conversion_conference_hearUsSpeak_200x115Who would have thunk it?

At a time when most SEO Con­fer­ences have been run­ning for more than a decade, we’re just now hav­ing our very first Con­ver­sion Con­fer­ence next week.

Which isn’t to say I’m not excited to be speak­ing at Con­ver­sion Con­fer­ence West — I’m thrilled! - but that the inau­gural nature of the con­fer­ence indi­cates both what had been the pre­vail­ing indus­try inat­ten­tion to con­ver­sion rate opti­miza­tion and how dra­mat­i­cally things have changed in the last two years:

  • Com­pe­ti­tion has increased for atten­tion, busi­ness dol­lars, and every­thing else,
  • The eco­nomic cli­mate has changed dramatically,
  • Paid traf­fic has become increas­ingly more expensive,
  • Social Media has dra­mat­i­cally altered how peo­ple spend their time online
  • Online test­ing plat­forms have become ubiq­ui­tous and their use de rigueur for any seri­ous Web­site / web marketer

In response we’re witnessing:

If I wanted to be smug, I’d say that these were all things that Bryan and Jef­frey Eisen­berg were stress­ing as far back as 1999 and early, post-dot bomb 2000’s.  But that’s beside the point.  The point is that if YOURE not doing these things — or at least busily get­ting smart on these top­ics — doing so is now a mat­ter of survival.

Why not jump-start your efforts by attend­ing Con­ver­sion West in San Jose, May 4th and 5th?

You can even get a late-bird dis­count by using Promo Code CCW565

I hope to see you there.

71204_BadHaircutEither you sell $5 hair­cuts, or you fix $5 hair­cuts. If you’re sell­ing ser­vices, you know what I’m talk­ing about.

Whether you’re sell­ing car washes, copy­writ­ing, car­pet clean­ing, or kitchen remod­els, you’ve likely noticed the once-burned aspect of your best cus­tomers.  The clients who pay your pre­mium price most will­ingly and are most appre­cia­tive of the dif­fer­ences between you and the price-based com­pe­ti­tion are usu­ally the clients who already tried the cheapo-charlies and got burned.

And you also prob­a­bly still pull your hair out when never-burned prospects pass you up for the cheaper option.  Or for no-option and procrastination.

This is where fortune-telling can fill your pock­ets with gold.

Because you’ve seen this movie before, you know how it ends.  You can pre­dict the pre­cip­i­tant event that’ll jar your prospects from pro­cras­ti­na­tion, or the exact moment of clar­ity and regret that’ll send them scream­ing back from the “cheaper” alter­na­tive.  And you can describe it with eerily vivid detail and pre­ci­sion — all long before the prospect ever makes his wrong turn.

That way, when your words prove pre­scient, your dear­est prospect will want some­one who under­stands the jam he’s in and who can help him fix it.  So with just a lit­tle intel­li­gent plan­ning on your part, you can weave into your sto­ry­telling the exact “script” for his return to you, including:

  • The best points in the process for your prospect to switch ser­vice providers
  • Jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for his change in mind
  • Exactly how to con­tact you
  • What infor­ma­tion he’ll need to have on hand
  • What to expect for a solu­tion, etc.

Yes, you can do this in per­son.  But you can also do it with your Web copy, which will give you 3 major advantages:

1) You reach early stage buy­ers who are just doing research and poten­tially re-frame their buy­ing cri­te­rion to your advan­tage.  A few vividly told hor­ror sto­ries some­times swings deci­sions around and increases imme­di­ate sales.

2) You fore­warn even the prospects who still chose the cheaper alter­na­tive. After read­ing your story, prospects who do chose the cheapo char­lies are a lot more wary of what can go wrong and head the warn­ing sig­nals ear­lier in the process, when stuff first starts to slide.

3) You gain instant cred­i­bil­ity when newly-burned clients find you from a pain-driven Google search.  You may not pop up for google searches on “inex­pen­sive fash­ion hair­cut,” while eas­ily plac­ing 1st for “fix­ing hor­rific hair cuts.”  And when that hap­pens, every­thing you wrote about the dan­ers of the $5 hair­cut will ring true for the vis­i­tors com­ing to you from that kind of search.  You’ll have just cre­ated all kinds of cred­i­bil­ity for yourself.

