It’s no secret that we at the Mequoda Group are big fans of the Motley Fools. In our Motley Fool Media Network Case Study, we chronicled the company’s admirable history from its humble beginnings as an America Online discussion forum in 1994. And we cited the Gardner brothers’ remarkable business model change in 2001 after the dot-com bust, which enabled the publishing company to rise like a phoenix to do $23 million in gross revenues in 2005.
Our Motley Fool Website Design Review gave them high marks in nearly every category, and we have mentioned the Motley Fool’s exemplary online business practices in numerous Mequoda Library books and articles.
The Motley Fools do a few things differently from most other publishers and do lot of them very well. You know you’re dealing with a hybrid publisher when its mission and values statement includes the words, educate, enrich and amuse. You don’t normally see the word amuse in somebody’s mission statement. And, of equal interest, under core values they include freedom to make mistakes.
– We find that many publishers use free content to largely just drive traffic to their website. Motley Fool is a great example.
– Motley Fool produces about 700 free articles a month and sends heavy syndication feeds to the major portals.
– That’s its single largest source of traffic to their website.
– When they get a prospective customer to their website, the Fools don’t just let you come there once and generate some traffic and maybe buy something or generate some ad impressions. They do their best to start a relationship.
– One key to converting casual visitors into paying customers is an effective sales letter landing page.
Let’s look at just one of the Fools’ seven landing pages and see how it measures up on the Mequoda Sales Letter Landing Page Scorecard.
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Motley Fool Stock Advisor Landing Page Scorecard
1. Headline (Strategic Intent) – D
The headline is practically nonexistent.
Amazingly, “Hello and welcome!” is the headline.
That’s about as lame an excuse for a landing page headline as I have seen since commercial websites started popping up back in 1995.
A sales letter landing page is an online advertisement, and an ad requires a headline. In fact, some marketing professionals consider the headline to be an advertisement for an advertisement. And every marketing pro I know would agree that a headline is the most important component of the ad… that the headline drives the reader to the first paragraph… that a mediocre headline will literally kill an ad’s effectiveness.
Just “Hello and welcome!”? There is no offer, no promise, no intrigue. Nothing compelling or motivating in any way. I’m stupefied!
The Motley Fool Stock Advisor is the publisher’s flagship print newsletter and it reflects the Gardners’ personal investment philosophy and advice. So it is especially disappointing that this landing page doesn’t engage the first-time visitor with a benefit-laden headline.
Fortunately, the sales process gets better—if the reader hasn’t clicked away yet out of sheer boredom.
2. Story & Content – A
The sales letter tells a story; the storyteller is credible and clearly identified. It has a believable but not particularly compelling lead. The story has a conclusion the moves the user to buy.
A couple of features about this letter that I especially like are its specific previous buy recommendations and very unambiguous track record for beating (clobbering!) the S&P 500.
Specificity enhances credibility. Never say one of your stock picks has tripled since you recommended it. Rather, as the Gardner’s say, “The stock has risen 205 percent since David’s recommendation, turning a $10,000 investment into $30,500.” That’s a lot more specific and convincing.
3. Content Webification – A
The landing page makes innovative use of interactive technology. Motley Fool has a handy online quotes and data function that enables the user to look up the current price and performance history of hundreds of stocks. When this landing page refers to stocks that it has recommended, the user has an instant hypertext link to the current price and detailed history of that stock.
4. Email Capture (Relationship Building) – C
Surprisingly, this landing page offers no free downloadable report in exchange for an email address and permission to contact. However, I suspect that many visitors to this page have encountered other Motley Fool webpages prior to arriving here. It’s a landing page, but not necessarily the first landing page the visitor sees.
And the Fools have done an aggressive job of acquiring the visitor’s email address much earlier in the process. When the visitor arrives at this sales letter landing page, they assume he is ready to buy a print newsletter.
5. User Testimonials – B
The four testimonials are credible and clearly identified. One is from The Washington Post. Another is from Money.com. The third appears within the body of the letter and comes from The Economist magazine. A fourth testimonial is from an “investment newsletter industry’s watchdog.”
They’re not exactly users in the sense of individual investors, but they do add a certain gravitas to the sales letter.
6. Links to Order Flow – A
The landing page includes a well-designed button in the closing. The size, color and typeface are correct. It looks and behaves like a button; it has good affordance.
7. Labeling and Language – A
The sales letter uses clear language and good grammar. It avoids terms not commonly understood by the target user, but includes “power words” to create excitement and urgency.
While the headline was nearly non-existent, there are two quite respectable sub-headlines in use here:
Be The Next Motley Fool Millionaire!
Become an Investing Master!
Both are right out of the “sell the dream” playbook.
8. Readability & Content Density – A
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. Graphics are well integrated with the sales letter flow.
Excellent! See Aesthetics (below).
9. Content Freshness & Urgency – D
There is no real sense of urgency communicated by this sales letter. It’s quite well crafted (despite the ridiculously lame headline), but nothing about it urges the reader to “act right now” other than this less-than-urgent advice:
The sooner you get started buying the world’s greatest stocks, the better off you’ll be.
10. Load Time – D
Download time was a slow 38.59 seconds at 56K as measured by the Webpage Analyzer.
11. Aesthetics – A
The graphic design is comforting and trustworthy for the target user.
This is a very well designed webpage. There is a good choice of colors, typefaces and graphics. It’s a great example of how to make a site visually attractive.
Excellent! See Readability & Content Density (above).
12. Order Options – B
The sales letter is followed by a usable online order flow and includes a toll-free number for questions and/or phone orders, although they are not aggressively invited.
But there is no printable order form for fax orders or the option to have a sales representative contact the user to place orders.
Finally, an exit pop-up up sells the Motley Fool Stock Advisor Annual for an additional $149.
Because no investment letter can promise or guarantee specific results, it relies on stating the past performances of its authors. So there is an emphasis on features as opposed to benefits. The subscriber gets:
– All back issues and recommendations.
– Periodic updates and alerts on current holdings.
– Full access to all Motley Fool discussion boards.
– And the Gardners offer a fair satisfaction guarantee (money back in full for 30 days, prorated after that).
This landing page is effective by being understated. It is good, but not great.