In a way, most marketing campaigns have it easy: Their goal is to compel people to click. “Buy,” “Download,” and “Sign Up” are the typical words we see on call-to-action buttons.
Campaigns for causes, however, aim much higher. They attempt to inspire real action — the kind that takes more than an index finger and an internet connection to complete.
For former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s new movement, those actions are “Resist, insist, persist, enlist.” And to inspire them, she’s tapped into the persuasive power of personalization and landing pages. In her first move post election, she’s continuing to urge all Americans to let their voice be heard by launching Onward Together.
The first Onward Together campaign
In a Tweet last week, Clinton announced the launch of Onward Together, which will “encourage people to get involved, organize, and even run for office.”
We’re launching Onward Together to encourage people to get involved, organize, and even run for office. https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/864211960732295168
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 15, 2017
With the help of donations from generous contributors who share Clinton’s vision of “a fairer, big-hearted, more inclusive America,” Onward Together pledges to empower champions of the progressive cause.
But, will it get the donations it needs to accomplish its goal?
Let’s see if the organization’s first marketing campaign stands up to the intense scrutiny of potential contributors…
If you supported Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, you may have received this email in your inbox:
It uses a personalized subject line — “(First name), I hope you’ll join me” — to compel recipients to open.
For most marketers, that’s a bad subject line. In fact, for most marketers it’s an awful subject line. It doesn’t answer the question every prospect asks before engaging with any kind of advertising online: “What’s in it for me?”
If it were used by one of us here at Instapage, you’d probably glance at the “From” column in your inbox and scroll right by the email. So, why does it work here?
Because when you glance at the “From” column in your inbox and see that Hillary Clinton is the “me” referred to in the subject line, you’re going to want to know what you’ve been invited to join by one of the country’s most well-known figures.
When you open it, you’ll realize it’s a cause — and probably one you’re likely to support — considering the contacts who received this email are ones who supported Clinton’s 2016 presidential run.
It’s written like a personal note — which, again, works best when the author is someone with star power. It also uses words like “you” to speak directly to the reader, and “we” to make subscribers feel like they’re part of Clinton’s inner circle.
Elizabeth Warren does something similar on a campaign landing page:
“I’m fighting to put power back where it belongs — in the hands of the American people,” copy reads above the form. “Will you join me?”
Ted Cruz also uses the same tactic in copy above a CTA on his campaign landing page:
In political movements, appealing to people’s inherent need to belong works especially well to let them know their voice matters.
Donald Trump’s campaign did this more than any other. Here’s just one of many landing pages he used to rally support for his cause:
Working against Clinton’s email, though, is its length. Several hundred words of block text isn’t easy to get through. Without bullet points or subheads to separate this copy into digestible chunks, odds are readers won’t make it the whole way through.
Luckily, there are a few different links in this email, before its conclusion, that drive subscribers to the same page when clicked…
Driving traffic to a homepage is never a good idea. It contains too many distractions, and it’s not built for conversion the way landing pages are.
When Jacob Baadsgaard of Disruptive Advertising introduced targeted landing pages into one client’s paid advertising strategy, he cut their cost per lead in half:
Nevertheless, this page is where visitors end up. So…
The Onward Together homepage is minimalist, straightforward, and the design boosts trust by reflecting the branding of the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign (maybe a little too much — we get it, arrows = progress).
Like a squeeze page, it attempts to capture maybe the most important piece of top-of-funnel prospect information: email address. Because nothing else (like name or phone number) is requested from visitors, the odds are good that it accomplishes its goal.
However, the copy below the field might make prospects pause before clicking the CTA button. What does becoming a member of Onward Together entail? Who will have access to their email address? What can the expect to see in their inbox? Some answers might boost conversion rate here.
If they do convert, they’ll be sent to this landing page…
The donation landing page
When asking for a donation or any conversion involving money, it’s always good to start small. If prospects are willing to give away their email address, at some point they may be willing to spend too.
Often, though, it takes strategic lead nurturing to get them to that point. If this landing page bounce rate is high among visitors who arrive here after submitting their email address, it’s probably a sign they’re not ready to donate yet.
