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Web Marketing Success in 3 Words: Keep your Promises

by Justin Palmer - January 26th, 2009

It’s staggering to consider how many marketing failures are the result of broken promises.

We rarely think of it this way, but every button, every subject line, every headline on our website is a promise. Whether or not that promise is kept determines whether we win the trust of our visitors, or lose them for good.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at a fictional shopping scenario, not unlike an experience that happened to me recently.

  1. Customer receives an email from electronics retailer with subject line “HDTV’s Starting at $700″
  2. Customer opens email and finds a graphic showing only 1 TV and no details. BROKEN PROMISE: Subject line promised an HDTV for $700, but email contains no support for this theme
  3. Customer clicks on Button that says “Shop HDTV’s”, and is taken to the website’s homepage, which differs completely in the look and feel of the email creative. BROKEN PROMISE: Button claimed to let visitors begin shopping the TV models, instead they’re left stranded on a seemingly unrelated page
  4. Visitor reaches HDTV category page displaying dozens of HDTV models. The $700 model is the last item on page 5. BROKEN PROMISE: This retailer made it very difficult find the $700 TV model promised in the subject line
  5. Once on product page, customer clicks “Add to Cart”
  6. Customer lands on a page upselling the extended warranty. BROKEN PROMISE: Customer received no confirmation that item has been added to cart

Here’s some other common examples of broken promises:

  • Homepage gets SEO’d for a specific product, and ranks. Yet when a Google searcher lands on this page, they must again navigate to a category page in order to find what they were searching for
  • Shopping Cart total changes when shipping & tax charges are added late in the checkout process
  • Item is shown to be out of stock after added to the shopping cart, yet product page did not indicate a stockout
  • Customer opt-ins to email list, and doesn’t receive follow up for weeks

Keeping your promises requires staying consistent. So what elements must be kept consistent in order to ensure a smooth transition from page to page? Here’s 4 to keep in mind:

  1. Consistent Design: Even the design of a web page makes a promise, that is, it implies a specific theme will be kept constant during the experience. Colors, graphics, fonts all need to stay constant in order to make the visitor feel safe and secure.
  2. Consistent Voice: Your visitors will notice, maybe subconsciously, if the writing style changes from page to page, or step to step. Keep it consistent by having one writer do everything.
  3. Consistent Messaging: Don’t call your promo a “48 Hour Closeout Sale” in your email and a “2 Day Clearance Event” on your landing page.
  4. Create Logical Flow: Create a logical flow by setting expectations for the next page. One way to do this is ensuring that the call to action text on first page equals header on the subsequent page. For example, if the button on your email reads “Compare HDTV’s”, the header of the landing page should read the same. This ensures continuity, lessening the chance that a visitor will feel they landed on the wrong page.

There’s a fine line between making big promises and setting the bar too high. Take a fresh look at your site today through the eyes of a promise maker. Are you keeping them?

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