SaaS Landing Page Redesign: From Cosmetic Changes to a New Philosophy of Marketing
Written by Benjamin Carr. Benjamin has been working on Complice with Malcolm since late 2016. Check out Complice’s Team Page to learn more about him, as well as the history of his and Malcolm’s working relationship.
I’ve been looking forward to running a series of Complice promotional projects for several months (surprise, this post is one of them). A point on the critical path to doing so has been increasing the conversion rate of Complice’s landing page, in the spirit of “patching the leaky bucket before throwing more water in”.
In May I consulted with a close friend, Johnson, who used to run a business designing landing pages. I asked him for advice on “low-hanging-fruit” to improve our homepage’s performance. I found myself surprised and begrudgingly amused when Johnson responded by saying “Benjamin, the lowest-hanging-fruit for you guys is to re-write your entire copy”.
At the time our landing page was pretty feature heavy — it aimed at giving viewers a good sense of how Complice worked. Johnson’s position was that cosmetic changes would actually be less effective from a cost/benefit perspective, than taking the time to re-conceive the landing page around the particular problems that Complice solves for a particular target audience.
After digesting the feedback, Malcolm and I decided to go for it. Johnson had said to “do an offsite”, which given the size of our team meant spending a day working at a friend’s house instead of our own home office, That was the kick off, after which we spent much of the next month working our way through the following process (not always totally in order).
Our SaaS landing page redesign process
1. User Research
Complice has a lot of features, and there are different ways those features can be incorporated into a user’s workflow. This means there are multiple unique ways that a user can use Complice and derive value from it.
Despite this leading to some benefits (it allows us to cater to a wide audience and it allows users to pick and choose the features they want to use), it also leads to some challenges. From the point of view of our landing page, one of those challenges is that products marketed as being “many things to many people” may lack enough coherence for any single group of viewers to be truly compelling.
A question we never quite voiced but that I believe played a role in the background of our thinking and decision making, was “is there a subset of existing users, who use and receive value from Complice in a common way, that are likely to represent a target audience of prospective future users?” If we could identify this group it would form a compelling basis for our marketing efforts (and possibly for future product development).
Guided by the tacit sense that this group might exist, one of the first steps we took was to reach out to users, asking the three following questions:
- What sort of productivity system did you use before Complice?
- Were there any particular problems you had with it that motivated you to try Complice?
- How did Complice address those problems for you?
We found this series of questions to work well together. Apart from generating useful information on competitors, the first question got users thinking concretely about their past selves. This was a useful context for the second question that asked them to think specifically about real dissatisfactions they had which contributed to their willingness to try Complice. The third question validated which of those problems Complice actually has been effective at solving. We found that customized follow-up questions helped us dig deeper into precisely how Complice has been effective at solving those problems.
2. User Personas
It was actually prior to any user research that we began to hypothesize about personas that might represent our target market. The first hypothesis we generated was that our target market consists of people who replaced their former productivity systems with Complice because the previous systems did not work well for them (recovering GTD users, you know who you are).
As users started responding to the questions we sent out, we were able to use their responses to evaluate the hypothesis. What we found was that while Complice fills gaps that other products miss, many users actively maintain other productivity tools that they use Complice in conjunction with, rather than in replacement of.
Excited about having debunked our first hypothesis (it was a sign that our process was doing something right), we went back to the drawing board and came up with two new hypothesis personas, similar to the first but this time with some lifelike descriptions.
The first persona was named Barry. Barry’s main problem was an over-abundance of meaning in his life. He had so many important things going on at once that it left him burnt out and under-performing. He needed strategies, not just for juggling his priorities more efficiently but for making more effective decisions about what was and was not worth doing.
Our second persona was named Carla, who had the reciprocal problem to Barry — a scarcity of meaning. Carla had a university education, a job that paid the bills and some friends she saw on the weekend, but she didn’t have a an experience of being aligned towards some purpose or feeling fulfilled.
