“Conversion hacks” is such a popular phrase that you will find at least a dozen books, thousands of articles, hundreds of guides, webinars and more on the topic. In fact, several companies boast new departments, teams and roles that exclusively focus on conversion optimization techniques… You get the idea.
Yet, actually getting conversions is such an elusive thing for most websites. Big companies have figured it out to a “T”, which has helped them attract their target audience, while other companies are still tiptoeing around the concept.
In this article I’ll walk you through 5 conversion hacks backed by some amazing case studies that you can use for your business.
Conversion Hacks #1: Nail Down Your Buyer Personas
A quick question first: Have you successfully figured out the actual Jill, Buzz, Barry and Ray’s of your site? You haven’t? Hearing these names for the first time? Okay! Let me explain!
These are fictitious characters created by Best Buy Co., an electronics retail giant, as part of its buyer persona creation process. The company got them nailed down for their site early on to understand their target audience and to determine the design, copy and navigation flow of the site.
Given the importance of coming up with personally relevant content, its surprising how little attention is being paid to the subject of buyer personas. According to a Janrain study, 74% of audiences are frustrated with websites that offer content, offers, ads, promotions, etc. that doesn’t – or hardly – resonate with them.
Step in, buyer personas.
Buyer personas act as the primary building blocks for your website development process. They help you understand your buyers’ goals closely to the point that it helps you tailor your website layout as per their taste.
In their highly publicized book, Conversion Optimization: The Art and Science of Converting Prospects Into Customers, authors Khalid Saleh and Ayat Shukairy share some great examples of companies that use buyer personas.
Best Buy’s case study is one that stood out among the lot. Here’s a brief overview of how Best Buy penciled different personas to reel in the attention of its targeted audience. Don’t forget to get your notepads out to jot down the ideas you want to emulate for your site.
Best Buy’s Buyer Personas
In order to separate the most profitable customers from the least, Best Buy segregated its customer data into four types of people. They arrived at these buyer personas based on the income and personality traits of different people. Plus, the company analyzed these personas inside-out, which helped them figure out the striking similarities between the first two groups of customers and the next two groups. With families at the center, the purchases of the first two groups were centered on their families. In the case of next two groups, the purchases were meant for the purchaser themselves.
This kind of analyses helped Best Buy develop a clear-cut goal for the company: To cater to both markets equally.
Okay. But then, how?
To do this, Best Buy kept tweaking its sales processes until it managed to turn most of its visitors into buyers. For example, the company’s sales associates were trained to bracket customers into their four buyer persona categories and then they were trained to match their selling tactics accordingly.
So for one of Best Buy’s buyer personas, Jill, the “soccer mom,” she was decided to be a well-educated and confident woman who deliberately kept a safe distance from shops such as Best Buy because of the kind of products they sold and technical jargon spouted by sales associates at the shop.
So, how did Best Buy manage to convince Jill-like personas to visit their store? Simple. They indulged Jill’s ego.
Here’s an excerpt from the book which will give you a better idea on how Best Buy leveraged Jill’s persona to impact its sales processes:
Imagine if an offline store such as Best Buy could go to such great lengths to target its right audience, despite the fact that customers at offline stores have the luxury to hold one-on-one interactions with the sales folks, imagine the kind of efforts an online store need to put in to get things started.
So, it goes without saying that creating buyer personas should be mandatory for every site.
The book’s authors Khalid Saleh and Ayat Shukairy suggest that websites should create 4 to 7 personas at least. However, sites should come up with secondary personas as well if the customers they are dealing with seem complex.
The bottom line: Catering to the interests of 4-7 individuals is better than catering to the masses with a broader range of personalities, likes, dislikes and opinions.
Best Practices for Creating Buyer Personas for Your Business:
- Segregate data into different personality types and address their requirements accordingly.
- Personas don’t consider demographic profiles. It’s absolutely based on users’ online behavioral aspects.
- Most websites have 4 to 7 primary personas. These should take care of the most complex visitors. If need be, create secondary personas for those buyers who have yet to be addressed on your site.
- Persona creation adopts a generalized approach in terms of psychographic, demographic and behavioral trends of customers. It does not believe in mapping every single detail in the customer profile.
- Persona creation is always a work-in-progress. You can never be done with it.
- Don’t rely on old data for persona creation. Though it may be convenient and cost-effective, you may miss out on current data.
- If you are selling an expensive product, be assured that customers will adopt a more logical approach to the buying decision. In other words, customers will ask more questions because it’s a big decision they are making.
Creating personas is the best way to interact with your customers at an intimate level. However, this is just the first step to bringing customers to your doorstep and optimizing your conversions.
Conversion Hacks #2: Nail Down Your Company’s “Commander Intent”
Commander Intent, ever heard of it? Here are a few examples to whet your appetite:
- “The low-fare airline”- The Commander Intent of The Southwest Airlines
- “If you say three things, you say nothing”- The Commander Intent coined by James Carville, Key Political Advisor to Clinton during the election campaign
- “Names, Names and Names” – The Commander Intent of Dunn Daily Record, Local Newspaper of Dunn, North Carolina
- “Deliver WOW through service” – The Commander Intent of Zappos, online shoe and clothing company acquired by Amazon.
There you go! Four incredible Commander Intent examples that represent the core objective of three different companies and Clinton’s election campaign, in particular.
Commander Intent’s messages are crisp and compact to the core. The idea is to make sure that the visitor gets the message instantly – that is, under 5 seconds or so.
Coined by Colonel Tom Koldiz, Head of Behavioural Sciences Division at West Point, the concept of Commander Intent came about when military plans were being met with failures on the battlefield.
