Call to action: let’s ditch the long-form sales pages

Why do online sales pages suck so much? It seems to me that marketers are just out of touch with the needs and wants of most consumers.

I’ve been making an online course, which means I’ve been researching ways to market that course.

At various points in my life, I’ve also paid for (or considered paying for) online courses to teach myself a new skill.

And that experience, and the research I’ve done, mostly fills me with gloom.

Headlines like this crop up with monotonous regularity:

  • 10 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Course Sales Pages (and how to fix them!)
  • 15 Steps To An Online Course Sales Page That Converts Like Crazy
  • How to Sell an Online Course (From an 8-figure course creator)
  • How to Sell Courses Online in 6 Steps + Profit Tips
  • 58 Ways To Market Your Online Course & Increase Sales in 2023

The general advice about writing copy for a page where you are trying to persuade someone to buy your product is pretty much all like this:

Make sure you’re applying the classic AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Attention) copywriting formula correctly on every sales page you write… Long-form sales pages are designed for the hard sell… The people visiting these sales pages are primed to buy. They clicked on the link because they were interested in purchasing something. The long-form sales page is there to convert them.

Now, I’m not a marketer and I don’t really know what the Attention, Interest, Desire Attention formula entails. But I’ve scrolled my way through enough pages to know how the formula seems to work in practice. It goes like this (I have mostly spared you the exclamation marks which litter these pages – use your imagination to insert your own):

  • Identify your target market (people who have troublesome pets, for example)
  • Identify their “pain points” (they want their pets to be less troublesome)
  • Tell them how you (and only you) will solve their pain points (you have wrangled 3 millions dogs in your long and distinguished etc etc).
  • Throw in many, many (probably made up) “testimonials” from people who have done your course and now have perfectly behaved pets.
  • Tell them again what their pain points are, plus also tell them again how you solve them.
  • Insert more testimonials here.
  • (Repeat these steps several times)
  • Tell them there’s a special offer, or a bundle, or somesuch, that they must sign up for in the next three days. Or else the prices goes up!!!!!
  • More testimonials.
  • Then, and only then, reveal what the thing actually costs.

At which point, if you are South African. you work out the rand/dollar exchange rate, sigh and (almost always) move on. 

I’ve learned now to scroll to the bottom without reading anything to see what the price is, but I often wonder why it is that the price is left to the end. I typed the question into a search engine I’m currently trying out (mojeek), and its AI summary offered this theory: “longform sales pages often leave the price till the end to create anticipation, build engagement, and emphasize the value of the product before disclosing its cost. This approach can help prevent premature dismissal and increase the likelihood of a successful sale”.

I get that you need to tell people how your product can help them – no one is going to shell out hard-earned cash unless they think there is something in it for them. 

But am I the only person in the world who’d like to know what something costs – and only then take the time to do the research and the thinking to assess if it is worth paying for? If I can’t afford it at the outset, why should I waste my time reading screeds of sales copy?Accordingly, I’ve designed the sales page for my fledgling course to describe all the things people might want to know about the course: what it offers, who it is aimed at, what it entails, why you might want me as a trainer and so on. But I have also made it easy (I hope) to find the price from the outset – there’s a link taking people to that part of the page, the price is in a differently coloured panel and it is not right at the end.

See my very, very experimental page here, with my initial pricing. 

It seems to me that making people work hard to find out the price of something means that the marketer cares more about the sale than they do about the person reading the copy. And there’s something fundamentally wrong with a marketing model that cares only about profit. 

Main picture: Elena Mozhvilo, Unsplash

How to reach me 

Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your communication needs (writing, editing, coaching and training, social media). I also help small businesses and organisations with project and operational management. 

I write a post every week, some about my professional life and work, and some about broader issues. You can get either of those, or both, in your email, by subscribing here.  

Comments are closed.