Conversion optimization is a growth strategy, but it’s been handicapped. We all know what a sales conversion rate is, it’s the ratio of sales opportunities to closed sales. So if you close 3 of 100 opportunities your conversion rate is 3%. Sadly, this too simple understanding is holding businesses back, and not just online.
To increase sales conversion rates you can do one of two things:
Decrease Friction – remove the obstacles that slow, block or confuse buyers while they are engaged in the buying process
Increase Motivation – help the buyers gain confidence that this is the right purchase, at the right time in the right place and from the right people
Decreasing friction is much easier and more immediate than increasing motivation. I’m certain that’s why in 2017 the average US eCommerce conversion rate is approximately 3%. The top performers convert closer to 15% and Amazon Prime Members convert at 74%. Funny, in 2003 it was controversial when we asked people to consider why their online conversion rates were below 10%. We still ask.
Decreasing friction can be accomplished short-term, with a cross-functional team and a modicum of intra-company cooperation. That’s hard to accomplish. It’s worthwhile. Please don’t stop there!
Increasing motivation requires empathy for the customer across the organization and a cross-functional team. It also needs a leader who advocates for the customer, irrespective of silo or department. That leader needs enough authority to influence buy-in so it’s probably not the head of a department like marketing or sales. This so much harder to accomplish. It requires a leader who cares more about the customers than the particular internal structure of their organization. It’s the juiciest part of optimization and it’s a long-term growth strategy.
Caring about customers is what stimulates agile innovation and optimization. Optimization creates a virtuous cycle of high growth. It primarily requires caring about the quality of the experience of customers and potential customers. We wrote about Amazon’s Four Pillars of Success and how customer-centricity is the first push on the flywheel in Be Like Amazon: Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It.
What stops businesses from extracting the juiciest parts of optimization?
Internal teams focused inwardly instead of on the customer. They need a leader to help them see the bigger picture.
Internal teams don’t think they have to change. Nobody likes change. They need a leader who knows when it’s necessary.
Internal teams see themselves relative to competitors but not relative to the gap in customer expectations. They need a leader with a different reference point.
Internal teams perform against a benchmark. However, often that data doesn’t reflect the customer’s reality. They need a leader who is focused on optimizable qualitative inputs instead of quantitative outputs.
Not caring enough about customers is what stands in the way of dramatic growth. It takes courage and vision to do what it takes to help customers buy from you. If you’re not the CEO or an owner you probably can’t pull it off without their full support. If you are the CEO or owner we’d love to hear from you. Do you have the courage and vision to sustain a long term high growth strategy?
Looking for an agency can be a dangerous and painful job. Sometimes you find a great partner. Sometimes there’s a large gap between what you’re looking and what the agency can provide.
Everybody should hire some form of agency. The primary reason is that we work on our business every single day. We see the world through our own eyes. That is the curse of knowledge. Having someone from the outside your business is essential. They can either give you recommendations or help you with implementation.
We opened the first CRO agency in 1998. We no longer offer CRO services to clients. We still have a lot of friends in the industry. It’s likely some of them will disagree with the way we approach it. That’s OK! The goal of this post it help you hire a CRO agency that is a great fit.
What’s up with Legendary Links? From time-to-time, we’ll post some of the interesting articles that we found interesting and that you may have missed. Please let us know if you find them interesting or if you’d like to share other links that we may have missed.
In this ConversionXL Institute study, we tested four different voices, which differed by gender and whether they were professional voice actors or not. Question is, did it make a different in how people perceived our video content? Yes, and the results were somewhat surprising.
“Amazon is a case study in ceaseless innovation and interminable disruption,” says Artemis Berry, vice president of digital retail for Shop.org and the National Retail Federation. To toast Amazon’s 21st birthday, STORES uncovered 21 times it changed the dynamics of selling, came up with fundamental new ways of doing business and altered how customer satisfaction is measured.
Apple will create an iPhone primarily from ZrO2 – Zirconian Ceramics. The journey Apple has taken to adopt Zirconia Ceramic as their fundamental design material translates like an epic movie plot. We will begin at the end.
Then in 2010, Optimizely launched. By thinking deeply about who needed to do this job rather than just what needed to be done, then designing a tool specifically for that market, Optimizely revolutionized A/B testing on the web. And all they had to do was take out steps.
