Why are some sales pages so confusing?
Is it because of the message or rather because there are way too many messages hitting you all at once? A sales page needs a powerful message to get the client not just interested, but to keep reading. And yet sales pages often miss that goal.
But there's a way to start the sales page from getting off to a false start. And it's called “isolating the problem”. But how do we go about this isolation process? Let's find out. shall we?
Let's say you're on a mission to the supermarket—with a well-defined list.
- Fresh Coconut
- Chilli Powder
Are all of the above important?
Technically, yes. No one usually goes shopping with a list of five items and ends up with just one or two. But even as you scan the list, you know it's not just a list, but a priority list. For instance, the ice cream might not seem like a top priority to anyone else, but you know there are kids back home who have been promised that treat. If you go back without the ice cream—well, let's just say it won't be a great outcome. In reality, the list is not just a list, but some issues are far more ponderous than others.
When writing a sales page, we too ponder over which issues will get the client's attention
And that's usually where we go off track, because we don't treat the issues as a priority list, but instead as a shopping list. We feel we need to get all the possible problems that the client is having on the sales page. But it's ice-cream that's the priority. The chilli powder, coconut and the fruit can wait because it's the priority that matters.
Similarly, a sales page has to be assembled based on priority
The most significant problem—the one that shows up at the top of the sales page—is the biggest problem. That problem is the one the client has at any given point in time. It's the one target problem they want to solve—or want you to solve—and to get to that particular problem, you need to use the power of priority.
It's at this point that we run into a peculiar hurdle
Instead of the client helping you, all they do is confuse you. Instead of giving you the one thing they want to deal with most of all, they give you the entire shopping list. But there's a way out of this mess, but bear with me, because we need to go back a few steps to figure out how we got into this mess.
But before the client confuses us, let's confuse ourselves.
If the above line sounds odd, yes, it's odd. But most of us confuse ourselves when writing a sales page. And the way we go about creating this particular chaos is because we're swayed by traditional advertising or marketing. If you were to step into a marketing agency or read a marketing book, you're likely to run into a description of the client.
And it reads like this:
The clients are corporate managers/leaders & small & medium size business owners, approximately 40 years of age, with family, income $100K+, live in an urban area, and grow onions in their backyard.
Wait, did you think the “growing onions in their backyard” concept was weird?
If you did, then backtrack to all the points in that long sentence, because every single thing in that description is weird. Let's say you're selling a course on negotiation. The onions have as little relevance as the client's income, or family, or age or even they're corporate managers.
Well, the corporate manager bit is slightly useful, but the rest of it has little or no bearing on what you're going to sell. All of this crazy, nonsensical description of family, dogs, income, and where they live isn't how a client buys a computer or a phone, or holiday in Fiji. If we're going to consider all of the above, you may all well consider the onions and really make a mess of things.
If we're to avoid this mess, we will do well to stop writing silly descriptions like the one above
The way to understanding a client is to first start with the target audience. That first bit—the corporate manager—that gives you a place to look. Firstly where would you meet a corporate manager? Which takes us to the second level—and the most important of all: WHO? Who is this manager? When looking for the problem (and the final solution) you have to be like an owl: Who, who, who.
Who is that person?
And the answer, in this case, may well be Arundathi. We've gotten rid of all the nonsensical information about cats, dogs and onions. And this allows us to talk to a real person called Arundathi. Who without wanting to, causes a whole new level of confusion. When you speak to her over the phone (or in person), you tend to get something like this on the recording.
“My problem is that I'm a new manager. I am running a team, and I'm anxious about my new role because it's also a new company. I have a fear of making mistakes. And I'm a perfectionist, so there's this constant drive for perfection. I also have a bit of a history of being stressed—it's almost a recurring pattern of stress.
This stress is compounded by the fact that I need people to like me, and hence, I don't want to disappoint anyone. I also work long hours, which means I can't take care of my family like I'd want to. I don't have time to put aside for my health and well being either. All of this makes me more stressed, anxious, and I have this constant fear of failure.”
Did we spot the biggest problem in Arundathi's response?
Of course not. While most clients may start tentatively, they quickly give you way more information than you can handle. Buried in that single paragraph is a shopping list. It's only when we separate the elements, do we sense the real magnitude of confusion.
- New position as manager
- New team
- Brand new company
- Fear of making mistakes
- Drive for perfection
- Need people to like me, and don’t want to disappoint anyone
- Work long hours and guilty about not taking care of the family
- No time for health and well being
- Constant fear of failure
See that list? It reads a lot like the earlier list we created, doesn't it?
- Fresh Coconut
- Chilli Powder
And just like the grocery list, we have to have a sense of priority—and use all the elements on the list
Just because we're using priority, doesn't mean we're not going to buy the rest of the items. And similarly, all those fears and troubles that Arundathi has—well, they're all real and essential. But priority means that you can't deal with them all at once. And if you do, well, that's why most sales page messages are such a hodgepodge.
The way we'd go about prioritising the list is to simply present the list back to the client
And because it's a real person and not some figment of a marketing agency's imagination, we can send across the list in an e-mail. Then we get the client to prioritise, but not numerically. Usually, the tendency is to list the issues in a list that reads as 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. But that numerical ranking doesn't help our understanding of how important an issue might be.
