Bounce rate

Moving fast is critical in technology startups. It’s no surprise, then, to find homepages of technology startups that were built too fast. Almost like a MVP (Minimum Viable Product). The problem is – this typically results in a lack of differentiation and high bounce rate.

Here are some of the more common mistakes.

1- Positioning is not focused enough

Every technology company ‘knows’ their value proposition. Ask the CEO, VP Sales/Marketing, or VP Products and you’ll typically get a long list of features/benefits – enough to fill a 2-page data sheet. Now try and get a single-sentence answer as to the positioning vs. the competition. Why prospects should select your solution/product/service over the competition? Much more difficult. Read Gartner’s Hank Bank great article, “Where to Start – Positioning and a Story.”

Without breaking down your offering into clearly written message that prioritizes your benefits and differentiation, your homepage will never be focused enough. Crystallizing and narrowing down a value proposition into a headline and a short paragraph requires some work.

2- Too little (or too much) information

There’s an ongoing debate on the ‘right’ length of the homepage. Should it be very short or provide lots of info, like a landing page? The answer is – it depends. You’ll find cases where a very short page works well and vice versa. See some excellent examples here or here too.

This is the CrazyEgg case study example, where a MUCH longer home page increased conversion by 363%.

long-vs-short-page

It’s true that visitors skim and don’t have the patience to read much. Still, they’ll read as much as needed to answer their problem/pain/questions. If your prospect is looking for, say, a performance testing solution, he/she will want to know how your tool can help them, how it differs from other tools available, and possibly view some visuals of the tool itself – before moving to the next stage of downloading or signing up for a SaaS trial.

An important consideration often ignored, is the level of awareness of your prospects when they arrive at your homepage.

  • Are they already familiar with your product/brand but just want to know the deal? (This is not very common with a technology startup).
  • Are they aware of your product/brand but not sure it’s right for them?
  • Are they aware of their problem, but have never heard of your product and don’t trust you?
  • Or perhaps you’re establishing a completely new category and prospects are not fully aware of the problem the way you want them to?

Most technology startups I’ve worked with fall into the last two categories. This obviously impacts the volume and type of the content that must be included on the homepage. Another parameter to consider is the complexity and cost of your product. The more complex/expensive – the more info you’ll probably need to provide.

For more about this issue, read this excellent blog the 5 type of prospects you meet online and how to sell them.

3- Ignoring visitors’ commitment and risk level

What’s the call to action on your home page? Is it a simple online service with a free basic package that requires minimal risk and commitment from prospects? Is it downloading a full on-premise product, which requires installation and an evaluation process? Or maybe you’re not asking for anything and simply expecting prospects to give your their details based on your promise?

The level of commitment, risk and effort required from prospects to perform the target action will affect the information and ‘convincing’ you’ll need to do in order take prospects to the next step.

4- Hyperboles and lack of authenticity

Think about yourself scanning a website of a technology company. Are you convinced by phrases like ‘breakthrough technology’ , ‘next-generation paradigm’, or ‘best-in-class’? (For more juicy examples, refer to some of the online bullshit generators.)

Startup founders, who are often techys, tend to be in love with their product. This typically results in too many adjectives that detract from the credibility of the offer.

Bullshit-detector

5 – No back up your claims

A SysAdmin once told me – “I believe nothing I’m told and only half of what I actually see.” Most website visitors, I believe, definitely in the technology space, have a similar line of thought. Why should prospects reading your website believe that your software provides better performance, is more user friendly, more flexible, of just MUCH better than the rest. Do you have anything to prove your claim?

6- The ‘Contact us’ form is the only CTA

Just like some shoppers enter a department store only to browse around and look at what’s available, but have no intention to purchase, so do your site visitors. If your only ‘hook’ is a ‘Contact us’ form, you’ll only be targeting bottom-of-funnel prospects – and most probably, not very successfully. You need many more type of ‘hooks’ for top- and middle-of-funnel visitors.

7 – “We’ll take care of visuals later”

Finding the right visuals for high technology websites is always a challenge. What type of visual can you use for a new ‘Big Data’ repository? How many times can the ‘software architect’ drawing a flow-chart on a transparent window can be used?

Flow-diagram

Does this image really make you think the company is unique after seeing it 1000 times?

Finding visuals to match and support your unique message and value proposition (see mistake #1) is not less difficult than coming up with the right copy. Since no one has time/patience to invest in visuals, this task is typically left to the graphic designer, who lacks the context and small nuances of your industry and target audience. With no time left, disconnected or generic graphics end up on your homepage.

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