Or, it could be a sign this landing page isn’t persuasive enough to convert. Is it?
Here are our thoughts…
From the get-go, this page is off to a bad start. It gives prospects an easy exit through a logo linked to the homepage.
Even one outbound link that drives visitors off the page is too many. Studies have proved it: Navigation links kill conversion rate.
The only way visitors should be able to leave your page is by clicking the “X” in the corner of the browser window, or your CTA button.
Here’s a better example of a landing page logo from Senator Tom Cotton, which doesn’t drive prospects off the page with a link to the homepage:
All the headline “Donate to Onward Together” does is tell you how to spend your money. Instead, it should tell you why you should.
What’s your donation going to? Why should you spend on this cause when there are countless others worthy of your money?
Take a look at this example from the ACLU:
Visitors to this page know what their donation will do: Help protect people’s civil liberties.
Here’s another example from Dana Farber:
What will a donation do? Fight cancer.
But, instead of emphasizing why you should stay on this page to donate, all this Onward Together headline does is command you.
It doesn’t draw you in. It doesn’t make you feel anything. And even if you do get past it, you’re probably not compelled to do much else…
It’s the job of any landing page copy to elaborate on the benefits of the USP in the headline. Since this headline doesn’t contain a USP, the copy has to do double the persuasive work.
Does it? Not really….
Overall it has a couple of problems.
1. It’s too vague
“In recent months, we’ve seen what’s possible when people stand up for a fairer, big-hearted, more inclusive America.”
The words “we’ve seen” assume the reader knows what the copywriter is talking about. But what if the reader hasn’t seen what that looks like? What if the reader doesn’t know what that looks like?
On your landing page, it’s dangerous to make assumptions like this. Nothing should ever be left to interpretation because there’s always a chance your readers either…
- can’t mentally make the connection you hoped they would, or…
- even worse, interpret your words differently than you had intended.
Specific copy always beats vague copy. In this case, giving examples (with copy or images) of what a “fairer, big-hearted, more inclusive America” looks like would help prospects conceptualize a movement they want to be a part of.
2. It doesn’t contain a benefit.
If you’re saying “But, there is no benefit to giving away your money,” you’re not completely right. While there’s often no tangible benefit to donating, there is one that some philosophers say is the reason there’s no such thing as an altruistic act:
Helping makes people feel good.
In 1989, that idea was introduced as a theory of why people donate to charity, called “warm-glow giving:”
Warm-glow giving is an economic phenomenon described by James Andreoni in 1989 that attempts to explain why people give to charity by proposing that people engage in impure altruism. Instead of being motivated solely by an interest in the welfare of the recipients of their largess, "warm-glow givers" also receive utility from the act of giving. This utility is in the form of warm glow—the positive emotional feeling people get from helping others.
Research conducted in 2007, which shows that donating can stimulate the brain’s reward center, actually gives some physiological evidence to support the idea.
With the help of Andreoni’s theory and that research, we can figure out how to emphasize benefits (aka make people feel good) on a donation landing page:
Show them that their money is actually going to make a difference. Ensure them it’s going to the cause and not to the bank account of an overpaid executive.
Unfortunately, the next bit of copy on this Onward Together page doesn’t assure visitors of that at all:
“Chip in today to help Onward Together support the people and organizations championing the vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election.”
What people and organizations?
How specifically will it support them?
On the “Mission” page of the Onward Together website, it says this:
“From the Women’s March to airports where communities are welcoming immigrants and refugees to town hall meetings in every community, Americans are speaking up and speaking out like never before.”
If the organization’s goal is to empower Americans like these — who are welcoming immigrants, marching for women, and speaking out like never before — then their stories should be featured here.
Andreoni says, “As human beings, we naturally want to be connected and helpful.” So if visitors are going to give their money to a cause for nothing in return, they need to feel connected to that cause and its people.
Look up at the Dana Farber page again and imagine how much less persuasive it would be without the image of Ava and the supporting testimonial from her mother. That content connects donors to the cause by showing them exactly who their money will help. It humanizes the organization.
