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Archive for the ‘Conversion Optimization & Usability’ Category

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Laws of Marketing Power: Despise the Free Lunch

By | September 22, 2014

“There is no cutting corners with excellence.”

–Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

4073921729_653652a97f_zGreene’s Law 40 is fun to consider because it seems to run counter to marketing wisdom of the ages: Everybody loves ‘free.’ Why should we marketers “despise the free lunch”how does this law apply to us? As hard as it may be to believe, the concept of AWESOME FREE STUFF starts to break down in light of what is truly valuable to your customers (think long-term, sustainable value). We’ve all heard the expressions There’s no free lunch and You get what you pay for. This law underscores these old adages.

If there is no ‘free lunch,’ then we are smart to avoid it or at least maintain a healthy skepticism. Something usually advertised as ‘free’ does hold a hidden cost to the buyer: Privacy, time, an obligation to the individual or organization giving it away. Conversely, marketers that use the tactic of free offerings are smartly tapping into the powerful pull of the ‘free’ lunch. (By the way, I’m not holier-than-thou. I am as guilty as anybody of playing into this element of human psychology.) But could hyping a ‘free’ offering ever come back to bite us marketers in the rear? Yes, if you want to put a premium on the thing that is ‘free,’ perception-wise.

Back to You get what you pay for, this statement precisely summarizes the exchange of value for value. People generally expect to pay top dollar for top products/services. To the contrary, if you pay nothing for something, then that thing is relatively worthless … unless there is a hidden cost. So, for the marketers that want to convey the high value of something, the word free should be avoided at all costs. And everyone knows you tend to appreciate and care for things you earn more than those that are just handed to you. Case in point: When children earn an allowance by doing things to deserve the reward, they will spend (or save) more carefully than if you just gave them money with no conditions.

Another simple example: Fathom has an annual marketing summit for local non-profits. The first time around, the event was free. A year later, we asked for a $10 donation (with the proceeds to go to one lucky attending non-profit). Attendance increased significantly. Of course, you could argue that greater awareness and past reputation among our audience played a role, but at the same time the $10 correlation can’t be ignored.

Gated vs. un-gated content

All marketers know people will take the time to share their own contact information (and occasionally other details) if they feel they are getting a valuable resource in return. The fact that people will give away personal data in order to sign up for a webinar or download a premium report shows the value they place on such content. Smart marketers know they can keep such content ‘behind the gate’ and still gain valuable conversions and potential sales leads if the content justifies the action required by the user to obtain it. In these circumstances, marketers can signal the value of something by asking the user to “pay” for it with their information and even actual dollars.

And the same principle applies to entering a contest or using a Facebook app; you’re giving some brand a ‘like’ or sharing your data with marketers in exchange for a chance to win or the ability to play a game.

In a sense, having gated content is consistent with this law from a marketer’s perspective … assuming your content is sufficiently valuable. By choosing to hold it behind a gate, you are honoring its value and saying to users, “Pay a fair price for this.” The lunch is not free; value is conferred. Marketers who despise the free lunch strive for excellence and expect their customers to recognize it by making a fair trade.


This post is part of a series in which I explore in-depth how some of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power relate to marketing.


Image courtesy of Linda Tanner via Flickr.

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Laws of Marketing Power: Court Attention at All Costs

By | August 11, 2014

“Do anything to make yourself seem larger than life and shine more brightly than those around you.”

–Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

eye attentionAttention is a scarce resource. In fact, psychology writer Maria Konnikova argues in her book—Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmesthat attention and awareness are vital to cultivating powerful mental habits. Paying careful attention is the key to perceiving and understanding, with focus and mindfulness as its most important elements.

Given the countless distractions of today’s always-on information age, attention is harder to get than ever. Therefore, the imperative of capturing and holding people’s attention is stronger than ever. Marketers have always known about the need for notoriety. From 19th-century carnival barkers and newsboys to email subject lines and Facebook ads, the centrality of attention to marketing is timeless.

Let’s apply Greene’s Law 6—Court attention at all costs—to Web usability. Users often won’t see things right on their screens if they’re outside their focus of interest (thank you, selective attention). In fact, a website that loads faster than its close competitors by an eye blink will get more frequent repeat traffic (from users who aren’t even aware of the difference). Additionally, users report giving website pages 5 seconds or fewer to load before they decide to bounce.

