by Jeffrey Eisenberg - May 2005
There was a time - remember Cool Site of the Day? - when
"disciplines" like Web analytics, usability, search
engine marketing and conversion weren't even twinkles in mainstream
eyes. None of this stuff was a top priority for Internet marketers,
and those of us trying to make a buck (or a pound) in these
areas ate lean.
The dot-bomb dropped, folks reeled for a while, and then
they got a clue: their bottom lines mattered. Conversion became
the name of the game, and anything that increased conversion
rates became a hot topic. "Halleluiah," the disciplines
cheered. "Thank goodness," ebusinesses whewed.
Conversion has only recently become the must-have piece of
the pie. It's where my company started in 1998, so it feels
really good to be hearing the same language. But we're not
all on the same page yet.
The ability to achieve truly dramatic improvements in conversion
rates will require a shift in "conventional" thinking.
Internet marketers need to understand that while the goal
may be conversion, the practice must be persuasion.
Conversion is a Linear Process
Conversion is about "the click." We all understand
the macro-level conversion, which is the business's site objective.
But it is important to realize that conversion also takes
place at the micro-level - every single click takes the prospect
deeper into the buying decision process. The true imperative
in conversion rate marketing is to persuade each and every
Conversion is what the visitor does; it's the "take
action" part of the buying decision process. At the macro-level,
the visitor converts from prospect to buyer. Helping prospects
convert basically entails making it easier for them to buy
by getting out of their way. Getting out of their way usually
entails a copy, usability or information architecture adjustment.
As we worked with clients in the early days of our business,
we began to realize we could remove the obstacles to conversion,
but that would only take us so far. Conversion is fundamentally
about completing your linear scenarios. Think multi-page processes
such as shopping carts or registration forms. However, people
rarely go about accomplishing their goals in a linear fashion
- the buying process behavior of a majority of prospects is
Consider this common example: A site with complex selling
scenarios successfully funnels a majority of its traffic to
a call-to-action form, but few prospects who land on that
page complete the form and click through. The page rejection
rate is staggering. Thinking they have a conversion problem,
the company performs a variety of A/B tests on the form page
with little success. Nothing they do to "fix" the
conversion problem yields significantly improved results.
They imagine themselves at a conversion dead-end.
In this situation, the problem usually isn't the form; it's
the scenario visitors participate in before they reach the
form. Prospects haven't acquired enough information or developed
sufficient confidence to feel comfortable completing the action
the site is asking them to take. This company's linear sales
process is undermining its prospects non-linear buying decision
process - the site is failing to persuade before it attempts
Persuasion is a Non-Linear Process
Persuasion is about meeting the buying needs of your audience.
It's a non-linear, multi-branched, integral part of your selling
process - you present relevant information for your buyers
in a way that suits you as the seller and allows you to make
the case for buying from you.
Non-linear scenarios are the scenarios visitor segments create
as they navigate your website. In this type of scenario we
measure conversion differently, from where people enter the
scenario to where they complete the intended scenario and
whether or not they hit our key value pages. Explicitly planning
these non-linear scenarios is the goal of persuasive design.
When we dissect the buying process into its component parts
for each persona and then measure those micro-conversions
in the click-stream not only can we better understand how
well we are persuading but we can also segment our conversion
rates by persona segment. That allows us to focus on cumulative
conversion rates for the website instead of simply an average
Persuasion Maximizes Conversion
Persuasion is the next step in conversion rate marketing's
evolutionary chain. You may clear every last one of your conversion
hurdles, but you will still face the question of how you move
your prospects from click to click, how you orchestrate persuasive
momentum. Building persuasive, persona-based scenarios that
allow prospects to "buy naturally" is the only way
to achieve the dramatic results that are possible when you
think beyond conversion.
From a conversion perspective, the Internet marketer asks,
"How do I build a single pipeline that gets me the highest
conversion rate?" From a persuasion perspective, the
Internet marketer asks, "How do I build multiple pipelines
that give me the highest conversion rates overall? It's the
difference between trying to increase your conversion rate
from 2% to 4% (a 100% increase) and imagining what small percentage
of all your visitors you will have to write off because they
are simply "unconvertible." Reach for 4% or 100%?
When they "buy naturally," you will truly "sell
effortlessly." The future for Internet marketing lies
in developing non-linear systems that deliver exactly what
prospects need, when they need it, so they can accomplish
their goals in the manner most comfortable to them. The future
is not about optimizing conversion, it's about maximizing
We call that future Persuasion Architecture.
Jeffrey Eisenberg is the CEO & co-founder of Future Now, Inc.,
a New York City-based online marketing company specializing
in increasing conversion rates. Jeffrey is a co-author of Persuasive
Online Copywriting and the recently released book, Call to Action
Find out more here.
© Jeffrey Eisenberg 2005
Editor: Mike Grehan. Search
engine marketing consultant, speaker and author.
Associate Editor: Christine
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