Pay-per-click search marketing may have been invented in the second Clinton administration, but it’s a modern iteration of a hundred-year-old tradition of direct marketing: Find people who have a problem, get their attention with a small, inexpensive ad, and then offer them some thing of value related to their problem in exchange for the ability and permission to follow up.
If you’re using PPC to generate leads (as opposed to asking your visitors to pull out their wallets on the spot), the landing page is the fulcrum of your efforts; it’s where you convert cold prospects into warm leads.
One of the tried and true methods, which all too few marketers employ, is a free report (the B2B version is often called a white paper).
The free report is the tool of choice when your prospect isn’t yet educated or motivated enough to take action of any kind. By contrast, the consumer awareness guide works better when the prospect knows they have a problem, knows they need to solve it, and are looking at you and your competitors side by side.
The free report essentially names a problem faced by your prospect, gets them emotionally involved in the horrible current and future consequences of the problem, unveils a generic solution, and then introduces and sells your version of the solution.
Here’s a template for free reports that you can adapt to most markets in which your prospects are just becoming aware of the problem and potential solutions.
1. Introduce the Problem
So if you’re a computer consultant to small businesses and your front end product is firewall software installation and maintenance, the first thing you need to do in your report is explain what the problem is:
If you’ve ever downloaded a movie or song from a file-sharing site, you’ve probably also installed six programs that let outside users access your computer.
Any hacker can exploit these holes in your security to read the entire contents of your hard drive, including confidential client information, your financial reports, your credit card information, and much more. And if you are connected to the internet via cable modem, DSL, or T1 line, then you’re vulnerable 24/7.
2. Agitate the Problem
Now, once you explain the problem, you get your prospect sufficiently alarmed about the problem by helping them visualize it and providing case studies, like this:
One of my clients had a hacker break into his network and steal his social security number, home and office addresses and phone numbers, and credit card numbers and expiration dates, all unbeknownst to him. Three weeks later the police were at his office door, leading him away in handcuffs…
3. Describe a Generic Solution
Next, you describe a generic solution (or several solutions) to this problem:
There are many inexpensive and effective tools on the market that can stop most hackers cold. Firewalls prevent unauthorized outsiders from accessing anything on your hard drive. They can also alert you to all attempts by hackers to gain access…
So far you have provided valuable information that could save your prospect untold grief. You haven’t sold anything. You’ve built up a subtle debt of goodwill and trust.
4. Explain Limitations of Generic Solution
Now that you’ve selflessly shared valuable information, you’ve positioned yourself as a helpful expert. From here, you can begin to advocate for your product or service. A great way to do this is to explain all the hassles and difficulties with the solution you just described, like this:
But there are so many firewall products on the market, with so many upgrades being announced all the time, that choosing the right one is an overwhelming experience for many computer users.
Also, any system that you choose needs to be configured so that it doesn’t prevent you from doing the things you need to do: send and receive email, use the web, share documents, back up and restore files at remote locations, and many others. As your system changes, you’ll need to reconfigure the firewall on a regular basis.
No wonder 98% of all small businesses have no protection against hackers whatsoever.
5. Introduce Your Specific Solution
Your next step is to explain how what you do solves all of these problems:
That’s why I created the ‘Hands-off, No-brainer, Protect Your Vital Data from Criminal Scumbags’ program for small businesses. I come out and install the firewall on your system.
It takes about an hour, but I don’t leave until it’s running perfectly. I test every conceivable function and make sure there are no conflicts.
I monitor all the upgrades for my clients, and can install them and reconfigure the firewall properties from my office, without any effort or hassle on your part. In fact, unless you check the log file, you won’t even notice that anything is different.
You get to concentrate on your work without worrying about the security of your mission-critical and sensitive personal information.
6. Provide Details Through Testimonials
Here is a great place for testimonials from happy clients, with specifics. In those testimonials, you’re going to want to address the specific objections that people may have, by having your testimonials start with those objections, and then be convinced by your service.
You’re also building a value case for your product, so that when you reveal the price, it will look like a great deal compared to what it’s worth:
Dominic installed the firewall on March 3. On March 17, an alert popped up that someone was trying to access our network. We later found out that the office down the hall that shares our T1 line was compromised, and their entire hard drive was wiped out. They’ve spend the last month scrambling to restore what they can, apologizing to clients, and doing damage control.
They’ve lost at least $85,000 in business since March, not including the time and aggravation they’ve put in trying to fix the problem.
Aside from the 45 minute installation and the alert, we haven’t even noticed that anything is different. Dominic and his software are completely maintenance-free. And when we call him with a question, he always gets back to us within the hour. Any business that doesn’t use Dominic is putting far too much at risk.
Now when you reveal your pricing, let’s say $250 for the software package, free installation, and a $500/month maintenance contract, it seems like a giant bargain in comparison.
7. Share a Call to Action and Reduce Their Risk
Finally, tell them what to do next to get started. The smaller the step, the more likely they’ll say yes at this point. For example, instead of asking them to sign a contract, offer a free system audit. Or a phone conversation.
Another way to reduce their perceived risk is with a bold guarantee. Explicitly state your guarantee at this point, so it’s easier to say yes than no.
Calls to action often benefit from adding urgency, so don’t hesitate to ask for a response within a certain time frame. If the supply is limited, use that to compel immediate action. For example:
Because of the personal attention I give my clients, I only take on 50 clients at a time. I currently have 45 slots filled, so I can perform the audit only for the next five clients who contact me.
The landing page has one job: to “sell” the free report. Use benefits and curiosity (“the number one mistake small businesses make when they choose a firewall – page 3”) to create an open loop in your visitor’s mind that can be closed only by registering for, downloading, and reading the report.
In a competitive market, positioning yourself as the helpful expert is often your most powerful advantage.
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