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2 Small Powerful Concepts to Explode Your Conversions
Neuromarketing: The Weapons of Mass Conversion (Part 2)
Neuromarketing: Social Proofing on Landing Pages (Part 1)

2 Small Powerful Concepts to Explode Your Conversions

Why is split testing so important?

Because small changes add up to big dollars.

My favourite example comes from Colleen Szot, the world renowned infomercial writer who shattered a twenty-year sales record by changing just three words in one of her scripts.

You would miss them if you didn’t know where to look.

She didn’t insert superlatives, or extra promises, or yet another celebrity endorsement.

Here’s what she changed:

Version 1: “Operators are waiting, please call now,”
Record breaking Version 2: “If operators are busy, please call again.”

And sales took off in to the stratosphere.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that small wordplay can turn a losing product in to a multimillion dollar success. But it can certainly shape a winner.

Conventional sales logic says: make the sale as pain-free as possible.

Why would you piss off the customer by threatening to waste her precious time on hold?

Szot would argue that believable social proof is worth it.

After all, who is more likely to rip out your eyeballs?

The salesman peddling a product that is flying off the shelves, or a call centre full of eager, idle lions who haven’t been fed for days?

Whatever you are selling, you will sell more by adding social proof.

If you are in the service business, this means appearing busier than you actually are.

You are publicly seen to value your time; your writing is concise, your communication succinct. The world knows you refuse to take a shit without checking your calendar first. It’s a staple of your vocabulary that you only ever have room for one extra client.

If you are selling products, this means threatening to run out of them, or stop selling them, or start raising the price on them. Whatever you are selling, the cost of not acting now is always going to rise exponentially (even if the price doesn’t).

In both cases, the best possible reason for denying a customer your service or product is because somebody else got there first.

It’s annoying to walk in to a shop and find that shiny new gadget is out of stock. But it stings to see the last box snatched up by the guy ten paces in front of you.

Social proof creates intrigue, desire, validation.

Scarcity creates a monster.

Every piece of sales copy you produce should have both.

Extra: Read more about how I use social proofing and scarcity in my neuromarketing post series, originally published in 2012.

Neuromarketing: The Weapons of Mass Conversion (Part 2)

Note: This is the second of a two-part series on Neuromarketing. Read the first part here.

Previously we looked at how social proof can lead to more conversions, more sales and more money in your bank account.

Social proof is a cornerstone of neuromarketing.

But it’s not the only child.

In this post, we’re going to look at three of the most powerful selling techniques known to man. Some might call them the twisted twins of social validation.

These techniques are capable of wreaking some serious havoc on the fickle, fanciful minds of our target markets. Which is why I ask – no, plead – that you repent for your sins and wash your keyboard in soap after usage.

The three techniques are:

  • Scarcity
  • Reciprocation
  • The need to rationalize decisions

There is plenty of academic research to suggest that the techniques above are Grade A weapons of mass destruction in the war of selling. Yet still there exists a shortage of examples for how these techniques can be adjusted to the modern web.

Well, that’s what I aim to show you in Part 2 of this series.

Let’s start by looking at scarcity.

How scarcity sells

Scarcity works in tandem with social proofing. Like two magnetic forces pulling a consumer to shipwreck. Together, they are irresistible.

I gave an example of one of my preferred scarcity tactics in the previous post.

“There are currently [17] people viewing today’s offer.”
“[654] people have signed up since October 1st.”
“We have exceeded our capacity! The offer ends in X.”

If you’re too late, don’t worry. We’ll be reopening our doors in December.

Scarcity is the threat of not having. You can see it being used in these popular sales ploys:

  • “Only limited tickets remaining.”
  • “Accepting [7] new affiliates.”

For scarcity to take effect, supply must be limited and demand must be present.

The guys over at IMGrind are pretty adept exponents of this equation.

IMGrind holds live masterminding sessions at factory line frequency. The events are an opportunity for Internet Marketers to get together and discuss strategies that are currently making money online. While I cannot vouch for how effective these sessions may be, I do admire the precision that goes in to their marketing.

To my knowledge, their latest live event had just 20 seats available. They were selling these tickets at $247 a pop.

