...and how you can avoid them.
As a content marketer and copywriter for B2B SaaS for the past five years, I’ve done free home page reviews for dozens of startups. For the most part, the founders who request reviews have launched their products, have found some traction with customers through sales-led outreach, and now need to start attracting and converting inbound leads in order to grow revenue and scale their business.
There’s only one problem: their websites are woefully ill-equipped to deliver the level of value the average inbound website visitor seeks when considering a SaaS product.
Although their sales teams have had substantial success signing up new customers after giving demos, most of the founders tell me they’ve rarely — if ever — given a demo to someone who found their website from a search engine, let alone earned paid business from a website visitor.
So where are their websites, and specifically, their home pages missing the mark? And how can they improve their web copy for the biggest increase in conversions?
If you’re in the messy middle of scaling your website from outbound-only SaaS sales to an inbound lead generation machine, let’s take a look at some of the most common conversion-killing missteps I’ve noticed, and what I recommend you do instead:
Conversion Killer #1: Pitching what a product is, not the payoff it provides
When a SaaS company is just starting up, most founders still have their fundraising hats on. They’re used to walking into VC meetings and jumping right into their elevator speech, which goes something like this:
“Product X is a buzzword, buzzword solution that does X using buzzword.”
Which may be well and good for telling a VC who you are and what you do, but for web copy designed to convince your target customer that your product will solve the exact problem that they’re experiencing? Not so much.
Here’s an example of a section of a SaaS homepage I reviewed that speaks the language of tech insider VCs, not customers (note: all company names have been removed to protect the misguided):
"Leverage VoiceAI and accelerate business insights discovery from all enterprise dashboards"
The above value prop sounds like it was written by a robot for other robots (just read that aloud in a Dalek voice). Plus, the message doesn’t make it clear who this product is for, what problem it helps to solve, and what outcomes they can accomplish by using it.
So how can we change the value proposition so that it speaks to the needs of the user in a meaningful human way?
When it comes to copywriting, pain is your friend.
Talk about what your product does to eliminate pain.
“All human behavior, even the itch of desire to do something pleasurable, is in fact prompted by pain. It’s called the homeostatic response,” Eyal says in his most recent post for his Medium publication
, The Psychology of Stuff. “When we feel lonely, bored, or uncertain, we act to relieve our emotional disquietude. We might see a friend to relieve loneliness, or watch a show on television when we’re bored. We may look up something online to satisfy our uncertainty — all because we seek to escape these uncomfortable sensations.”
As a copywriter, I apply this homeostatic response principle to my work with a simple copywriting formula created by the OG of direct response copy, Dan Kennedy. It’s known as “Problem-Agitation-Solution” or “PAS.”
Here’s how PAS works:
1. Problem- Describe the core problem that causes emotional or physical discomfort in your prospect.
2. Agitation - Describe what is at stake to stir up emotions and further agitate the state of discomfort.
3. Solution - Promise comfort by offering a solution.
Let’s take a look at a section of copy I wrote for a client that uses the PAS formula:
1. Problem- “Tired of tracking inbound shipments and purchase orders?”
2. Agitation- “You could be leaving money on the table”
3. Solution- “Recover a pile of unclaimed reimbursement dollars in a matter of minutes…”
Another copywriting technique that empathizes with your prospect’s pain is called “The 4 Ps” and is credited to Henry Hoke Sr
. (a hat-tip to Joanna Weibe at Copy Hackers
, where you can find every copywriting formula ever).
The 4 Ps:
1. Picture – Create a vivid scene that prospects can easily put themselves in, whether about an existing pain or an aspirational future
2. Promise – State how your solution will end that painful scene or bring that aspirational scene to life for them
3. Prove – Support your promise! What are the consequences if you fail to do as promised? Who else has already seen you keep your promise, and how? What can you demonstrate to skeptics that your solution is easily going to ensure the promise is kept?
4. Push – Nudge the prospect to take action
For example, on the sales page for a mastermind program for SaaS founders, I paint a picture of what it's like to struggle in the early days, before finding product-market fit:
After agitating the problem further...
I present the "Promise":
And then Prove it by sharing testimonials from people who worked with us:
Finally, the Push to take action (demonstrating the value of the expertise and how much the prospect will save):
Copy trick: Pain vs Cure
1. Draw a table with two columns.
2. In the right column, list words describing your customer pain and how it makes them feel (better yet, source these words directly from customer interviews).
3. In the left column, list the opposites of each word from the right column.
4. Brainstorm with writing value propositions that use words from both columns.
Conversion Killer #2: Talking to “anyone” = talking to the wrong prospects
The very first question someone asks when landing on a website, regardless of the product or service, is: “Is this for me?”