As is, this copy and its supporting content don’t connect visitors to the people their donation will impact, nor does it tell them how it will. Because of that, the landing page probably won’t produce as many donations as it could.
This form is just okay. Its fields are labeled logically and you won’t see harmful placeholder text in them. For the most part, the information requested is necessary to convert the visitor, and common form inputs are pre-populated.
However, there are a couple of issues with this design…
1. It’s longer than it needs to be
Prepare your index finger, because it takes some scrolling to get to the end of this form. And it really shouldn’t.
While most these fields are required to complete a credit card transaction, the form itself doesn’t have to be so intimidatingly monstrous. Let’s take a look at why…
First, you’ll notice that most of the fields are given their own separate row on the form. For the most part, this design follows form usability best practices according to Kathryn Whitenton of Nielsen Norman Group:
Multiple columns interrupt the vertical momentum of moving down the form. Rather than requiring users to reorient themselves visually, keep them in the flow by sticking to a single column with a separate row for each field.
However, she does say there’s one exception to this rule: “Short and/or logically related fields” should be presented in the same row.
For example, you’ll notice that first and last name are next to each other:
Credit card expiration month and year are also presented in the same row:
This technique can make the form conceptually easier to fill out while also shortening its perceived length. It works for first name and last name; it works for credit card expiration date; and it can also work for city, state, and zip code too.
On this page, though, those fields are given their own row:
When you consider the maximum length of the zip code field is five numbers, and for the “State/Region/Province” drop-down it’s two letters, there’s no reason for these boxes to be as long as they are.
Shrinking them horizontally and positioning them next to the “City” field will minimize the size of the form considerably. Here’s a better example from a landing page created by John McCain’s team:
2. Radio buttons miss the mark
Let’s say you get past the copy and the long form and determine you can spare $10 for the cause. With your mouse, go ahead and find the “$10” radio button below.
It probably took a little longer than it should’ve. Why?
Because people read left to right first, then top to bottom. So, when trying to find the “$10” radio button, you probably saw the “$5” one first, then “$25,” then “$100,” then “$1,000,” and finally “$10” on the next line.
These radio buttons make it easy to select a donation amount, but their order is illogical. While that’s not likely to cause so much friction that it makes prospects reconsider donating, it does cost them a few precious seconds of time. And the longer it takes them to fill out that form, the more likely it is they get distracted before converting.
A better example of logically ordered radio buttons can be found on this donation landing page, created by the Democratic National Committee:
3. A default checkbox selection is presumptuous
Below the radio buttons on this Onward Together landing page, you’ll see what could potentially be another mistake: a pre-checked box next to the text “I’d like to help cover the transaction fees on my donation.”
Instead of allowing visitors to opt in, it makes them opt out. Now, before we continue, it’s important to note that default selections aren’t always bad.
In the “Country” field above, “United States” is already pre-populated because it’s likely where most donors live. That default saves the majority of visitors to this page the time it would take to find and select “United States” from the drop-down.
So, if the majority of donors check this box to help cover transaction fees, then checking it by default is a good practice. Defaults like these can improve usability, says Jakob Nielsen:
By showing a frequent value, they help users understand the commonly expected response, as opposed to more atypical ones. You can use this knowledge for sales purposes — for example, by pre-selecting the one-year option in a subscription interface that also offers monthly payments. But, if you consistently pick the most expensive option as the default, you'll lose credibility, so don't overdo it.
That last sentence highlights one of the few issues with this checkbox, which are:
- This default hasn’t been selected strictly to save users time, the way the pre-populated “Country” field has. It also acts in the organization’s best interest, which may come across as a bit selfish. Users may think, “I’m donating $10, and they can’t even cover the cost of the transaction?”
- Checking this box won’t just land you on a list somewhere. Forgetting to opt out doesn’t result in some annoying emails you can just redirect to your spam folder. This checkbox deals with money. To assume that visitors implicitly consent to be charged extra because they didn’t uncheck the box is dangerous. Nobody likes hidden fees, especially when they’re donating their hard-earned money to what’s supposed to be an altruistic organization.