IMGrind Recording

Scarcity sets the price point

Setting such a short supply of tickets provides two opportunities:

  1. It gives IMGrind an excuse to bombard your email with headlines like “Just 4 Seats Remaining! Book Now or Never

  2. It adds value to their second option, which I assume is their primary method of monetizing the event: DVD recordings. It sends out a message, “This event is full of so much smoking hot info, we can only show it to 20 people. But you, you don’t have to travel to New York City. You can get a copy of the DVD and watch from home.

Of course, when the live tickets do sell out, the event gains prestige. Users are far more likely to part with their wallets.

And what about those $247 DVD prices? Pretty extreme, don’t you think?

If somebody offered me a DVD for $247, I would kindly take the disk, snap it in half, and take a swipe at their jugular. But this price works.

Why does it work? It works because the anchor has already been set.

The event tickets are selling out fast at $247. You have social proofing that the event is worth at least $247. You also have the scarcity of tickets painting a subliminal message in your head that you will be missing out on something great.

The information is not easy to access. Some marketers are travelling to New York City for the session. Let’s be honest. How far out of bed would you crawl for a free WSO?

Remember: The harder it is to obtain, the greater the perceived value.

The final sucker punch in this awesome sales funnel is when IMGrind promotes the aftermath of the event.

They will duly blitz your inbox with success story after success story of how attendees have breathed new fire in to their careers after making the trip. This information is usually followed by an announcement: the DVD recordings will be taken offline in X days.

All that priceless information…

Gone. Vanquished. Never to be seen again.

What you are left with is a scarcity of time + a scarcity of information. Without knowing the exact IMGrind financials, I’m sure they’ll be eating pretty sizeable turkeys this Thanksgiving.

The lesson of scarcity: When we perceive information as being too easy to get, we lower the value of that information. Conversely, we can set high expectations and high demand by raising our prices and creating a bottleneck.

Open up a newspaper and chances are you will find a page dedicated to a stand-up comedian who has inexplicably miscalculated the demand for his shows.

Jimmy Carr on Tour

Jimmy Carr. One of my favourite comics.

Jimmy Carr on Tour!

January 10th, Birmingham, SOLD OUT
January 11th, Birmingham, SOLD OUT
January 12th, Birmingham, EXTRA DATE ADDED
January 14th, London, SOLD OUT
January 15th, London, SOLD OUT
January 16th, London, SOLD OUT
January 17th, London, EXTRA DATE ADDED

Of course, the marketing agencies responsible for these ads know exactly what they are doing.

By releasing extra dates ‘due to popular demand’, those terrible twins – scarcity and social proofing – can begin to work their magic.

You can try to fight it. You can try to analyse every last piece of advertising that comes your way, but there is simply too much of it. And it comes too fast.

Scarcity creates an illusion of desirability. Human nature simply cannot help itself.

You will desire that which is not easily available to you.

If you are reading this blog, I can assume that you are familiar with the sales text: “Only [7] spots remaining. Sign up now!”

More recently, marketers — being marketers — have upped the ante.

For when a static scarcity scare simply isn’t enough, there’s always the animated countdown:

7 Spots Remaining

Sped up and repeated for illustrative purposes.

And if that doesn’t shoot the fish in your barrel…

There’s another particularly fiendish technique that involves JavaScript and a ‘Spots Remaining‘ tally that decreases every time the user fills out a text field.

I have experimented with this method on long forms and I can say without doubt: a shrinking supply lubricates engagement.

Those who start entering their information simply cannot stop, no matter how crude or obvious the manipulation.

Just watch those little fingers scurry! And then hang your head in shame.

How reciprocation sells

Reciprocation is, and will always be, the friendly plague of Internet Marketing.

I still remember when link exchanges were a sophisticated form of marketing. When places on blogrolls were squabbled over. When the Warrior Forum was a circle jerk*

* It’s gotten worse. Like a bad wine.

Do you remember MySpace? Of course you don’t. Only Justin Timberlake remembers MySpace.

I tell a lie. My one lasting memory of MySpace was that of the world’s most reciprocal social network.