Greene writes of P.T. Barnum putting up a big banner reading Free Music for the Millions on the same street where his museum was located. He would deliberately hire a bad band to play on a balcony to the “millions.” No sooner would crowds flock to the free concert than they would flee to his museum upon hearing the awful noise from the band. The entire idea was do anything to get people through his museum’s turnstiles.

Ironically, Internet users tend to ignore banner ads, despite their 3-D power in the real world from Barnum’s time to the present. Also, if your Web content merely looks promotional, even if it actually contains the answer to a user’s question, it will be ignored. Marketers who want conversions understand that getting and keeping user attention leads to profitability. Consider that Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information “above the page fold” and only 20% of their attention below the fold, despite propensity to scroll.

Without attention, you have nothing. If a message falls on deaf ears, did it ever make a sound? P.T. Barnum and usability studies alike would both say “No.”


This post is part of a series in which I explore in-depth how some of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power relate to marketing.


Photo courtesy of Juliana Coutinho via Flickr.

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Laws of Marketing Power: Enter Action with Boldness

By | July 28, 2014

“Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.”

So states the summary of Law 28 of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, which is “Enter action with boldness.”

bold spider

Bold jumping spider

One way marketers can achieve power is by boldly grabbing opportunities for influential communication. Marketers should also grab opportunities, period. As best-selling author Bernard Marr writes, “Success in work and life often depends on spotting and grabbing opportunities as they present themselves.” He argues that capitalizing on opportunities is “the one thing successful people never fail to do.” Marketers should heed the truth behind this statement and take chances.

Whether experimenting with a new technology or being genuine with customers about your limitations, the calculated risks we habitually avoid are often the ones with great payoffs. The new marketing channel may increase your reach, and customers may reward your honesty with increased loyalty, resulting in more business. The key is being decisive in whatever course of action you choose. Swiftness trumps hesitation, engendering confidence from others.

Another way boldness manifests itself for marketers is in creativity. As the German philosopher Goethe famously said, “In boldness lies genius, power and magic.” In inventing surprisingly good content, messaging or approaches, a marketer can become a magician, turning users into leads, leads into customers and customers into loyalists. Just as a rabbit materializes from under a magician’s hat, so, too, does the potential business reward emerge from certain forms of boldness. The very essence of an appropriately placed “call-to-action” button, for example, is in its contrast to the surrounding text (color, size, shape).  The principle? Direct the user to take action by making it easy and undeniable. The suggestion becomes the reality.

In this vein, perception matters more than anything else. The bold approach suggests strength: Consider the company that openly compares itself to competitors in marketing messages. By showing no fear of exposing its audience to its rivals, it puts itself first and asserts its assumed superior value to users. In fact, this strategy is highlighted in the Nielsen Norman Group’s B2B website usability report as one evidence-backed way businesses can earn the trust of Web users.

What marketing action have you taken recently? Has it been bold or lukewarm? Are you separating yourself from competitors and dazzling your customers? Or are you just trying to get by and copy what everybody else does? Take a cue from this law and use “shock and awe” to the advantage of your business.


This post is part of a series in which I explore in-depth how some of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power relate to marketing.


Photo courtesy of Holley and Chris Melton via Flickr.

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E-Commerce Calls-To-Action

By | July 23, 2014

We all know that the marketer’s ultimate goal for retail Web page visitors is conversion. We want the consumer to read the product descriptions, learn more about the merchandise or service, and ultimately be so convinced that it is exactly what they have been looking for they take the plunge right then and there. They make the purchase, download a manual, or request more information.

But sometimes the consumers need a little push. After possibly scrolling through many similar pages, they need something to make them take the plunge and actually make a purchase or supply their email address. Here is where a call-to-action can help. It lets customers know exactly what to do next. A few call-to-action options include:

  • Buy now
  • Shop today
  • Click here for more information
  • Add your name to our email list to learn more
  • Shop women’s
  • Men’s shirts on sale
  • Download the free manual now

This is just a sample of some viable options. Calls-to-action like “shop women’s” and “men’s shirts on sale” help direct the shopper to exactly the desired place on the website without thinking. People can be impatient if they don’t find exactly what they are looking for right away, so putting some of a company’s biggest sellers as click-ready buttons or text can be helpful and save time.

