messaging - and are happy (usually) to admit it too. In the race to an amazing product, a beautifully designed, image-rich, responsive website, and a killer online demo, they often don’t realise the importance of the single most important asset they could create - homepage messaging.
I am not exaggerating. Homepage content is your most powerful marketing asset, because:
- Your homepage gets the most hits
- Your homepage content has to appeal to all visitors, no matter of motivation, need or buying stage
- You have just a few seconds to communicate what you do, how you do it and why they should choose you
- No matter how much money you’ve spent on your beautiful website, it’s wasted if your visitors are bouncing within the first 4 seconds
A happy little homepage story
Once Upon a Time there was a tech company homepage in need of a little attention. The very smart princess followed a process as advised by a wonderful team of technology marketing experts from the Brand chemistry Kingdom. These are the stepping stones on which they trod.
Before you start, you must first decide who you’re writing for. This is the first but most very fundamental step for writing a winning homepage. Who is your primary buying persona? What are their deepest needs, motivations and challenges? How can your business be their hero and save the day?
If you’ve not yet taken the time to profile your personas, this is your starting point. If you’re not sure how to go about this, HubSpot has a handy buyer persona template, or naturally, you can give us a shout.
Only once you’ve got a clear view on who your buying persona is and what exactly it is you can do for them, can you begin to write. Then, it’s pretty simple. Start with The What, expand with How To Do It, followed by Prove It, and then give the user a relevant Call-to-Action (CTA).
Let’s take a closer look.
1. What do you do?
The most important part of your entire website is your homepage headline. It may appear inside your hero image (the main image on your homepage). Sometimes, for more brand-aware organisations, there is a loftier brand statement in the hero, followed by a clear, descriptive benefit statement underneath. This descriptive statement is the homepage headline.
Wherever it is positioned, it has just enough text to tell you what the company does, for whom and why it is important.
Zendesk, a truly inspired b2b brand, nails it. Beginning with a brand statement in the hero section, Zendesk quickly backs this up with a more benefit-led statement directly underneath the hero, describing super clearly what they do.
"Our software helps companies provide a great overall customer experience, and build customer relationships that are more meaningful, personal and productive."
[Note: if you’re looking to write a great benefit statement, this is a great structure to mimic.]
Wherewolf, an innovative travel tech company in New Zealand, also uses a brand-driven headline. The imagery and design is beautiful and the brand headline is aspirational and compelling.
However, the supporting benefit statement tells tour companies what it does, but not why - what is the compelling reason or what does it enable them to do. This means the user needs to take an extra action (in this case, watch the video) to uncover the rest.
We think Wherewolf would be much better to shorten the brand statement, and create a stronger, more benefit-led descriptive statement underneath, so users understand exactly what they’re dealing with within seconds of arriving.
Creating a simple, punchy benefit statement is much harder said than done, and can sometimes benefit from an outside view. So do consider asking a consultancy or an agency to help you with this if you’re struggling.
If you want to take a crack at it yourself, here’s a simple exercise to try.
Get a team of customer-savvy people together from your organisation. Grab some beers from the fridge and order some pizza if you dare. Sit around a table, and answer these questions (succinctly and in concert) on the whiteboard:
- Tell a six year old child, in language that they’d understand, what business you are in (e.g. Mummy does…)
- What products or services do you provide?
- Whose needs do you fulfil?
- What problem do you solve for them?
These key questions should give you the basics to write an on-the-money homepage headline. Why not give it a go?
2. How do you do it
This part of your homepage really talks to the heart of your positioning. It tells your buyer persona what makes you different - why they should consider you above all others.
Yapstone works hard to describe how and why they would be the choice of their users. This is the third section of their website homepage. Scrolling further down on the page, Yapstone expands on the biggest benefit they offer: convenience.
Well-positioned businesses often show a specialism in a particular area - either for a chosen industry, for a particular type of product, they might position the buyer themselves (as smart, or powerful or cool). Maybe they’ll position themselves around a special kind of process or the way the company does business. Whatever type of position you choose, remember it needs to be valuable and relevant to your target audience.
Hootsuite does a great job of appealing to different segments of their market and telling them upfront why they should choose them. Simple and brief but powerful, Hootsuite packs a punch on their homepage.
If you’re not sure what differentiates you from the competition, add these questions to your beer-o’clock boardroom meeting.
- How do you solve the problem for your buyers?
- What position do you hold in the marketplace?
- What are your unique advantages e.g. best customer service, best quality creative, most relevant insights?[Note: Unique means you’re the only one to have that advantage. If it isn’t unique, couple some benefits together to create something that IS unique. Then make sure it is still relevant and compelling to your buyer.]
3. Prove It!
What would you say if I told you I was really clever? Like - Mensa clever! Would you believe me? Or would you think I was a bit of a [insert your chosen euphemism here]?
That’s what I thought.
Social proof is the key to giving your brand credibility. It is essentially the positive influence that a third party can give to your business and it comes in many forms. Long queues outside our local Japanese ramen place makes me think it MUST be good. A high score on Rotten Tomatoes compels me to watch a movie. A strong testimonial or high profile brand logo on a prospective supplier’s site will impress me pretty easily.
Proving your worth on your site is simply this. And there are a few ways to do it throughout your entire site: testimonials, case studies, number of shares, social stream or ticker, blogs or articles, or live numbers of customers/sales/viewers will all do the trick. Just don’t plonk it all on your homepage.
Customer testimonials, case studies and supporting articles are the obvious choices for homepage social proof. If you have the technology, you can even personalise which of these gets served up to the user, creating an utterly relevant and powerful experience.
Squiz does this beautifully, localising case studies and events for different regions on their global website. What we see as social proof here in Australia is different to what the UK market sees, the US market sees and so on.
Finally, a great homepage will let your user know what to do next. Think about where you’re attracting traffic from, what you want your buying persona to do next, and think about how you’ll direct them from each of your homepage sections deeper into the site.
If you’re not sure where makes sense, some buyer persona research can help you uncover the kind of information each persona needs at each stage of their buying process. Also, you can A/B test CTAs on your homepage. Remember to only change one variable at a time and to give it enough time (at least a month) to collect the valuable data you need to make a final call.
Well-configured and managed marketing technologies will enable you to personalise your CTAs based on your buying persona’s buying stage, so you’re offering them their next logical piece of content each time they visit. Below is an example of smart CTAs we’ve set up in HubSpot for a visitor, a returning contact and a marketing-qualified lead. Each CTA moves the contact to the the next logical stage of the buyer’s journey.
Whatever you do here, you must encourage the user to engage more deeply with your business - to move to content that helps them at their next buying stage.
Final note: Your homepage content checklist for success
Homepage content is pretty much your most important asset to get right. Carrying your highest number of visitors, it is the ultimate landing page and it deserves a good bit of your attention.
If you’re keen to give it a shot, follow these steps and remember to measure your before and after visitor-to-lead conversion rates.
- What do you do
- How do you do it
- Prove It!
- Provide the next logical CTA
Then, live happily ever after in homepage heaven.
P.S. I’d be super keen to hear how you get on. Email me questions, comments or results at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LIke what you see here? Why not download our Quick-Start Guide to Inbound Marketing for Technology Companies today.
Brand chemistry is a strategic inbound marketing agency that goes the extra mile to deliver results for our b2b clients. Our inbound marketing specialists are HubSpot certified and use the latest techniques to provide our clients with a steady stream of relevant new leads.