The top U.S. candidates for president offer interesting case studies in how to convert web visitors to buyers (or voters). Many marketers advertise online, but then make mistakes in the first web page that consumers see. Do you have a lead form? If you do, are you asking for too much information, or too little?
We scanned the PPC campaigns on Google for Hillary, Edwards, Obama, McCain, Rudy and Romney, who spend millions on internet marketing, and the results are in. Best-in-class web design seems to be four simple lead data fields: first name, last name, email, and ZIP Code. Here’s how the candidates shake out.
Prize for leanest lead form: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, tied. Both ask for just first and last name, email address, and ZIP (presumably so they know when to pester you as your state’s primary comes up on the calendar). Barack gets points off for forcing you to fill in information before hitting his web content; Hillary kindly lets you skip the form if you’re just a Republican doing enemy reconn. Also, Hillary uses the much more understandable “submit” button vs. Barack’s “join us” button. Clarity is so important to encourage action on the web, while obscuring the call to action with copy like “join us” may depress response. If you don’t believe us, CLICK HERE.
Prize for the best one-two punch: John McCain. McCain’s site asks for just your email (top right), but is followed by a second page asking you to complete 39 data fields. Talk about aggressive — he wants your street address and if you’re interested in a religious affinity group. We’d donate, but our fingers are scared.
Prize for cleverest friend-get-a-friend: John Edwards. Edwards asks just for your email and ZIP, but — aha, the catch! — then when you hit his site, he also asks you for the names of your friends and their emails. This is a clever tactic overlooked by many marketers. Hey, if we’re divulging our personal information, what the hell, let’s turn in our friends, too.
Price for most confusing web lead form: Rudy Giuliani. Hit Rudy’s page, and you get three choices; you can join, you can donate, or you can subscribe. We’re not sure what the difference is between joining and subscribing, so hit the back button.
Prize for ignoring potential voters and donors: Mitt Romney. You’d think a former BCG and Bain consultant would know better, but Mitt’s web site gives it all away for free without even trying to identify you. Strategic? Or skipped opportunity? Mitt does get points for tailoring the home page to the current state holding a primary. Points off for more obscure button terminology like “join team Mitt” and “Florida HQ.” We have no idea what those mean, so we ain’t clicking there. Web lead forms are buried inside, and Mitt will take credit card numbers, too.
Prize for most personal response: The new Middle East policy blog from U.S. President George W. Bush. He’s not running for a new term, and we’re not sure he really wrote these answers. But the vibe is so personal, we have to give W. some credit. As George says, it’s been a long trip, but we’re gonna miss his charm.