There’s a simple axiom amongst direct response copywriters: “make it easy for the customer to say yes.”

Sounds like a “duh” piece of advice, but it’s amazing how often this advice gets botched.  And it usually get’s botched in one of two ways:

1) The copy doesn’t make it easy for the customer to realize WHAT she would be saying yes to.  

In other words, the site doesn’t clarify:

  • WHAT is being offered for sale,
  • WHEN or in what FORM the customer should expect the actual deliverables to arrive
  • WHY this is a good deal and better than the other options
  • HOW MUCH the offered product or service will cost

2) The copy doesn’t make it clear HOW to say yes and take that next step.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of having different conversion points for early, middle, and late stage shoppers (where appropriate), but  you shouldn’t let that get in the way of having a nice, clean, simple Call to Action.  If prospective customers have to decide between 14 options just to buy, you’re making them work too hard, and your sales will suffer accordingly.

You Might Be Messing This Up If…

What’s really insidious about this particular conversion flaw is that your marketing and Web teams are unlikely to know about simply because they’re suffering under The Curse of Knowledge.  To them the offer seems perfectly clear, and the different options for buying are  a bonus rather than a burden.  So even if you don’t think you suffer from this, you might want to check to see if:

  1. You have unusually high bounce rates on your home page.
  2. People are clicking on your Calls to Action and then backtracking to “How it Works,” “FAQ,” and “About Us” pages — almost as if they’re looking one last time to see if they can’t find some answers.
  3. You have unusually high exit rates from “How it Works,” Services, and Product pages
  4. Your cart or checkout abandonment rates stay high despite a high-quality check-out process and repeated optimization efforts aimed at this portion of your Website.

I’m not saying these issues are proof positive that your messaging and basic offers need work, just that the represent a good reason to look into it.

How to Fix It

The best advice is to hire an outside expert. I realize that sounds a bit self-serving, coming from a messaging-driven Website Optimization professional, but, well, what can I say? It’s the simple truth.

But if you’re trying a DIY approach, here’s what I recommend:

A) Try the “Here’s the Deal” Exercise.

Imagine that you’re at the bar with an acquaintance who knows almost nothing about your product or service, but who would benefit from it, if only she understood a few things. If you were to turn to her and say, “so here’s the deal,” what sort of short and sweet pitch would you give to her that would get her ready to say yes or commit to learning more in 120 seconds or less?

Also, make sure you don’t use jargon — remember, this prospect isn’t an industry insider — during your “so here’s the deal” speech, and make sure the benefits are dramatized and compelling.

B) Try Using Schemas

I had Baba Ghanoush for the first time a few months ago, and when I asked what it was, a whole bunch of people started to explain it to me, with varying degrees of success.  But then Bryan Eisenberg — a consumate marketer and my personal Website Optimization mentor — nailed it when he said it was “eggplant guacamole.”  Boom. Suddenly everybody got it.


Because Bryan invoked a schema we already recognized, guacamole, and then modified it with eggplant. Isn’t that a much more elegant explanation than Wikipedia’s, “a Levantine dish of eggplant (aubergine) mashed and mixed with virgin olive oil and various seasonings”?

The same thing happens with movies, too.  According to Chip and Dan Heath, Speed was initially pitched as “Die Hard on a Bus.”  Boom. You get it.  Aliens is a science fiction movie, but it’s nothing like Star Trek. Totally different feel, right?  But if you say “Jaws in Space,” you instantly grasp both the concept and the feel of the movie.

So what schema could you use to describe your product or service?

Caution — the schema you use can greatly impact the customer’s expectation of value and price, so choose wisely.

C) Streamline Your Call to Action and Conversion Process

Now, don’t get rid of your lead nurturing program or anything, but do consider whether you might narrow down your offerings and options. Or at least consider making one option the “default” and most promoted option. And as with any piece of Web Optimization advice, test it out. See what actually converts the best. You might just be surprised at the results.

And that’s today’s Practical Tactical Tuesday Tip 🙂

Do the HOMEwork too!

When it comes to Advertising, Marketing, and Persuasion, are you a student of what’s come before you?

  • Do you know the history?
  • Do you try to learn from the greats by reading their books and studying their works?
  • Do you look at all of it?  Or just a narrow slice?

If you didn’t answer Yes to the main question and the first two bullet points, you can stop reading now. Really. There’s no hope for you.

But I find that quite a few serious copywriters get hung up on the third bullet point.

These copywriters have studied the direct mail lineage — Hopkins, Caples, Collier, Schwartz, Halbert, Kennedy, et al — but haven’t looked at any of the giants of Madison Ave style advertising beyond, maybe, Ogilvy.  And vice versa for broadcast advertising guys who’ve never studied Direct Response marketing.

Or they’ve never thought that the Theatre Arts or Rhetoric or Comedy Writing or Sales Training or even say, Comic Books had anything to teach them.

In other words, they dismiss stuff that’s not directly in their field or that they don’t “get” right away. Big mistake.

So today’s lesson: be a student of the game — the whole game.  Learn what’s great from the past. Study it.  Note that “study” doesn’t mean passively reading it. When in doubt, figure out what other great talents that you DO like see in the “greats” that you don’t get.

And here’s two great links to get you started on the path:

  1. This New York Times article on Ed McCabe [hat tip to The Escape Pod for turning me onto this article]
  2. This Invisible Ink post on learning from legends you don’t “get” at first contact.