At least 90% of my actions on MySpace were down to the compelling forces of reciprocation.

“Hey Finch. I just added you to my Top Eight Friends. Wink, nudge.”

“That’s extraordinary news, Brianna. One might call this the proudest day of my life. I guess you’ve risen through the ranks to become my 6th bestest friend. Come and refresh the page. Oh, and jolly well done.”

7 seconds pass.

“Look Finch. I just answered this cool survey and chose you as my friend ‘most likely to die in a hideous car crash before the age of 21!‘ You should do it too.”

“No way! I just answered it. You were my friend ‘most likely to get pregnant in the back of a bike shed and have 3 kids before the age of 25!’

7 years pass and Finch is proven correct.

MySpace was a lot of things. But above all, it was a land of scratchy backs.

While I hope you have set your goals higher than landing on somebody’s Top Friends list, the psychology behind sites like MySpace can tell us a lot about how we behave.

Reciprocation is embedded in our psyches, particularly on a social level.

What many skilled marketers have noted is that reciprocation can be just as effective when it comes to selling.

We call it the ‘feeling of indebtedness’.

Every squeeze landing page in history owes its success to our feeling of indebtedness. It’s the reason why we don’t unsubscribe immediately after downloading a free giveaway. We understand that there is an exchange in place.

Historically, when we roamed the earth as cave men, to break the law of reciprocation would have been to invite trouble. In most cases, a club to the back of the head.

We have evolved, but elements of the old brain still exist.

You can tap in to this evolutionary hallmark by priming your web users via reciprocation.

How about a free gift? A little ‘something for nothing’ that looks innocuous but casts that sinking feeling of indebtedness.

When launching Premium Posts Volume 6, I used reciprocation in the form of a sneak preview of the product.

Users were able to access 10+ pages of material without paying a penny.

Note: And if you wish to receive the same perk with Volume 7, I suggest you opt-in at the bottom of this post!

The purpose of giving away content I had shed blood, sweat and tears for was not to be a good samaritan. Do I look like a good samaritan? It was to induce a feeling of indebtedness so that someday, perhaps not for several weeks, the sale would arrive.

A key element of reciprocation is that the scale of the good deed rarely matters. I may literally only scratch your back, but if you accept it as a favour, a seed of indebtedness has been planted.

The next thing you know, I’m inviting you to bed…

That’s great. How do I use reciprocation to make more sales?

One of my favourite techniques is the double tiered landing page. It traditionally involves a free giveaway; usually an ebook, or a personalised report; followed by a CPA offer.

The user lands on my page and is asked to submit his name and address to access my prized content. As soon as he has done so, he’s hit square in the chops with a CPA offer wrapped around a very carefully worded recommendation.

It rarely goes like this, but I hope you get the gist:

“Hi Derek, thanks for downloading my free report on ‘How to Save Endangered Hawaiian Seals’.

It took MANY sleepless nights to compile. But I hope you love it.

Just one more thing, if you’re really looking to save some seals, can I give you a recommendation? is my partner’s site.

If you feel a nagging sense of indebtedness to take action, you should definitely check it out. After all, you have already shown me what a worldly soul you have by requesting my report. Most people are too cruel to get this far.

The next logical step, as I’m sure you are aware, is to adopt a seal. Right now.

Seriously, I’m waiting to take your call.

I’d really appreciate it. And I know the seals will too!

Note: I have used seals as an example, but I suppose you could easily use the same copy for ‘Fat Local Slags’. They need homes too.

If it seems like a ridiculous example, I have to tell you… people commit to some ridiculous shit, especially when they feel that they owe you.

Whatever gets the reciprocation monkey off their back.

The lesson of reciprocation: If we want people to take action, a small favour will go a long way. Aim to plant a seed of indebtedness before the user reaches your sales pitch. There are many ways to achieve this on the web. The most potent weapon is a taste of the information they crave. If you can personalise the information, the results will be even greater.

How the need to rationalize decisions sells (over and over again)

Selling to a customer once is the weather smiling on you.

Selling to a customer for the rest of his life is a job well done.

Marketers like myself too often forget that the big money lies in attracting lifelong customers. We affiliates, we love to rinse and burn.