Just do your­self a favor and be as spe­cific and vivid as pos­si­ble.  Because when you’re describ­ing a future event, specifics make the event feel closer.

And make sure to empha­size your abil­ity to pick-up the pieces when prospects expe­ri­ence a cheapo-charlie dis­as­ter.  Direct the movie in your prospect’s head.  Give them a new end­ing to the film.  Give them a happy end­ing and watch them flock to your the­atre to see it — higher ticket price and all.



by Jeff

4028353766_1326313519Never ask a bar­ber if you need a hair­cut

- Cow­boy Wis­dom as quoted by War­ren Buffet

Your web­site, e-mail, and direct mail copy all suf­fers from a flaw that kills reader belief.  And there’s no real way to pre­vent that prob­lem — only workarounds and par­tial solutions.

It’s the nature of the copy­writ­ing beast to suf­fer the fate of the bar­ber telling peo­ple they need a hair­cut — the vested inter­est of the speaker works against his believ­abil­ity.

And that’s why sto­ries come in so handy.  While the right story won’t pre­vent the prob­lem, it will over­come it with a dou­ble whammy of psy­chol­ogy capa­ble of crush­ing this cred­i­bil­ity gap like an empty beer can. Here’s why:

1) Flat­tery works, even when you know the flat­tery isn’t sincere.

Or so says recent psy­cho­log­i­cal research titled: “Insin­cere Flat­tery Actu­ally Works”.  Even though we like to think that we’re too smart to be influ­enced by insin­cere flat­tery, our intel­lec­tual under­stand­ing of the intent to per­suade doesn’t stop the emo­tional influ­ence of the mes­sage.

And the same also extends to a story that flat­ters the lis­tener.  A story that flat­ters your prospec­tive cus­tomers’ sen­si­bil­i­ties, sus­pi­cions, judge­ments, or aspi­ra­tions will emo­tion­ally influ­ence them, even when they rec­og­nize your vested inter­est in telling the story.

This stands in sharp con­trast to brag­ging, which never works regard­less of how sin­cere it might be. So why does most copy brag instead of flat­ter? In the words of Bryan Eisen­berg, why is there so much we-we copy?

While emotional-directed adver­tis­ing has his­tor­i­cally per­formed twice as well as purely ratio­nal ads, the key to mak­ing those ads work is to focus on the buyer’s emo­tion, not the seller’s.

2) We uncon­sciously “see” things through the eyes of the story’s protagonist

When lis­ten­ing to a story, we under­stand the nar­ra­tive by pic­tur­ing the expe­ri­ence as it occurs to the pro­tag­o­nist.  When we hear a story, we iden­tify with the pro­tag­o­nist, not just visu­ally, but emo­tion­ally. That’s why we love happy end­ings, and why watch­ing an authen­tic tragedy leaves us feel­ing dev­as­tated and drained.

Put these two psy­cho­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples together with the right kind of story and you’ve got per­sua­sive dyna­mite.  Here’s a per­fect case study demon­strat­ing just how effec­tive this can be:

Beck­ley Automotive’s 30% Sales Jump

My friend and col­league, Chuck McKay, works with a 15-bay repair shop in Des Moines by the name of Beck­ley Auto­mo­tive.  Steve Beckley’s shop works on the Euro­pean Imports he loves and dri­ves him­self: Audi, BMW, Mer­cedes, Land Rover, Mini, Volk­swa­gen, Saab, and Volvo (along with Acura, Lexus, and Infinity).

For years Steve has pur­chased lists of Euro­pean Import own­ers in Des Moines and has used mul­ti­ple post card mail­ings to remind own­ers that some­one in town under­stands all the ins and outs of the cars they drive. Over the years those cards have payed off handsomely.

But the cards suf­fered from the “bar­ber telling you you need a hair­cut” prob­lem: it’s just not very cred­i­ble when any­one brags about how great they are — espe­cially when they’re out to get your business.

