One of the biggest drop-offs in the standard marketing sales funnel is the jump between lead and conversion. It’s easy to optimize turning traffic into leads, but turning leads into sales is incredibly difficult. A fool and his money are soon parted, but most consumers aren’t fools, and they generally don’t want to part with their money unless there’s a really good reason. It’s up to you to provide that good reason.
This is a technique that’s easy to do, but often overlooked. You get so caught up in posting the benefits of your product, and all the data a user might need to decide to convert, that you forget to give them the next step in the process. When they arrive on your landing page, you have a clear call to action, right? Of course you do; it’s rule number one of landing pages.
Treat every phase, every step in your marketing process, like you would a landing page. Make sure everything the user sees has the next step of the process built in. This includes everything from blog posts to email newsletters to special messages and direct communications. Always give them a button they can click or a link they can follow in order to make the purchase.
The trick is to avoid directly asking for money. The moment the user realizes money is part of the equation, they become more skeptical and more difficult to convert. Phrases like “buy now” are difficult to use for this reason. Do everything you can to get them to the conversion step before discussing money.
The negative bias is a phrase used in psychology. Essentially, it describes the human tendency to assign greater weight to negativity than positivity. It’s why insults hurt more than compliments help. It’s why depression is an epidemic and euphoria is a passing event. It’s why political attack ads are more effective and more memorable than positive ads. It’s why negative reviews are given more weight than positive.
How do you abuse this to your advantage? The easiest way is to come up with negativity that your users experience on a day to day basis. This is, usually, the problem your product will solve if they use it. A cleaning service will remind users how dirty things can get, how harmful caustic chemicals can be, how time-consuming it is to do cleaning yourself. All of these examples get the negativity in the minds of the users, and open the door for you to chip in.
“All of that sucks, right? Good news! Our product can help you solve all of that and more. Just click here to find out how.”
One of the most tempting problems with software design is feature creep. You have a set of 10 features you want for your product, but when you’re coding feature 6, you decide you want features 11, 12, and 13 as well. When you’re coding feature 9, you decide you also want 14, 15, 16, and 17. The longer you spend in development, the more features you want. This would be fine, if they were easy to add, but they aren’t. They cost time and money, and that means your product never makes it to market.
This is why the idea of Early Access games has taken hold in gaming, for example; it allows a game company to push out the bare essentials of their game and start selling it. Then they can keep hooking more users and bringing older users back with a constant flow of updates with new content.
You know how you get used to a smell after a while and stop smelling it? That’s a lack of novelty in action. A new smell gets immediate attention, while old smells are ignored. It’s the same thing for product features. If you have nothing to announce and nothing new to promote, you’re not going to attract new people to buy. Novelty makes sales, even out of old customers.
If I tell you to buy my product, are you going to do it? Probably not, right? First, you’d want to know what my product is and what it does. Then you’d want to know why I want you to buy it. That’s why if I want to sell my product to you, I’ll give you a reason why you should buy it.
Here’s the secret; that reason doesn’t have to be good or make sense. All it has to do is sound plausible. Though, of course, good reasons convert better than bad reasons, any reason converts more than no reason at all. Just take a look at the Xerox Experiment, wherein the reasons boiled down to nothing more than “just because” and yet it worked.
One of the leading causes of a low conversion rate tends to be an overly broad selection of incoming users. For example, if you pay for cheap clicks through Facebook PPC, you’ll end up with a ton of people visiting your landing page, but virtually none of them will give your site a second glance.
The problem here is that the people you’re bringing in aren’t actually all that interested in buying your product. This is called lead qualification. The most qualified leads are the people with a clear intent to buy. Most of these people will go on to convert immediately upon arriving, so you don’t have to worry about nurturing those leads. It’s the people who want to convert, but who need a little time or a little convincing, that you need to follow up on.
Every sales call you make that doesn’t result in some advancement along the sales funnel is a waste of time. The problem primarily comes from unfocused ads and an overly-broad funnel. This, in turn, comes with the emphasis of traffic over conversion rate.
In landing page optimization, I’ve seen experiments that go in two directions. Some sites have successfully increased conversions by cutting out 90% of the content on their landing page and opting for a minimalist design. Other businesses have increased conversions by dramatically expanding the amount of content on the page, giving users more information before they make a decision.
Now, a lot about whether this works depends on what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to. If you’re targeting people who already know a lot about your product, they don’t need to know the basic entry-level information. On the other hand, if you’re trying to attract and inform new users, you may be better off giving more information.
Ideally, a modular, packaged set of information is best for most purposes. A seminar can be good, explanatory videos are nice, and downloadable packs of information in the form of PDFs are great. Don’t force the information on the unwilling; just provide it so that users can find it if they have questions, regardless of their level of knowledge.
If you had to move a heavy refrigerator up five flights of stairs to an apartment, how would you do it? Would you try to carry it on your back? Would you get a dolly and use leverage? Would you rent a crane and lift it up to fit in through the balcony? Would you take the freight elevator? When you’re doing something involving physical effort, you automatically search for the path of least effort and least resistance.
The same thing holds true for mental activities. If you need to accomplish a task online, you’re going to look for the method that involves the fewest steps and the least effort on your part. If you ever needed proof, just look at the entire world of black hat SEO, get rich quick schemes, and gambling.
Twist this on its head and look at it from the business perspective. You want people to do something; buy your products. You have them on your site as leads already. Take advantage of their tendency to simplify by providing them with the smoothest, easiest conversion path possible. The less they need to do to buy, the better.
