What your landing page can learn from my Toyota dealer

I just took my 2002 Prius to the local Toyota dealer for the 100,000 mile service call. Since the kids and I are driving from North Carolina to New Jersey tomorrow (yes, hockey fans, we will rub people’s noses in the ‘Canes’ upset over the Devils ;), it seemed like a good idea to make sure the old girl wasn’t going to conk out somewhere around the 495 Beltway around DC.

Now, I’m used to service stations and dealers in New Jersey, where the standard operating procedure is to make customers guess where to park, what line to wait on, and what those strange stains are on the back of the computer monitor, walls, floor, and eventually, your credit card. So it was an amazing shock to see how the system works at Mark Jacobson Toyota of Durham (sadly, I don’t get the family discount).

Landing page lesson #1: Show visitors exactly where to start on your landing page

First thing is, there’s a sign that tells you exactly where to go for service (see below). It points to a row of four clearly defined, large parking spaces.

Let’s compare two websites in the same industry, air travel.

First, look at the home page for American Airlines (above, left). Where does your eye land? Are there any signs saying, "Start here"? Oh, and it’s worse live, because the big graphic is actually an animation. So it keeps changing.

Imagine if the "Customer Service" sign at Mark Jacobson kept changing: "Discount oil changes" to "Have you rotated your tires lately?" to "Free cigarette aroma in your cabin with every tuneup."

Next, check out Jetblue.com (above, right). My eye is immediately drawn to the form on the left, where the first question, in regular-person English, is "Where from?" Heck, even I, who paid full private school tuition for my kids for years even though they qualified for financial aid just because I couldn’t handle filing out the form – I can book a flight on JetBlue!

Landing page lesson #2: Immediate create a feeling of safety

At Mark Jacobson Toyota, they have these rolls of paper and plastic right next to the car drop-off. They’re for keeping your steering wheel, dashboard and floor mats as clean as when you drove in. (Of course, in my case, "as clean as when I drove in" means clementine peels, pistachio shells, capless markers, and a green pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars that fits nobody in my family, but you get the idea.) And these prophylatics get applied by well-dressed customer service representatives who never touch a crank case or carbeurator or oil filter.

Does your landing page immediately make the visitor feel safe? Do you have credibility boosters, if you’re an ecommerce site? Does your site design imply "fly by night" or "here to stay"?

Even with a crappy design, do your words make a visitor feel safe? I just searched Google for "make money online," the sleaziest keyword I could think of (OK, aside from – well, actually, I don’t think I want you to know the sleaziest keyword I could think of). I chose the second AdWords listing, www.making-money-rocks.com. (No, that is definitely NOT an affiliate link.) I was expecting to find an example of a cheesy long-form sales letter that would make me want to run away screaming. At first glance, I got my wish:

What I actually found was a personable intro that made me feel, well, pretty safe, despite my instinctual aversion to "anyone can make money online, even if they’re a stuffed panda." A photo of a smiling guy, with the disarming (ME!) next to his name. The first word of the sales letter is "YUK!" Later on is a letter from the Google AdWords director for North America congratulating Tissa on his one millionth AdWords lead.

If Tissa can make me feel safe with his disarming copy, you can certainly do the same for your visitors.

Landing page lesson #3: Show why/how you’re better/different

While I was paying for the oil, lube and filter, the front brake replacement and alignment, and a total flush of the two Prius coolant systems (who knew?), I saw behind me an employee opening the door marked "Authorized Personnel Only" and ushering a prospective family through for a tour. I heard him talking about the cleanliness, the capacity of the facility and how quickly repairs get done, and other stuff. When I was done paying, I took life by the horns and opened the "Authorized Personnel Only" door myself and grabbed this snapshot:

OK, so maybe it’s not truly cleaner than my kitchen, but it’s pretty darn close. There were at least 16 bays, and about half were empty. The mechanics were clean, focused, and calm. The lighting was great. It didn’t smell like exhaust or tobacco. One look explained to me how and why I should trust my car to them and nobody else.

Does your landing page offer a glimpse into your expertise, process, or other important differentiator? At least a link that says, "Why buy from us?" or the equivalent?

