IN THIS EBOOK 1. Reduce Subscription Cancellations by Using This One Word ................................................................... 3 2. 7 Proven Strategies for Organizing Your “Plans & Pricing” Page to Boost Conversion ............................ 7 3. Place Your Phone Number Prominently to Increase Trust ..................................................................... 23 4. Don’t Mention Money Until the Visitor Needs Pricing Info ................................................................... 27 5. Seed the Pot to Increase Sharing & Retention........................................................................................ 32 6. Use More Than Copy to Help Visitors Make a Decision .......................................................................... 37
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Joanna Wiebe is a professional copywriter and messaging strategist specializing in persuasive writing that converts visitors. Since 2003, she has been writing, editing & proofreading online and offline copy and designing interactions for tech companies as well as startups. She also consults and teaches writing for professionals. She holds an MA in Communications & Technology with specialization in ecommerce communication. The cofounder of Page99Test, Joanna lives with her hub-bub in Victoria, British Columbia. Twitter: @copyhackers
Hacker News: bloggergirl
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1. Reduce Subscription Cancellations by Using This One Word Let me tell you why people don’t quit smoking. It’s because of the word “quit”. We’re hard-wired as human beings not to stop doing something we’ve started. Once you’re involved in a project, you’re not supposed to quit it. After all, a common mantra in western society is “Quitters never win and winners never quit”. If you think cigarette companies don’t know about this aversion to the idea of quitting – well, I’m sure you know they do. They know what to say to keep you around. That doesn’t mean you have to play their sleazy game; but you can, at least, benefit from the strategy they use. Think of how hard it is for most startup founders to ‘quit’ their jobs to go out on their own. It’s not just the fear of losing a steady income and benefits that keeps us in our jobs; it’s the fear of having to admit to ourselves and others that we’ve quit. Imagine how sick you’d feel if you had to ‘quit’ your startup. First you quit your day job to go out on your own. And then you quit your startup? Urgh. Suddenly Great Aunt Edna is talking to Grandma June about what a deadbeat you are. The word “quit” makes people feel gross. So does “give up”.
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Imagine you’re trying to break up with your partner (i.e., girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse). You say you want to break up. But she doesn’t want to lose you, so she fires back, “You’re giving up on us?!” Suddenly, you feel like a failure. You question whether you want to break up because, well, you don’t want to be a major disappointment to yourself or others. In the case of ending a romantic relationship, you may have enough driving you to end things no matter what the other person says. But what about cases where you could still be persuaded not to give up or quit? It’s in those cases that the words “quit” and “give up” are very powerful. If you want to prevent people from stopping, ceasing or terminating an action, event or affair, use those words.
Avoid Telling People to “Quit” Your Competitor You may be in a position where you wish to steal customers from your competitor. (I mean “steal” in the nicest, most ethically satisfying way.) If this is the case, it’s simply a matter of avoiding using the words “quit” or “give up on” when referring to your competitor. So you wouldn’t, for example, write “Quit QuickBooks! Choose Freshbooks Instead!” You would avoid the use of “quit” or “give up” entirely and instead spin the message to reflect a motivation strong enough to overcome arguments against leaving QuickBooks, like any of the following: Get Back at Least 3 Hours Each Week by Switching to Freshbooks (Motivation = Time Acquisition) Are You Losing 3 Hours Each Week with QuickBooks? Switch Today! (Motivation = Loss Aversion)
How to Apply This Strategy in Your Copy The most natural place to use this copy trick is on a cancellation or unsubscribe page. I’d recommend using it in your headline (H1) and/or your call to action button or link. If you are only going to put it one place on the page, choose the call to action because that will require the visitor to actively interact with the word “quit” rather than passively observing it.
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Facebook App Quit Button
Why Not Just Make It Hard for People to Unsubscribe? Making it a challenge to do something does not make people less motivated to do that thing. People want what they want. If you hide something they want and expect from you, you’ll just put them in a bad mood – and that won’t help them change their mind and decide to stick with you. Microsoft makes it very hard to unsubscribe from their email and e-newsletter list. (See image below.) Making it hard doesn’t help anyone.
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If People Don’t Quit Things… Then, Um, Why Do People Quit Things? Visitors to your site will make decisions based on more than one input or factor, with various motivations in mind. (That’s why there are 4 Copy Hackers ebooks and more on the way! Loads to cover.) When it comes to quitting or not quitting, multiple variables will act as input into the final decision. For example, if you completely loathe your boss or you totally need to start your own company, you won’t let the idea of quitting dissuade you. But if you’re ho-hum about your boss and a little uncertain about being an entrepreneur, a reminder that quitting is bad can change your mind. Your visitors will weigh all the factors, with the negative side of “quitting” being one of them, and make a decision. If they’re highly motivated to end a subscription with you (for example), then using the word “quit” in your copy probably won’t make them second-guess themselves. But if they could go either way, the word “quit” could keep them around long enough to give you a second chance to earn their patronage.
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2. 7 Proven Strategies for Organizing Your “Plans & Pricing” Page to Boost Conversion In Copy Hackers Book 3: Headlines, Subheads and Value Propositions, I talk about the importance of ensuring the headline on your “Plans and Pricing” page is intriguing and persuasive. I caution against stating simply “Our Plans & Prices” as a headline because that is not exactly compelling enough to cause a visitor to convert. This chapter is not about headlines, however. It’s not about copywriting in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s about organizing the information or content in your catalogue – or Plans & Pricing page – itself to persuade more people and, thus, boost your conversion rate.
Plans & Pricing Pages: Organize Them Intentionally Most WordPress themes are built with catalogue page templates included standard. So there’s really no reason to veer from the standard – and expected – layout that other software-as-a-service startups are offering. But that doesn’t mean you can simply fill in a catalogue template and sit back to wait for the money to start rolling in.
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The template is just the beginning. It’s the information you put in that template and the way in which you organize that info that will allow you to sit back and wait for the money to start rolling in.