- The copy next to this box is too vague. The organization can’t expect people to know exactly how much a credit card transaction fee is. If it’s a flat rate, the text should say so. If it’s a percentage of the donation, that should be written there. The odds people are willing to check that box increase when the copy reads something like “I’d like to help cover the transaction fees on my donation (only 1% of the total).”
All this is resolved by simply eliminating the default checkbox selection and including some more descriptive copy next to it.
Compare this checkbox to the only other on the page:
The box isn’t selected by default and the copy is far more descriptive, telling visitors exactly what and when they can expect to be charged. This is closer to what the box above should aim for.
The CTA button
We have few gripes about this call-to-action. It has several things going for it:
1. It looks like a button
This advice always looks silly on paper, but we’re continually surprised by how many businesses try to reinvent the wheel (or button in this case). This isn’t the place to be creative. Make your button look like a button.
That means use a rectangular shape (not a star, or an octagon, or a circle) and make it look clickable with light shading or a hover effect, like this Onward Together button does.
2. It’s big enough to draw attention and click
Remember that most people access the web via mobile devices now, so it’s important your button is big enough to click with a finger. This “Donate” button is.
It’s also important to make sure your CTA button fits into your visual hierarchy as one of the most noticeable elements on the page. While this CTA button could be a more attention-grabbing color, it’s certainly big enough to draw the eyeballs of visitors.
3. It’s clear
Usually we advocate against basic CTAs like “Submit” or “Download,” but “Donate” is different. When money is on the line, it’s important a landing page call-to-action be clear above all else.
Visitors need to know that when they hit that button, their credit card will be charged. A CTA like “Get Involved” or “Join the Movement” or “Empower Champions of Progress” might not convey that. Here, “Donate” does the job well.
4. Is it secure?
If your page has a credit card field on it, it’s always a good idea to include a security badge somewhere near your CTA button. To those saying, “But, the URL has ‘secure’ written right in it,” we say, “that’s not enough.”
Your visitors shouldn’t have to hunt for an indication that their transaction is secure. It should be obvious.
Sure, some tests have shown that security badges have the potential to actually decrease conversion rate, but in most cases it’s a good practice to include them in your design from the start, then let multivariate testing determine their effect on your conversion rate.
The “thank you” page
If the landing page compels you to donate to the cause, you’ll be directed to this “thank you” page, which, to us, is a mixed bag. Here’s why…
1. It shows gratitude
If there’s one thing this “thank you” page gets right, it’s gratitude. “Thank you for your donation!” reads enthusiastically, and the supporting copy sincerely: “Your support is critical, and we couldn’t be more grateful.” The word “you” speaks personally to the reader.
At the same time, it could be a little more specific. Describing what the contribution will enable the organization to do could add to the “warm-glow” benefit donors will experience now that they’ve converted.
2. It doesn’t outline next steps
“Thank you” pages are where lead nurturing begins, and the words “stay tuned” don’t direct new leads to any other Onward Together content to engage with. In fairness, this is a new organization, so they may not have a repository of content to offer.
At the very least, though, they should have a welcome email drip prepared to send new donors. Remember: It’s important to justify collecting prospects’ contact information.
Why did you need their email address? What are you sending? Let them know what to expect, and tell them to keep an eye on their inbox.
The implications of this Onward Together marketing campaign
In just a few years, targeted landing pages have become more than a conversion optimization tool used by a select few advertising agencies.
Today, they’re counted on by the world’s leading brands to boost ROI; they’re used by heads of state to generate support, and they’re leveraged by revolutionaries to inspire nations.
This Onward Together campaign proves that landing pages are catching on in digital marketing’s upper echelons. At the same time, its design flaws show that when it comes to using landing pages to their maximum potential, the industry still has a long way to go.
When marketers finally bridge that gap from landing page novice to expert, they’ll see how high their ROI can soar. They’ll redefine what a “good” conversion rate really is.
Think you have a good conversion rate? It could be better.
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