Bain & Company analysis shows that companies that excel in the customer experience grow revenues 4%–8% above their market. That’s because a superior experience helps to earn stronger loyalty among customers, turning them into promoters who tend to buy more, stay longer and make recommendations to their friends. As a result, promoters have a lifetime value that can reach 6 to 14 times that of detractors, depending on the industry.
We use a 3-step process as part of our Buyer Legends process.
Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization
Of course, you cannot start the 3-step process without first creating actionable personas based on qualitative and quantitative data. Buyer Legends employ storytelling to optimize customer experiences.
Why do we focus on customer experience? We wrote in 2001 that conversion rates are a measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take the action you want them to take. They’re a reflection of your effectiveness at satisfying customers. For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs.
The reality is that most companies lose more sales every day than they make. If you are converting less than 15% you need to evaluate what is broken in your customer experience.
Get to the bottom of what is going wrong, and plan to get it right. That is why, hands down, the pre-mortem step is the most impactful step of our Buyer Legends process. In fact, rarely does this exercise fail to produce at least one a-ha moment for our clients. When you imagine the sale is already dead it frees up all the mental energy that you used to try and get the sale and points it at all the potential pitfalls and problems in your experience.
Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization
After you perform your pre-mortem you will likely end up with a long list of potential proof of Murphy’s law, but not everything on your list is equal. Some thing are worth your effort some are not. In my work with clients we often use Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization to separate the more pressing issues from the tinier ones.
First sort the list of problems into the follow categories:
Functional. Does this product/service do what the prospect needs? How easy is it for a prospect to determine this?
Accessible. Can she access it? What are the barriers to her ability to realize the need? Is it affordable, reasonable, and findable?
Usable. Is it user-friendly? Are there obstacles?
Intuitive. Does the sales process/Web site feel intuitive and natural based on her buying preferences? Is she forced to endure unnatural buying modalities to realize her need?
Persuasive. Does she want it? Does she truly understand if it fills her need or solves her problem? Is her expectation reasonable? Will she be delighted?
Once they are sorted simply work your way up the pyramid. Again, remember not every problem is in search of a solution, and you should focus on the problems that are likely to impact the most customers and problems that you can actually fix. Be practical, don’t get caught up in the problems you can’t fix.
Let’s consider another simple system to enable your organization to prioritize more effectively when planning tests. The system is based on prioritizing all your planned efforts by three factors with a score from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best and 1 being the worse:
Time – How long will it take to execute a project (a change, a test, or full scale roll-out) until its completion? This includes staff hours/days to execute and the number of calendar days until the project’s impact would be recognized. A score of 5 would be given to a project that takes the minimal amount of time to execute and to realize the impact.
Impact – The amount of revenue potential (or reduced costs) from the execution of your project. Will the project impact all of your customers or only certain segments? Will it increase conversion rates by 1 percent or by 20 percent? A score of 5 is for projects that have the greatest lift or cost reduction potential.
Resources – The associated costs (people, tools, space, etc.) needed to execute a project. Keep in mind: No matter how good a project is, it will not succeed if you do not have resources to execute an initiative. A score of 5 is given when resources needed are few and are available for the project.
Next, take each factor and multiply them (don’t add them because these factors are orthogonal) for each project. The best possible score is 125 (5x5x5). Tackle and complete the highest-ranking projects first. Meet weekly with a cross-functional group to evaluate the status of each project. Be prepared to re-prioritize regularly; once a month or at least once a quarter.
The top 25% of online retailers convert at 5.31% and the top 10% of online retailers convert at 11.45%.
Amazon Prime members convert 74% of the time on Amazon.com. That is according to a 2015 study from Millward Brown Digital. Compare that to 13% for non-prime members.
Amazon’s user interface isn’t 22x better than average. Amazon’s copy isn’t 22x better than average. Amazon’s design isn’t 22x better than average. Amazon’s prices aren’t 22x better than average. Amazon isn’t average and it doesn’t think about average conversion rates or average customers. Amazon’s stated goal is to be “the most customer-centric company on earth.”
This fits with how we define conversion rate. “Conversion rates are a measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take the action you want them to take. They’re a reflection of your effectiveness at satisfying customers. For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs.” We first wrote that in 2001 and it continues to be true.
The story you need to get right is not the story you tell you customers; that’s just promotion. Fix the story from the point of view of your customers. Because your brand isn’t what you say it is but what your customers say it is.