If you want to squeeze every possible sale out of your catalogue page, you need to be intentional with the way that you organize your products. There is an ideal way to organize products so that either you sell a greater quantity or you sell more higher-priced options. In fact, there are a handful of ways to organize your information to improve the chances of getting your visitors to convert in general. (Which is what persuasion is all about, after all.) Do you want more sales? Or do you want your customers to spend more, on average? You CAN craft a catalogue page that will help you do one or the other. When you effectively organize your products, you not only increase conversion of the product you’re leading with but you may also increase conversion in general. How can that be? How can you sell more in general simply by organizing your products intentionally? Well, it’s the same principle that makes it easier to find old boxes of photos in your garage when it’s organized… versus when it’s not. That is to say, it’s a matter of simplification. Take everything that might be scattered, hectic and haphazardly placed… and make it organized, concise and easy to understand at a glance. Your visitors will be less likely to bail on making a decision when your catalogue is properly organized.
7 Proven Strategies for Organizing & Writing Software as a Service “Plans & Pricing” Pages Most startups have only a handful of products to sell, and they tend to sell them in a standard chart that lines the products up against each other – like you’ll find in this section. 4Q (4suite) makes it easy for visitors to sort through the products they offer.
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They follow a series of implicit strategies that I’d like to make explicit here, for your benefit: 1. Limit options to the smallest group possible (e.g., 3 to 4 plans) 2. Avoid leading with just 1 option 3. Group like options together rather than muddying the waters with add-ons and unrelated plans or products 4. Position information about each plan in a row-and-column format, so that visitors can compare across a row to easily ascertain differences between plans 5. Highlight the “best value” or “most popular” solution so that people can quickly spot it 6. Leverage the tendency toward the “middle of the road” 7. Use visual cues to further simplify scanning and decision-making These strategies will be discussed in this section.
1. LIMIT OPTIONS TO THE SMALLEST GROUP POSSIBLE Notice how phone numbers are divided in small groups of 3 and 4 digits, with hyphens between each group to separate groups? That’s intentional. That didn’t just happen. Humans actually need to chunk information into smaller groups in order to make sense of that info and stand a better chance of recalling it. 9 2011 Joanna Wiebe
When it comes time to think about how many products to group together or how many SKUs to offer, consider this: psychologist Alan D. Baddely found, in a series of studies, that the number of items a person can remember is between 3 and 4. And they can only remember those things for approximately 20 seconds. So if you want your visitors to sufficiently assess your product lineup without feeling overwhelmed, don’t present your products in groups larger than 4. Whether you, as a copy hacker, narrow options down to a small group or not, your visitor will need to narrow their options before they make a decision. You can leave your visitors to do so mentally. You can put them through the mental anguish of trying to mentally discern what items to group together and narrow in order to compare them and make a decision. Or you can do what “persuasion doctors” do… and limit the options shown to the smallest group possible. It’s quite easy. When you’re positioning your products on your Plans & Pricing page, group plans so that no more than 4 products are in each grouping. Keep it to 2, 3 or 4 options shown.
2. AVOID SHOWING JUST 1 OPTION Given that I just told you to narrow lists of options down, you may be thinking that you should narrow options to just 1. But tests show that that’s – surprisingly – not the way to help people make decisions. Giving them just 1 option may actually hinder conversion. Why’s that? Well, remember how I said that you should limit options to the smallest group possible? People need at least 2 products side-by-side to compare one against the other because we make decisions by comparing X against Y. If you show me only X, I don’t know if it’s the best for me because I don’t have a clue what else is out there. You’re leaving my brain to do more time-consuming work than it’s evolved to do in situations that ought to be simple. But if you show me X and Y, I can now look at the two options and compare them against each other. I can see that X includes 250 support minutes but Y includes only 50 support 10 2011 Joanna Wiebe
minutes – and, just like that, I can feel better about choosing X because, suddenly, I know that X is better than an alternative. Does that make sense? People need to compare and contrast to make decisions. If you give your visitors just 1 option, they can’t compare and contrast. So they can’t make decisions as easily as they would in grouped scenarios.
3. GROUP LIKE OPTIONS TOGETHER RATHER THAN MUDDYING THE WATERS WITH ADD-ONS AND UNRELATED PLANS OR PRODUCTS Grouping plans together allows people a better chance to compare and contrast the options they’re seeing – as we just learned. It’s also important to group like options together and to visually separate unrelated product groups from each other. For example, you may be offering an email marketing tool that is available as 3 different plans – and you may also have print mail options and postcards. You want to sell all of those options to your visitors, so you think you should cram everything on the same page. But, from a persuasion perspective, you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to muddy the waters. Listing everything you have only makes it more difficult to narrow options. Most startup Plans & Pricing pages have a single group of products, so there’s little need to worry about this issue. But what should you do as you grow? Other growing tech companies, like SalesForce.com, have multiple product lines, each of which needs its own catalogue. Here’s how they handle their multiple product lines on a ‘single’ catalogue page:
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By using tabs to separate product lines, SalesForce makes it very easy for visitors to compare the products they’re looking for… while at the same time appreciating the breadth of SalesForce’s offering. Without overwhelming, SalesForce displays its many products to maximum effect. They’re simply grouping like options together rather than muddying the waters with add-ons and unrelated plans or products. You’d think this would be a no-brainer, right? Maybe in the startup world it is. But it only takes one visit to a Fortune 500 website to see a range of diverse products shoved into one massive catalogue… or to see a bunch of various, seemingly random products in one smaller catalogue. The following shows just such an issue. I stumbled on it while visiting the Oracle site (Oracle.com, 2011). I landed on the page in a perfectly fine mood; I left confused and frustrated by the experience:
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There are only 4 products listed on the Oracle catalogue – great! – but these are the products listed: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Oracle Linux Basic Support Oracle Real Application Clusters MySQL Standard Edition Oracle Database Standard Edition
Um, what do those products have to do with each other? Here’s the answer to that question: They’re all Oracle products. That’s it. That’s all they have in common. Which tells me that the customer – and selling the best-for-me product to the customer – is not at the core of this experience. Which cannot be good for conversion. And if you know otherwise, please tell me! Everything I’ve read and all the catalogue tests I’ve been part of have shown that any approach that doesn’t put consumer decision-making front-and-center is doomed to fail (unless major incentives are on the table). 13 2011 Joanna Wiebe
It would be far more effective to have a category page in place of this page and direct people to specific catalogues for the various product types. Yet it’s positioned as a catalogue page… Which is about as odd as if J Crew were to position women’s cardigans, wedding gowns, men’s jeans and clearance accessories on one page.
