1. What is CRO, and why does it matter?
You've spent thousands of hours of honing your skills or developing your product.
Making yourself ready for launch and for the world to see your creation.
You start marketing and drive people to your website. Nothing happens.
You pay for ads, this has to work right? Nothing.
You write blog articles and drive people to those. Still nothing.
Bottom line – it's no point in driving traffic to your site if it cannot convert.
Before we go into tactics, let's get back to basics for a while.
1.1 What is Conversion Rate Optimization, really?
CRO is the process of making people act the way you want them to, based on set goals you have.
You want the visitors to submit a contact form, enlist to a newsletter, or buy something from your site.
CRO is the relationship between a person's actions and your goals.
Conversion Rate is also measurable on different levels.
Say someone clicks on a Google Ads ad and lands on your website, where you want them to submit a contact form.
Hundred people click on the ad and one person submits the form, then you have 1% conversion rate on that specific ad.
You can also calculate the conversion rate on a whole funnel that involves many steps.
For instance, what is the conversion rate for paid ads on social media. Then you can compare that to your paid ads on search engines and calculate the ROI easier for each channel.
In this guide we will focus on B2B.
Where common conversion goals are; to fill out a form, engage with content or download a lead magnet.
You need to understand how users move through your website.
What actions they take or don't take.
What's stopping them from completing your goals?
There are a variety of variables that come into play when we want to understand CRO.
But first, let's make a distinction between business and consumers.
1.2 CRO for B2B vs. B2C
Before we go into the details, let's establish the difference between CRO for B2B vs. B2C.
First, they have some things in common. Like the importance of high quality content, a secure and a high-quality website.
But after those things, it starts to differ.
For B2B, besides offering a great product, trust and relationship are more important.
B2B marketing is the digital version of meeting a potential client for lunch, shaking hands and building a foundation for the future.
Think about it. Today everything is digital. All you experience as a customer are logos and generic responses.
Unless your product is super unique and immediately solves a dire need, you have to be clever if you want to win.
Web sites can't only feature the awesomeness of your product or service. They need to get the visitor ready for a future conversion, usually at a much later time. Much later than you would have hoped.
In B2B you need to think as your potential customers. They are most likely unaware of your company or service. Why would they after single exposure to your brand decide to buy from you?
Besides having a rock solid Problem / Solution Fit (a.k.a is this product the best solution for my problem).
You also need to establish Authority, Value and Trust.
We'll get back to these soon.
First we need to talk about the psychology behind why we do things.
It boils down to if your Motivation is bigger than the Resistance.
2. Motivation vs. Resistance
Whether you act on something or not in real life, the decision is often based on a mental calculation. Pros, cons, value, hassle – thoughts that goes through your mind before you make a decision.
It is the same for any kind of business commitment, online or offline.
A Conversion is the result of Motivation + Value + (Incentive - Friction) - Anxiety.
C = M + V + (I - F) - A
Interesting stuff, right?
For the sake of simplicity I like to reduce the formula to: C = Motivation - Resistance
Where Motivation = Value + Incentive and Resistance = Friction + Anxiety. It makes it easier.
Say you want a Coca Cola because it would be nice to have at this moment, but it costs 100 USD, so you don't buy it. Resistance is bigger than Motivation.
But if you are dying from thirst and a Coca Cola appears in front of you, it still costs 100 USD, you will buy it. Motivation is bigger than Resistance.
Motivation helps one to convert, and resistance reduces one’s will to convert.
What we as marketers want to do is usually reduce Resistance, it is a lot easier than increase Motivation.
CRO deals with the challenges to make Motivation overcome Resistance.
When Motivation is greater than Resistance a conversion occurs.
Depending on what your offer and who you sell to, these two parts weigh differently.
The greater the resistance your offer has (price, implementation difficulty, time, knowledge etc). The more motivation you have to create for the visitor to convert.
Let’s look at these parts further.
Motivation breaks down into 2 parts:
The value your solution brings is the smallest part that separates your it from others.
You need to package your solution in a way that is easy to understand.
Creating a clear value proposition based on customer’s problems is a good start.
Keep in mind – creating a value proposition that converts takes time and effort.
A value proposition should be easy to understand. So remember to speak in the customer’s language and terms.
It doesn’t matter how valuable your service or product is if your target audience doesn’t understand it.
And they need to understand it within seconds.
If someone comes to your website from an ad and doesn't understand what you sell within 5 seconds, you are toast.
Refining your value proposition is often a long process based on feedback from your customers. It can take years to get this right.
What should a good value proposition contain then?
- How your product solves / improves a situation
- What specific benefits your customers can expect
- Why customers should buy from you instead of your competitors
Below we go through a few examples.
Making the message clear and understandable is the most important factor for startups or unknown brands.
If you have an established brand that everyone recognizes, then you can be more general and broad in your value proposition.