Amazon’s brand is demonstrably strong with their Prime Members.
You too can convert more. Try creating Buyer Legends for your brand in order to create a better customer experience. If you need help, please let us know.
In our experience hacks often fall short. They rarely deliver meaningful results or deliver insight that leads to the next high impact change. A clever or creative hack that doesn’t improve the customer experience is just a band-aid. Hacks are tactical, not strategic. SunTzu wrote: “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”
Tactics are not relevant to your customers’ needs they are just more noise. If a ‘hack’ fails to increase your conversion rate, it’s not because the hack was bad. It’s likely more strategic; you don’t understand your customers needs well enough.
Hacks can be useful if they fit into a strategy. In order for them to be useful, they need to add value to your customers’ buying experience.
Where do good hacks come from?
Would you like to find a treasure map with high impact conversion optimization ideas for your business? You don’t have to wait for some guru to figure it out for you. You can generate your own hacks based on customers’ needs, problems and buying styles.
“We have worked with companies of all shapes and sizes that possessed varying degrees of talent and competence. We have tried it all, training and encouraging our clients to go deep into the marketing disciplines as well as guiding them through adopting a very robust optimization process.
But what we didn’t know early on was how a single piece of that optimization process, what we at the time called scenario narratives, would reveal itself over and over as the ‘one thing’ that has the largest impact on a company’s ability to sell more.”
The ‘one thing’ is a simple process we have developed over almost a decade of our work. The Buyer Legend process provides you a treasure map that any competent marketer can create. They can then use that treasure map to improve their customer experience. That leads to conversion rate increases of multiples instead of increments.
The most powerful hack revealed
It’s not sexy. It’s not hip and edgy. Yet it works every time. Average marketers will often outperform others who are more experienced and talented.
Hack into your customer’s head. Uncover their needs and wants. Exceed their expectations. And then give them what they really want.
The simple process we developed to deliver on this promise is Buyer Legends. Buyer Legends will:
Help you to create real-world improvements in your customer experience.
It will take you about 2 hours. Then you’ll have a real treasure map of conversion rate optimization ‘hacks’ for your business.
Make a commitment
You’ll need to commit to providing a better customer experience. Focusing on conversion rate increases is not enough. It’s that commitment that requires true effort. There is no easy way to make a major impact, you always have to do the work. Trust me, it’s more difficult to be on the CRO hamster wheel. The status quo will continue to yield only incremental results.
We want to start a new conversation about the future of CRO. To survive it must evolve. We want to help marketers help their customers buy. We want to help marketers avoid irrelevant hacks. We want you to use this process and then tell the world about the results. It’s the only way to change narrative.
Every marketer struggles with managing resources. Most feel they are under-resourced to make the kind of impact they would like. You don’t have to stretch your resources to test out and prove this process works.
We have also eliminated the “I don’t have the time excuse.” Creating your first Buyer Legend will take you about two hours.
The Buyer Legend process in action
The first step of the process is to create a profile or persona of one segment of your customers. Next you will use the persona to brainstorm a premortem list. The premortem focuses on all the things that go wrong in their customers’ experience. The premortem list alone should provide several new ideas for relevant hacks. You can read more about all five steps of the process here.
For example, we recently wrote about a smart frugal persona (Marcy). This persona was buying a microwave online. In her premortem, we uncovered how Marcy researches prices. If Marcy feels like she can get it cheaper elsewhere then she won’t stop looking. She needs to know that she is paying the lowest price. Bob’s Appliance Outlet (not the real customer) is a high volume low margin business. They sell on price. Now observe in this part of her Buyer Legend how we addressed this specific need:
“…Marcy stumbles upon a website for Bob’s Appliance Outlet. A large banner on the homepage announces that most items qualify for free shipping. Even more impressive is a smaller banner in the top right corner of the page that says: “Want the lowest possible price? “Name your price” make an offer on any item in our store, and we will do our best to match it”. Marcy clicks on it. She reads the next page. She finds that the price offer feature is simple and straightforward. There is no fine print. She still wants to learn a bit more about the company and goes to the About Us page . After she reads this page she feels confident. This is a credible company with a credible offer. She then does a site search for the microwave she is looking for and finds it. She reads through the product description and reviews for due diligence. She is delighted. Her microwave qualifies for free shipping. Elated at the possibility of saving more than she expected, she enters an offer. It is $100 dollars under the lowest price she found elsewhere and hits the Buy button. A page comes back and tells her that her offer was too low but encourages her to try again. She didn’t think they would accept another offer, but felt it was worth a try. She enters a price that is $50 under the lowest price she found before. This time the offer is accepted. Marcy is presented with a page that congratulates her. It lets her know that her item will ship today. It asks her how she would like to be notified about shipping. It also asks if a text message is appropriate.”