Other call-to-action ideas such as “add your name to our email list” may not get immediate shopping results, but this can help gain long-term customers. This gives access to potential customers to entice with discounts or notices about the newest products or services.

Calls-to-action should be kept simple and include visual elements. If there is an entire paragraph of clickable text, a consumer is likely to just gloss right over it. Using short, eye-catching phrases is best. Free trials or memberships are excellent (if applicable). Everyone likes free.

Calls-to-action can be clickable phrases, tabs at the top of the Web page or even buttons made to stand out and look like actual 3D buttons. This makes it even easier for the consumer to know where to click to find the wanted product or service. In the end, we are trying to convince the consumer to click and purchase this merchandise or supply information, so think about phrasing that would make us want to click on it ourselves.

For additional insights, check out “Call-to-Action 101.”

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Call-to-Action 101

By | July 8, 2014

Most people would agree that the call-to-action is the most important part of a landing page or email message, whether it’s meant to collect leads or inspire a purchase. So it’s important to take the right steps to ensure that there are no obstacles standing in the way of your audience and the end goal of your page. Below are a few tips to consider when designing calls to action for your landing pages, emails or any web pages that are part of your conversion funnel.

CTA button FB

Be specific.

Vague, lackluster verbiage such as “Buy Now” or “Click Here” is pretty bad, but “Submit” is probably the worst CTA you can use. Stick to clear and concise wording when choosing CTAs so that your audience knows exactly what they are doing when they click the button. For example, “Download the Conversion Guide” is obviously more descriptive than “Download Now.”

Stand out.

Don’t be afraid to draw attention to your CTA. The user clicked on an ad or email link for a reason, and the last thing you want is to hide the main purpose of your page and potentially lose the user’s attention. Try to stick to one main CTA, but if you really need to have more than one, make sure to prioritize, so that the more valued one is more prominent.

Easy ways to help your CTA stand out:

1. Contrast between button color and text color.

2. Choose a button color that goes with your branding but doesn’t blend in with the page.

3. Make sure the button and text are large enough compared to the rest of the page elements.

4. Use a rollover effect such as changing the button or text color.

White space is your friend.

It’s OK if your page isn’t filled from top to bottom with images and text—in fact it’s better if it isn’t. Don’t bury your call-to-action in the middle of too many distractions. Determine how much information your audience needs in order to decide whether or not to click on your call-to-action. The greater the investment by the user, the more information they will likely need in order to convert.  For instance, you probably need less details to get a user to download a free whitepaper than you would need in order to convince your audience to hand over their credit card information and purchase a $200 industry trend report.

Create urgency.

This one is pretty simple: If a person feels they are going to miss out on something, that person is more likely to convert. Use a limited-time offer, an exclusive discount for a same day purchase or remind that supplies are limited.

Point it out.

Ideally your page is designed well enough that the user can easily determine what they need to fill out or where they need to click. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use certain elements in order to help guide the user’s eyes where you want them to go. Using images that face towards the form or CTA, adding an arrow to the CTA button and aligning page elements so that there is an easy transition from information to the form or CTA are just a few ways to help lead your user in the right direction. If you have a dedicated designer on your team they should be able to help do this in a subtle way.

Reduce anxiety.

Eliminate any reasons your audience may have to worry about converting. If they’re signing up for a free trial, make sure to highlight the word free. If the user is paying for something, call out any warranties or money-back guarantees that you offer. Also, using logos for secure checkout or accredited organizations that your company is part of can help to ensure your audience that you company is legit.

Test. Test. Test.

Remember that no two audiences are identical, and therefore, what works for one landing page will not necessarily work across the board. The above tips are starting points, but you should continually test aspects of your page in order to establish what works best for your audience. If you use multiple landing pages for different segments of your audience, you will find that even those segments don’t always respond to the same things. If you don’t have the internal development resources to conduct testing there are plenty of good resources that make it relatively easy to run tests, such as Optimizely, Unbounce and Google Analytics Content Experiments.


Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee via Flickr.


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