Structuring your product pages with the customer in mind
by Hallie Janssen
I recently went shopping for an updated time tracking and project management solution for our agency, and as you can imagine, I’m a tough customer. If I can’t find what I’m looking for on the product page, I might not go a step further to contact the company for more information. The product page tells me a lot about how the company will treat me once I’m a customer. Do they have a solid implementation process? Do they have responsive technical support? Do they have intuitive documentation? The following article details what an ideal product page should look like in order to close the sale.
Getting It Right
Let’s assume I can find the desired product page from the home page. You might think this is a no-brainer, but many of the sites I visited misdirected me. For example, eProject’sproduct navigation from the home page refers to only the name of their product, the PPM6. When I first started my research, I had no idea what the PPM6 was and spent way too much time trying to figure out if I needed the PPM6 or the PMexpress. An average visitor probably would have left to visit a competitor’s site at that point.
I decided to spend a little extra time on the site and figured out what I would have changed based on my experience. In general, the body text should highlight general product features and benefits, which should then be hyperlinked to more information per feature and benefit. For an example of how to do it right, see AutoTask’s website, which has dedicated pages for each feature.
In addition, eProject’s product page should navigate me to an industry or application-specific product page, in this case, a marketing agency. Creative Manager Pro (CMP) does this well even though its software is designed for ad agencies. CMP goes a step further and segments prospects based on ad agency type. They have product pages for design firms and ad agencies, creative services firms, and marketing and communication departments, and in-house creative departments. Talk about feeling special.
The product page should also have a clear call-to-action or actions. What is it that you want me to do? What is the best way to learn more about your product? Options might include: downloading a whitepaper, signing up for a newsletter or webinar, watching a video, listening to a podcast, filling out an optimized contact us form, or simply picking up the phone to call the sales team. Don’t guess the best way to capture and qualify leads, conduct research to determine which method has or will close the most sales.
Beyond the cliché screenshot of a product dashboard, the image gallery should also include multiple product screenshots. The product shots should illustrate every major aspect of the product. I’m not going to pick up the phone based on one screenshot, but if you give me shots of all the features, that might push me over the edge. The images should also be easy to see with the ability to enlarge. Too many image galleries include unreadable product screenshots.
Aside from viewing static shots of the product, I’d also like to take a demo. Three common types of demo options are an online flash demo, a fully interactive online demo, and a free trial. The online flash demo was my first interaction with the products in most cases. Many of the vendors had professional flash demos that included a narrator as a guide. Once I sent them more information about myself and the company, a few vendors opened up their demo test sites. Creative Manager Pro has a great interactive online demo and one that I went back to many times. This approach provided me instant gratification and saved my sales rep from many obvious questions. The third option is offering a free trial. Timeslips has a free trial which allowed me to test drive and hammer through the product using my own company information.
The Side Bar
Many websites ignore this very important area of the product page. Companies get too fixated on the product page copy and forget there’s a whole other section that can call out and highlight crucial information. Typically found on the right side of the page in a vertical callout box, the sidebar can contain links to key features, specifications, special offers, testimonials and case studies.
While I didn’t find myself needing to reference a glossary, it may have been helpful for less technical visitors. Anvil Media is in an industry built on acronyms, so we’ve included a search engine marketing glossary to help prospects and clients understand our vocabulary. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) can easily and effectively address a variety of common questions and objections to any product or service. Marketing Pilot has a good FAQ that answered many of my initial questions and prompted me to call for a demo.
A link to relevant resources such as whitepapers, podcasts, and online demos should also be included on the sidebar. Notice that I said “relevant” – these resources should be specific to what the product page is highlighting. I want to read whitepapers that reinforce what I just read about on that page. Additional resources include a customer list, testimonials, and case studies. eProject includes customer testimonial blurbs on each product page as well as a wonderful whitepaper section. It has a customer list that is broken down by verticals. eProject also listed all its whitepapers, including a short synopsis with PDF and HTML versions.
This next idea is a little controversial, but if you have the best product on the market why shouldn’t you include a link to a product comparison chart? Providing a direct feature comparison against competitive products builds trust (just ask Progressive Insurance). I wish just one of the sites I reviewed had said chart, as it would have saved me many hours creating my own product comparison matrix. To find an example for this article, I had to Google “product comparison chart” and find this chart.
Providing a partner list can be a crucial sidebar link. Who do you partner and integrate with? It was very important for our company to find a solution that would allow us to continue using QuickBooks. One such vendor dedicated a page to QuickBooks Integration.
The perfect product page sidebar wouldn’t be complete without links to product awards. Besides reading about how great your customers think you are who else says you are the best? Basecamp did this right and included a dedicated page called the buzz page that includes award logos and blurbs of praise. Standard Time had the right idea but came up short with their mention that ZDNet gave them 5 stars. 5 stars for what? I would have really liked a hyperlink to the review or an excerpt to reference.
The product page is much more than with a few paragraphs of sales copy. An optimized product page serves as your virtual sales assistant. It’s the first interaction you have with your potential customer and done correctly, perhaps the only interaction they need to make the purchase decision.