4. POSITION INFORMATION ABOUT EACH PLAN IN A ROW-AND-COLUMN FORMAT To help visitors scan your plans to easily ascertain the differences between the plans, mimic the ‘comparison chart’ layout, and create your catalogue page with rows and columns in mind. That doesn’t mean your page has to look like a boring table. It simply means that it should be very easy to run one’s eye from left to right, across the plan lineup, and compare the information across that line. Basecamp shows a great example of such an approach: BasecampHQ.com
If the line items didn’t match up as they do, it would add a layer of complexity that is counter-productive when you’re trying to make purchasing as simple as possible.
5. HIGHLIGHT THE “BEST VALUE” OR “MOST POPULAR” SOLUTION Without fail, the catalogue page tests I’ve been involved in that highlight the most popular
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or best-value solution show the same result: such highlighting is persuasive. You can convert more people simply by telling them: • Which product provides greatest value for least money • Which product other people are already choosing Value for money is a no-brainer. Unless your brand is the SaaS equivalent of Harley Davidson, it’s likely that your visitors will be persuaded by high value for less money. But what about “most popular”? Why does that matter? Well, Chapter 6 covers this entirely, but here’s a teaser: herd behavior. Humans have a difficult time veering from the pack. The average visitor needs to have a compelling reason to stray from what others are already doing. Help these visitors quickly spot the best value plan or the one that most people are selecting, and you will be more likely to convert them. Invoicera.com does this well:
6. LEVERAGE THE HUMAN TENDENCY TOWARD THE “MIDDLE OF THE ROAD” There’s this principle in behavior economics or consumer decision-making called “extremeness aversion”, which is exactly what it sounds like: People want to avoid leaning toward the extreme. When I’m talking to myself – as I’m prone to do (I work from home!) – I call this the “Goldilocks Phenomenon” because:
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a) it makes me feel cool b) Goldilocks was always choosing the “just right” middle option – the one that was neither too hot nor too cold, too soft nor too hard When given three items to choose from – whether stacked horizontally or vertically – the average person will choose the middle item. Your site visitors are no exceptions. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you’ll never sell the lowest priced or highest priced versions. It simply means that your visitors will instinctively spot the middle ground and either choose it or choose against it, using that middle point as a point of reference in decision-making.
7. USE VISUAL CUES TO FURTHER SIMPLIFY SCANNING AND DECISION-MAKING Star ratings, starbursts, recommendations, incentives, sales volumes, amount left in stock – these are all elements that can be turned into visual cues on a Plans & Pricing page in order to help visitors compare options effectively. You don’t need to jam-pack your plans with all of these cues. But if you use just one – such as star ratings – you will further assist your visitors in their goal of finding the right product for their needs. Which helps them make decisions more efficiently. Which increases your conversion rate.
Let’s Take a Moment to Talk About “Free” Recall the 4Q.com example earlier. Although 4Q offers 4 plans, they give prominence only to the paid plans. Let me repeat the screenshot for you:
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Can you find the free version on the 4Q screenshot when you first glance at it? It’s a small text link below the “Premium” product. Given that 4Q was free for so long and that they only recently moved to a paid solution (2011), it’s understandable that they’d want to subordinate – or move to a lower visual priority – their free version. But they’re not the only ones subordinating “Free”. Basecamp does, as well, as do most software-as-a-service providers who offer both free and paid solutions… and don’t want their free offering to cannibalize paid. You may want to subordinate “Free” for several reasons, including: • The rest of your products cost considerably more than $0, and you know that visitors will compare $0 to your lowest-priced product at $49 and choose free • You have 5 core products, including “Free” and do not want to line them up side-byside because you know that too many choices makes it more difficult to make a decision – so you have to subordinate at least one product • “Free” is cannibalizing sales of your high-quality lowest-price paid option(s) • Your click-tracking shows that visitors are not selecting “Free” as much as they are the lowest-priced paid option (which may indicate that your particular visitors do not require free)
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The word “Free” is as much an eye magnet as “$0”. When you put “Free” on a chart that begs price comparison, like the average SaaS catalogue does, you naturally run the very high risk of luring your visitors’ eyes away from your paid versions – which may actually be a better fit for their needs – and creating intrigue that will not help them. (CAVEAT: Leading startups are not making it difficult to find their free solution. You should not subordinate “Free” to such an extent that it is frustrating to find it – especially if you market your free solution or have a lot of PR about it.) Free is uber-attractive. And your customers will tell you they want a free offering; of course they do – who doesn’t? But is a free offering right for the future of your startup? Would a free trial work just as well? Note that the previous examples both highlight free trials – and they do so in spaces that are sure to catch the eye. 4Q positions their 15-day free trial below the price, and Basecamp positions theirs above the button. The result is that the free trials are just as easy to spot as the word “Free” would be. If you don’t have a free option or a free trial for all your solutions, you can do as SEOmoz.org does:
As you can see, the free trial for the SEOmoz Pro product is visually distinguished from the others, and the copy explicitly speaks to the trial: • “Free for 30 days then” • “Try it Free” 18 2011 Joanna Wiebe
Now, what if you have no free version and you do not want to offer a free trial? You will likely wish to reduce the anxiety your visitors may have about committing to your solution by highlighting a money-back guarantee, as CrazyEgg.com does:
Should You Organize Horizontal Catalogues from Least Expensive to Most, or Most Expensive to Least? You may have already noticed that the examples I’ve given differ in a distinct way: some are organized with the most expensive plan to the left, and others are organized with the least expensive plan to the left. Basecamp and CrazyEgg both lead with their most expensive offering. 4Q, SEOmoz, Invoicera and SalesForce all lead with their least expensive offering. Which way should you go? Because people scan left to right, starting their scanning experience with the most expensive product may set expectations that your plans are all expensive – which may or may not be good for conversion, depending on your brand, your value proposition, any incentives you offer and your competitors’ pricing. That’s why few companies want to risk leading with the most expensive option. 19 2011 Joanna Wiebe
However, in A/B tests, I’ve found – to my great delight – that leading with the most expensive solution results in fewer conversions but higher average-revenue-per-visitor. The results meant that the organizations (who tested this) actually made more money on each visitor. I haven’t seen this test fail… but that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect practice; it just means it could make for a quality test at your startup. The flip side of this approach is that, if you convert fewer people at a higher price point, you have fewer customers to try to upsell down the road. But that may be a perfectly fine strategy for your startup. So, what should you do? There’s no definitive answer to this question. I would absolutely argue that it’s worth a test.