We’d rather attract a million first time sales than deal with the threat of speaking once more to those we’ve used and abused.

The reality? It’s not easy to attract a lifelong customer.

You mustn’t only attract the customer’s wallet. You must attract his best judgment, his sense of identity and his underlying belief that the decision to choose your product was correct. If this belief does not exist, his first conversion will be his last.

Business models cannot stay healthy without customer loyalty. And so providing sweet assurance that a purchasing decision was correct is just as important as getting the bloody minded fool to bust out his plastic in the first place.

How can we help a consumer to rationalise a decision?

There are two techniques that I want to look at:

  • Appealing to the user’s sense of identity pre-sale.
  • Altering the user’s perception of an experience post-sale.

Appealing to the user’s sense of identity

I have tested hundreds of landing page variables. I can’t think of a single variable quite so potent as the ability to tap in to a user’s sense of identity.

Consumers buy products that align with their opinions.

The products they love most are those that make them feel good about themselves, while expressing who they are.

The very first impression your landing page should create is a sensation of Us Against The World. You should know your target market well enough that you can express their single biggest fear in the headline, along with the solution (your product, obviously!).

Look at the Work at Home Mom industry. It draws in thousands of mothers every single day on the basis of what exactly? No more than a sense of identity.

I am a work at home mom.

Yes, you are.

And I am much more likely to sell merchandise to you if I pretend that I am one too. Of course, you’ll never believe me. My tits are too hairy.

You need only look at, oh say, every single religion in the world to see how tribal the human race can be. Neuromarketers understand that what we call in-group bias – the tendency to side with people who share common ground – is an incredibly powerful sales engine.

Appealing to the user’s perception of experience post-sale

Not only will people buy what they believe in. What people buy will often shape what they believe in.

If you want to create a lifelong customer, you can’t leave them at the checkout cart.

Every single Multi-Level Marketing sucker I have encountered has been programmed to believe, with devout faith, that his money is being invested wisely. That’s because the MLM experience relies on shaping the user’s perception after the initial sale/investment.

Now, look at your own sales funnel.

Do you forget about your customers from the moment the sale is made?

You shouldn’t. This is the time to pounce.

If you want to create your own tribe, your own dedicated group of followers, you have to instill the belief that your product is an extension of their own identities.

Don’t restrict freebie giveaways to your non-customers. Provide the best benefits to those who are already your customers. Don’t be afraid to develop an email follow-up series after a sale has been made. And always promote your successes.

IMGrind, the scarcity exponents I referenced at the start of this post, are equally skilled at promoting their successes. An IMGrind event will rarely pass without an email landing in my inbox with the success stories that came out of it.

Following up an event or a sale with positive associations is one of the best ways to ensure that your customers stay loyal. It lets you mould their perception of what you offer.

Reflections on Neuromarketing

This has been a long post, and my fingers are chaffed. If you are still awake, I salute you.

The truth is, neuromarketing is deserving of both your time and attention. It is one of the most exciting, baffling and lucrative fields you could hope to explore.

We can’t control how we are wired as human beings.

Sure, we can make what we might consider to be logical decisions, but they are usually driven by split second judgments that marketers are only just beginning to exploit.

If you really want to understand how to increase conversions, it’s those split second judgments that you need to learn and embrace.

I’ll finish this series by offering a book recommendation: Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Read it. Read it again.

You will soon begin to understand how little we actually know about ourselves. And how what little we do know can be exploited by marketers with money on their minds.

Recommended This Week

  • Be sure to check out Adsimilis, the official sponsor of Premium Posts Volume 5 & 6. Adsimilis is one of the most effective networks in the world for CPA affiliates. Lots of offers, lots of high payouts, lots of exclusives. Sign up now.

Neuromarketing: Social Proofing on Landing Pages (Part 1)

Neuromarketing is one of those buzz terms used to describe a recent infatuation with new technology. It’s promise is simple. Consumers make buying decisions based on unconscious factors that are out of their control.

The purpose of neuromarketing is to anticipate unconscious reactions and provide the ultimate sales platform: an emotional and logical boot in the direction of your checkout cart.