As with our first hypothesis, we evaluated each persona with respect to user responses to our previous questions. This time, both personas seemed to be commonly reflected in the responses. Carla was the most common, so she became the archetype for our new target market!
Beyond serving as a validity test, this matching process provided real world data that we used to further develop the persona. Carla became an Effective Altruist named Cameron, equipped with a full set of demographic and psychographic characteristics, goals, challenges, and a few other relevant categories of information that we adapted from a template found in this HubSpot post about personas. As much as possible we based each section on the data we collected, and in some cases sections were filled entirely with user quotes.
3. Marketing Framework
Next came developing a high level marketing framework that would support the re-writing of our website copy. We used a template from this Pardot blog post to create a messaging framework for Complice. One element in particular that both Malcolm and I really love is our Mission Statement which reads:
Our Mission is to Bring Goals to Life.
Part of why we find it compelling is its dual meaning. Our mission is to help users achieve their goals, and our mission is also to help users live a more goal directed life, and this mission statement elegantly captures both aspirations.
Another element of the marketing framework that proved to be fundamental for us was the development of Brand Pillars. Brand Pillars represent a product’s most important selling point: the key benefit that a user receives in using a product. Developing Brand Pillars directly informed the writing of some of the trickiest aspects of our landing page (more to come on this below).
In our case, we developed the following three Brand Pillars as responses to Cameron’s main pain points (after all, what better reason could there be to justify these being Complice’s key benefits?). These are three things we are claiming users receive in using Complice:
Alignment: Achieve coherence with and between your goals
Power: Have the capacity to manifest your intentions and shape the future
Satisfaction: Feel good about yourself and your productivity
4. Competitor Analysis
One of the last things we did before moving on to a conceptual re-design of our landing page was to check out a bunch of our competitor’s landing pages. This did two things for us.
First, it gave us a high level sense of how these landing pages were structured, how much text was used, how features were described, what kind of language and tone of voice was used, and what the pages looked like. It was actually quite striking how similar many of these landing pages were.
Second, it allowed us to analyze the language used in these landing pages to determine what claims each product was making about itself. This allowed us to develop a basic understanding of the competitive landscape around us, and importantly to locate gaps in that landscape.
For example, while almost all our competitors talked about being compatible for teams and being accessible from any device, three or fewer mentioned benefits such as social accountability, providing reports over time, or enabling users to start fresh every day. These benefits, which Complice provides, could be used to strategically position Complice with respect to related products.
5. Design and Feedback
We now had three relevant lenses to inform the design of our homepage: Our user persona Cameron with lifelike problems based on user data who depicted the target audience we wanted to pitch to, three Brand Pillars describing core selling points for that target audience, and a rudimentary map of the competitive landscape that highlighted how to differentiate Complice from related products.
From here we began an iterative process to design and develop the structure, content and visual experience of the homepage. The first iteration was a mock-up with a picture we drew on Malcolm’s whiteboard and some text written in a Word document.
Each iteration pushed the product forward enough for us to collect feedback that informed the next iteration. We consulted with friends, users, advisors, and a local designer we know named Val who we paid for an hour of consultation on our visual design. As we went further, I learned some basic Adobe Illustrator to create vector art for the page, while Malcolm began development based on the designs we came up with.
At the end of June we launched a demo of the site. The major sentiment we got back was that people really loved what we had created. Some of the (most positive) responses we got were:
- “This is at least 10x as good as the old one… I care about the things you say you are solving”
- ”[The final Call To Action] is like a whole new way of thinking of customer onboarding — getting the person to keep interacting in a way that is similar to how they’d actually use your program … It makes me want to use Complice”
- “The color palette is perfect, the color contrast is perfect, and the sizes of all the text and buttons are perfect…Overall this is one of the best landing pages I’ve ever seen”
We’ve just finished implementing improvements from that round of feedback, and the site is now live. You can check it out here.
Landing page highlights
Malcolm and I are going to write about the contents of the landing page over the next couple weeks. For now I’ll offer a few high level comments about it below.
