The Winner

Clinton vs. Trump
Who has the best digital marketing campaign? We’ll let you be the judge.

Let’s start by getting one thing straight: this is not a political article.

As tempting as it might be to enter the fray… by “tear down” I don’t mean a smear campaign, ill-tempered mudslinging or anything quite that provocative.

What I mean is a detailed examination of the two US presidential nominee’s online “sales” funnels and their overall presidential marketing tactics.

Why?

Because no matter which side of the political aisle you’re on, these could very well be the highest stakes online funnels in the history of the world.

In the wake of Barack Obama’s second presidential win, Kyle Rush – former Head of Optimization at Optimizely and now Hillary Clinton’s Deputy CTO – pulled back the curtain to reveal how their approach to conversion rate optimization raised a historic and record-breaking $1.1 billion in total funds, $690 million of which “came through our various web properties.”

For anybody doing the math, $690 million is 62.7% of the campaign’s total fundraising efforts.

As Kyle himself told me when I asked him about the role CRO plays in Clinton’s campaign today:

It’s something we are very focused on.

Our teams are data-driven and we act on data. We have run over 100 A/B tests in the past year. Some of the tests resulted in over 200% increases in mission critical metrics.

quick-card-upsell-presidential-marketing-tactics
Image credit: Kyle Rush

The monumental role CRO plays in presidential success is why digging into each step of each current candidate’s funnels – screen by screen – offers a wealth of insights on how to optimize your online funnels and marketing campaigns.

But first – lest things get bloody – let’s set some ground rules.

Ground rules for the teardowns

Here’s how this is gonna work.

First, I’ll show you a step-by-step, visual walkthrough of the candidates’ online funnels: from their homepage, to their pop-up or splash page, to their email signup page, to their donation process.

Each visual will be color coded: green boxes for “The Good”… red boxes for “The Bad”:

good-and-bad-example-presidential-marketing-strategy

After each visual, we’ll examine why the color-coded elements work from a CRO perspective (or why they don’t).

Third – and this is where things get really amazing – I’ll hand the teardown off to 18 of the world’s top CRO experts and let them weigh in.

Ready?

Don’t have time to read this post?

Get inspired for your next optimization experiment as 18 CRO experts tear down the most polarizing marketing campaigns in US history.

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Donald Trump

Step 1: Homepage

Donald Trump campaign homepage

The Good:

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a brand. And a massively recognizable one at that.

In contrast to Clinton – who shares her header spotlight with President Obama (see below) – Trump is front and center, taking full advantage of his brand recognition.

Likewise, he’s the only candidate with a recognizable and emotionally charged tagline, which he wisely displays prominently: “Make America Great Again.”

The CTA below the hero section – while not as emotive as the language above it – is nothing if not clear. It presents the visitor with two simple choices: “Join Us” or “Donate.”

Also positive are the social media widgets towards the end of the page. While Clinton buries her social links in the header and footer, Trump’s site features live social media updates, which makes sense given his dominance on all things social. Rather than just soliciting visitors to follow him, he gives them a preview of what they can expect.

The Bad:

From a design perspective, Trump’s site is crowded and noisy. The dark colors pile on top of one another around the hero section, and the smorgasbord of clickable options in the body of the page is paralyzing. Instead of leading visitors along a path of action by creating a clear visual or written hierarchy, everything comes barreling toward them at once.

The navigation bar is likewise crowded. There are 10 visible options and if you count up the drop-down menu options, that number jumps to 22.

Finally, the “Text TRUMP” box is a questionable choice, because rather than prompting visitors to simply enter their number on the page itself, it asks them to cross one of the most difficult conversion bridges: changing devices.

The Experts:

Neil Patel

Neil Patel:

Marketer & Founder of CrazyEgg

“From a copy standpoint, I would adjust the text in the call to action buttons. He uses the heading ‘Make America Great Again,’ but when it comes time for someone to click on the call to action (‘Join Us’ or ‘Donate’) the copy doesn’t connect well with his main message.

Typically, when you use call to action text that is related to the problem you are solving, your clicks and conversions are higher than if you used generic verbiage like ‘join now.’

show-your-support-for-donald-trump-presidential-marketing-tactics

Also the website copy isn’t telling a story.