It is a study driven by the emerging field of neuro web design.

When I look at the challenges facing web designers in 2012, I’m grateful that I never made a career out of it.

I still remember when web design was the bastard child of HTML and Geocities.

Life was simple, hosting was expensive.

Geocities interface

The good old days, where hosting cost a kidney…

A decade has passed and still I have nightmares over my first website. It included football results, Angelina Jolie’s tits and the musings of my adolescence. Oh, and a guestbook.

The site was hosted by Freeserve with a CJB.NET domain. I thought it was the coolest shit ever. And so I vowed to become a web designer. Somehow I succeeded, for about 3 years.

Web development back then was simple. You learnt HTML, CSS and a programming language if you were feeling ambitious.

My, haven’t the times changed?

Just look at the new factors a designer must consider:

  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • Search engine optimisation
  • Conversion optimisation
  • Load times
  • Bounce rates
  • Subscription rates
  • Sales

Perhaps the biggest headache of all is the emergence of neuro web design.

Designers are expected to cater visual aesthetics for unconscious decisions that the user doesn’t even know he’s making. Of course, the very best designers don’t need to be told. It’s an innate talent, their intuition.

Well, I am not a very good designer. And chances are, neither are you.

When I design a landing page, I want it to be powerful. I want it to drum my desired action in to the user’s head. And if there are ways to do this subconsciously, through neuromarketing, then I am all for getting my hands dirty.

I crave the blueprints to the ultimate ‘Venus Flytrap‘ Landing Page. The kind of sales pitch that gobbles you up whole, then spits you out minus your wallet.

This post (the first in a series) is as far as I have come in the quest for that landing page.

Some of the tips may seem like the hallmarks of a scumbag. Which is exactly what they are. Use them at your own discretion.

Social Proofing

You may protest that you don’t care what others think when making a purchase, but you do. It’s natural, and it’s healthy. I’ll go one step further. It’s evolution.

When we want to know how to behave, or how to act appropriately, we look to the crowd. If the crowd is glowing with praise, we are more inclined to look favourably on a product or service. If the crowd is standing still, or absent altogether, we are reluctant to make the first move.

Social proofing rule #1: Show the ball rolling. Whatever action you want the user to perform, make it clear that the action has been performed many times before.

Social proofing on the web comes in the form of reviews, testimonials and sharing metrics.

A hefty segment of the Fiverr ecosystem is built around webmasters like you and I trying to ‘seed’ their assets with fake fans, fake followers and fake comments. Why? It’s not for the sales. It’s for the implication to other real users that “Hey, Sherlock. There’s something going down over here worth knowing about.

Attempts at social proofing can be rather uninspiring. And that is a massive danger. Consumers are not stupid!

For social proofing to be effective, it has to skip by the conscious mind without a red flag being raised.

When might a red flag be raised? How about when you view a product on Amazon and the only review is 5 stars from a contributor with the same name as the author? If this is your marketing plan, forget it. You’ll get better publicity by trapping your head in a bin and phoning the Gazette.

Social proofing rule #2: Look authentic. A hundred 5 star reviews from family and friends is much less authentic than a handful of ‘positively mixed’ reviews. Here’s something I tell people all the time: the most powerful testimonials in the world are those that address a minor weakness wrapped lovingly in glowing praise. The presence of the minor weakness acts as a decoy for any major weakness that could kill the sale. Be the one to choose your product’s perceived weakness (and then fix the real issue, duh!).

If you’re going to use a testimonial (or a dodgy review), seek one that tells a story.

A study conducted by Peter de Vries in 2007 found that while products with positive reviews yield a 20% better return than those with no reviews, the most effective reviews are those told as stories with a photo of the individual concerned.

A good testimonial will reveal background information, a relatable character (preferably with a photo) and, of course, a desired outcome. Testimonials that allow the reader to substitute himself in to the story are by far the most effective. Think about this before you add a throwaway one-liner to your page. Detail catches the worm.

Relate to the world they know.

Affiliate marketers are aware that one of the best ways to ramp up the effectiveness of a testimonial is to play a geographical mindfuck on the unsuspecting reader.