TIP: Try to Sell 1 Plan on Your Catalogue… Not Everything So, you may already realize that you do not want your visitors to exert cognitive energy. Especially when it comes time to making a decision about which of your products to choose. Thinking is the enemy of decision-making. You can’t ignore the fact that some people – the researching types – will want to think. Those people need information; those people need to spend time researching those options; those people are not the low-hanging fruit you want to convert. No, you want to convert the people who make decisions without overthinking… which is just about everyone. You want to convert the primed visitors. The motivated visitors. The ones who need a nudge to convert (not the ones who have 3000 questions and a wallet so unused that bats make their home in it). To persuade them, you should give your motivated visitors the cues they need to make a decision quickly and with confidence. In addition to the rules you’ve already learned in this chapter, here’s a tip to get those motivated visitors to click the button that signs them up for your service: Make a decision about the 1 plan you most want people to sign up for.
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That’s right. This persuasion strategy is about leading with one plan. That one plan could be the one that you know is going to be the easiest sell, or it could be the cheapest plan because you just want to get your brand out there, or it could be the most expensive plan because you need to bring in some big money ASAP. Whatever you decide, just decide. The moment you decide anything as a retailer – from the best product for your low-hanging fruit to exactly what your value is – you make things easier on your customers. Decide. You must lead with a product. Choose one. Once you’ve chosen, your goal is to shape your Plans & Pricing page around that product. That means applying the tools you’ve already learned of: Highlight it as your most popular solution If it has high star ratings, bold those ratings so they’re more noticeable Make it appear to be the middle-of-the-road solution RESEARCH: Too Many Options Create Purchase Paralysis Among other researchers, Iyengar and Lepper (2000) found that consumers presented with too many choices are less likely to convert at all. The mere presence of a multitude of options can be too overwhelming to make any decisions.
“But Users in Focus Groups Told Me They Want More Choices” People want more choices and information than they know what to do with. Research has shown that our body floods with dopamine when we’re in seeking mode… and dopamine feels good. So we tend to think we want more choices in order to keep our brains foraging. We’re essentially trying to stay high by greedily hoarding choices, options, info, data. But the truth is that too many options causes purchase paralysis. And if you don’t believe that – if you truly must listen to what your focus group of 7 people suffering from groupthink are saying – then at least do me these 2 favors, please: 21 2011 Joanna Wiebe
1. Read the academic research in the last chapter in this ebook 2. A/B test multiple options against fewer on your “Plans & Pricing” page (rather than simply launching multiple options)
Why Are You Ragging on Thinking, Joanna? I’m not trying to be offensive! I’m just being real when I say that thinking is the enemy of decision-making. If you’re offended, my bad. But the truth is that exerting cognitive energy doesn’t help anybody make simple decisions quickly. And, in the tech startup world, we’re usually trying to get people to make pretty simple decisions. Human beings will still be thinking as they’re on your site. But they’ll be thinking the way a person thinks during their morning commute: they’re not asleep, but they’re not exactly on the edge of their seat, either. They’re just going with the flow, resisting little and reacting only as necessary.
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3. Place Your Phone Number Prominently to Increase Trust Most tech startups don’t have a phone number for visitors to call for support or sales. But if you offer any sort of solution that might normally require a salesperson to close the sale, such as an enterprise-level offering that costs more than $100 per month, you should strongly consider hiring a sales agent – or making yourself available – to take calls. (If putting someone on the phones is unnecessary for your business and too expensive, just skip this chapter. WARNING! Be sure you know that phone reps aren’t going to help you before you skip ahead.) Here’s the point: If you have a phone number for customers to call, place it prominently. And here’s why: An easy-to-find phone number can boost conversion because people feel comforted that, if they need you, they can call. It’s not that they will. It’s that they can. The presence of a phone number is a cue to trust you. When your visitors can trust you, they can stop being suspicious and start letting your message flow in. The wall comes down when your visitors trust you. Trust helps your visitors feel good. And feeling good – as any conversion consultant will tell you – is a very powerful thing. 23 2011 Joanna Wiebe
People are at their most flexible – and most open to converting – when they feel good. This is very similar to a persuasion strategy that most startups are already using: offer money-back guarantees. Like money-back guarantees, phone numbers are there not to drive people to take advantage of them but to give people the assurance they need that they’re not stuck, over-committed or alone. There’s the bonus that, if your visitors do call your phone line, you are more likely to close a sale with them because they have indicated that they are the sort of shopper who needs to speak with someone before buying. People who need 1-to-1 interactions to purchase have a harder time buying on a website that lacks live chat or phone.