If his big pitch is to make America great, then all of the surrounding elements – such as news clips and videos – should reinforce that message. This will help create an emotional connection between the website visitor and Trump, which should help him gain more votes and donations.

Lastly, some of the headlines for his press releases don’t encourage you to click. If you’re lucky, eight out of 10 people will read a headline, and two will click through. With a headline like, ‘Donald Trump’s Campaign Draws Dedicated Followers,’ you’re not likely to get many click-throughs because it doesn’t highlight the benefits of clicking through.”

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Oli Gardner:

Co-Founder of Unbounce

“In terms of initial experience when the page loads, I see (1) the giant Trump logo, then (2) the peace sign – which is quite ridiculous considering how much hate-mongering he’s peddling – and lastly (3) I get to The Donald’s hair:

make-america-great-again-presidential-marketing-camapign

If the goal of the page is to get people to donate, it could use a little more focus to make it happen. And if they’d done a better job with their responsive design, the primary donate button would be above the fold.

The navigation could be simplified if they did a better job with targeting. To participate based on your state, you need to go to the States page, find your state, click on your state and then fill in a form. With proper targeting the secondary CTA, “Join Us,” (which leads to the same type of form) could be renamed to something like “Get involved in Kansas” or “Join the movement in Kansas.” A Kansas resident would be far likelier to be inspired to click if that was the case.

At the bottom of the page, the tweets weren’t handled in the best way. The first was an incongruent mention of a book by someone other than Trump and the second a link to a Washington Post article about Hillary Clinton that takes you off-site. If you want people to part with their money, don’t send them away.”

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Valentin Radu:

CEO at Marketizator

“Trump’s hero section does its job in terms of space usage. My eyes really only see two things: (1) his slogan, and (2) Trump himself. This means the ‘don’t make me think’ principle is being respected.

Fun fact: If we analyze the hand signal Trump is using, Wikipedia states that in American sign language this actually means ‘number two.’ I trust Wikipedia.

As for the menu, I would A/B test it by simply inverting the colors to make the Donate button red.

make-donate-button-red-presidential-marketing-campaigns

Going further, the buttons ‘Join us’ and ‘Donate’ are actually competing – they’re the same size and color and they’re positioned together. One should be more important than the other and therefore given more credit via more space and prominence.

The paragraph font size may also be too small for some visitors, and there are no links connected to the various media and press releases to ‘Read More.’ I can’t argue too much with the multi-column format, although a single-column layout would be worth testing.

Another thing that I would test is Donald Trump’s facial expression. On both video thumbnails his face is showing that he is ready to fight.

donald-trump-ready-to-fight-presidential-marketing-tactics

But… maybe that’s what Americans want: a wealthy fighter that will share his prosperity with them.”

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Michael Aagaard:

Senior Conversion Optimizer at Unbounce

“For a guy who is strictly self-funded, Trump does have an awful lot of ‘Donate’ buttons. All kidding aside, this is a pretty decent website. I’m impressed.

All the main functionalities are easy to use. The logo and tagline confirm you’re on Trump’s presidential website and both the ‘Sign Up’ and ‘Donate’ forms work well.

While the donations themselves are handled by a third-party tool, there’s a good match both visually and message-wise, so you get the feeling of an uninterrupted experience.

The header doesn’t quite line up on a 15-inch screen, and you can’t see the bottom of the hero shot that contains the two main CTAs. But other than that, most of the UX is on point. Likewise, the mobile version works well. In fact, I’d say it works better than the desktop version.

Only negative thing is that there are quite a few navigation points in the burger menu, which makes it a bit overwhelming:

trump-burger-menu-presidential-marketing-campaign

In my experience, people who come to a website like this have already made up their minds, so the website doesn’t need to do much persuading. But it has to be real easy to use, so you can do what you set out to do with little or no friction.”

Step 2: Join Us

donald-trump-step-2-join-us-presidential-marketing-campaign

The Good:

The subhead on Trump’s email opt-in leverages a personal connection to the candidate. Instead of inviting supporters to join the campaign or “Get updates,” this opt-in invites them to “Receive updates from Donald J. Trump” directly.

The Bad:

Unfortunately, that’s the main positive. To sign up, a supporter would have to enter information into five required fields. Compare that to Clinton’s dramatically simplified sign-up process, requiring only two fields.

