The essence of conversion content marketing, taking lessons from content marketing and applying them in conversion optimization, and vice versa— is that content is king. The call-to-action, which is often glorified in conversion circles, is certainly important. But frankly, it’s not as important as the content for which that call-to-action is associated.
Similarly, although testing is crucial (motto: “always be testing”), the quality of the underlying experience is paramount. Testing a crapshoot of different headlines on a mediocre page rarely produces breakthrough results.
Cisco Nails Conversion Content Marketing
So what does a great, content-driven experience built for conversion look like? Here’s an example by Cisco, promoting their Umi home videoconferencing system:
The first thing we note is that this is a microsite. It’s not merely a landing page. It is loosely connected to Cisco’s primary website—this actually lives under the home.cisco.com domain, and there’s a navigation “escape hatch” at the top to link to other Cisco products for the home. But below that narrow blue bar at the top, everything is focused on Umi. All the navigation within the gray “body” of the page links to additional Umi content.
From a user experience perspective, it is a stand-alone property. And that’s important here because people interested in Umi—a high-definition video conference system that hooks up to your TV and broadband Internet connection, for spread out families and long distance relationships—are intrigued by a very specific solution.
They’re probably not weighing a decision, “Should I buy this or maybe check out a new firewall?” So Cisco has eliminated almost all non-Umi distractions.
The next thing to note: this is a beautifully designed experience. I’ve written before that compelling design is not formulaic. Nothing about this microsite is “cookie cutter.”
The layout is clean and professional, but not sparse; this is not a Google-esque minimalist aesthetic. The heart of this first page is communicated primarily by images, which are warm, attractive and well-integrated. No overused stock photography.
When you’re using design and imagery as a means of communication (not merely a pretty picture, but an integral part of your brand and your offer) then it truly becomes content. And, as most content marketers will tell you, quality matters.
You need quality content to engage your visitors and convince them of your commitment and credibility. If that content is visual in nature, the rule still applies.
Microsites Enable Depth Of Content
However, great content takes more than quality. It usually requires appropriate depth as well. If this first page of the Umi microsite was all there was (as beautiful as it is) it would be insufficient. Because the moment someone becomes intrigued by the Umi proposition, they invariably have a number of questions:
- What’s involved in setting this up?
- Will it work with my TV and Internet connection?
- Is this too technical for me (or the grandparents)?
- Is it really all that much better than Skype?
Rather than try to squeeze everything into a single page, Cisco used the structural flexibility and virtual space of a microsite to give each of those questions a clear, rich, meaningful answer.
As visitors navigate through the half dozen or so main pages, they choose what’s most important to them in the order they want. For instance, they have a great “what you need” page that lets you test your broadband connection and a “see it live” page to find a store where you can try it out in person.
I love the video they put together on the “what you need” page:
Between this video, the easy walk-through steps at the bottom of the page, and the a complete section on FAQs on the “Umi support” page, there are three different ways of helping people answer their questions.
Another example of utilizing the virtual space a microsite affords them is with the incorporation of social proof.
To be sure, the first page of the microsite emphasizes its connections to Best Buy and The Oprah Winfrey Show. But rather than settle for a couple of logos —as many conversion optimization projects do — Cisco built an entire “buzz” page in the microsite navigation:
This lets people browse through recent news stories by USA Today and Engadget, peruse the latest commentary from people on Twitter and Facebook, and read blog posts from actual users. Now that’s social proof.
Ask For The Order, But Don’t Scream For It
As a conversion scientist, one of my favorite aspects of this microsite (ironically) is the subtlety of the call-to-action. The green “Buy Now” button in the upper right corner is easy to perceive, thanks to some smart design decisions, but it doesn’t dominate the experience. It’s the antithesis of the “make the call-to-action bigger” school of conversion optimization.
Although I am not privy to Cisco’s performance with this microsite, I will offer a hypothesis as to why I think that works, because there’s a broader lesson here.
I bet that very, very few people who go to this microsite convert on their first visit. Why? Because they have to answer the questions we considered above.
Cisco provides terrific content to answer those questions, but most people are likely to reflect a bit before making this kind of buying decision. (Hence why these things are called “considered purchases.”)
More importantly, since it takes two to tango—er, videoconference—prospects have to convince at least one other person in their circle of family and friends to agree to do this as well.
But that’s okay.
Cisco gives their audience the content they need to reach their decision, and they’re patient and respectful for the natural time required for that decision to be reached. They don’t push for the sale with a big, garish call-to-action. That would almost certainly turn people off in this scenario. Instead, they persuade with wonderful content and then make the “Buy Now” button readily available.
So did Cisco invest some real time and money into this experience? No doubt. But probably not excessively so. Although high quality, it’s still of modest size (as microsites tend to be). This kind of conversion-oriented content marketing is certainly within reach of most marketers who are selling considered purchase products and services.
Interested the presentation in which this example was included? You can view it on Slideshare. (Thanks to Jessica Collier for pointing me to the Cisco Umi site. We have no affiliation with Cisco or this microsite.)
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.