This ‘name you own price’ checkout hack will be great for their Marcy-like customers. This is a great way to keep price scavengers from leaving their site without buying. Even with a phone number available, few prospective customers want to call Bob’s to haggle. Allowing Marcy to set her price is powerful. Of course, it’s all within the price parameters Bob’s sets in place.
You can give customer what they want
Going through the process and writing the Buyer Legend is rather simple and easy. Implementing this customer experience was a challenge. It was championed by someone in the C-suite. Fortunately, it was already described in great detail and that helped. It still took some testing to get it right for both the customer and the business.
In this fifth, penultimate, post in the Buyer Legends Recipes Series will help you bring it all together. If you’ve created personas, you’ve done a pre-mortem, as well as a reverse chronology, planned the persuasive momentum, now it’s finally time to write the Buyer Legend itself. Your Buyer Legend will be the action plan for your company to execute on delivering and improved customer experience.
For some of you the idea of writing a story, in itself, sounds messy and even scary. While you probably could execute reasonably well based on the reverse chronology alone, it will not deliver the more subjective emotional experience of the customer. A story is a more powerful way to arouse understanding, empathy, and creativity in your team that is required to execute your planned customer experience. The power of story is part of our DNA. In our book Buyer Legends we explain:
Humans have only one tool capable of communicating the subjective experience of relationship through time, and that’s narrative. Ask someone about a favorite possession, and you’ll hear a story. Ask them about a friend or spouse and you’ll hear a story. There simply is no other way to talk about relationship. And that goes for the relationship between customer and company (or brand) as well.
Before we started using Buyer Legends we rarely saw a standard action plan transform the mindset of entire team. Nothing but stories make them more customer-centric in their thinking. Now with Buyer Legends, we regularly witness that transformation. Still, please realize that while the Buyer Legends process is simple and effective, but not necessarily easy. It’s much like exercising or getting healthy, if you put in the work it will yield results.
Creating remarkable and persuasive customer experiences with your Buyer Legend
Your Buyer Legend, by design, will create the persuasive momentum necessary to help your customers buy rather than selling them. This is where the Buyer Legends process begins to pay off. It will illustrate for the team the specifics of what they need to do. In addition they will understand why they are doing it and how their work fits into the overall customer experience, which allows for better team coordination, and fewer execution cycles. But more importantly it will help you create a customer experiences that make your customers happier.
If you want to create a remarkable customer experience with your Buyer Legend instead of just an improved customer experience, you’ll want to add remarkable (worthiness to be remarked upon) to your story. A remarkable customer experience is what creates word-of-mouth. Meeting or slightly exceeding expectations will simply NOT be remarkable. If you haven’t uncovered a remarkable idea or two in the pre-mortem or the reverse chronology, now is a good time to brainstorm them by using your personas and asking them the following question: “What will impress the heck out of the persona in our Buyer Legend?”
Here are the four elements of remarkability that create word of mouth and help you be remarkable:
I. Architectural – Apple’s products, packaging, and retail environment are architecturally remarkable, it is the core of their brand and allows them to charge a premium and reap a larger profit margins than their competitors. The erupting volcano at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and actually most casinos on the strip are architecturally remarkable.
II. Kinetic – Google search results are kinetically remarkable because they are ultra-fast and highly relevant. They typically allow you to find exactly what you are looking on the first few results on the page. This has kept them at the top of the search engine game for years. The flashy cooks at Benihana or any teppan grill are also examples of kinetics. So are the fishmongers at Pike Place in Seattle who toss each other fish and create a fun atmosphere. The flashy lights, music, and satisfying sounds of a slot machine are by design kinetic, and excite people to take another spin. Uber and Lyft are examples of kinetics as well, by making it fast and simple to get a ride.