Common Concern: Showing a Phone Number Will Drive Calls Making a phone number easy to find does not increase your visitor’s desire to switch channels – that is, to switch from shopping online to shopping over the phone. The only thing it does is help those visitors who already want to call and talk to someone actually do what they want to do: call and talk to someone. Hence, the prominent placement of your phone number is not a call-driver. Rather, it’s the smart thing to do to close more sales. (Anyone who’s ever worked in a business that has a call center knows the skilled sales people who work the phones have insanely high conversion rates that simply can’t be matched on a website. Let your site be the lead generator… and let real live people close the sale.) Here are a few examples of sites that get this persuasion strategy right: GetSatisfaction.com A serious startup that’s managed to become huge. Certainly their focus on talking to
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customers didnâ€™t hurt their success.
BlueNile.com Blue Nile does serious business online and knows that, at the price points their products have, both Live Chat and a phone number need to be placed prominently.
Voices.com This voice talent agency knows that a prominent phone number can only help their sales.
Bloomex.ca Not just one mention of the phone numberâ€Ś but two. Both in the top 100 pixels of the page. Is it any wonder sites likes Bloomex have insanely high conversion rates?
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Shopify.com On Pricing & Signup, the phone number is positioned directly below the catalogue and highlighted to be noticed.
What if you have a number but make it hard to find? Well, those who want to find your phone number won’t enjoy having to search your website to get it… which will likely make them frustrated. They’re still going to find your number and call (or they’ll bail on you entirely), so don’t put potential or existing customers in a bad mood by hiding your number. Don’t think you’re preventing expensive phone calls by hiding your number. In fact, when you hide your number, all you’re doing is making it more difficult for the sales agent to close the sale when, at last, that customer finds the number and calls in.
If You Only Offer Support by Phone Support leaders Zendesk (August 2011) claim that phone is still the most preferred and efficient method of support for customers. If you offer a support number, consider showing that, too – with the clear message around it that that number is for support calls only. Letting people know someone will be there to guide them at any point is a credibilitybooster and an anxiety-reducer. (Read Book 4 for more about reducing and neutralizing anxieties.)
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4. Don’t Mention Money Until the Visitor Needs Pricing Info When you write copy, you not only guide what your visitors do – you also guide what they think about. Until you mention a money-back guarantee, your visitor may not be thinking of a moneyback guarantee. Until you mention beautiful graphic design in your product, they may not be thinking of the importance of beautiful design. Until you mention a discount, they may not be thinking of a discount. But the moment you mention any of those things, suddenly – just like that – your user is thinking of them. (Not necessarily consciously. This copywriting strategy does not run contrary to the Don’t Make Me Think principle.) If you mention price too soon in an experience, you run the risk of making it a price game. Let me repeat that because it’s an important point: If you mention price too soon in an experience, you run the risk of making your whole sales process little more than a price game. Wal-Mart mentions price all the time – on their commercials, on their website, in their flyers, and in huge signs all over the store. Wal-Mart is happy to make it a price game because that’s their business strategy (low-cost leadership). 27 2011 Joanna Wiebe
Harley Davidson, on the other hand, rarely mentions price. Nor does Mercedes. They don’t want to steer the conversation toward the price of their product. They don’t want to be in a low-cost battle, and they don’t want their potential customers to start thinking of the value of their product in terms of money spent rather than pleasure derived. Your startup has options beyond being either Wal-Mart or Mercedes, of course. The point is not to go to one extreme or the other. The point is to be aware that there is a right time in an experience to mention price if you want to boost your conversion.
RESEARCH: Increase Perceived Value by Invoking Feelings of Pleasure A study at the Stanford Graduate School of Business showed that, in the case of lemonade stands, a sign that read “Spend a little time, and enjoy C&D’s lemonade” resulted in a higher perception of value and twice as many sales than did the sign that read “Spend a little money, and enjoy C&D’s lemonade”. More people stopped to spend time, more people paid to spend time, and more people paid for money to spend time. People want to spend time, not money.
If Your Product Has High Value, Price SHOULD NOT Be a Key Message for You Unless you have an incredibly small site, have a free product or have decided to run a promotion, there’s almost no reason to put your price on the home page. You need to give your copy the time and space it requires to sell people on the value of your service. If you jump right into displaying the price, you make it harder for your copy to convince people that they both want and need your solution.
If Your Product Has Low Value, Is in a Highly Competitive Environment or Is Free, Price SHOULD Be a Key Message for You There are times when either the market puts you in a price game or you put yourself in a price game. 28 2011 Joanna Wiebe
If your product has low value, like a novelty item, people have an expectation of your product being inexpensive. No one ever paid $30 for a whoopee cushion. Match visitor expectations by showing how inexpensive you are early on in the experience – like on the home page or PPC landing page – and getting that question out of the way. If there are a lot of people offering the same thing you do, price quickly becomes an issue for your customers because they know they are in a position to shop around. So, unless you are positioning yourself as the Rolls Royce of your market, you would be wise to show your price at the entry point to your site. At the same time, recognize that price always indicates value. Consider self-published ebooks vs traditionally published ebooks. Many self-published authors choose to cut the price of their book to a mere $0.99 simply to move more books than their $9.99 competitors; they can do this because self-published authors get a larger cut of the sales than traditionally published authors do. When you pay only $0.99 for a book, your expectations of the book may be so low that the smallest flaw in the writing or a pacing issue can cause the reader to believe that your book is worse than it is. Simply because they paid so little for it. If you have decided to give away your solution for free… good luck. Kidding! Okay, so, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of giving anything away for free. I know – based on my experience – that my “anti-free” attitude often goes against how developers (with your uber-respectable belief in the freedom of information) think, but here’s the thing: when everyone starts giving away their web-based and mobile services, they NORMALIZE the expectation of getting everything for free online and on phones. Consumers start to expect it. Not because they, too, believe information should be free. But because repeating X has the effect of making X seem normal. When most online solutions are free, it’s harder to convince people that paying is normal. The resulting problem is that the moment some startup decides to charge customers to benefit from the value they derive out of using the product (which smart people had to spend time building), customers rebel. 29 2011 Joanna Wiebe
Not cool. That said, if you’ve decided to give away your service and I can’t talk you out of it – I can’t convince you to at least demand payment via Pay with a Tweet – then you should put that price front and center on the pages that most traffic will hit. You’ve put yourself in a price game by giving something of value away for free, so, if that’s the case, there’s no point in holding back on letting every single visitor know. If “free” is your value, tell every visitor you’ve got. I’ll be gently weeping in the corner and all the unicorns will remain trapped in Atlantis, but so be it. Business is business.
