Morningstar.com’s FundInvestor™ Sales Letter Landing Page Review

The Morningstar® FundInvestor™ landing page, when measured against our Landing Page best practices model, is ineffective and dysfunctional. This review is of one page on the MorningStar.com website, a link from the site’s homepage to the landing page for one of its many print newsletters.

In my opinion, commercial websites should use the “real estate” of their landing pages conservatively. When your strategic objective is to get the visitor to sign up for a free newsletter or a trial subscription, it is distracting to be confronted with rotating banner ads for other products. Landing pages need to be tightly focused on a single intention. This one is not.

Morningstar.com’s FundInvestor Landing Page Scorecard

1. Headline (Strategic Intent) – B

The headline calls attention to the product or service by name. But little else.

The headline “Review the next issue of Morningstar® FundInvestor™ absolutely risk-free” is an offer without a compelling reason to act. “Free” is always a powerful word in any headline, but “risk-free” is something else.

A powerful headline offers a promise. Example: “Try the Morningstar® FundInvestor™ for six full months, and if you’re not entirely satisfied, simply notify us by email and we’ll refund your entire subscription fee—no questions asked.” That’s more than a guarantee; it’s a promise.

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Instead, the Morningstar® FundInvestor™ immediately displays the prices for its “risk-free” product. It isn’t until much further down the landing page that the visitor finds the promise:

“If you’re not happy with it for any reason, you may cancel your subscription before you receive your second issue for a full refund. Also, if you continue your subscription and ever become unhappy with Morningstar® FundInvestor™, you may cancel any time. You’ll receive a full refund on the unused portion of your subscription.”

That’s a fair offer, but it’s too far away from the (not compelling) headline.

2. Story and Content – F

There is no story.

The reader requires a reason to take action. Even if he has already decided, for reasons he may not be conscious of, to buy the product, he needs to be reminded of the good reasons for his decision. Unconsciously, it’s a matter of acting congruently.

Buying decisions are largely emotional: we buy what we want, not necessarily what we need. Compelling reasons (rationalizations) provide the congruency required to justify an unconscious decision.

An engaging, believable story enhances this process immeasurably. This landing page has none.

3. Content Webification – D

There is no content webification.

There are no devices used to enhance the basic text message. However, there is an attempt to engage the visitor in a relationship with an appropriate interactive device. See Relationship Building below.

4. Email Capture (Relationship Building) – B

The order process for two of the three options displayed is interrupted with the offer of a periodic e-newsletter, and emails about new features, products and member benefits. Users chose their own username and password to register as a free member of the main website, Morningstar.com.

The timing of this offer in the order process is questionable. See Order Options below.

5. User Testimonials – F

There are no user testimonials on the landing page. In fact, we could not find subscriber testimonials on any page of the Morningstar.com site.

This site suffers from a lack of mouthwatering bullet points describing in the most tantalizing and specific terms what people will get from subscribing to its products. Subscriber testimonials would provide additional credibility. Unfortunately, neither are present.

6. Links to Order Flow – A

The landing page includes several well-designed buttons on the landing screen. See Order Options below.

7. Labeling and Language – A

The sales letter uses clear language and good grammar.

Unfortunately, it’s only 173 words long, including the headline and subheads. Not much of a “letter”. See #2 above.

8. Readability & Content Density – B

The typeface is familiar, comforting and easy to read online. The layout is uncluttered and easy to follow. The landing page makes adequate use of white space.

All of this is very nice except that the “letter” is otherwise ineffective. There is no compelling reason to take action.

This reminds me of working with an inexperienced marketing communications manager years ago. My company was doing the graphic design of his company’s new product brochure, but not the copywriting.

“Don’t worry, the copy is going to be great,” he explained. “The copywriter has a master’s degree in English.”

“Yes,” I thought, “but has she ever sold anything? Has she ever stood toe-to-toe, belt-buckle-to-belt-buckle, eyeball-to-eyeball across from somebody and actually sold anything to a prospective customer?”

Words move the brain. Good copywriting compels the reader to take action. Form follows function. Make up your own cliché.

9. Content Freshness & Urgency – D

This landing page is so tired it’s practically asleep. It’s comprised of three features and only one benefit.

There is no sense of urgency; no compelling call to action.

10. Load time – A

The landing page loads in under 15 seconds on a 56K Internet connection.

11. Aesthetics – A

It’s not unattractive, it’s simply ineffective.

12. Order Options – B

The landing page includes a toll-free number for phone orders.

An order form displays three delivery options and their prices. Chose one, click, and you’re whisked away to a shopping cart or registration page—the latter being a somewhat confusing interruption in the order flow that is bound to make some would-be customers abandon the process.

There is no printable form with which to fax an order and no option to contact a sales representative.

Conclusion

If you sell information products, whether in print or online, you’re in the direct response marketing business. It doesn’t matter what your product is, if you can’t describe its features and write glowingly about their benefits, you can’t sell it effectively.

I have no doubt that the Morningstar® FundInvestor™ is a quality publication—well-researched and written. But if I’m a serious investor, I have an almost unlimited number of investment publications from which to choose. The competition for my subscription dollar is intense.

If you’re going to convince me to try your newsletter, I need a lot of reasons. Reversing the risk of the subscription price by offering a money-back guarantee is fine. But it’s not nearly enough to convince me to risk an investment in my time.

What is your publication’s unique selling proposition? Why should I buy? What is your track record for recommending specific funds? What are your credentials? These are all questions from Introduction to Marketing 101.

The Morningstar® FundInvestor™ landing page doesn’t begin to address them.

Great products seldom stand on their own or sell themselves without someone creating an introduction or story, a thorough explanation and lots of hard-hitting sales points. A landing page and online order form must synopsize all these elements in a dynamic, persuasive summary that includes a forceful call to action.

The landing page for the Morningstar® FundInvestor™ does not.

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