III. Generous – Being generous with your customer is always more efficient than advertising. It’s about delighting your customers by giving them something of real value for free or cheap. Jeff Bezos introduced Prime Membership which offers free two-day shipping for a relatively small yearly membership free, and every few months it seems that Amazon offers Prime members another real perk. Just last week they added a Spotify-like music streaming service not to mention a generous collection of free movies to stream, a selection of free kindle book rentals, and more. Bezos also opted for paying for Amazon Prime cost with a large proposed advertising budget. That has worked out well for Amazon.
IV. Identity – Many strong brands create followers that identify with the values of the brand and in turn become cult-like in their obsession. To every Harley-Davidson owner every other brand of motorcycle is a poser. Every Apple fan will tell you until you can’t stand it anymore why you should buy an Apple computer rather than a PC. Ikea is like crack for those that like to do things themselves and save a little. If your brand strongly exudes a value your identity will be remarkable. Of the four things that create word of mouth this is the most powerful but also the most difficult to execute, primarily because your entire company must have a passion for the values you emulate in your product or service.
Writing Your Buyer Legend
Following the entire process including your Buyer Legend will take you 1 1/2 to 2 hours total, depending on your writing speed. You will get quicker the more you use the process, we suggest you start with a small campaign first to get your feet wet. Obviously if you choose to write Buyer Legends for your entire range of customer experiences and deepen your research it will take substantially longer.
Budget approximately 90 minutes for a simple campaign:
Select your perspective ~ 15 minutes
Pre-Mortem list ~ 10 minutes
Reverse chronology outline ~ 15 minutes
Legend draft ~ 50 minutes
Here is the process for writing your Buyer Legend from our book.
Unlike the outline, you want your story to unfold from the beginning to the end. Don’t be overly concerned with your writing style but rather focus on clearly and simply communicating what is happening to your customer as they journey through their experience with your brand. Be as detailed as possible.
Here are some additional questions to consider as you write your first draft; what needed to happen to get the customer to complete your goal? What opportunities could you have missed? What loopholes haven’t been closed that would hold them back from buying? What opportunities (upsell/upgrade) can we take advantage of? What could you have done to make it easier for the customer along their journey?
Write your legend from the perspective of third-person omniscient, this will give you a point of view that allows you to describe the journey in your customer’s head and of your campaign in detail.
Ideally, you will include all the following ten elements in your legend:
A person. Who is your customer? This can be a persona or an ad-hoc persona that includes relevant customer data and insight into how the customer prefers to make decisions.
The person’s purpose. What are the customer’s larger goals? How does she define herself? What is she trying to accomplish on a larger level, career wise, personally, socially, etc.? In other words, what is the context of her purpose and her motivation? These things will inform her smaller objectives.
The objective of the interaction. What is she trying to achieve by interacting with your company? What is your conversion goal for this customer at this stage of her buying process?
The sequence of steps in the person’s plan. Tell the story of what the customer is doing at every step of their progress through the sales/conversion process.
The person’s rationale behind identifying the problem and executing a solution. Describe how the customer is thinking before, during, and after each step of the sales/ conversion process.
The key decisions the person will make. Describe the crucial decisions the customer must make to complete the conversion, and describe what she needs (features, benefits, testimonials, reviews) to make that decision.
The emotional struggles the person might face. However a person rationalizes a decision, every person makes the decision based on an emotional dynamic. What is the emotional dynamic? Is it a strongly-felt need? Pressure from others? Trust in the brand? Time versus money?
The anti-goals that will put off a person. What kinds of things must you avoid in this experience? Every person pursuing a goal not only has an objective, they have concerns and anxieties around what they don’t want and don’t want to happen. If you don’t address these concerns and anxieties, or allow even a hint of possibility that these things might happen, you will jeopardize the sale.
The additional constraints and considerations. What else does the customer need to consider? Does she have any limitations that may keep her from converting? Can you do anything to address concerns and remove those limitations?
The reasonable alternatives available to the person. What other options does the customer have? What kind of experience might she have with a competitor? What if temporary or permanent inaction is a good option?
Additional comments on the instruction for drafting Buyer Legends
Those ten elements do not have to be in order, as long as each is present. The first thing to do after a first draft is to check for all elements, and if you left one or a few out, just add them in. Typically the most ignored and misunderstood element is #7: “The emotional struggles the person might face.” It is one of the most crucial elements. Most businesses believe that their customers make logical buying decision, this is untrue. All people, even the most logical thinkers you know, make an unconscious emotional decision first and use logic to justify their decision. Emotions also add tension and drama to the story, making it more compelling and understandable. Here are a handful examples of emotional struggles:
He was afraid his wife would be unhappy with him for buying this.
