The science behind conversion rate optimisation

min read

No matter how much content you push out, how many emails you send or how many pages your website has, if you don’t convert, you don’t stay in business.

Conversion rate

Convert more, more often

No matter how much content you push out, how many emails you send or how many landing pages your website has, the bottom line is if you don’t convert, you don’t stay in business.

For such an essential aspect of business, it’s intimidating to lack a solid understanding of how to convert your leads into customers. 

For the most part, marketers use a trial and error approach until something sticks. The best marketers can quickly drill down these approaches until they achieve an optimal conversion rate.

Thankfully, there is a way to improve conversion in a systematic, scientific method that doesn’t merely rely on trying approaches out until they work.

Let’s begin by elaborating on exactly what we mean by ‘Conversion Rate Optimisation’.

What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the process of increasing the percentage leads that take the action you want them to take. Sometimes it means downloading a white paper, other times it means clicking the link to a pricing page, and for more bottom-funnel pieces, it means contacting a salesperson. Whatever it is, conversion rate optimisation is there to increase the chances of your marketing doing what it’s meant to do. 

However, it’s important to note that in terms of business, conversion should ultimately lead to the target making a purchase or your company making a sale. If the conversion action you are optimising doesn’t assist in this goal, it will ultimately contribute very little to your company overall.

By optimising your conversion rate around actions that ultimately lead to a sale, you slowly improve the effectiveness of your marketing. This is done by adjusting the elements that result in a conversion. Learning about these five core elements and how they affect your leads is the key to optimising your conversion rate.

How to Improve your Conversion Rate

Thankfully, the journey to discovering how to improve your conversion rate isn’t all trial and error. A formula exists to help you determine what you need to change to gain the maximum conversion rate possible.

That formula is:

Conversion = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) - 2a

This formula is known as The Conversion Sequence Heuristic from the MECLABS Institute.  

Each letter in the formula corresponds to one of the five core elements of a successful conversion, namely:

  • M for motivation.
  • V for value proposition
  • I for incentive
  • F for friction
  • A for anxiety

The numbers simply indicate how important each element of conversion is. The higher the number, the higher impact the element will have on the probability of conversion.

Let’s begin by examining each of these elements.

Motivation (m)

Motivation has the most impact on your conversion rate. If your potential customers have no motivation to make a purchase, they will not convert. Conversely, if your customers have a lot of motivation to purchase your product, they will be well on their way to converting.

While you can never explicitly change the motivation of your potential customers, you can understand their motivations. Once you have an understanding of what their motivations are, you can position your content, messaging and general collateral to better appeal to it.

The following questions will help you gain this understanding.

  • Where do most of your customers and leads come from?
  • What do you need to convince your leads of before they decide to buy?
  • What are their pain points? What do they value?

Value proposition (v)

Value proposition refers to what you offer to your customers. Essentially, it should answer the all-important question of “What value does this contribute to me if I buy it?”

An excellent place to start is how your marketing portrays the ACCE aspects of your product:

  • Appeal - how desirable your product is.
  • Credibility - how reliable and trustworthy your claims are.
  • Clarity - how effectively you state what your product is and what it can do.
  • Exclusivity - how scarce a resource your product is.

Throughout your content, no matter what it is or where you position it, you need to hit on these four elements all the time, with every piece.

Incentive (i)

Incentive is the reason your potential customers are reading, filling out forms or any other required action to consume your content. For example, a person may not particularly enjoy reading blog posts but will read them to gain a better understanding of the subject matter. No-one enjoys giving away their contact information through long pop-up forms, but they’ll do it for a webinar.

Whenever a person completes a form, reads a blog post or downloads a white paper, it’s usually because the incentive outweighs the bother of the actions involved to consume the content. We call this “bother” friction. 

Friction (f)

Money isn’t the only thing that prevents people from buying your product. Anything that causes negative emotions for your leads can be classified as friction. Friction is one of the costs you have to take into account for the formula and is offset by incentive (see above). Some common examples of friction include the number of forms your leads have to fill in before converting, the time it takes for your sales team to get back to them or how difficult it is for your leads to navigate your website. 

Every time your lead needs to act can be categorised as friction. However, this is counterbalanced by incentive. Whenever there is more incentive than friction, your potential customers are more likely to perform the actions you want. Thus, more detailed and valuable content should always be off-set by value for your own company, and vice-versa. 

Anxiety (a)

Whenever a potential customer has reason to doubt your trustworthiness or claims, it causes anxiety. This is further amplified by the amount of investment you ask of them. This investment may come in the form of their money as well as their time.

If a potential customer is far too anxious, they will not convert. As marketers, the more we relieve this kind of anxiety, the more conversions we will get. There are a few ways we can relieve anxiety.

  • Target specifics - there are a lot of sources of anxiety, depending on what you’re offering. You must be able to identify each source and speak specifically about each one during the customer journey. Depending on your offering, these sources may be quality, reliability, pricing, security or trustworthiness. If your industry is known to be susceptible to cyber-crime, for example, you want to address this specifically in your content.
  • Careful placement - once you have found the source of anxiety, you need to be cautious about where you alleviate that anxiety. You shouldn’t be talking about secure credit card transactions in a blog at the top of the funnel, and you shouldn’t be reinforcing the benefits of your product at the end.
  • Match intensity - if the anxiety is a significant concern for your leads, you have to treat it as such and in detail. Likewise, if the anxiety exists but is not a big deal, you shouldn’t dedicate an entire webpage to it - or it just may raise anxiety. 

Putting it all together

Once you have evaluated and ranked each element, you can work out a number. The higher the number, the more probable a conversion is with your current approach. By using the formula, you will be able to gain an understanding of how your customers see and react to your marketing.

Conversion = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) - 2a

In short and by priority:

  • Understand your customer motivations, and align your content to them.
  • Always bring up the value of your product wherever possible.
  • Wherever possible, remove additional steps and actions your targets have to take to avoid friction.
  • The incentive your potential customers have should always outweigh or at least match the friction associated with the content on offer.
  • Do not avoid addressing any anxiety your potential customers may experience - but know where they may experience it and pay only as much attention as needed for each issue.