P.S. That NYT article mentions the same Volvo ad I used as an example in my last Theory Thursday post and I managed to snag a screen shot of it.  Here it is:

What it Takes to Make the Sale!

I’m guessing you already have at least one guarantee or risk reversal element to your main offer.

Maybe it’s in the form of a money-back or satisfaction guarantee, a free shipping guarantee, or maybe a free estimate or free diagnoses. Whatever it is, the point is that you already have it in place. After all, it’s common sense to use something like that to reassure your customer and win more business.

But chances are it’s not doing you very much good because you don’t promote or repeat it often enough — especially at those crucial moments of buying decision.

Assurances Need Repetition

You assume that  displaying or speaking of your guarantee once is enough, and, well, it’s just plain not.

It’s not enough because the buyer is juggling too many other factors in her mind to hold onto that piece of information so that she can recall it when the moment of truth comes. Plus, it’s not really her job to remember it, either — it’s YOUR job to remind her.

Testing this On Your Website rocks the Pont of Action Assurance

Online, this is an easy thing to test: simply run a split test where you test repeating your satisfaction or money back or safe shopping guarantees in your cart and checkout process vs. not using those points of action reassurances.  For lead form Websites, you can use your privacy or non-call or free-diagnosis guarantees.  Whatever is most appropriate.

Again, chances are you’ll see a big lift by using these points of action assurances because, truth be told, this is one of those go-to tools that us Conversion Rate Optimization Professionals bank on to drive results.

Implementing it Offline

Studer Group's AIDET

But what about off-line?

Guess what, it’s even MORE important offline than on.

I used to work for a fabulous consulting company that coaches hospitals on improving their patient satisfaction scores. And one of their go-to tools was a scripting acronym called AIDET, specifically used to manage patient anxiety through reassurance.

AIDET stands for:

  • Acknowledge — Acknowledge the patient. Look them in the eye and say hello.
  • Introduce — Introduce yourself and give a quick background of your experience and qualifications. Don’t assume that the patient will assume that you know what you are doing just because you are wearing scrubs; TELL them you have umpteen years of experience at whatever it is you are doing.
  • Duration — Tell them what you are doing and how long whatever your task is will take — i.e., how long you’ll be bothering them
  • Explanation —  Tell them WHY you are doing what you are doing, HOW it works, and What is involved.  Relate everything back to their care. Example: I’m waking you up at 4:00 am to draw blood for tests that will provide “real-time” lab results to your doctor when he comes to check on you at 7:30 this morning.
  • Thank You — Thank the patient for seeking care at your hospital, for being patient during your procedure, etc.  Then ask if there is anything else you can do for them, specifically stating that you “have the time” to answer their questions or do whatever they might request.

So what does all this have to do with Point of Action Assurances?

Notice that the Introduce part reassures the patient that they are in good hands, and that the “I have the time” phrase said during the Thank You part reassures patients that it’s OK to ask. The assumption is that it’s the nurses job to remind and reassure the patient during critical transactions and not the patient’s job to know or remember.

Your in-store staff can use similar techniques.  I’d advise you to come up with your own acronym, but you would definitely want to remind customers that:

  • Your stores satisfaction guarantees or return policies
  • You have additional items or sizes in the back and would be happy to bring them up front for the customer
  • You are an official distributor or whatever for this or that brand
  • They have been specifically trained in how to fit customers for this or that item
  • They themselves are passionate chefs/bikers/hunters/stereophiles/etc. and/or have been trained on the products
  • Provide free estimates, drawings, samples, etc. to prospective customers

So what are you doing at your business?  Does your staff have anything like AIDET to fall back on to ensure that they are consistently reassuring customers during the moment of truth?

If not, you might want to do a little “offline” testing of your own…

A bit of common wisdom for lawyers goes something like:

“When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. When both are against you, call the other lawyer names”

Great advice, but how does this translate into advertising terms?

Ah, to get that, you have to go back to the Rhetorical advice from which this common wisdom came. And when it comes to Rhetoric, I always look to Jay Henrichs, author of Thank You for Arguing and Word Hero. Here’s what Jay has to say in chapter 12 of Thank You for Arguing:

“If facts work in your favor, use them. If they don’t (or you don’t know them), then…

Redefine the terms instead. If that won’t work, accept your opponents facts and terms but…

Argue that your opponent’s argument is less important than it seems. And if even that isn’t to your advantage…

Claim the discussion is irrelevant.”

Redefining Terms Read more

Trouble_girl3I’m re-publishing this post for Practical Tactical Tuesday because I like it and because very little is more practical than “How To” advice on writing better headlines.

Hope you enjoy:

My confession? Even though my copy always had great headlines, my blog posts frequently didn’t.

I wasn’t (yet) struck by the need for trouble – and without a hint of taboo, or a challenge to the norm, or a perceived conflict, or at the very least a paradox, most headlines just never get off the ground.

Here’s why there has to be a sense of trouble living at the heart of your headline:

Your headline needs to hook the reader into reading your “story,” and stories are created by and live off of conflict. In fact, another phrase for trouble is “story appeal.”

Your goal: entice the reader with a hint of conflict, and then she “has” to click through so she can know how the conflict is resolved and what kind of transformation takes place as a result.

4 Ways to Create Conflict in your Headlines: Read more

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