He was worried that acknowledging a problem might worry his boss
She was frustrated that she couldn’t find the exact product she was looking for.
He was afraid failing in this decision would get him fired.
She was afraid that this product contains allergens that would harm her child.
He felt guilty about last years birthday present being a dud he is on a mission to get the right gift this year.
You don’t have to be a skilled writer to pull off writing a Buyer Legend. You only need to be clear and detailed. You can always have a writer (on staff or 3rd party) edit your story, but the decision maker should preferably write the first draft. This is especially true if you have to work with two or more departments to execute. A high level executive, the owner or decision maker is the only one with authority to insure execution across different departments. Generally the higher up they are in the food chain the more potentially powerful your Buyer Legend will be. If you are a manager or department head, you can write a Buyer Legend for the area that you are responsible for, but you cannot always transform an entire customer experience just your piece of it. Of course we have seen department heads have success using their Buyer Legend to influence and persuade colleagues across departments to implement Buyer Legends because they make the case for a more holistic experience.
Pro tip: add storyboards and wireframes to your Buyer Legend
It takes a bit more work but when we propose Buyer Legend projects to our clients we often include the following language in our Statement of Work:
The combined Buyer Legend will be represented visually as one integrated experience with storyboard mock-up of new web pages, new content and telephone script content recommendations. This will be accompanied by narrative, commentary and callouts explaining the flow of each scenario for each persona.
How to can use your Buyer Legend
Executives can use it to better communicate your customer experience strategy from the top down, from the boardroom to the stockroom.
Marketers can use it to create and optimize campaigns no matter how big or small. It works for both online and offline and for any media platform.
Companies can use it to create and optimize an entire system, like a website, sales funnel, or a complete customer experience.
Managers can use it to optimize cycles and improve execution.
Customer service can use it to optimize customer service channels.
Analysts can use it to interpret analytics and make the case to optimize specific channels and experiences.
Product management can use it to create and optimize products and services.
Content creators and content marketers can use it to plan, optimize and create more relevant content.
Your Buyer Legend will always start as a fictional tale using a fictional story and fictional personas, but Buyer Legends are not meant to stay that way. Your Buyer Legend is about creating a new reality than can be experienced by your customers and optimized and measured by your company. Buyer Legends are accountable by design. Next up in our series we will talk about measuring your Buyer Legend once it is live in the real word, I’ll also give you some help in improving them as well.
We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know.
Buying a pricey pair of sunglasses at the mall was not on Marshall’s honey-do list, but a week after the purchase he couldn’t be more satisfied. They look great on him, he’s gotten compliments, and Marshall is telling everyone who will listen about this particular brand of shades.
Marshall’s simple buyer’s journey had a happy ending. Not all journeys end that way, but they should. The Buyer Legends process will guide you through planning buyer journeys like this one. In this third installment of the Buyer Legends recipes series, I want to explain one of the basic ingredients in every customer experience that ends happily. We call it persuasive momentum. If you are not planning persuasive momentum into your customer’s experience, you are leaving way too much to chance. And if you are anything like me, I like to keep chance as far away from my business as possible.
What is Persuasive Momentum?
In “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?“, we defined persuasive momentum as “the progressive decision-making process that aligns the customers’ goals with our own business goals”. Whether intentional or not, your business is operating a persuasive system. Even earlier, in 2002, we defined a persuasive system like this:
Persuasive systems are complex. Their success depends on their ability to address the varying levels of need a user brings to the online experience. To be effective, a website must address these user needs at every point in the process.
While in the past we were often referring to websites, this applies to the entire customer experience which includes social media, traditional media, call centers, signage, product placement, packaging, customer service, sales collateral, direct mail, billboards, PPC, SEM, PR, websites, micro-sites, video, demos, sales training, employee training, and of course, one-on-one customer interaction. Each of these components (and some I likely missed) together form your persuasive system. The better you optimize your persuasive system the more efficient you will be at converting and reconverting customers. It is our experience that the companies that plan and optimize persuasive momentum usually convert 2-4 times better than their industry average.
Too often, we see marketers that are stuck on the sales/conversion funnel metaphor. They insist on believing that pouring more customers into the top of the funnel means more come out at the end. This is working too hard for too little return. Your sales/conversion funnel likely has some elements of persuasive momentum, but are they planned and designed to be optimized? It also has some leaks. Do you know what in your customer experience is working and isn’t working to move (or not move) customer forward toward your set conversion goal.