Now that we have clarified the customer’s needs and you have an offer that matches that need.
Apart from that your solution needs to be an incentive in itself.
You also need to create external or artificial incentives to drive action.
If you manage to get someone's attention you need to make sure to keep it and capitalize on it.
We want to help a person understand why they must act now, rather than later.
People are generally anxious, and want to postpone their decisions.
So, we as marketers need to find a way to trigger their action as soon as we can.
There are several ways to do this, which we will go into now.
Fear Of Missing Out is great because it applies to anything. Regardless if you sell an online course or an expensive service or physical product,
You need to convince your customer that not choosing you will make them less attractive.
If they don't take your course, others will and will have a knowledge advantage over you.
Or if they don't run their business with your solution, others that do will have an advantage.
The fear of not earning as much as they could do.
The fear of not having the amount of status they could have.
This is powerful stuff and needs to be part of your brand identity and messaging.
Time limited offers are usually something Black Friday offers or seasonality based sales.
But what do you do if you offer a high-ticket service or product?
A 50% off Black Friday deal on a $100K consulting service can come off as a bit desperate. So proceed with care if you are operating in these spaces when dealing with time limited offers.
Instead, why not reach out to say that you have a spot for one more client this fall if they are keen.
For everyone else, with an email list with old customers, blog subscribers or free trial users. It's a great opportunity to reach out with a limited time offer.
I recently got this from a company selling a SEO software that I like.
We decided to run a secret early Black Friday deal for all the former Mangools trial users. Hurry up. It’s valid only for the next 72 hours (until this Sunday).
I actually missed the deal and signed up after Black Friday deal was over and regret it now.
Limited stock or availability is as old as marketing itself, but still works great in our digital world.
The reason it works great?
Again, fear of missing out. People cannot stand that others get something they cannot have.
If you don’t have “stock” in the traditional sense of physical products, you can create scarcity in other ways:
- Number of seats for an exclusive webinar
- Number of downloads before a price increase
- Number of new clients before you are at max capacity
I used this tactic for a growth marketing community I used to run to make it super exclusive.
I started out by inviting top marketers and business founders.
Then as the word started to spread I made it harder and harder to join as the community increased in size. At some point people started to beg me for an invite.
But it doesn’t have to be a community, you can use this same tactic for:
- Product beta releases
- New service offers
- Invite only programs (like Spotify had in the beginning)
A bit like exclusivity but focus on hard limits.
This is especially good for online courses or events.
It typically works like this:
- Create a course, make it open for registration for a limited time, and close it down.
- Take care of the students, improve the content as more people enroll, and get testimonials for the next time the course is open.
- Re-open the new and improved course – with a higher price than last time, of course.
The scarcity it creates is great. But there is a potential downside. Once it’s closed, it’s closed.
Many internet marketers use limited time offers or threats to raise the price of their product in X days. Thus creating an incentive to act quick.
This only works towards someone that is aware of your solution and it's value.
You need to make sure the user understands why they need to buy now rather than later.
Depending on your industry and audience you need to make sure your copy matches.
This is how you do it:
- Target people on your social feed and sitting on your email list
- Don’t increase price for existing customers
- Set a date when the price increase occurs – like 2-4 weeks into the future depending on your product/service
- Stick to it – chicken out will make you look inconsistent
This will convince people who are slower in their decision making to pull the trigger faster.
3.3 Motivation – summary
Your job is to fine-tune your value and the incentives, so that they overcome the resistance.
The stronger these two are, the more you will be able to convert people to buy your product.
Let's look at resistance.
Resistance breaks down into two parts:
Friction is the technical barrier between motivation and conversion.
If there is a lot of friction for the user to complete a goal, the motivation needs to be 10x nowadays.
Attention is the currency of today. If you manage to get it, don't mess it up with unnecessary friction for the user.
Friction is everything that makes it more difficult for a user to complete their goal. For example ordering a product online or filling out a form.
When it comes to a website, friction can be things like:
- Slow loading times
- Poor design
- Poor mobile responsiveness
- Poor navigation that makes people work hard to reach a goal
- Long contact forms
- Not being clear with what you will do with their information
Identifying friction begins by looking at actual challenges that exist to the user. Both physical or digital interactions that a person makes during their journey.
How do you reduce friction?
Besides solving the obvious technical barriers in the list above.
The best way to detect and resolve friction is to observe or question the user.
The difficult thing here is getting reliable feedback.
For example people may be too proud to say that they have had a hard time understanding something.
Or, they feel that they have to construct obstacles to make the feedback “useful” to you, so they look smart.
These services are useful for testing your website towards a specific audience and level of knowledge.
Tip! My favorite feature is Usabilityhub's “5 second test”. You upload a screenshot of your landing and then let people see it for 5 seconds. After they are asked if they understood what your product/service is about.