I don’t know your sales funnel. When a user fills out a form to opt in to your mailing list or to express interest in your product, I don’t know what your next step is. Do you send a welcome email? Do you schedule a sales call? Do you send them a personalized monogrammed letter certified by a notary, delivered by carrier pigeon, only visible when worked out through a vigenere cipher?
The point is, whatever you do, do it faster. Studies have shown that the majority of businesses take way too long to respond to leads. If all you’re doing is sending an email, great, you can do that with an automatic campaign using any of a dozen email management tools these days. When it takes a more personal sales call with a one to one conversation, that’s when things get harder. Salespeople are overworked and don’t have the luxury of fostering relationships, which means they have a harder time closing the sale.
In sociology, humans tend to gather into groups. They also tend to stick together better as larger groups when they have an external force or group to label an enemy. In early human history it wasn’t necessary to manufacture these enemies; they were ever-present, like winter, predators, and fire. In modern human culture, there are plenty of enemies, and taking sides for many of them fracture communities more than grow them.
Where do you split the difference? The key is to make a common enemy for you and your customers, without alienating anyone. Apple did it with the Mac Vs. PC campaigns and the more recent iPhone Vs Android battles. You can do it by flagging something your product solves as the enemy, even if it’s something as nebulous as the concept of a boring career.
The thing you need to watch out for is accidentally targeting the sort of enemy that gets your business in hot water. You can’t get away with calling Asian people the enemy, or calling Jews the enemy, or calling the Democrat Party the enemy. These are issues where people have strong feelings, and you’re looking for issues where people can non, agree with you, and buy your product.
As of the publication date of this post, several months before the release date of the game Fallout 4, how many units do you think it has sold? How many preorders are taken for the latest iPhone each time one is released? How many people attended the midnight release of the last Harry Potter book?
All of these are examples of times when a product was hyped up before it was even released, and millions of people showed up to buy and use those products the minute they became available. Building anticipation and interest is a great way to get more people to buy your products when they go on sale.
There are many great ways to build hype for a new product or service, but one great way is to identify industry influencers and give them review copies. Get them to help broadcast and hype up your product, and half your work is done for you.
Social validation and proof comes in many forms in different locations. Payment processing pages have secure communications badges, like VeriSign. Blogs have social validation in the form of follower counts for social media sites. Landing pages have what Neil Patel calls Logo Porn.
People operate in a herd mentality. It’s a throwback to when we all lived in small communities and were required to cooperate lest we all starve and die. People like having validation and proof of an idea. No one makes a village-wide feast out of ingredients new to the village; they test them and see if they kill someone, and if they don’t, they include them.
The point is, in order to encourage people to do something – in this case, convert – you need to provide proof that other people are doing so as well. It might be client logos, it might be a numerical figure of recent signups, it might be user testimonials, or it might be social sharing buttons with counters. Whatever it is, including it will boost your conversions almost guaranteed.
How often have you seen a website promoting its product with a graphic that indicates their product, worth $200, is on sale for $75 right now, available if you act quickly? How often have you felt that sense of urgency, that need to convert immediately, in case you missed out on the deal? I’d wager pretty often, even if you don’t convert most of the time.
Here’s the secret; most of the time, that $200 value estimation is pulled out of thin air. The product is on sale for $75 because people buy it for $75. You’d be hard pressed to find a time when it sold for $200. Heck, you’d have a hard time figuring out where the company came up with the $200 valuation from in the first place. That’s because most of the time it’s a completely made-up number designed just to make their current price point more attractive.
If you want a less skeevy method to accomplishing the same goal, consider the products with multiple package tiers ranging from a free version up to a “call us to find out more” enterprise level. I bet you that most companies with these packages tend to have one package much, much more commonly sold than any other. The others are typically decoys, with the side benefit of actually selling a unit now and then.
Have you ever stared up at the night sky and wondered what it all means? Wondered about the futility of an individual life lasting a few short decades, in the grand scheme of stars living on the order of billions or trillions of years? Here’s a tip; don’t remind your customers of the futility of life.
People crave recognition, validation, significant, satisfaction. They want to feel important. It’s up to you to make them feel that way, even if to you all they are is a wallet with a mouth that won’t stop asking stupid questions.
Customer service is necessary for making customers feel good about their purchase. Make sure you’re always available “at their service” whenever they have a question, be it through email, a sales line, Twitter, or some other communications line.
Remember Ebola? Remember the earthquake in Nepal? Remember the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, or hurricane Katrina, or the ever-burning forest fires in California? If you had to answer, right now, how many of those were still current valid concerns, how many would you guess?
Memory is short, the media is a mayfly that buzzes from one topic to the next, and the public eats it up. People react to new, emotional, important events, be they natural or human-engineered. If you can ride along on one of those events, do so.
Just don’t make a horrible mistake, like that oft-maligned clothing line trying to use political unrest in Egypt as an excuse to sell shoes. Be sensible with it.
At some point, you need to back off from the theory and get into the practice. You need to implement some of the changes I’ve listed above, and you need to do it in a way that can be measured and tracked. To do this, you need to learn and understand the art of split testing.
A split test is a simple idea; take two identical scenarios, change one variable on one of them, and measure them for an equal amount of traffic. Take the one that performs better, adopt it as the primary control, and split off another variation for further tests.
In reality, you can often test 5+ changes all at once, so long as they’re all changes of the same variable and are tested against equal, statistically-relevant audiences. It’s important that the tests remain equal, and that you only change one variable, or else you’ll end up with skewed or meaningless results.
What can you test? Here are a bunch of ideas.
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