Many page building platforms and apps offer sales page templates to their users to save them time. I think there are many reasons sales page templates are a bad idea, but they’re understandably popular because of their convenience.
I can even see specific circumstances where they could appear to be working for you, but this will depend very much on how you promote your products.
Despite that last comment, I believe there is a very good reason for avoiding sales page templates.
Why you should avoid sales page templates
The main problem with page templates is that they teach us to create content to fit the template rather than the product and the reader.
They come with predefined sections that users will often fit together first based on appearance, before adding content to fit the blank spaces that are left.
This often creates a disjointed narrative.
That may sound like a reasonable compromise to use conversion optimized template, but I’ve previously argued there’s no such thing as a conversion optimized page template.
Traditionally the first step in an advert or direct marketing piece would be the copywriting process. The writer would be looking for the concept to build and writing the copy around that.
Only once the copy was finished would the advert or sales letter be created, and even then the design may be based on the thoughts of the copywriter.
The design plays second fiddle to the copy because the copy is what persuades the reader to become a buyer. Done sensitively, the design will enhance the copy and strengthen the message delivery. Done badly and it may undermine the copy and reduce sales.
With a sales page template, this process is largely reversed and the copy plays second fiddle.
So with a copy first approach, you create a page that sounds like a coherent and consistent train of thought that continues building on itself to deliver a complete and compelling argument for why the product will solve the reader’s problem.
However, with the template first approach, you often create a page of soundbites that may (or often not) sound great in isolation, but that don’t work together to present a strong and unified sales argument. I’ve also described this approach as being like giving the reader a map, rather than an itinerary in this article.
How do you talk to potential customers in person?
If I walked into your shop or office and said I was interested in knowing more about your product, you wouldn’t (I hope) bark soundbites at me in the hope some of them hit the mark.
Instead, I imagine you’d present a coherent explanation of your product and how it would solve my problem. The whole time trying to anticipate potential concerns I may have and addressing and neautralizing them.
That’s the real world implementation of the copy first approach.
If that’s how you approach the problem of persuading a potential customer in real life, why wouldn’t you take the same approach in a sales page?
You’re tyring to solve the same problem with a real person, it seems to me it makes sense that the same approach will be best in both cases.
However, if I walked into your shop or office and said “do you offer a money back guarantee”, you wouldn’t present me with the same sales pitch as above.
I’m asking a very specific question and it would seem reasonable to assume that I’m already familiar with your product.
More than that, if I’m asking about a guarantee, it’s probably safe to assume I’ve all but made the buying decision.
As long as I’m happy with the guarantee, it would seem likely that I’m going to buy.
In this case a targeted soundbite is probably the best possible approach.
When you might consider a sales page template
That real life scenario I just presented could just as easily happen online, though that’s very dependent on you.
If you actively and regularly engaging potential buyers through other channels, it’s possible that by the time they reach your sales page, many will have already made the buying decision or be very close to that point.
To take the final step, they may want to know about a guarantee, see testimonials from others who have been helped, have a specific question answered or just learn a bit more about you.
In this case a page built using a template and presenting disconnected soundbites that each address a specific thing could arguably be the best approach.
It reduces the possibility of saying too much and maybe raising a possible doubt that hadn’t previously existed.
Despite that, I’d still argue against using sales page templates.
What I’ve just suggested depends on every user reaching the sales page being quite deeply engaged with you and your content. It assumes they’ve actively consumed your content elsewhere.
However, maybe they weren’t paying attention that intently and are still some way away from being ready to buy. Maybe someone shared the page with a friend who’s never heard of you or your product before.
For these people, you’re back to the situation where barking soundbites isn’t going to be the most persuasive approach.
Which compromise do you prefer?
Life is full of compromises and using or not using a sales page template could be just another of these.
I understand that many business owners have very strong ideas about how their sales pages should look.
So if that’s you and you’re already doing your selling through other channels, using a sales template that looks just right may be a quite reasonable compromise for you.
Certainly it may be an easier compromise than presenting your business and product through a page that doesn’t adhere to your design values.
Remember though that design doesn’t sell. Assuming it’s not subtracting from a sales message (which happens more often than you may think), it can only enhance an existing message.
If there isn’t a strong sales message already present in the page, design can only make your page look pretty.
And if someone looks at your page and thinks “ooh that’s pretty”, your page is getting in the way of your sales message. Just for clarity, my article on using design to set the selling environment discusses how page appearance may affect the sales message.
You don’t have to compromise
Even if you’re doing your selling elsewhere and your sales page is actually more of a payment gateway, I still believe you’re better served by creating a sales page that presents a full and coherent pitch.
You can never be sure that every visitor to your soundbite page has engaged deeply with you elsewhere and that their buying decision is already made. They may have seen nothing more than a shared link to your page.
I talk about the ability of design to emphasise and enhance a sales message, and a sales page like this that may have to serve different types of readers is a good example.
Specific parts of the page can be picked out and highlighted to make it easy for someone to find the specific information they need to reassure them their buying decision is sound without compromising the coherent experience of the sales pitch to those readers who barely know you or your product.
It is both possible and practical to serve both types of visitor.
You just need to stop focusing on what your sales page looks like and start focusing on how it persuades your visitors that you can solve their problem.