By Hotjar‘s recording feature, you can see the user’s interaction and time on specific pages of your site. Use it to find out where people doubted and what made them hesitate. I’ve been using this a lot on crucial landing pages. I love it.
These methods will give you the information you need to improve your website and copy to reduce friction.
Once you have made some changes, you must test, observe, learn and test again.
Anxiety has the same effect as friction, reducing conversion rate.
But it is caused by psychological aspects of the experience, rather than technical.
Anxiety can triggered by things like:
- The lack of https (indicating a secure page)
- That images of your products that cannot be enlarged
- No Terms of Service or company information is present on your website
- No physical address in the footer
- No About page with names and pictures of the team
- No “verified symbols” (Visa, Mastercard etc) on a checkout page
The list can be made long.
All that causes the user to question whether it is safe to buy or not.
Let's look at some scenarios that usually need extra attention.
A classic example of anxiety is when you authenticate yourself to services with a Social Media account.
Like sign up with Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.
People are usually fine with using Google for authentication to services.
But Social Media platforms? Those can trigger some concern about how the service will use your account. "What if someone sees that I signed up for this?"
You can foresee this concern and add a relief message such as:
“We do not post anything on your social media” under the “Sign up with Facebook” button.
Then you should be able to get around this problem.
Another example registration form friction occurs in free trial registrations. Common for SaaS products that often need a debit card, eventually.
Then you can state early in the registration flow that no debit card is needed.
You can solve payment at a later stage when the customer has tested the product and is more likely to continue.
Very simple, but important example of this can be small copy like this:
“No credit card required.”
Put it under the CTA button for free trial signups.
Let’s look at an example of a good registration page.
A few years ago I was working with CRO and UX at the tech startup Falcon.io. An enterprise social media management SaaS.
The main issue for the website visitors was that they did not have a pricing page at the time.
I actually found that out by Google's auto suggest where it completes your query.
"Falcon io pricing" came up. Well, obviously people wanted to know.
There was a strategy behind it though, since they were quite expensive yet unknown. They needed to sign enterprise customers to get credibility, first.
A pricing page too early in their maturity would have had a negative impact rather than positive.
They needed to get on the phone with the customers, and not having a pricing page was a shortcut to a phone call.
A pricing page was later introduced, as part of increased traffic and brand recognition. However, without any actual prices!
This was also a smart move to both solve the problem of anxiety, and at the same time provide a good overview of the various packages.
Book a demo / trial
One problem related to “Book a demo” of products is that people feel more forced or that it is an obligation to use the tool or service after.
This creates anxiety.
Especially if you need to talk to a sales rep on the phone in order to proceed, or cancel the service.
This can be addressed by adding a message that reduces the importance of the demo in case the customer does not want to continue using it.
Testimonials and customer logos
Another important topic related to alleviating anxiety is trust.
To solve trust problems, you need to find a way to meet the visitors' need for security.
When websites face a trust issue, I always try to look for third-party validation.
This simply means that you should either put customer reviews and / or customer logos on your website.
Ideally in near proximity to where the registration form is located.
If that doesn’t work and people are still worried, you can try combining logos with a strong incentive to convert (in this case, the good old FOMO).
It can be something like:
“Join 10,000 other marketers increase their Social ROI”.
4.3 Resistance – summary
Your task here is to reduce friction and anxiety so that they do not overcome motivation.
The more these two components are reduced, the more you will be able to convert.
People will buy your product, your e-book or download your app from the app store.
5. Customer feedback
Anxiety is usually a bit harder to spot than friction, here it is not enough with heat maps or video recordings.
Trust, authority, transparency and consistency are main pillars of reducing anxiety.
So you need to talk to your customers.
I found that interviews are useful for understanding your customers' anxiety.
You want to separate the converters from the non-converters, and understand why they act differently.
You can have a sales rep ask a couple of questions on the first phone call with the customer. Ideally after users have signed up for a demo or exploration call.
The questions should be based on things that might create anxiety during the registration/signup process.
“What made you hesitate when you signed up?”
“What was unclear about the demo registration page or product in general?”
The sales rep method only collects feedback if the users actually filled out the form and converted, not from those who did not.
What you can do for all visitors is to implement a “question slide-up” (e.g. qualaroo.com). It shows the user a question after a certain period of time on the site or landing page.
I did this for a client and had several questions rotated towards the visitor. But only ONE question was shown at a time (remember, attention is scarce).
The questions were:
“Do you understand what the product does?”
“Is anything unclear in what we offer?”
Where the answers should be predefined:
For example, “Yes”, “No”, “It’s too expensive”, “It’s too complicated”.
People are generally too lazy to provide feedback in their own words.
If you start requiring the user to answer several questions or write a text, it will not give enough answers to learn anything.
Remember – reduce friction in everything you do.
In fact, asking your customers questions may be the only way you can find out what someone actually thought when they weren’t converting.
Good luck converting.