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? =-.

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