So Chuck advised Steve Beck­ley to do two things with his mailings:

  1. Stop appeal­ing to Euro­pean Import own­ers and start appeal­ing to own­ers of spe­cific brands.  In the words of Chuck: “A Range Rover owner doesn’t think of him­self as a ‘Euro­pean Import Owner.’  He thinks of him­self as some­one who dri­ves a Range Rover.  Speak directly to him.”  In other words, appeal to emo­tion& self-identity.
  2. Stop speak­ing like an adver­tiser and start com­mu­ni­cat­ing more like a good friend.  Start telling sto­ries.

So to Steve’s immense credit, he took that advice, ditched his old copy, and wrote awe­somely effec­tive sto­ries for each of the Euro­pean mar­ques he works on.  Sto­ries like this one he sent to Mer­cedes owners:

Beckley Imports

Wouldn’t You Feel Smug?

Can you just imag­ine how self-satisfied you’d feel upon read­ing this story if you owned and drove a Mer­cedes Benz? You might just feel down­right smug after read­ing that story.  And even though you’d know, in the back of your mind some­where, that Beck­ley Auto­mo­tive was try­ing to flat­ter you with that story, it wouldn’t mat­ter: you’d still walk away a heck of lot more likely to call them for your auto work.

Indeed, that was exactly the case for recip­i­ents of these story-based post­card mail­ers, whose increased patron­age of Beck­ley Auto­mo­tive led to a 29.9% increase in sales this March over March of last year.

And that’s the power of smug.

It’s also a great way to sell a man a hair­cut when all the world can see that you’re a barber.

P.S. Chuck McKay does a lot more than advise clients on mes­sag­ing and copy.  He’s also a superb Busi­ness and Mar­ket­ing Strate­gist who man­ages to com­bine those rare-enough-on-their-own traits of clear think­ing, small busi­ness savvy, and cre­ative exe­cu­tion.  If you’re look­ing to grow in spite of the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate, do your­self a favor — check out Chuck’s blog and drop him a mes­sage.

baddesignThere are a lot of bad Web design­ers out there.

Of course, that’s noth­ing against Web design­ers — there’s also a lot of atro­cious Web copy out there, too. The dif­fer­ence is that every­one thinks they can write well, while most every­one believes they can’t draw. More­over, the pop­u­lar per­cep­tion of good writ­ing cen­ters on clar­ity, whereas the pop­u­lar per­cep­tion of design­cen­ters on cre­ativ­ity. All of which means bad design gets unleashed on the world, and goes un-optimized, more often than bad web copy.

Hav­ing dropped that turd in the punch­bowl, let me admit that I’m no designer myself, with any knowl­edge I do have com­ing from self education.

Yet pre­cisely because I am not a designer, I’ve always aimed my self-education at devel­op­ing a knowl­edge of design fun­da­men­tals rather than of design tools.  And this has left me con­tin­u­ally scratch­ing my head when I con­sis­tently see those fun­da­men­tal design prin­ci­ples vio­lated by Web design­ers.

Some­times I won­dered if it was just me and my own deeply-ingrained Conversion-centric view of Web design, pounded into me by Bryan and Jef­frey Eisen­berg.  But as it turns out, it ain’t just me…

Why does this mat­ter to a copywriter?

Because your Web copy’s effec­tive­ness will be dra­mat­i­cally affected by page design.

So what do I rec­om­mend if you’re a copy­writer who is forced to work with a mediocre designer?  Edu­cate your­self, learn to speak design, and force designers/clients to test dis­puted design decisions.

Here are 14 Starter Resources to Begin Your Design Edu­ca­tion:

When you can artic­u­late your objec­tions to bad design more elo­quently and pro­fes­sion­ally than the designer can advo­cate for his design, you’ll have a huge leg up.  And when that fails, you can always demand a split test between the sim­pler, cleaner design and what­ever cre­ative lay­out your designer has come up with.

So what about you?  What design resources have you found invalu­able?  What do you rec­om­mend when work­ing with a less-than-stellar Web designer?  Let me know in the comments!

P.S. The “Bad Design Kills” icon was cre­ated by Von Glitschka and used with permission.

P.P.S. Sorry for the lapse in posts.  Had some health issues and am just now feel­ing on the mend.