All told, there are 13 form fields and checkboxes. Too many options is the hallmark of low-converting forms.

In addition, the text on the CTA buttons – from (1) the homepage’s button “Join Us,” to (2) the form’s headline “Sign Up,” to (3) the form’s button “Submit” – creates a disjointed user experience (not to mention that “Submit” is a notoriously lame and low-converting CTA).

disjointed-ctas-donald-trump-presidential-marketing-campaign

The Experts:

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Kristi Hines:

Freelance Writer and Content Marketer

“From a conversion standpoint, my first thought is that the ‘Join Us’ button should lead to a form titled ‘Join Us.’

While I think the form does have a lot of fields, I believe those fields are necessary, especially the state and zip code.

Why? Because it allows each candidate to email and text supporters about upcoming local events and voting rules. Plus, if supporters enter their full address, that also opens the door to some direct mailing opportunities.

The use of a CAPTCHA field doesn’t bother me. Considering the amount of spam most online forms receive, this is probably the easiest way to at least bypass the automated spam. I’m sure their marketing team is already fighting a lot of fake submissions from Trump haters.

The only disconnect for me on this form is not requiring the mobile number – which is smart – but then having the ‘Yes, please send me periodic text messages…’ box automatically checked.

text-messages-automatically-checked-donald-trump-presidential-marketing-campaign

Finally, I think they should try testing some different messaging on the ‘Submit’ button. I’d bet a button that said ‘Let’s Make America Great Again’ would get some smiles from Trump supporters.

Overall, the form may seem lengthy, but it gets the information the candidate needs and works well on desktop and mobile. In any case, no one is going to switch their vote just because the other candidate has an easier form to fill out.”

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Chris Goward:

Founder and CEO, WiderFunnel

“The first task in any optimization exercise is to understand your conversion optimization goals. Organizations that don’t know their real goals often optimize for the wrong things and hurt their ultimate results.

Since Donald Trump is already a master at gaining free press mentions, and he apparently has plenty of funding, one would assume his goal is to gain direct access to voters to mobilize them on voting days. That means his ‘Join Us’ call to action is very important.

If his transactional goal – the bottom end of the funnel – is to maximize subscribers, he could test some improvements:

  • The Join Us pop-up form seems complicated at first, with 13 fields preceding a big red ‘Submit’ button. Hmm… does Trump want us all to ‘submit’ to him? Especially for mobile, this is a very long form for a seemingly simple CTA.
  • Form fields broken into two columns make scanning difficult. This isn’t an issue on mobile, but I certainly wouldn’t stick around to fill out a mobile form with that much scrolling required.
  • Why am I being asked for a mailing address when that’s not needed for the messages I’m subscribing for? What else is my information being used for?
  • Right before completing the form, there are two big barriers: (1) an ‘I am not a robot’ field, which seems unnecessary, and (2) an opt-in warning.

If Trump isn’t testing, he should get started. Based on Clinton’s website, she’s got a more effective conversion optimization team – her simple signup form reigns supreme in comparison.”

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Sean Work:

VP of Inbound Marketing, Crazy Egg

“I have no idea if this is a good sign up flow or not. Why? Because I’m not the one testing it. I haven’t seen any data. So everything I’m going to say right now is from the gut. Basically it’s what I would do if I were putting a variant together.

Moving on to the signup page, sometimes collecting a lot of information is a smart thing to do. It might not convert as well, but the benefit of collecting more info sometimes outweighs total conversions. I’ve heard of cases where more form fields actually converts better!

We could ax the mobile number field. It’s not a required field so why let it get in the way? However, having supporter phone numbers might be incredibly valuable when election day is near. You might want to call your base supporters to make sure they know where they are going to vote and inform them of any last-minute details.

If we are going for just pure sign ups and nothing else, I would simply have first name, last name and email. I would remove all the checkboxes and the comment field. I might consider keeping the CAPTCHA because I can see the opposition trying to flood the form with bogus entries.

My final words on this: It really has to do with Trump’s strategy and goals.

They need to be nailed down first. What do you want to achieve? Then you work backwards.

You create your hypothesis, build the page, test it, measure it then repeat the cycle.”

