Facing Marketing’s Moment of Truth


The moment of truth isn’t when they click on your ad or even when they randomly land on your website. It’s when your call to action makes a promise and your brand either fulfills that promise — or not.

Research confirms that online visitors make the decision to stay on a web page in 1/20th of a second. So that moment of truth is as fleeting as it is critical. In 1/20th of a second, your visitors decide whether you kept the promise that enticed them to click or instead gave them the digital version of a bait and switch. With global conversion rate averages languishing below 5%, it’s safe to say that most ads are making promises that, from the customer’s point of view, they don’t keep. And most moments of truth aren’t delivering a truth that enhances their brands or their ROI.

Landing pages take the rap

The inevitable losers in the moment-of-truth sweepstakes are typically the lowly landing pages. In most cases, these under-appreciated digital citizens carry the burden of keeping upstream promises made by ads with bold proclamations, when all too often they aren’t nearly up to the task.

The issue is one of imbalance – nine times out of ten, much more marketing attention (i.e. strategy, creative and dollars) is devoted to the ad, rather than to what happens next in the customer’s journey. Thus the disconnect and thus the paltry conversion rates. However, when marketing’s attention refocuses on a more holistic and fluid view of the interaction — from ad to click through to conversion — the fleeting moment can turn into the start of a relationship. That relationship then develops into a lead, a sale or a social interaction.

7 Characteristics of Successful Moments of Truth

Elevating landing pages so they’re up to the task at hand isn’t all that hard. Extraordinary campaign user experiences are worth the added effort — converting 200-1,000% higher than the averages. There’s quick ROI bottled in executing on a few core capabilities that turn that 1/20th of a second into the start of a real relationship.

1. Beauty is Underrated. People do judge a book by its cover.

Most landing pages are at best distant relatives of the websites and brands they represent. One-size-fits-all home pages look polished and professional with interactivity, fit, finish and finesse. Landing pages typically look formulaic, content heavy, sloppy and just plain clunky. They’re anything but that best-foot-forward that makes a great first impression for your brand. Those pages lose out in the moment of truth. When you can deliver the same fit & finish in your landing pages that you do on your home page, you’re on the right track.

2. Multipage is a Good Thing

There’s an old-school belief that people only want one “landing page.” While it’s certainly true that people want only one bad page, they actually love additional good pages. They want pages that speak to them and their interest specifically. Whether that’s one or five is up to the content and messaging. When you have a high-value story to tell, multiple segments to target and a vision of simplicity and clarity, you’re going to end up with more than one page. Remember, while the old notion of the cliché, one-and-out landing page may be convenient, it isn’t good for your visitor — or your business.

3. Testing is Under-served. Testing makes things better.

Notice I didn’t limit that statement to results. It’s easy to focus on the end game of testing and to forget that the user experience is improved when you learn from trying alternatives. How much better you can make things with testing depends on what you test. If you test little things — like button colors or head-lines — you’ll make things a little better. But when you test big things like entire concepts or messages, you have the potential to make things a lot better (including your results). And if you’re judicious with your traffic, you can mitigate testing risk at the same time.

4. Agility is a Competitive Advantage

How you listen to your market impacts the speed with which you can act. Most marketing organizations have a hard time hearing what their market has to say in a timely manner. That feedback loop—between what you put out there, and what they think of it (as shown in their behaviors)—is the foundation of marketing agility. You need your landing page moments of truth to give you instant feedback in the form of meaningful behavioral analytics. When you can get a hold of that actionable insight, you can use it to fuel new ideas and new test waves. That’s the basic design of conversion-focused agile marketing.

5. Targeting and Personalization

Perceived relevance drives everything in the moment of truth. Your visitors should be able to scan your pages and see that you’re speaking specifically and authentically to them in that moment. The more specific your pages can be to the opportunity and context of the visitor, the more likely you’ll be able to reduce your exits and increase your conversions. There’s a lot of (big) data out there. Turning it into great, personally-relevant user experiences is the key.

6. Integration Enhances Value

No moment of truth is an island. If the learning you gain and the behavioral data you track is left behind when your visitors move on to your CRM, MAP, shopping cart or sales team, you’ve also left behind a lot of value. Subsequent targeting and segmentation relies on integration between your landing pages and the rest of your marketing ecosystem.

7. Devices and Contexts

Nothing sends a visitor to their back button faster than a mobile page in their desktop browser or a full-size form on their iPhone. When you can use device detection to infer context, you can alter the user experience — not just for the device, but for the likely context of the interaction. This is another example of relevance and specificity driving engagement, conversion and ultimately, revenue.

Focus on Your Moments of Truth

Most organizations focus far more resources on ads and emails than they do on what happens next because their end game has focused on click-through numbers. But what happens next decides whether your click-throughs drive a little business or a lot. With everything at stake, it’s more than worth focusing on the moments of truth – because the truth is, you’ve got about 1/20th of second before your visitor buys in or bails out.


  1. Awesome post Justin. Agility is what makes Internet marketing so compelling from and ROI and performance standpoint. How many mediums can you test creative and get performance data almost immediately. Regarding #7, responsive web design is rapidly becoming table stakes.

  2. Thanks Rick. As you know, it’s unfortunately uncommon for an organization to operationalize consistently amazing first impressions. When they do, that instant business gratification—in the form of feedback, results and revenue—is an addictive drug.

    It’s interesting that you mention responsive web design (RWD). We’ve seen much greater effectiveness from RWD in the website context than in more highly crafted, specific campaign page contexts. The hypothesis is that respondents to campaign messages that typically have more specific promises, have higher expectations that must be more instantly fulfilled. RWD delivers a better user experience than a site that doesn’t cater to smaller form factors, but a far less rich experience than one that caters explicitly to specific form factors. In the end, RWD is a kind of black box mobile solution that’s easy, but certainly not best of breed in terms of user satisfaction. I will say, It’s absolutely better than nothing.


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