Landing pages: Necessary web marketing tools or superflous customer annoyances?

I’ve been thinking a lot about landing pages lately. Specifically, I’m wondering if I could find some benefit from them.

It struck me today as I hurried to “continue to” that I’m not sure landing pages are all that different from those annoying, full page ads that block us from the content we’re trying to reach. (I know, I know … blasphemy.)

There are a number of cases that demonstrate how landing pages can serve as great tools to measure other online ads’ effectiveness. But do our customers and readers really want them? If I walk into a grocery store, does some junior cashier bound in front of me to pitch me on their discounts? “Hey man, I’m already here, settle down.”

Granted, if a visit comes from a click-through, the expectation to be sold to is already evident. I argue that the call to action has already succeeded: the user has clicked on your ad. From there, shouldn’t our existing Website content be strong enough to win a conversion?

Am I off the rails on this?

Don’t DIY your Website

I spent more than an hour on the phone with a good friend and colleague about his need to launch a marketing effort. I suggested his money would be best spent on a solid Web presence on which he could anchor other outreach efforts. He agreed. In principle.

Where our opinions diverted was in the execution. Smartly concerned with budget, his plan involved my guidance, an Odesk contractor and a former client that owed him some programming hours. Okay, a team effort. That can work sometimes.

It can also be slow, complicated and expensive. Here’s why:

Arranging multiple calendars for work sessions / deadlines / reviews / launch planning
Design and content feedback. More parties = more input = more time
More risk for misunderstanding of expectations re: time/cost/direction/roles

Multiple parties = more communication streams to manage
Varying opinions on additional services, like hosting, CMS, plugins, project management tools, etc.
Accountability. “Wait, I thought Ted was handling that … ?”

Cheaper upfront = more expensive in the long run
What happens when oDesk contractor is no longer on oDesk?
What happens to the budget when programmer runs out of his “owed” hours?

Our conversation came all the way around to why I paid a Web design firm to create my site even though I know enough to assemble a solid site using widely available templates and content management tools. This is what I told him:

Design firms dedicate hours/day to just your company’s site
Page mock-up feedback came from just me
I had a single source of contact

I had one designer/programmer focused on my site
My vendor had established, proven relationships with third-party services
A professional, credible company can be held accountable

Websites are a marketing investment: put your money in a proven vendor
I wanted to pay for a vendor’s specific specialty, instead of paying for what someone does part-time
Investment includes creative design experience and unique industry insight

I also explained that many of today’s Website services vendors create sites for much less than they did a few years ago. You can easily pay $50k for a site if that is what you need. If you need one for $3k, you can find someone who can design and help you run a highly functional and effective Website.

When it comes to creative services, especially Websites, don’t piecemeal it. Hire a proven vendor. When it launches and rocks your clients’ worlds, any trepidation you had about resources will vanish. Plus, your business will be better off for it because when you need a new Website, you can’t afford to not have new Website.

The purpose for re-purposing content

My last post mentioned the value in mining existing content to use in blogging and social media efforts. The value of this content marketing tactic became more clear to me during a conversation with a client about their pending Internet outreach plan. The client’s concern stemmed from an uncertainty in what we could provide to increase exposure. Rightly so, he didn’t just want to flood his audience with material that would fall flat.

The purpose for re-purposing existing content is not just to provide a stream of information to throw out to your audience—it’s so you don’t let valuable content go to waste. In many cases companies have valuable information for their customers and prospects that may not have been previously made available. There is certainly nothing wrong in repeating topics that make up your core competency. By all means, push what makes you special.

Remember that your audience is tuning in for a reason, something you have written/posted/tweeted about is worth a minute or two of their workday. That means it’s worth even more of yours to provide it for them.