Prepare For Landing

June 15, 2006       Craig Causer      

When The Conservation Fund (TCF) developed its new Go Zero program, designed to offset carbon dioxide emissions by planting trees, its goal was to make it both easy and affordable for individuals, corporations, and entire communities to use the tools it provided.

Its first step was to get the word out about the program. Its public relations campaign directed visitors not to the organization’s home page, but to a distinct Go Zero landing page at www.gocarbonzero.org.

A viral campaign was built around the landing page. In addition to emails sent out to its list, the program was featured in Vanity Fair magazine and on Good Morning America. TCF declined to provide specific traffic figures but during February and March of this year gocarbonzero.org was the third most popular landing page behind only TCF’s homepage and its employment opportunities page, according to the nonprofit’s Web master. She also noted that the day Go Zero was featured on Good Morning America, the Go Zero landing page far surpassed the home page in popularity.

“We’ve really undertaken an aggressive public relations campaign,” explained Christine Fanning, executive director, Go Zero, at the Arlington, Va.-headquartered TCF.  “Because it’s such a unique and online-driven program we have created its own landing page email Web site. It’s in our own Web site, but if you log on to www.gocarbonzero.org, it will take you directly to that page and you can use a calculator that estimates how many trees it will take to offset your emissions,” said Fanning. “The Conservation Fund does an awful lot of work across the country so we don’t want people to have to go through the home page to get to the program.”

The landing page has been live for approximately six months and during that time more than 10 companies have committed to the program. Go Zero is also pulling its weight when it comes to generating donations via the online calculator. Including both companies and individuals it has raised nearly $100,000. Despite the complex issues involving global warming, Fanning attributes the success of the landing page to its simplicity — it’s as easy as a few clicks of the mouse to find out your personal responsibility and take care of it, she said.

Since a copy of the gocarbonzero.org landing page is also available through the navigation of the nonprofit’s home page at www.conservationfund.org, in each instance the pages display branding consistent with that throughout the organization’s main Web site. Keeping branding consistent was an important factor for  TCF.

“Because we’re such a diverse organization we don’t want one program to get so far out that folks forget that it’s part of The Conservation Fund brand family,” Fanning said. “We were pretty thoughtful to make sure that Go Zero has its own identity but does not overshadow the larger organization. At the end of the day people know they’re donating to The Conservation Fund. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between the program and the brand. Branding makes people comfortable with the experience and history of the organization and the success of the program helps to enhance the overall brand.”

The program, while still in its infant stages, has shown signs of maturation. Fanning said she is constantly drafting new copy and information for the Go Zero program to allow its audience to know,  for example, that more than 6,000 trees were planted in a Kentucky Wildlife Management area. The Go Zero landing page will continue to be essential for the growth of the program, she added.

Simply put, people have to see a program to believe it. The problem with sending people to a home page is that visitors, no matter how engaged, don’t have the patience to play “Where’s Waldo?” with your content — particularly when direct mail or email has directed them to the Web to take an action or make a gift. When people hit a landing page, a through line or extension of an email, it should be quick to the action or transaction that you want them to accomplish, advised Amma Hawks, vice president, sales and marketing at online fundraising services provider Entango.

“Many times with email the assumption is that a person is already hooked,” Hawks said. “So, you don’t want to sacrifice information for too many visuals on your landing page. The reason why they’re clicking on that email link is that they want to learn more. At the same time you don’t want to be too word-heavy. In this day and age on the Web, people are used to an abbreviated world. That first email has been the first portal to the message or action that you’re trying to elicit. You want to make sure that when you’re doing a landing page from an email that you really are drawing them in deeper to get that desired response.”

Whether the landing page link is coming from email or direct mail, nonprofits should develop a message that is cohesive and consistent with the initial form of communication. Rather than completely reiterating what was in the email or direct mail message, landing pages seem to do well with one sentence from the initial message leading into a bit more explanation on the landing page, Hawks explained. Offering anecdotal information often hits home, as well. For example, if an organization is attempting to get someone involved in an action, it’s good to provide a step-by-step analysis or evaluation of what’s needed so people have something concrete to hold on to, Hawks added.

Many nonprofits like TCF choose to keep branding consistent but in some cases organizations deal with events that may have a slightly different feel than the organization itself. Although the colors might not be the same, if your logo, along with a tagline or other branding techniques common to your organization, are evident along your through line, it’s going to serve your goals well.

“There still should be identifiable measures taken so that the event relates back to the organization,” Hawks said. “You want something thought out, a look that is going to make it self-evident to the user, the donor or the event ticket purchaser, that they’re still dealing with their favorite organization. That’s perhaps the most important piece.”

Exhibit A As a museum without walls, the Web site of the International Museum of Women (IMOW), www.imow.org, often serves as the front door to the work it conducts. The organization has learned to use it very strategically, according to Maureen Blanc, vice president of marketing at the San Francisco-based nonprofit. Its current exhibit, a collection of global films, stories, songs and photos under the banner Imagining Ourselves, has also welcomed its share of visitors through the back door.

The landing page, at http://imaginingourselves. imow.org/pb/Welcome.aspx, offers an entrance to the exhibit in four languages. A viral campaign was conducted to announce it and funnel all visitors into the online exhibit’s landing page. That plan has yielded more than five million hits to IMOW’s Web site and more than 270,000 unique visitors.

“We tested it and refined the system,” explained Blanc. “We started sending people to our home page and then changed it to send them to the Imagining Ourselves page. It proved to be easier to use and easier for people to find when we sent them to a specific landing page for the exhibit where they can choose their language rather than the home page. We needed (the landing page) to be global and to deal with the lowest common denominator – including various technologies around the world from dial-up to wireless. So it had to be flexible.”

Landing pages aren’t restricted to the museum’s exhibits. IMOW conducts two to three program-centric fundraising campaigns per month, many of which utilize various landing pages. The organization drives people to membership areas and pages from which to purchase tickets. For example, it has created a special page to reserve tickets for one of its upcoming events. IMOW creates the special events landing page on its site and users who wish to reserve tickets are sent to a secure site housed by one of IMOW’s vendors.

Whether the focus is tickets, memberships or exhibits, IMOW wants people to know not only what is happening, but also exactly how to get there. “The idea is that these people know us, so when we contact them with something new we want to strike while the iron is hot and get them to where they want to go with a minimal amount of effort,” Blanc added.  DRFE