According to Koldiz, as quoted in the book, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, “Plans don’t work on the battlefield as unpredictable things keep happening. For instance, weather change, a key asset gets destroyed, the enemy responds in a way you don’t expect, and so on.”
Simply put: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”
Step in, Commander Intent. Designed by Koldiz himself, the idea is to have a crisp, plain-talk statement at the top of every military order clearly stating the plan’s goal and the desired end-state of an operation. So, in case the plan is rendered obsolete by random events, the intent should be loud and clear enough for the foot soldiers to continue with their mission.
In the web world, you could liken Commander Intent to company’s mission statement. In other words, a single thing that your company values the most. So, what is your company’s Commander Intent? If you don’t have one, start thinking about one now.
A website should have its Commander Intent, or mission statement, front and center. Constant reinforcement of your company’s mission statement inspires employees to marshal their mind, matter and company resources toward a common goal. And if you can link the company’s goal with employees personal goals within the company, there’ll be nothing like it.
In keeping with its Commander Intent, “The low-fare airline,” Southwest Airlines, makes sure that no food is served onboard, despite repeated requests from flight crews and passengers. Why? Because Southwest founder and CEO, Herb Kelleher, has made SouthWest’s CI loud and clear to his employees: The low-fare airline cannot afford to offer expensive food such as chicken caesar salads on board.
So, are you still yet to create a Commander Intent or mission statement for your site?
Best Practices for Creating a Commander Intent for Your Business:
- The mission statement should primarily speak of the value your customers are actually looking for. In other words, figure out that one single thing that would pull customers toward your site.
- Determine the mission statement by conducting surveys and field studies of the market.
- Avoid overused mission statements.
- Evaluate mission statement through the lens of your personas.
Conversion Hacks #3: Nail Down Your External Reputation Management Techniques
As it turns out, your company reputation will always be under the scanner 24/7 thanks to social media channels. Your service, product and even your company image could take a serious beating if even a single negative blog or video goes viral.
In fact, 8 out of 10 internet users in the US said that negative information read online has made them change their mind about a purchase decision. However, the good news is that 70% of complaining customers will do business with you if you resolve the complaint in their favor.
So, how do you get a handle on negative publicity?
Here’s what Toyota did while trying to clean up its negative image after the worldwide vehicle recall incident in 2009. The company had to recall 3.8 million vehicles because of trapped accelerator pedals and this is the TV ad they put together to manage their reputation.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re running an automotive company or not, such external reputation management techniques should be taken note of and can be emulated, even if it were to happen on a smaller scale.
External Reputation Management Best Practices:
- Study your target audience before designing your social media campaign.
- Resolve any complaints in your customer’s favor to win them over.
Conversion Hacks#4: Compete Against Your Competitor’s Brand Name
Bid against your competitor’s brand name, brand terms and competitor keywords to drive clicks to your landing page. For example, see what happens when you type in “MailChimp” into Google’s search bar. See how the brand SendinBlue is competing for the keyword “MailChimp,” and is promoting itself as a Mail Chimp Alternative?
They’ve deliberately been targeting their competitor’s brand name so they can get relevant visitors to their site and drive more conversions.
Competitor Brand Name Targeting Best Practices:
- Start bidding on your branded keywords or your competitor will.
- To create an effective PPC and search campaign, rank your branded terms organically and in the paid results.
Conversion Hacks #5: Nail Down Special Incentive Schemes
According to a study by Adweek, 81% of shoppers conduct research before making any purchases; this means that stores offering purchasing incentives are more likely to improve their odds of attracting more customers over those that don’t.
Incentives popular among various online stores include:
- Lower prices and greater savings
- Buy one & get one free offers
- Product bundling
- Abandoned cart incentives
- Membership-only stores
- Free shipping
Some of the popular incentive models that you can emulate for your site include:
Membership Only Incentives
Incentives offered to members only ensure predictable sales and also helps scale the growth of your site. Sites such as DollarDays are experimenting with the membership-only model.
In the case of DollarDays, customers may not be happy to register with the store via the membership-only model, however, the fact is that customers get discounts when they register with the site which makes them overlook the registration part.
Abandoned Cart Incentives
You can even engage customers attempting to leave the cart or checkout pages with an exit offer. The offer should be centered on fulfilling the shopper’s need that drove the shopper to abandon the cart in the first place.
Instead of shooting off an email with the offer, it’s always nice to give the shopper a promo code. This will help the shopper redeem the offer within the cart itself and checkout pages. This will keep the shopper within the walls of your website. Use a service like Jilt to help recover your customer’s abandoned shopping carts.
When several products are bundled into one combined product it’s called bundled incentives. Fast food companies are experts in offering bundled incentives in the form of “combo” meals: Buying fries, a drink and a burger separately may pinch your pockets but not so much when it comes as a combo.
Even software companies have been offering bundled incentives. For instance, Microsoft offers Word, Excel, Powerpoint and more as part of a package deal. Marketing and sales software creator, HubSpot, also offers its marketing services in the form of bundled products to websites.
Incentive Schemes Best Practices:
- Offer complementary products as a bundle.
- Offer higher quantities of the same item for higher discounts.
- Offer high-volume, low-marginal cost products for bundling.
The conversion hacks cited above could work for any type of online businesses as long as they are seriously pursuing them and as long as they are willing to shake the current conversion methods that are not yielding any results for them. GoodFirms has listed some top web design companies who can help you weed out those conversion tactics that are not working for you.
As of now, you don’t have to implement every strategy I have outlined here, especially if you’re a start up and are still finding your niche. If that’s the case for you, you simply need to focus on building up the basics in terms of the buyer persona creation process. The other strategies – such as developing Commander Intent, targeting competitor’s brand names and more – can be pursued at a later date.