Don’t Delay Mentioning Price Too Long When a user is primed to buy your product, they need to see the price almost immediately. Of course, your visitors will be primed to purchase at different points, which you generally cannot control. Finding out when to display your message is a balancing act that, if you have sufficient traffic, can be cleared up quickly by A/B testing pricing placement across your site. But what if you can’t test? Most startups don’t have anywhere close to the amount of traffic required to test to statistical significance. In the absence of testing, there is only guessing based on previously proven practices. There are key pages on which people will expect to see the price of your solution: The catalogue or “Plans & Pricing” page The product detail page (if you have one) Naturally, they’ll also expect to see the price throughout the checkout process. You should never hesitate to clearly display prices on those key pages.
Incentives & Pricing Email marketers are notorious for sending out emails that claim 20% discounts – but they fail to put the original or new, discounted price in the email. They are manufacturing clickthrus in order to make their click-thru rate appear higher and, thus, their email look more successful. However, once the customer gets to the landing page, they often bounce simply because they only clicked thru to look for the price. 30 2011 Joanna Wiebe
If you offer a discount, be sure to group your original price and new price with the discount. Whether in an email. Or on a landing page.
Repeat Visitors May Be Primed to See Your Price When visitors return to your site, they generally are more primed to convert than they were the first time they visited. By returning, they show intention to continue a task they initiated on their last visit or start a new task on your site; they may be the sort of shopper that requires a lot of research and thought before making a purchase or signing up for a service. Whatever the case, repeat visitors are some of the lowest-hanging fruit a copy hacker can ask for. It is your job to give your returning visitors the messages they need to see earlier on than a first-time visitor might. And price may be exactly the message your repeat visitor is looking for. Tools like KISSinsights and the Hello Bar can be configured to show returning visitors certain messages, such as current promotions or the link to your Pricing & Signup page.
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5. Seed the Pot to Increase Sharing & Retention An increasing number of startups depend on social sharing and reward programs to encourage growth and repeat users. Sharing is an inherently social activity, whether it’s done on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit – the list goes on. Getting people to share your story or offer with others can be insanely persuasive. Why? Because we’re social creatures, and we feel more confident in working with a startup that has a large social following than we do in working with an unknown. We want to follow the herd. We do not necessarily want to lead the herd. Seeding the pot is simply creating the illusion for your new customer that they’re: 1. Not the first to do something, like sharing news about you socially 2. Close to completing the goal you’ve set out for them, like completing part of a reward program
Nobody Wants to Go First Read This to Increase Sharing We’re hard-wired to follow the pack, not to lead the herd. Resisting this truism is an exercise in vanity; there’s no denying the endless reams of human behavior and decisionmaking studies that show, time and again, that the vast majority of people feel safer following the pack than they do leading it. 32 2011 Joanna Wiebe
Here’s what this means for you. If you are a new or newish startup – you are working hard for each new user you get – then don’t let potential customers know that they are among the first to use your service unless you are doing so strategically. You shouldn’t lie and say there are more users than there are, of course. But if you have a low number of users, don’t write any copy about that, and don’t use tallies of visitors or new users. (Blogs often make this mistake. They show “44 subscribers” in their top right corner and wonder why people don’t come back.) It’s your job as a marketer and copywriter to control the message as best you can. When it comes to messages about the size of your user base, you need to either eliminate that message entirely or spin it so that new visitors feel they are rolling with a hip young crowd rather than being asked to lead it.
Practical Examples for Your Use: Start the Signup List, Delay Publishing Comments & Feed Facebook Likes If you are seeking customers or beta testers in a face-to-face environment, like a conference, and you are either accepting business cards in a bowl or asking people to sign up on a sheet, be sure to seed the pot by dropping a few business cards in the bowl and writing in a few names on the signup sheet. If you are building a following on your new blog, do not enable comments until you see your traffic begin to grow. When you decide to open comments, you may want to make a point of saying so in the first blog post you write with comments enabled. Simply say that you are seeing so much traffic to your blog now, you are ready to open the discussion up to a broader range of people. That’s no lie! And it will help people both understand why none of your other posts have comments… and recognize that you are becoming a popular blog. If you are trying to get Facebook likes and/or Twitter tweets or followers, ask your friends and family to like your website ASAP, to tweet about your post, and to follow you. The goal is to make new customers believe that they’re going with the crowd in liking you and tweeting about you. (No one wants to be the first to like a website that’s been up for 3 months.) Here’s an example of a recipe on a vegetarian site (meatless meat) that could stand not to have Facebook and Twitter like options:
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A lack of social proof is social proof. When no one is willing to click your ‘like’ or ‘tweet’ button, that doesn’t say to visitors “oh, I guess no one got around to clicking this” or “oh, I must be the first person who ever saw this wonderful page”. No, it says “nobody likes this… and I shouldn’t either”. So if you have a page that you’re not actively marketing in order to get likes and tweets, do yourself a favor and pull social voting right off it.
