For many B2B and considered purchases, buyers go through several stages of evaluating the market and choosing a seller. Different stages naturally benefit from different kinds of landing pages and conversion strategies.

Here, we’ll take a look at the very top of the funnel, to see how three different companies are handling early-stage interest on the same keyword phrase: “big data.”

With all the talk about big data these days, you can picture many people searching on this topic. Even though they’re probably not yet evaluating vendors at first, they may be open to educational materials provided by or sponsored by vendors — if those materials are truly useful, not fluff.

Big Data: Top 3 Ads

The top three ads when I did this search were from Oracle, SAS, and EMC. So let’s examine their landing pages in order.

Oracle’s Content-First Portal Strategy

Oracle’s ad promises “simplify and put your data to work.”

Their landing page is a deep-link into a topic portal page on their website. The top half includes a couple of paragraphs of introductory copy and links to a number of white papers from Oracle and industry analysts.

The bottom half includes context-specific links to relevant products within Oracle’s portfolio.

Big Data: Oracle's Landing Page

Unlike traditional lead generation tactics, which would require a registration to download white papers or analyst reports, Oracle makes the links to these materials freely available — just click to instantly open up the PDFs. Oracle weighs the brand marketing opportunity of distributing that content as more valuable than leads at that moment.

Of course, it can still track the “microconversions” of each of these downloads. That is very likely their primary performance metric on this page, and I expect it’s performing well.

For lead generation, Oracle offers a set of premium calls-to-action on the right column of the page: a webcast center, an online forum, and a big data summit in major cities — all requiring registration — as well as an offer to talk to Oracle on the phone.

Oracle is clearly betting that if you like the free content on the main part of the page, you’ll eventually be ready for these premium content options that convert you officially into a lead. That may not happen on your first visit — which is a risk if you end up being pulled into another vendor’s lead machine before returning.

But with good content, I think this content-first strategy is worth the risk and can be highly effective at this early stage of prospect exploration.

My only beef with this landing page is that it doesn’t do a very good job of maintaining “message match” with the ad.

With such a large collection of educational materials and so many different products presented as applicable to big data, the “simplify” promise doesn’t feel well addressed. This could be easily solved by tweaking the ad copy to more accurately reflect the “everything you wanted to know about big data” nature of the landing page.

SAS’s Traditional Lead Generation Strategy

The ad for SAS leads with “gain insights from big data” and promises respondents: “view white paper to learn more.”

Their landing page takes a more traditional lead generation approach: register to download a specific piece of premium content.

Here, they’re offering an independent survey report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which I think is compelling. The image of the report in the upper right corner is a nice touch for making the offer tangible.

Big Data: SAS Landing Page

The registration step on the next page asks for a modest amount of information — name, email, organization, country, state — so I suspect their conversion rate is good.

This strategy gives respondents one clear, simple choice: here’s the best piece of content to start your education of big data with us. If the offer is compelling enough to win a conversion, SAS can then follow up with this lead using marketing automation — guiding and responding to their progress through later stages of the funnel.

Although I think the strategy here is a solid one, I would suggest several improvements to its execution.

First, the message match with the ad should be much tighter. The “gain insight” message from the ad is buried in the copy. The promised “white paper” is actually a survey report. I like the title in the landing page — harnessing a game-changing asset — so I’d try moving that out to the ad.

Instead of promising a white paper, promise an “independent report” — which may be more intriguing to early-stage prospects anyway.

For the registration, since their form on the next page is relatively short, I’d consider moving it on to the landing page. Maybe change the call-to-action from “register now” to “get the report now.”

At the bottom, their claim as the leader of business analytics software at the bottom of the page could probably be presented more powerfully with social proof in a more visual format. This is a great branding opportunity: use it to make a strong impression.

EMC’s Registration Required Portal Strategy

The ad from SAP says big data will “improve enterprise decision making” and offers a free case study.

The landing page is almost a hybrid of the previous two strategies: a portal page with multiple fulfillment items, but a short, on-page registration is required to access them.

Big Data: EMC's Landing Page

If the advantage of a single-piece offer is simplicity, the advantage of a multi-piece offer such as this is choice. Respondents can self-selct the analyst report, white paper, or case study that intrigues them most. As long as one is sufficiently compelling, the chance of winning the conversion is good.

The downside to a multi-piece offer, however, is that it can lose focus, especially if the choices don’t have a clear narrative that relates them to each other.

In this case, EMC clearly has some terrific content, but I feel that this landing page diverges the most from message match with the ad. The emphasis of the page seems to be more on “scale out” instead of “decision making.”

The case study that I was promised is the last item on the page — below the fold for shorter browser windows — and sounds very specific to medical imaging.

I think the first fulfillment piece, the IDC analyst report, may be the best starting point for an early-stage prospect, especially before you know their role or their industry. The top part of the page could probably make a more cohesive presentation around that piece, while better connecting the dots with the ad. (The ad would need to offer to IDC analyst report instead of the case study.)

Also, a small but useful conversion optimization tip: try “Access These Materials Now” (or “Access This Report Now”) as the button call-to-action instead of “Submit.”

Which Strategy Is Best For You?

All of these strategies are viable. Which one is best depends on your solution, your brand, and most importantly, your audience. How does this early stage touch point relate to the rest of your marketing strategy deeper into the funnel?

This also seems like a great scenario for A/B testing. (Hint, hint.)

But whatever you do, please — please — keep an eye on message match with the ads from which you’re driving traffic.

The first point of being relevant to a respondent’s search is fulfilling the promises — explicit and implied — that your ad made to lure them to your landing page. At this early stage of the funnel, living up to your word is one of the best first impressions you can make.

All screenshots were taken by the author on May 7, 2012.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Search & Conversion

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About The Author: is the president and CTO of ion interactive, a leading provider of landing page management and conversion optimization software. He also writes a blog on marketing technology, Chief Marketing Technologist. Follow him on twitter via @chiefmartec.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter



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