Opening header + paragraph (the first text you see when you land on the page):
One of the organizing principles we followed was that we wanted any viewer who looks at this section, even if just for a few seconds, to come away with a reliable understanding of what Complice is offering. That meant that what we put here had to be simple and easily relatable. One tactic we used was to compare Complice to something that most visitors already have a notion of — a life coach.
This comparison makes it easy for people to get a quick sense of what Complice is and also what it is not. For example, we’ve found that it decreases the likelihood that people assume Complice is a typical to-do app or some other GTD based product.
Opening graphic (the first picture you see when you land on the page):
We came up with a neat 3-stage graphic that conveys the high level workflow of Complice. Each stage is representative of one of our Brand Pillars (Clarify your goals = Alignment, Take meaningful actions = Power, See your progress = Satisfaction). We then broke apart and re-purposed individual elements of the graphic to create playful yet meaningful iconography that shows up as wallpaper in later parts of the homepage.
Features / Benefits:
Johnson gave us a powerful concept called progressive disclosure to help think about how to frame our features. The idea is that you want to highlight a small number of your “killer features” that are really easy to understand and that clearly convey the central value your product offers. Ideally, the majority of your users should be willing to buy your product based on those features alone. Afterwards, you can advertise other features as add-ons that bring even more value.
We ran with this idea and distilled three features representing Complice’s core functionality that did a surprisingly good job of reflecting Cameron’s main pain points, aligning with our three Brand Pillars, and differentiating Complice from related products.
Another crucial insight Johnson shared with us was to reframe our features as the benefit the user receives from that feature. So for example, our Goal-Creation Wizard (feature) became “Crystal Clear Goals”, which conveys the concrete outcome the user receives from using the feature. We then used the sub-text of each section as well as an associated screenshot of the product to clarify the function of the feature (how it works) and what the user does.
We actually took this one step further, and positioned each benefit in contrast to one particular pain point of Cameron’s. The idea behind this is that viewers who share these pain points will be reminded of them first, which will create a more compelling personal context for considering the value of the benefit that we are claiming we can provide.
The previous testimonials struck Johnson as having been geared more towards investors than users — they were all saying something to the effect of “Complice is such a great system!” With the redesign, we focused on using the testimonials to communicate to visitors concrete outcomes that users have achieved with Complice. Essentially saying “people like you use Complice and this is the impact it has had on their lives”. We also got photos of many of the users we were quoting, to increase the sense of personality.
Final Call To Action (CTA):
We developed a CTA at the end of our landing page that tries to create value for visitors even if they don’t sign up for Complice. The written copy prompts the visitor to reflect on what is important to them in their life and whether they have the tools they need to achieve their goals. Depending on their response, the visitor can click on any of three buttons, each leading to a simple activity or next step that supports that particular answer.
One of the organizing principles for the visual design was to ask what purpose any individual element served, and if it served none than to default towards removing it. This kept the page clean. Otherwise we tried to use intentional points of contrast, to use colours that worked well together, and to be intentional about things like font hierarchies and consistent spacing.
Beyond the numbers: what we gained from redesigning our landing page
After about two weeks of A/B testing the new landing page against the old, it seems to convert about equally as well. The amount of data we’ve collected is far from statistically significant, but if nothing else the result points at the possibility that despite the positive feedback we’ve received and how well we like what we have created, the new landing page could perform the same or even worse than the old one. We will have to continue monitoring and iterating on it to get it to where we want it to be.
The reason we are not too worried about this is because we see a lot of value in the assets we developed through the research process.
On an object level, the user research, user persona, brand pillars and competitive analysis can all be built upon and improved to inform future iterations of the landing page.
On a structural level, the understanding we have developed of the relationship between these key pieces and the methodology for developing them represents an organizational capability that Complice (as manifested through Malcolm, myself, and artifacts of organizational memory like this blog post) has developed through this process.
From a marketing perspective this means that from now on the narrative we tell about Complice and the way we present it conceptually will match our best theories about our target market and our competitor landscape. Beyond marketing, these theories should form the basis for how we go about product development in the future.