For example, “I’m a one-person marketing department struggling with balancing my time and organizing my tasks. Is CoSchedule for me?
After taking a look at the messaging in the hero section and scrolling down the page you see that it’s addressed to people who work on teams, not solo marketers. So you navigate away in search of a product better suited to your needs.
Does that mean CoSchedule lost a potential sale? Well, yes.
But...it also means they turned away a poor-fit customer who had a high likelihood of churning after the free trial.
This is why specificity in your targeting is important: it not only makes your messaging more relevant to the customers who will ignite your SaaS growth over time, it shows poor-fit customers the door before they have a chance to add to your churn rate.
Here’s a home page I reviewed that looks like a great promise...but I’m not sure who the promise is for:
When you scroll further down to their use cases, you see that the tool is for customer support and sales teams.
And further down the page, you see that they have pricing plans for teams of all sizes.
But where is the sweet spot? What kinds of companies have benefited from using this product? Does this product deliver better results for one kind of industry over others? If this product is best for SMBs, what specific pain does it solve for me, as a small business owner, better than other products designed for enterprise-level companies?
How to make your home page messaging specific to your target customer
First of all, if you are an early-stage B2B SaaS startup and you’re trying to be all things to all customers, you will inevitably fail. If you’re marketing to more than one customer segment at this point in your business growth, there’s a good chance you haven’t found product-market fit yet. And finding product-market fit takes time, experimentation, and high-quality customer feedback.
And that’s a whole article unto itself. In fact, Hotjar has a brilliant guide
to growing your early-stage B2B SaaS and finding a product-market fit.
Assuming that you’ve discovered the segment of enthusiastic customers that add the most revenue to your bottom line, here’s how to attract more of their kind:
1. Collect social proof from people who represent your target segment
Start screen-grabbing praise, reviews, and testimonials from customers who fit your ideal customer persona. Be sure to include their role and company name so prospects can see that your product has helped people in similar positions.
2. Be explicitly clear who your product is for in your hero section
Does your product solve a problem unique to enterprise IT managers running teams of 20 or more? Go ahead - say so in the very first section your prospect will see upon landing on your home page. Don’t be afraid to turn that elementary school IT director away. They wouldn’t stick with your product anyway.
3. Use the customer’s own language to talk about their pains
Confession: as a copywriter, I rarely come up with my own cleverly-turned phrase. My go-to tools for finding the perfect words aren’t a dictionary and a thesaurus–they’re Zoom interview transcriptions and screengrabs of Facebook group conversations. For the above home page copy for a client, I cribbed messaging directly from the mouths of customers I interviewed for my client’s website rewrite. Why? Because nothing that I could come up with could possibly be more relevant and meaningful to my client’s audience than the people who have actually been in their shoes.
Conversion Killer #3- A Call To Action To Nowhere
Whether the goal of your home page is to get your visitors to start a free trial, schedule a 1-to-1 demo, or download a whitepaper, slapping a big, colorful button with “START/SCHEDULE/DOWNLOAD NOW” in all caps just isn’t enough.
It’s like asking someone to step through an elevator door without knowing whether it will take them up or down or if there’s even an elevator waiting for them.
The above is a call to action section on a homepage I reviewed.
I have questions.
Questions like, what kind of “experience” will I be signing up for? How long will this “experience” last? How do I know the “experience” has started and will it wear off gradually or end suddenly? Will I be permanently altered as a result of this “experience”? Are there any side effects I should know about?
Okay, so clearly this SaaS needs to get way more specific about their offer. Here are some questions you can ask as you develop messaging for your call-to-action:
- What specific symptom of the overall problem will your lead generation tool help solve for your customer?
- What level of success can your prospect expect to achieve after the end of their free trial or after reading your whitepaper?
- How long will it take for your prospect to begin to see a difference?
- What information will your prospect need to give in order to get started?
Above is a free trial offer I developed for a client simply by:
- Talking with paid customers and discovering what about their trial experience caused them to stick – as opposed to tire-kick.
- Talking with non-customers to discover one of their biggest hurdles to overcome when it comes successfully solving the problem my client’s product was designed for.
Bring Conversions To Life With On-Point SaaS Home Page Messaging
- Tracking website user behavior with tools like heatmaps
- Matching your messaging to your customer’s journey
- Developing an authentic brand voice
- Finding the right positioning within your industry with perception mapping
- Experimenting with variants to discover the winning version
But fundamentally, the big three conversion-killers I discussed are what I come across time and again. The above factors are just more tools to solve and avoid those problems.
With a few simple adjustments to how you empathize and reflect your customer’s pain, whom you target the website messaging to, and how you position your lead generation offer, you will see a dramatic shift in the quantity and quality of leads you produce.