One client of mine, Blow Molded Specialties (www.bmsplastics.com), includes several case studies that highlight the complex and challenging blow molding process, and explain how BMS overcame some pretty big challenges to produce quality products for their customers. The goal of these case studies was to educate, and also to differentiate. They want prospects to understand that blow molding is much more complicated than extrusion molding. Not to be left in the hands of some cut-rate firm that doesn’t understand quality engineering. (Notice the "Harvard University" mention in the title of the first case study. Also a credibility booster.)

Landing page lesson #4: Leave them wanting more

When I finished paying (and I forgot to mention earlier that "Spence," my customer service representative who took the car when it arrived and called me an hour later with an estimate for cost and time, actually got up from behind his computer and walked me and my documentation over to the cashier, whom he referred to as "the mean lady")… Anyway, that sentence was such a bloody run-on mess that I think I’ll start over. When Spence left me at the cashier, he disappeared. After I paid and exited, I looked around for my car, expecting based on past experience to find it jammed into some pseudo-parking-spot with pot holes and a rotting railroad tie under the left rear tire.

Before I had time to start searching, I saw my little baby driving up next to the drop-off lane.

And out climbed Spence. And he stayed bent over the driver’s seat for a few moments, while I snapped this photo. When he emerged, he was carrying the protective paper mat and plastic that had protected the interior of the car from any stray dust or grime. He thanked me, shook my hand, and wished me well.

I don’t care how "sticky" your website is, at some point each one of your prospects will have to leave. Even my daughter turns off Hulu every couple of days…

So what’s your "temporary exit strategy"? How do you leave them wanting more?

In my case, I offer the promise of useful and amusing articles. Occasional videos. Web clinics. Interviews.

Whenever I offer a download or an opt-in, I always take the time to create a thank you page. I have dozens of different ones by now. The reason I do that is to make the last contact with my site (for the time being) a positive experience. Leave you happy, and leave you wanting more.

Want more?

Two web clinics in rerun: If you missed the two web clinics I held this week (one on the new AdWords interface, and the other on my favorite method of spying on competitors’ keywords and ad strategies), they’re in reruns all month at the Ring of Fire. Give it a spin for as little as $20 for the first month.

Wednesday, May 6: Upcoming web clinic on how to get started with AdWords if you’re not even sure what market to be in. How to find profitable markets and test them with little risk or effort. It’s a Traffic Surge bonanza. And it’s free – sign up here.



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8 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Tammy Porter said on April 29 2009:

    Finally, finally, I found what I was looking for in terms of someone who is straight to the point, gives me value, let me say it again, actually gives value, is humorous and at a decent price. I give you much kudos and would name my child after you, but too bad, I am done having kids. ;0) THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Have a great trip and look forward to the next informative article (left me wanting more)

  2. #2 • Samuel said on April 29 2009:

    You always seem to have an interesting perspective in the way you relate internet marketing to real life experiences, keep it up! I also like your temporary exit strategy, very cool, I’m gonna implement it today.

  3. #3 • Adam Gordon said on April 30 2009:

    G’day Howie,

    This issue is a bloody bewdie.
    See you in the Cave.

  4. #4 • Palavras Chave said on April 30 2009:

    Very interesting analogy. I think everybody can learn from your very clear perspective of what must be a landing page.

  5. #5 • Howie Jacobson said on April 30 2009:

    Tammy, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m really glad you’re not in a position to name your child “Howie” – while it may have been more manly than “Sue,” it’s not in the top 100 boys’ names for some good reasons.

    Samuel, I’m curious what you’re going to do specifically for the temporary exit strategy implementation. Mind sharing?

    Adam, just seeing the word “G’day” makes me happy.

    Palavras, just typing “Palavras” makes me happy. Thanks for your kind words.

    And a special shout-out to http://BatteryBob.com, whose speedy service made these photos possible.

  6. #6 • Jessica said on April 30 2009:

    Howie, your delicious candor and humorous, real life examples make it easier to remember the things that matter. Can’t wait to read more from my favorite Adwords coach.

  7. #7 • Georgann McCrosson said on April 30 2009:

    Thank you for making simple and clear what so many others have not. Geesh! To read this post, you’d think it was kindergarten material to construct a landing page. It seems like everyone else wanted me to be so confounded by the process that I’d never get in the game. Oh wait, maybe that WAS their intention.

    Like Tammy, I’m beyond child-bearing years. However I can and will name my car Howie. Looking forward to a world of clarity…

  8. #8 • Y920.com said on May 4 2009:

    Very Good Explanation with the unique examples