Barriers To Persuasion

No Comments » Written on April 9th, 2010 by
Categories: Copywriting

If our landing pages aren’t converting as well as we’d like, it might be a good idea to look at how we’re trying to persuade visitors.

We need to make a compelling offer, but we also need to pitch that offer in a way that persuades a person to take action. There are many barriers to taking action, even if the visitor really wants what we have to offer. Once we identify barriers to purchase or take a desired action, and break them down, conversion rates will rise.

Let’s take a look at the most common forms of resistance, and how to persuade visitors to overcome them.

Will I Be Alone?

People are social creatures, and most people prefer to run with the herd than stand apart. It might be irrational, but people feel that there is comfort in numbers.

Social proofs are indicators that other people have taken this choice, and that they’re happy with the choice they have made.

Look at how Apple uses social proof. The launch of the iPhone and iPad are social events. Images of people lined up around the block abound, and when someone makes a purchase, they typically hold it aloft! The crowd cheers.

Whatever your view of Apple, social proof doesn’t get any more powerful than that! People everywhere desperate to purchase, and there is validation from the crowd once you have made a purchase. The message has a flip-side that reinforces the message of social proof: you’re alone if you DON’T have one of their devices.

Social proof is such a powerful means of persuasion that it trumps convenience. Lining up around the block to purchase an item that might not even be available once you reach the counter isn’t exactly convenient.

Think about ways you can provide social proof on your landing pages. Recommendations from past customers, photos of groups of people using your product or service, mentions in popular media, etc. Think of your site as a place “populated” by real people engaging in a relationship, as opposed to a set of pages.

I’m Confused

How many options can you keep in your head at any one time? Three? Seven? Twenty?

Most people become confused when presented with too many options. If they become confused, they will tend to disengage from your message.

On the one hand, giving options gives a sense of completeness, but this has to be weighed against the risk of creating confusion. Limit your desired actions to three or less. If you stock a wide range of goods or services, take a tip from Amazon. Highlight the most relevant products up front, and let people dig down if they want to find something else.

Your pages should be simple. Be bold. Clutter adds to confusion, and doesn’t work on landing pages. Keep taking things out of your web design until the choice people need to take is obvious. Test on family and friends.

No Jeopardy

In the Apple example above, there is jeopardy at work – a buyer might miss out.

If people land on your page and feel no sense of jeopardy, then they are more inclined to shop around, or make no decision at all.

Some sites use tired cliches to create jeopardy like “if you don’t order now, you’ll pay more later!”. The problem with these approaches is that they can undermine trust if not handled carefully. There really must be genuine scarcity for it to work.

This is why time limited sales work, but only if the buyer sees that prices do indeed rise afterwards, and those prices are higher at other vendors.

You can also use emotional jeopardy. If people don’t buy, then they are not part of the group. If people don’t buy, they won’t receive on-going benefit. Again, this has to be handled carefully, else it can cross over into the realm of the manipulative. People who sense they are being manipulated are likely to back off.


Do you give something way? Can you?

Reciprocity is a strong human need. We want to give back to those people who give to us. The flip-side is also true – we don’t feel the need to be generous to people who aren’t generous with us.

If there is something of value you can give away, do so. View it as a marketing cost. It helps build a relationship and a sense of reciprocity. You could give away a detailed study, a white paper, product samples, etc. Indirectly ask for something in return – like say an email address so you can contact them later.

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