If you were to assign ten imaginary pebbles to the client along with the list, you'd get a non-fuzzy picture
She might say:
New position as manager: 2 pebbles
Drive for perfection: 5 pebbles
Need people to like me, and don’t want to disappoint anyone: 2 pebbles
Constant fear of failure: 1 pebble
Did she just do that? Did she just drop her family and health off her list?
No, she didn't. Instead, she realised it's the perfection that's causing the cascade of insanity. That while being a new manager was indeed a bit of a burden, it's the overwhelming need to be perfect that's sucking up all her time and energy. Which means that we now have a priority.
And that priority is bigger than everything else because it's taking up 50% of her waking thoughts. Once we get that 50% in control, we've made a huge change in her life, and she's more than likely to have more time and energy for her family and health.
Prioritising the biggest problem is the most important task of all.
And the way we went about it was to get rid of the dogs, cats and onions. And while we started out looking for managers (as in plural), we realised that it's one person we needed. We went from “where” to “who”. And we found Arundathi, who tend confused us even more with her overwhelming problems. But we used the pebbles, and we are now at the stage where we are clear about her priorities. We are poised to make real change at this point.
But we're still slightly at sea
What do we do next? We know that she needs to reduce the perfection, so should we just give her our solution? Should we talk about our program and how it can help her? We will get to that point where we can talk about our product or service but now's not the moment. We know her problem is perfection, but we need to know more; need to dig deeper.
Let us find out how we go about the next stage.
Now that we are clear about Arundathi's real problem, we have to go through a sort of “second-interview” stage
She's identified that her drive for perfection is her primary downfall. And our job is to let her express how the perfection scenario starts to unfold. It's at this stage where you can ask her why she sees the “perfection” issue as the biggest problem. And then, what she feels are the consequences of that problem.
Like a movie, she'll start to tell you what happens and how it all happens
This information, by the way, should be recorded, because the client will slip into “explainer mode”. Just as the term sounds, she'll explain what she goes through concerning perfection. And she'll use specific words to describe her situation (all of which needs to be recorded and transcribed). And like a bit of a horror movie, it will have mostly despair and doom.
But at one point, she'll stop talking
At which point, you can ask if she's done. Or if there's something more. If there is anything she wants to add, she will do so at this point. But if she's done, she'll be ready for the next part. You can ask her what the solution looks like. And she'll describe exactly what she'd like to see. Once again she'll slip into her explainer mode.
And yes, you need to keep that recording going. Because yet again, she's going to use a unique way to explain how she sees her perfect world. Or at least a world that's not so crippled by perfection.
What we have at this stage is pure magic for your sales page. Let's plot our journey so far.
1) We don't have that fluffy, dog, cat, onions nonsense muddling up your description.
2) We do have a bit of a shopping list concerning the client's problems, but we make sure that she prioritises the most important one.
3) We then dig deeper into that one—because it's the main problem. She explains the problem and the consequences of her problem.
4) When she's done with the problem and consequences, ask her about the solution. Once again she'll slip into “explainer mode” while you're dutifully recording every last detail.
Which leaves us with two unsolved issues
Issue 1: What about the rest of the problems in that list? Do we just abandon those?
Issue 2: We understand her problem, but where does our product or service come into play?
Issue 1: What about the rest of the problems in that list? Do we abandon those?
Just like a shopping list, you don't just get rid of the other items. If your client comes up with a dozen problems, you can very easily move them into another section. And that section is called the “bullets”. Usually, on a sales page, you have a short synopsis of points called bullet points. If your product is solving her other problems just as well, the rest of the problems go into this area. We haven't exactly thrown anything away, but merely moved it to another area.
And just so you know, it's not like the bullets are less important. If anything, they're among the most valuable methods to communicate your points, because they're almost like headlines—well, they are a type of headline but show up later in the sales page. Which takes us to the second point: What about the product or service we're selling? How does that fit it?
Issue 2: We understand her problem, but where does our product or service come into play?
There's a good chance that your product or service already fixes most of the problems of the client. Maybe it doesn't fix every possible issue, but there's a good chance it will cover a lot of the issues. The sequence on the sales page needs to flow like this:
- Biggest problem of the client
- The description of that problem
- The consequences that arise
- The solution (as the client sees it)
- And at this stage, it’s time for your solution, your product or service
As you can see, these series of steps aren't something you can achieve, on one afternoon
All of this seems like an unnecessary detour, which is why it's certainly more tempting to take the “marketing agency” method. Instead of going through all of these steps, it's far easier to have a statement that reads like: The clients are corporate managers/leaders & small & medium size business owners, approximately 40 years of age, with family, income $100K+, live in an urban area, and quietly leave the onions out of the description.
It's also the reason why so many sales pages seem “swappable”, which is to say you can almost take their sales page and put it on yours, and it might still work. And if you take the shortcut, the sales page might still work, but it will take a lot more advertising and far more marketing dollars. It's not like clients won't buy from your sales page. It's just that the message will be far more confusing and hence cause a higher rate of bounce.
Isolate the problem, and the results will speak for themselves.