Everybody Wants to Feel Close to Reaching a Goal Read This to Increase Retention I told this little trick to one of the startups I consulted with, and the founder said that he would have paid $1000s for it. I hope you’ll feel the same way. When you want to retain customers – when you want to make sure they stick with you rather than leaving – it can help to give them a goal to reach. People like goals. Even people who have yet to realize a single goal in their lives like goals. Thriller and mystery novelists know this fact. They base their stories around compelling the reader to reach a single goal, which will happen by the end of the book. That goal is usually something like finding out if the wife really did murder the husband. Discovering the truth is an intriguing task that makes it impossible for people not to stick around. What does this mean for your startups? Simply that giving your customers or visitors an engaging goal is a good thing. An even better thing is giving them a headstart down the path to that goal. The shorter the distance to a goal, the more likely people will be to reach that goal. Psychologists refer to this as the “goal-gradient” hypothesis. Not only are people more likely to reach a goal the closer they get, but they exert more energy the closer they get. That means they get more spirited and enthusiastic. 34 2011 Joanna Wiebe
The pages in a novel start flipping faster when the murderer is about to be revealed. Engagement with a site or product becomes more passionate as your customer gets closer to finishing the game you’ve put them in. Would you rather have spirited, enthusiastic users… or uninspired users? Here’s the better question: Which do you think will make you more money and refer you more frequently – spirited or disengaged users? Research: The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Researchers found that participants in a café reward program purchased more coffee the closer they got to earning a free one. Web users tasked with rating songs for a reward visited the site more often, rated more songs per visit, and persisted longer in rating as they neared their goal. Seeding the pot – like giving free stamps on a reward card – produces the illusion of progress, which is motivating. Rewards resulted in greater retention and faster user reengagement. Read more about this fascinating topic here, if you’d like: http://home.uchicago.edu/ourminsky/Goal-Gradient_Illusionary_Goal_Progress.pdf
Practical Examples for Your Use: Loyalty Programs, Badges & Refer-a-Friend If you’re planning on offering a loyalty program, such as “Buy 10 Apps, Get the 11th Free”, don’t start your new customer off with an empty reward card. (Even if that reward card is virtual.) Instead, give them one free stamp. It’s very easy, and it costs you nothing. If you really, really want the customer to buy at least 10 items, not just 9, before getting one free, then simply increase the number of boxes on your card from 10 to 12. Voila! Now you’ll get them to buy 11 items before they get a free one. But be careful not to require too many boxes. Purchasing 11 apps to get the 12th free isn’t an insurmountable task… but purchasing 21 to get the 22nd free is. If you’re offering badges for power users, start them out with a few free badges. No one wants to start from zero. For added effect, trying giving customers a virtual ‘collector sheet’ to fill in with badges (the way 8 year-old girls fill in sticker books and Boy Scouts have checklists of badges to earn). 35 2011 Joanna Wiebe
Badges earned for the sake of having a pile of badges is not very motivating. But badges earned to fill in a sheet – with the explicit goal of completing the sheet – is a task that users will want to complete. Better yet? An uber-badge earned for completing a sheet! If you’re planning on offering a ‘refer a friend’ program (in which you offer something to customers who refer 5 friends), the same holds true. The page on which your customer is to fill in the 5 email addresses should have the first box greyed out with messaging such as, “As a thanks for referring us, we’re only asking for 4 email addresses today.”
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6. Use More Than Copy to Help Visitors Make a Decision Steve Krug was the first to tell us what users all around the world tell themselves when they’re on your site: “Don’t make me think”. The majority of the tools in the copy hacker’s toolbox have everything to do with that simple but hugely important mantra. Don’t make your visitors think. Your visitors are domesticated animals with instincts that guide them through life – and through your site. If a person had to think about every single decision she makes, she’d never leave the house. There would be too many things to get hung up on: should I turn off the alarm, should I turn up the covers, should I swing my legs up or down when I get out of bed today, oh, wait, should I even get out of bed today? There are 100s and 100s of decisions to be made. Robert Cialdini of the classic Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion will back me up on that one.
Don’t Make the Mistake of Overthinking about Your Visitor The majority of people who land on your website didn’t give the action of going to your site much thought. As much as you may want to believe they did. They didn’t think; they acted.
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The worst thing you can do, as a copy hacker, is tell yourself that everyone thinks about everything they do – and that your website visitors are no exception. To write effective copy, you need to believe at least a little that your visitor’s instincts are going to take over. That will help you organize information to sell to them. Don’t believe in instincts? I’m not sure why you wouldn’t, but here’s an example to get you on board… just in case: Your visitors arrive on your site, which is covered in bright orange animated starbursts with crammed-together messages, offers, highlighting, red fonts, images with speech bubbles all over them and music. What do they do? They leave. That’s an instinct. Their brain said, “Not credible – get out”, and they got out. Likely without consciously stopping and thinking, “Should I stay or should I leave?” On the other hand, if a visitor gets to your site, and the headline is easy to read and reflects something they’re looking for, then what? Easy. Brain says, “Matches expectations – okay to stay”. And they stay. This is not rocket science. And you don’t have to be a psychologist or human factors specialist to figure out that your visitor has simple needs that you can simply meet by keeping things insanely simple and in line with the way we’ve evolved to act. But since people can get pretty finicky about this stuff – I’ve met soooo many people who refuse to believe that lessons from decision-making psychology would ring true for them – the rest of this book is chocker-block full of research from psychologists and human factors specialists. It fills in all the gaps, and does so with statistically significant research from the world of academia.
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Recent Research About How Users Make Decisions Online Persuasion is an outcome of consumer information processing, which Johar, Maheswaran and Peracchio (2006) divided into two approaches: motivation and cognition, and implicit processing. The overarching, widely held theory on persuasion related to motivation and cognition is that consumers use peripheral cues to form attitudes when motivations and abilities are low and that, “under some conditions (e.g., high arousal), only cues perceived to be diagnostic are used” (Johar et al., 2006, p. 141). Implicit processing, as explored by Fitzsimmons and Shiv (2001) and Janiszewski (as referenced in Johar et al., 2006, p. 142), holds that non-conscious processes impact consumers’ purchase and consumption decisions; Martin (2008) leveraged this theory to argue that evolutionary adaptations compel consumers to seek cues to minimize the effort required to make decisions. These two approaches suggest that humans do not evaluate our options in isolation but rather with the aid of diagnostic cues, such as context effect, and non-conscious processes and, accordingly, provide the theoretical background for this study.
