Turn the lights onDavid imagined making love to Bathseba before ever taking the first step to seduce her.

And so it is with all of us: we never take an action without “test driving” it in our imagination first; we want to see what’s gonna happen and what it’ll feel like.  It’s the same compulsion that causes us to click the lights on in a room before we walk into it.

So it always surprises me how often Websites fail to turn the lights on for their visitors.  How can a prospect confidently take action if she’s uncertain about the results?  So here’s a quick and dirty checklist for ya:

The top 4 ways Websites leave visitors in the dark:

1) Forms that don’t explicitly tell visitors what will happen after the visitor hits “send.”

You may think most visitors would assume what would happen, but half-acknowledged doubt routinely kills conversion. So explicitly tell visitors what will happen if they fill out the form and hit send. For instance, on my own contact form, I tell visitos that the form will send an e-mail directly to my in box and that I’ll respond to that e-mail within a business day or two, if not sooner.  I also give visitors an option to e-mail me directly or call, thereby helping them to formulate alternate or back-up scenarios.

Other stuff to keep in mind:

  • If it’s a download, e-book, or white paper form, let people know if the button will automatically begin the download, will take them to a new page, or will send them an e-mail with a link for downloading the paper.
  • For e-books and white papers, merchandise the download!  Show them the cover.  Give ’em a glimpse of the table of contents.  Tell them how long it is.  Provide a sense of value for the content you’re offering.
  • Re-assure visitors of your intentions for their info.  If there is going to be a follow-up, be explicit about what kind of follow up – who will make contact and by what medium.  Better yet, give visitors a choice on how they would prefer to be contacted.

2) “Buy Now” buttons that take you to product details rather than adding an item to cart

Many “buy now,” “book now,” and other call-to-action buttons really only take the visitor to a “details” or “learn more” type page, rather than placing an item in the cart of initiating a checkout process.  Not only does this mislead the visitor, but it kills micro-conversion rates since most visitors aren’t ready to add an item to cart (or book the rental, or whatever) until they’ve first seen the details.

Amazon Add to Cart-1People don’t like commitment, so it’s best not to make it seem as if you’re asking for more commitment than you really are.  This is why Amazon used to have a “you can always remove it later” note on their add to cart button; they were smart enough to try to minimize the perceived commitment – not add to it!

3) Websites that don’t provide timelines

This is especially important for Websites selling a service because you are likely delivering value over time and there’s also some transition period between paying you and getting set-up and everything.  In other words, before pulling the trigger, most prospects will want to know:

  • What the first week of working with you will bring for them
  • What the first month will be like
  • Who they will be working with within your company
  • How soon until they notice results/ROI
  • What will the payment schedule look like
  • What your methodology is like and what they’ll need to prepare for

see_worldNot providing clear, imaginable answers to these questions is like turning down an opportunity to seduce the imagination of your customer.  Do yourself a favor and make sure your copy mentally walks your prospects through the process of doing business with you.

4) Copywriting that doesn’t carry the value forward in time

The 3 highest praises a product or service might get from a customer are:

  • It saved my life
  • It changed my life
  • It was money well spent

If you noticed a falling off on the third item, don’t let that distract you 😉  Focus on the fact that all of those commendations are made by someone looking back on their purchase.  And that means your copy will be a lot more persuasive if you HELP the prospective customer imagine herself looking back on the decision to buy while feeling any one of those three reactions/emotions.

Ideally, you’d want product/service reviews or testimonials from customers to help you carry the value forward in time.  You may also want pictures of items holding up to hard use, sort of like CC Filson use to be famous for.  But copywriting is always available to help your visitors imagine long-term satisfaction from their purchase.

Confident Visitors = Converting Visitors

While there are more ways to leverage this principle the essence always remains the same: make it easy for your customer to imagine taking the action you want her to take.  Eliminate any unresolved concerns and replace them with mental images that inspire her confidence in doing business with you.


  1. Tom Wanek on 10.15.2009

    Good tips for achieving better web conversions, but these are also things you can apply offline as well. I really love the power of demonstration and sold Filson products at one time. As you mentioned, the company famously demonstrated the strength of its duffle bag by stuffing it with a 1968 1500 c.c. Single Port Volkswagen engine and suspending the bag midair. Now it becomes easy to picture in our minds’ eye the quality and durability of the Filson bag.

    Great post Jeff.
    .-= Tom Wanek´s last blog ..Where’s The Conflict In Your Message? =-.

  2. Jeff on 10.16.2009


    I totally agree. And can I just say that the guys running the Filson website are totally missing out on that? Yeah, they mention it deep within the bowels of the site, but they don’t have they actual freakin’ picture. Are you kidding me?

    Seriously, I searched for 30 minutes last night trying to find a copy of the actual picture from the ad and it was nowhere to be found online. What a wasted opportunity for them.

    – Jeff

  3. Tom Wanek on 10.16.2009


    Back a few years ago when I still owned my retail clothing store, Filson included that photo in every catalog it gave us. I am also shocked that this photo has been shelved (at least from the website.) It was truly impressive.
    .-= Tom Wanek´s last blog ..Where’s The Conflict In Your Message? =-.