“Glowing testimonial of awesomeness, lorem ipsum. Your product saved my life!”
– John Doe, The User’s Town Here

There are many geo-detection scripts that can do this, with varying degrees of efficiency. One of the more popular tools is Maxmind.

There’s a catch.

Geodetection works a lot better in America than it does anywhere else in the world. The United States is scattered and sparsely populated in comparison to Europe. When I view a page with the Maxmind script, it refers to my current location as Barnet.

The distance between Barnet and Ruislip, my hometown, is only 13.3 miles. An accuracy window of 13 miles is likely to produce targeted advertising in America (or most of it). However, in London?

13.3 miles is the difference between China Town, Chelsea and the Queen’s palace. Actually, that’s about 1 mile.

Is it ethical to manipulate users with an illusion of locality? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Social proofing rule #3: Get location specific, but only if the technology allows it. You don’t want an IP database billing you as Oxford’s Favourite Boat Manufacturer if your user is browsing from Cambridge.

Sharing is caring

Another popular form of social proofing is sharing metrics. You see them used, you’re aware of the potential abuse, but the anchor of perceived super-popularity is difficult to shake.

Mashable content draped in a thousand retweets somehow seems more valid than a forgotten essay from a university professor. And even if you can spot the human failure in this snap judgment, we both know which article you are more likely to read.

Social triggering

These social metrics create an illusion of popularity that will form the basis of your own opinion

Social proofing rule #4: Never share that nobody cares! If you are worried that people won’t share your sales pitch, you are probably right. It’s a social faux-pas. So include a separate page with ‘How to’ content. Aim to get this shared, then integrate it with the sales page. Never place sharing metrics on your sales page if the counters are set to zero. You are shooting yourself in the balls.

In the affiliate world, social sharing metrics are already being exploited. I’ve encountered dozens of ‘fake blogs’ where the content has been liked by 1000s of users. The Like counter is either forged as a JPG, or iFramed in from a genuine page.

As murky as the tactic is, it’s a symptom of a greater problem. Getting real customers to share and like your landing pages is not easy. In some verticals, the prospect sends a shiver down my spine.

Joe Bloggs is never going to publicise his fascination for ‘Fat Local Slags’ on Facebook. The gigantic elephant in the room is that many of the products we sell are not destined to be passed around and glorified virally.

I would suggest that different social metrics need to be used.

One of my favourite techniques combines social proofing with scarcity and a time constraint.

“There are currently [17] people viewing today’s offer.”
“[654] people have signed up since October 1st.”
“We have exceeded our capacity! The offer ends in X.”

If you’re too late, don’t worry. We’ll be reopening our doors in December.

It’s aggressive, bruising and you will no doubt lose a few fans. But you will sell.

The final line is a tribute to one of the most successful ad writers in history.

Colleen Szot has made a career out of badgering Americans in to parting with their credit cards. An infomercial legend, she has sold over $10 billion in merchandise. Her power to relate to the couch potato is second to none.

Perhaps Szot’s greatest stroke of genius – and certainly the most famous – was a subtle wording change in one of her scripts. The television producers could barely lift their jaws from the floor when half of America jammed the phone lines, as if pulled by puppet strings.

When we aim to increase sales, we tend to look outward. We look for celebrity endorsements, glowing testimonials. We add to the hard-sell in our copy. Szot noted something much smaller, much easier to fix.

She changed three words and shattered a home shopping sales record that had stood for 20 years.

Want to know what she changed?

Version 1: Operators are waiting, please call now.
Version 2: If operators are busy, please call again.


I can’t recall a better testimonial for the power of social proof.

Social proofing rule #5: The smallest change can produce the most remarkable returns. Especially when they are directed at the unconscious mind. Scrutinise every last pixel of your landing page to ensure that it’s projecting the right message.

Check back next week for Part 2 in this Neuromarketing Series. Subscribe to my RSS here.

Recommended This Week

  • Be sure to check out Adsimilis, the official sponsor of Premium Posts Volume 5 & 6. Adsimilis is one of the most effective networks in the world for CPA affiliates. Lots of offers, lots of high payouts, lots of exclusives. Sign up now.

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