Step 3: Trump’s Donation Process

The Good:

Unlike Trump’s previous pages, the donation process is clean and visually minimalistic. It includes an image of the candidate that – thanks to the blue hue – drives home the personal and patriotic connection mentioned earlier. At the same time, the imagery doesn’t distract from the action.

The Bad:

Unfortunately, the white text on light-grey background makes the buttons hard to read. Adding some visual clarity in the form of affordance could be valuable. Also hard to see is the fine print. And, as opposed to Clinton’s donation pages, there isn’t even a note to expatriates who might want to contribute.

Lastly, the trust factor on the page is low. Trump doesn’t include anything about where the money goes and – outside of the generic word “SECURE” and the image of a lock – the page doesn’t provide security measures to assure donors their payment information is actually secure.

The Experts:

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Ben Twichell:

Head of Marketing at Mention

“Copy is one of the most vital elements of a landing page.

My recommendations would be to include and test three sections: (1) a prose style emotion-evoking paragraph, (2) a bullet-point list of his platform stances and (3) social proof.”

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Shanelle Mullin:

Content & Growth at ConversionXL

“Going back a step, Trump’s site misses a huge opportunity.

If someone selects the ‘Join Us’ call to action instead of the ‘Donate’ call to action on the homepage, the site asks for a lot of the same information.

Why not ask for a password during that process to make the donation process easier for those who are, presumably, the most likely to donate? It would also make mobile donations easier.

In the same vein, there’s a login option on the Trump donation page, but it’s well below the fold. If someone who has donated before returns to this page, intent is high. Make it easier for them.

Overall, the UX is fairly standard for a presidential campaign site. However, there are a few little things that could be improved:

  • On mobile, when you advance to Step 2 of 3, you’re automatically scrolled down to the ‘Continue’ button. All that’s visible is the button and the start of the fine print, so you have to scroll back up.
  • Also on mobile, if you don’t immediately choose the “Scan Credit Card” option, it disappears.
  • In the fine print, it says the maximum individual contribution is $2,700 per election. So why am I able to select ‘$1,000’ or ‘$2,700’ and then ‘Make this a monthly recurring donation’? Furthermore, how many months am I signing up for here?
  • There are in-line error messages, which is great, but the form still accepts obviously false information. For example, a zip code that is not in the state selected and an invalid email address.
  • There’s no confirmation of how much you’re donating (and how frequently) before clicking the final ‘Donate’ button.
  • Another big issue is donation amount. Why the big jump? Why so many small amounts? Maybe the Trump optimization team did their conversion research and found that most people donate smaller, recurring amounts. But why not have ‘Make this a monthly recurring donation’ selected by default then?”

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Hillary Clinton

Step 1: Pop-Ups

hilary-clinton-pop-ups-presidential-marketing-campaign
hilary-clinton-pop-ups-2-presidential-marketing-campaign

The Good:

From the jump, Clinton’s site kicks things off with a bang. The first pop-up takes aim directly at her opponent:

Making Donald Trump our Commander-in-Chief would be a historic mistake.

And the second leans on social proof, with a quote from President Obama:

I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.

Clicking “I agree” on either immediately presents the visitor with the option to join Clinton’s email list:

hilary-clinton-join-mailing-list-presidential-marketing-campaign

On top of being laser-focused, the CTAs are written from the perspective of the visitor.

The Bad:

It’s difficult to say whether or not the themes of Clinton’s pop-ups “work.” Instead of defining herself proactively, the visitor’s first impression is directed toward either who she’s against (Trump) or who supports her (Obama).

For a candidate who regularly gets lambasted on Saturday Night Live for being unrelatable and aloof, this worries me from a conversion perspective.

Moreover, both pop-ups make the assumption that her visitor will be a “party” voter. The first message – being anti-Trump – is probably a safe bet. However the second is riskier given that the most recent polls put President Obama’s approval rating at 50%.

The Experts:

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Henneke Duistermaat:

Irreverent Business Writing Coach

“You can see two interesting persuasion principles at work here. The first is what psychologists call the consistency principle, also known as the foot-in-the-door technique: once you’ve agreed with one small request, you’re more likely to agree with a bigger request.

