Why you should banish landing pages from your customer-centric website

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright January 8, 2020
Today's informed B2B buyers map their own customer journeys. Landing pages are an anachronism in a customer-centric website

Wooden toy helicopter on book landing page © smolaw - shutterstock

Digital connection is upending traditional sales processes. This unprecedented feedback channel has fundamentally changed the relationship between buyers and sellers to one of continuous engagement, monitoring and iterative improvement. As the transactional sales model of that old disconnected world gives way to this new landscape, many practices that used to make perfect sense have now become obsolete, no longer fit for purpose. One of these is the website landing page.

I suddenly realized this a couple of days ago thanks to an unsatisfactory encounter with my telecoms provider's website in the midst of thinking about diginomica's strategy for building our subscriber base. My colleague Jon Reed, who's our go-to expert on these matters, had circulated a discussion document which includes definitions of the various tools we might consider. Here's his definition of the website landing page:

Landing page — This term is most often used by marketers to describe a simplified page focusing the reader on a call-to-action. Often, these pages are campaign specific (or white paper specific, or webinar-specific, etc). Here is a page with some further clarifications and examples. These pages often DON’T contain the main web site navigation options as they are focused on a call to action. Typically readers are directed to these pages via email and social media campaigns, or from a topical resource page on the web site itself.

This is a description of a mechanism that's solely focused on closing a transaction. No navigation? How is that supposed to engage me in what you have to offer? It's so far on the opposite side of customer-centric, it tells me you're only interested in what serves your goals as a vendor. I clicked on this link as I was exploring your website, and suddenly you give me no route back or forward, unless I follow the one-directional customer journey you've mapped out for me. It's centered on the transaction, not the customer.

Informed B2B buyers map their own journey

This is not how you entice today's B2B buyers, who want to be in control of their own buying journey, not subservient to the one that leads exclusively to your product. Here again, Jon's expertise on the informed B2B buyer is invaluable:

Many also question whether a sales funnel is even a useful model at this point — given how buyers can jump in and out of a purchasing process for any number of reasons.

The so-called 'buyer's journey' looks more like a map of a dog running through a park than a linear path.

We've designed diginomica to be the go-to website for such buyers in the sphere of digital enterprise and change. In our discussions of how we do a better job of connecting them to content of interest, we've glibly used the term landing page when what we probably mean is better expressed by the term 'arrival page' or 'resource page'. People come to our site on a journey of discovery and we want to give them maximum choice in how they engage with us. It would be incompatible with this philosophy for us to suddenly start sending them down a one-way funnel with no exit routes.

Trouble is, landing pages are one of those tools that everyone uses because that's what everyone else has always done. All of the mainstream mailing list signup and management tools are designed around landing pages, and all the website analytics engines have copious support for landing pages. Never mind that the market has moved on. If you want to cater to today's more self-directed buyer, you have to invent your own tools because everything that's available off-the-shelf is built around doing it the old way — which is now the wrong way.

My BT personalized buying experience

Which brings me to my experience with BT earlier this week when my son mentioned he's nearly used up all his monthly data allowance already and would I mind upgrading his mobile plan? At first sight, the BT website is actually quite sophisticated in how it personalizes its offers to match your current subscriber status. But the only way to check out what's available is to open an order. It's the same principle as the landing page — the only customer journey BT has mapped out is the one that leads to a transaction.

So I went through the order process to look at the various offers and finally selected one that looked like the best value for what we needed — only to find that I wasn't entitled to that offer because I'm on the wrong plan. So much for personalization. The customer journey BT had mapped for me was not only one-way, it led to a dead end.

So now someone at BT is wondering why I abandoned their funnel without making a purchase, just the same way as airline and travel sites always force you to start a booking just to find out the price and availability of a trip you're planning. You know they have so many abandoned orders? It's not because they failed to sell, it's because they failed to serve.

My take

Around this time, a pertinent post by SalesTribe CEO Graham Hawkins and author of The Future of the Sales Profession popped up on my LinkedIn feed:

[Sales leaders] are simply blinded in their myopic race towards revenue and quota attainment that they have completely missed how the cloud has transferred ALL of the power to buyers.

Back in the bad old days when no one had a choice and information was hard to find, people put up with one-way landing pages and customer journeys because there was no other way to find out what they needed to know. Businesses could get away with offering everyone the same packaged journey because customers didn't have any other options. Now the tables are turned and buyers design their own journeys. Businesses websites must engage with those journeys. In this new customer-centric world, there's no place for transaction-centric landing pages.

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