Micro-actions vs. Macro-actions
Because persuasive momentum is about enticing customers to take action, you must understand the two types of actions you want customers to take. Typically your conversion/sales goals are the macro-actions: capturing a lead, closing a sale, becoming a member. These are usually the actions that take up the most time and effort in terms of optimization and planning. Still, it is dangerous to ignore the micro-actions. Micro-actions are all the required smaller actions customers need to take to before they can take a macro-action. Micro-actions can be as simple as clicking a link, watching a video, reading content, clicking an ad, taking a note, and more. Without persuasive momentum, customers do not move forward in their buying journey.
The 3 elements of Persuasive Momentum
No matter if the action is micro or macro, there is a simple formula that will help you identify persuasive momentum or the lack thereof.
Relevance. Are you relevant to my wants/needs/desires (search query)?
Value. Do I know why you are the right solution for me? Have you explained your value proposition/offer well?
Call to action. Is it obvious what I need to do next? Have you given me the confidence to take that action?
Ask these questions of every touchpoint, and you will quickly find if your touch points are missing one, two, or all three of these components. Longtime readers may recognize that this is what we also call The Conversion Trinity.
Example #1 – Retail
Now I want to expand and dissect the sunglass-purchase happy ending at the beginning of this article to show you where each action was propelled forward by this force called persuasive momentum.
Here is the reverse chronological outline of that customer experience, with comments pointing out how persuasive momentum was planned and built into the experience. You can assume the kiosk employee was trained on how to present sunglasses and assist customers in buying the right pair for them.
Marshall likes the brand on Facebook and shares the page with a few friends he thinks would appreciate knowing about these shades.
Over the week, his wife and 17 year old daughter and a few of his female co-workers told him they love his sunglasses.
Marshall is wearing his new shades every chance he gets, even on a fairly overcast day.
Marshall walks out of the mall, puts on his new shades, holding his head a little higher.
Marshall runs his errands, anxious to get outside with his new shades.
The kiosk associate thanks him, hands him his bag.
Marshall uses Apple Pay to pony up for the sunglasses he selected, his preferred form of paying. (The presence of the pay terminal is the call to action, but offering Apple pay reduces friction in the buying process).
The kiosk associate wraps his old sunglasses in the pristine new case, polishes the new shades carefully, packs up the cleaning cloth, and hand the new shades to Marshall.
The kiosk associate asks him if he wants to wear them out of the store and offers to pack up his old sunglasses.
Marshall announces he will take the sunglasses (notice how each micro-action was needed for Marshall to have the momentum to just go ahead and purchase the shades, our macro-conversion).
Marshall still thinks the glasses may be little too pricey for his taste, but the no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee puts him over the edge, and he decides to pull the trigger.
The kiosk associate tell him that he has a 14-day, no-questions-asked full refund or exchange warranty. (Again, the kiosk associate is presenting a new value).
Marshall asks to see them, tries them on, and decides the brown tint is better, but mentions to the kiosk associate that he loves them but faintly protests they are a little too expensive.
The kiosk associate also tells him that particular style is available with brown tint, which is best for driving (kiosk associate is presenting a new value).
“Hard to find” appeals to Marshall’s need to be one step ahead of everyone, not to mention that the glasses match his personal style.
The kiosk associate notices the style that Marshall has fixated on and explains that the brand is taking off in the U.K., and are hard to find (the associate is now presenting a new value in Marshall’s buying journey).
Marshall checks the price but doubles back. The price is more than he has ever spent on just sunglasses (Marshall is losing persuasive momentum).
Marshall spends time trying on a handful of different pairs, but keeps coming back to one particular style, he thinks it frames his face very well. They are not too big and not too flashy. (The selection offers Marshall more relevance, and he is taking a micro-action with every pair of shades he tries on).
The kiosk associate is helping another customer, but the booth itself has plenty of mirrors, with sunglasses displayed and arranged neatly, a fun sign invites customers to try on, and even take a selfie to share on social media for a modest discount. (the sign is a call to action, but specifically a micro-action).
Marshall notices a new sunglass kiosk. He has been itching for a new pair, thinking he would wait until spring, but the styles look interesting so he stops to browse. (new sunglasses are relevant to Marshall, #1 of the conversion trinity).