This is exactly what’s happening with the two-step sign up: first agree with a simple statement (small commitment) before submitting your email address (slightly larger commitment). Of course, this flies in the face of conventional advice on making the sign-up process as easy as possible. I assume they’ve tested both options and the two-step process worked better.

The other point to note are the two different phrases: one portraying Trump as commander-in-chief as a mistake (avoiding a risk) and the other agreeing with Obama that nobody is better qualified than Clinton (gaining a positive benefit).

The question here is: do people want to avoid Trump as president or do they want to support Hillary Clinton as president?

Many of us are risk-averse. We prefer avoiding problems rather than gaining something. It’s a great test to run for any business.

For instance, do your customers want to avoid internet downtime or are they looking for consistent internet access? Or, imagine you’re selling bikes: do your customers want to avoid a sore butt or are they looking for a comfy saddle?”

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Bryan Eisenberg:

Partner, BuyerLegends

“There are all kinds of challenges with these pop-ups. However, when we are dealing with political websites versus business websites the intrinsic motivations are completely different. Why people do and don’t do things radically changes. Political websites can add additional friction points – like extra clicks – and people’s motivations will still provide the momentum to convert.

Why?

Because we are not dealing with an exchange of money (at least not primarily) but rather a reinforcement of an individual’s values. The key thing about these pop-ups is how they fit the candidate’s brand narrative.

Both tell the same story and appeal to the same values. In that sense, they’re ‘selling’ a consistent vision… one that visitors to this site would no doubt connect with.”

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Danielle Devereux:

Growth Marketing Consultant

“Great design is one of the most crucial aspects of user experience on your landing pages. Design relates to many critical components such as navigation, layout, colors, font choices, text and videos. You want users to have an easy and pleasurable experience navigating these elements of your site.

To accomplish this you must reduce friction. Friction is anything visual, technical or logical that gets in the way of a user completing your landing page’s desired goal.

Clinton’s pop-ups create a point of friction, because the first non-essential pop-up – ‘I Agree’ – gets in the way of the essential CTA pop-up – the email signup form.

The goal of the quote design is to present an attractive invitation to subscribe to the Clinton campaign newsletter. So why ask your users to click on an extra pop-up? This creates friction by adding an unnecessary click and weighing down the interaction.

To solve this problem, limit your signup process to as few steps as possible. One or two steps works really well. Show them one pop-up with a compelling CTA and as few form fields as possible.”

Step 2: Homepage

hilary-clinton-homepage-presidential-marketing-campaign

The Good:

Setting aside Obama’s struggling approval rating, using the header image to make a powerful and joyous announcement is a smart move. As opposed to the negativity of the first pop-up, Clinton’s homepage copy and imagery is decidedly positive.

The area below the header then offers two clear options for people who want to participate in Clinton’s campaign. Both options include the first steps to completing the desired action right there on the page. They’re also presented in a logical order: join first… then donate.

The menu options are elegantly lined up and not as crowded as Trump’s. The red “Donate” button on the top-right leaps off the page. And Clinton cleverly sows elements of her progressive logo throughout.

The Bad:

While not as overwhelming as the body of Trump’s homepage, Clinton’s homepage lacks focus, direction and a clear visual hierarchy. After the initial CTAs to either join or donate, there are no follow-up boxes to engage visitors once they leave the header section.

Instead, the majority of the screen is dominated by text-heavy article excerpts.

My first thought was that the articles would link to outside resources, something that Trump does well. Instead, they’re internal links to pieces on Clinton’s own site. While internal linking keeps her visitors on-site, the downside of this is it doesn’t offer objective or outside validation (i.e., social proof) to back up the claims being made.

Even the so-called “Get the Facts” box links to another of Clinton’s own pages:

hilary-clinton-get-the-facts-presidential-marketing-campaign

Lastly, because her social icons are presented in the footer only and obscured by light-blue text on dark-blue background, they might as well not even be there:

hilary-clinton-social-icons-presidential-marketing-campaign

The Experts:

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Andy Crestodina:

Strategic Director, Orbit Media

“Clinton’s homepage is relatively lightweight and fast loading: 1.3MB at ~2 sec.

It’s also light in terms of copy… just 350 words including the navigation. It’s action oriented and carefully edited. There are 50+ verbs and zero adverbs.

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