Persuasion and Usability This study of persuasion online requires an understanding of web usability because a website cannot persuade if visitors cannot use the site. Defined as “the extent to which particular users can attain specific goals with efficiency and satisfaction in a particular environment” (Karlsson, 2007, p. 75), usability focuses on the functionality of a web experience over its affective qualities (Karlsson, 2007). Based on Herzberg’s Dual-Factor Theory (DFT) of job satisfaction and motivation for employees (Shipley & Kiely, 1986) and on the results of tests by Maddox (1981) and Swan and Combs (as cited in Maddox, 1981) that adapt Herzberg’s DFT to study product satisfaction, Zhang and von Dran (2007) proposed a DFT of web design, which is comprised of hygiene factors (i.e., usability) and motivator factors (i.e., persuasion). Arguing that satisfied users spend more time on a website, revisit it, and recommend it to others, later echoed by Kim and Fesenmeier (2008), Zhang and von Dran stated that hygiene factors are of higher priority on websites as they increase usage.
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Motivator factors “enhance satisfaction with the website… as long as the… hygiene factors are in place” (Kim & Fesenmeier, 2008, p. 1256) and, accordingly, motivator factors rank after hygiene factors in order of importance in information architecture and design. Thus a website cannot be persuasive unless it is first usable. Kim and Fesenmeier (2008) suggested that persuasion architecture is a necessary addition to usability and that web architects have to-date overemphasized usability at the expense of persuasion. Suggesting that motivator factors—not simply hygiene factors—persuade users to stay on a site longer, Kim and Fesenmeier argued for the importance of architecting sites with both hygiene and motivator factors in mind as well as their six dimensions of persuasion: informativeness, usability, credibility, inspiration, involvement, and reciprocity. Kim and Fesenmeier found that inspirational elements (e.g., aesthetically pleasing graphic design) had the most significant impact on users’ first impressions, with usability following as second-most significant. Finally, Kim and Fesenmeier highlighted opportunities for persuasion architecture, including building credibility with visual cues, leveraging reciprocity by allowing two-way information exchange, and encouraging interactivity with product recommenders.
Motivation and Cognition: Peripheral Cues Assist in Decision-making E-commerce environments create information overload, resulting in a burden of information for consumers and a corresponding crippling effect in option selection; humans have evolved to seek cues that simplify decision-making. Donadebian (2006), Huang, Wingyan Chung, and Chen (2003), and Steckel et al. (2005) showed that abundant information online causes consumers to find methods alternative to cognitively exhausting information-sorting to make decisions. Steckel et al. showed that although “more information [creates] the potential for customers to make more informed choices… [t]he downside is that information overload can lead to decision biases due to selective processing of information” (p. 310-311). Product recommendation engines as collaborative information-filtering tools (Huang et al., 2003), comparison matrices, and intelligent shopbots can structure information (Steckel et al., 2005), reduce search effort, and improve decisions.
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Donadebian (2006) found that increases in decision ambiguity consistent with increases in product information decrease rational choice and cause consumers to defer to social influence choice; this study builds on Donadebian’s work but suggests that consumers will defer to diagnostic cues, such as context effect, to help them make a decision. The research of Chen (2008) and Huang and Chen (2006) showed that consumers follow herd behavior, or the actions of others—a type of social influence choice—when purchasing books in information-rich e-commerce environments. Rather than sorting through abundant information on their own, consumers use such cues as the “evaluations, intentions, or purchase behaviors of referent others” (Chen, 2008, p. 1978) in the form of star ratings, sales volumes, and recommendations to make purchasing decisions, all of which are common persuasion techniques online.
Implicit Processing: Non-conscious Processes Impact Decisions According to Martin (2008), consumers’ tendencies to imitate others in ambiguous decision-making environments is based on an evolutionary survival instinct wherein individuals rank competing stimuli and give attention to the stimuli that ensure survival or reproduction; individuals negotiate additional stimuli by following the behaviour of the herd. Hantula, Brockman, and Smith (2008) suggest that, further to the evolutionary need for implicit processing, foraging needs shape decision-making and must be considered in persuasion. Hantula, Brockman, and Smith argue that human consumption—online and off—is a biobehavioural phenomenon, and humans as consuming organisms are behaviourally adapted to search for, handle, and consume materials in a manner similar to foraging. They argue that delays during handling are common in e-commerce environments, where abundant information, product choices (Huang & Chen, 2006; Steckel et al., 2005; Yang & Wu, 2007), and lengthy page load times are common. To help consumers progress to the point of consumption, high-converting websites minimize delay by simplifying information and selection on key pages in the conversion funnel, such as the product catalog. Merrilees and Fenech (2007) found that opportunities for persuasive design in online catalogs include making the catalog ‘feel’ like print, highlighting security, and enabling interpersonal contact via interactivity (e.g., chat agents).
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These findings are in keeping with related research (Kim & Fesenmeier, 2008; Zhang & Von Dran, 2007). Like Chen (2007), Huang and Chen (2006), and Steckel et al. (2005), these persuasion techniques focus on adding elements to an experience (e.g., shopbots, star ratings) rather than re-architecting the design of a page to leverage cues such as context.
What Does This All Mean, Practically Speaking? Research shows us what copywriters, information designers and visual designers have been learning in-field for decades: people need cues in order to make decisions. If you want your visitors to make a decision, you have to help them. You are actually doing your visitors a BIG favor in helping them. Because they want to make a decision. Academic research shows us that. And that, my friend, is persuasion.
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