Marshall is shopping at the mall, picking up some tools at Sears, and a book for his daughter at Barnes & Noble.
Example #2 – B2B Lead Generation
This is a totally different company with a completely different customer. You might recognize this reverse chronology outline from my last article. Here I added comments to point out the elements of persuasive momentum.
Mark is excited to start scouting locations and using IdealSpot.com.
Mark fills out a form that asks for his name, email and password. He clicks Join and creates an IdealSpot account.
Marks sees that his privacy will be protected (reduces buying friction).
He clicks on the Get Started button. It explains the cost, that he is setting up an account, and that account will allow him to enter potential locations and request reports as needed. This is a call to action for the macro-action. Notice how many ways Mark was introduced to the value of IdealSpot and how it propelled him forward through the buying journey.
Mark is sold and wants to try IdealSpot. Still believing the pricing is too good to be true, Mark reads a section on the pricing page that explains how big data and learning algorithms dramatically reduce the cost of research allowing ideal spot to offer high value analysis and rock bottom prices. This page solidifies Mark’s belief that IdealSpot has even greater value to him.
Mark wants to get a sense of their track record, so he goes to the Success Stories page and reads a handful of stories from IdealSpot clients who are having early success. He realizes that IdealSpot is a startup, and their long-term track record is not as established as it could be, but the low price point introductory price of $197 removes this barrier in his mind. (Mark gets more value here and this continues his persuasive momentum).
Mark reads about the algorithm, how the data is loaded for each location, and how the the clientele used to predict success are chosen based on competitors’ and his type of business. He sees this is similar, even superior, to the methods used by much more expensive location research alternatives. (This page provides more value and increases persuasive momentum).
Mark clicks through to the the IdealSpot “How Does it Work” page. (The promise of an answer behind the How Does it Work is another call to action for a micro-action).
He reads about how big data is able to spot success patterns. It explains that most location analyses “hit the wall” when people become involved (and consultants like Buxton), and spend time and money collecting piles of data, but then have no way to relate it to the success or failure of their business. This is where big data and learning algorithms inject science into the process by mining through the data to pick out patterns of success or failure and the key factors driving those patterns. The algorithms act without human bias. They start from scratch and construct a model that is unique for each business based purely on results. (Mark is starting to understand IdealSpot’s value to him).
Mark clicks on a link to a re-targeted blog post while he is on LinkedIn, the subject line “How Science and Big Data Are Changing the Ways Businesses Choose New Locations. (Call to action for a micro-action).
Mark, who is familiar with similar services and has spend tens of thousands on this type of research, had looked into IdealSpot. He went to the website, but didn’t get past the first page. His concern was that it would be just a whole bunch of computer-collated data with very little holistic insight into his needs as a business. In other words, it sounds too automated to be of real-world use. (This service is relevant to Mark).
The reverse chronology outline is the step in the process that allows you to address customer needs and plan persuasive momentum, while the pre-mortem will help you identify the relevant needs of the customer, as well ways to address the value of your product/service offerings.
Persuasive momentum is not an abstract concept, it needs to be planned concretely so that it can be implemented and optimized. Persuasive momentum lets you align the customers’ goals with your own goals. That is the only way both customer and company get to have the happy endings that you both desire.
We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help , please let us know.
April 9, 2015 will be the first annual International Conversion Rate Optimization Day. April 9 is also my 45th birthday. I’ve invested almost half my life evangelizing for conversion rate optimization (CRO). I should be thrilled but instead I find myself asking: is CRO, as it is practiced today, a dead end?
The good news is that there is a greater awareness that increasing sales conversion rates offers a greater ROI than what you can get from optimizing your traffic; either from paid or earned media. There is also a greater awareness of the tactics necessary to increase conversion rates.
Considering the Current State of CRO
CRO has been good for us. We studied hard, experimented, and then trained and encouraged clients to become experts in the many varied aspects of the CRO disciplines.
Yet not one of these siloed disciplines was a decisive factor in consistently achieving better results.
Upon reflection of our nearly 20 years of CRO work we observed that some companies effortlessly adopted a culture of optimization. Others achieved wins but failed to absorb the lessons learned. Their CRO was all about after-the-fact fixes; the dead end of many of today’s traditional tactic-based CRO efforts.
Conversion Rates Are Only a Leading Indicator of Success
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