Magnify Your Website Persuasion With the Science of Branding

December 28, 20111 Comment

Learn how to implant an associative memory with a recall cue and your product and/or company will dominate the minds of your customers.

Where were you and what were you doing when you first heard about the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center towers?

More than nine years later, you still remember that moment vividly.

That’s a stark example of procedural memory, the deepest of three levels of memory in the brain.

Procedural memory holds the key to the treasure chest of branding and website persuasion. Unlock that chest and your business will be swimming in booty.

Branding isn’t simple name recognition. It’s much more than the color scheme of your logo and website.

It is the complex mental imagery and emotional associations triggered when a prospect or customer hears your name or sees your logo.

  • Harley-Davidson: Rugged individualism, freedom, confidence, toughness.
  • Apple: Innovation, imagination, energy, art.
  • Coca-Cola: Joy, good times with friends and family, refreshment.

So how can you consciously implant mental images and deep emotional associations into the minds and hearts of your customers to increase your website persuasion?

It starts with understanding the three levels of memory.

Working Memory

Working memory is the most shallow level of memory.

Working memory is short-term and electrical. It is imagination, conscious awareness, the thought you are thinking now. It can roughly be compared to computer RAM.

Working memory has three components, or functions:

  1. visuospatial sketchpad
  2. articulatory loop
  3. central executive

Imagine a pink elephant with white stripes running in a field of wheat.

That image was projected onto your visuospatial sketchpad, which is responsible for the manipulation and temporary storage of visual and spatial information, thus allowing you to “see” things in your mind.

Ever had a song stuck in your head? That’s the articulatory loop at work, a phonological memory store which holds acoustic or speech-based material and rehearses sounds in the mind.

The central executive is a messenger that determines which sensory information is important enough to be relayed to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for planning, decision-making, and judgment.

In other words, it is the brain’s screen for relevance.

When you go to sleep, working memory is erased.

Declarative Memory

The intermediate level of memory, declarative memory, stores memories which can be consciously recalled, such as facts and events. It’s what you remember from the day before when you wake in the morning.

Declarative memory is divided into two categories: semantic memory, or factual information, and episodic memory, which stores specific personal experiences.

Procedural Memory

Procedural memory is the third and deepest level of memory. Long-term, chemical, involuntary, and automatic, procedural memory consists of three categories:

  1. Conditioned reflexes (swerving when a car encroaches onto your lane on the highway)
  2. Skills and habits (playing the piano, tying your shoes)
  3. Emotional associations

Procedural memory is the product of salience, or relevance, multiplied by repetition.

Information of extremely high salience can be implanted into procedural memory with a repetition factor of only one (think 9/11/01).

Implant Your Brand

Here’s where the rubber hits the road for website persuasion. Roy H. Williams explains:

“Branding is the implantation of an associative memory with a recall cue. It occurs in procedural memory, and causes the public to immediately think of your name at precisely their moment of need.
“Having successfully created an associative memory through your ads [or website copywriting], the recall cue of ‘need’ triggers a chemical, involuntary reaction and your name will pop into their minds unbidden.”

Remember that information enters procedural memory through salience and repetition — increase one and the other is less important.

The challenge for advertisers and website copywriters is that repetition costs money. Want to save money and accelerate your branding and increase your website persuasion? Increase your salience. In other words, say something people actually care about.

Roy Williams calls this the “Impact Quotient.”

“The average message needs to be heard about three times a week, every week, to have a shot at being transferred from short-term, electrical memory to long-term, chemical memory. But that’s the average message. The higher the impact quotient (saliency), the less repetition is required to store it.”

Add the Secret Sauce

Want to turbo-charge your salience for even greater website persuasion? Add a spark of adrenaline.

Adrenaline is the bio-chemical adhesive that switches electrical, short-term memory to chemical, long-term memory.

  • Surprise
  • Laughter
  • Sexual stimulation (Can you say “Hello ladies”?)
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Awe

(Remember: In your creative attempts to induce adrenaline, relevance and credibility trump creativity. You can make someone laugh, but if the humor isn’t relevant to your product and their felt need, it won’t increase your website persuasion or sales and strengthen your brand in their minds.)

And now you have the key to branding and long-term website persuasion. Ready to cure your gold fever?

4 Abused Sales Tactics for Website Lead Generation

December 12, 2011Leave a reply

As an entrepreneur, persuasive website copywriter and architect, and co-creator of Hub Mentality, I’m adamantly opposed to churn-and-burn, transactional sales mentality for website lead generation.

Thing is, it actually works.

That is, it works in the short term. It does make immediate sales.

The problem is that it doesn’t work over the long term. It doesn’t build brand loyalty. It doesn’t create raving fans that come back again and again.

It doesn’t posture you as a thought leader, nor does it create an educational hub that consistently draws and keeps new customers.

Rather, it makes people feel manipulated and drives them away over time.

It attracts price-centric bargain hunters who leave you as soon as they find a cheaper, albeit less valuable, alternative.

It makes people increasingly immune to your pitches, forcing you into a hamster-wheel business where you always have to find new customers, rather than keeping customers for life through honest and open website lead generation.

The following are four specific sales tactics often used by these types of businesses for website lead generation that always backfire.

Below each you’ll find appropriate ways to use the tactic.

1. Scarcity (Limited Supply)

“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” -G.K. Chesterton

Generally speaking, the perceived value of an item is proportional to its abundance or rarity.

By manufacturing scarcity–using the “limited-number” tactic–businesses can generate quick sales.

The problem is that sales-mentality businesses use this principle to manipulate.

In Influence: The Science of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini describes his observance of this tactic in an appliance store, where 30 to 50 percent of the stock was regularly listed as on sale.

When a prospect would show interest in a particular sale item, a salesperson would approach and say “I see you’re interested in this model here, and I can understand why; it’s a great machine at a great price. But, unfortunately, I sold it to another couple not more than twenty minutes ago. And, if I’m not mistaken, it was the last one we had.”

Disappointment would register on the prospects’ faces, and typically they would ask if there was a chance that there would be an unsold model in the back room or warehouse.

“Well,” the salesperson would respond, “that is possible, and I’d be willing to check. But do I understand that this is the model you want and if I can get it for you at this price, you’ll take it?”

Writes Cialdini:

“Therein lies the beauty of the technique. In accord with the scarcity principle, the customers are asked to commit to buying the appliance when it looks least available–and therefore most desirable.

“Many customers do agree to a purchase…Thus, when the salesperson (invariably) returns with the news that an additional supply of the appliance has been found, it is also with a pen and sales contract in hand.”

Sure, they could sell a few appliances this way. But how likely do you think people would be to buy from them again?

The Right Way to Use Scarcity

Credibility is the key to using scarcity appropriately.

People will see through manufactured, manipulative scarcity over time. But if you legitimately have a scarce offering, you absolutely should highlight that in your website lead generation efforts.

For example, I once helped to market an online event for Williamsburg Academy. Their webinar software has a limit of 500 participants. I highlighted that in an email and registrations shot up immediately.

Every time Wizard Academy markets an event, they highlight that they only have 14 rooms in their student mansion. The first 14 people to register get to stay there for free, and other registrants must pay for a hotel.

When I wrote an email to Atlantic Seafood Market’s database telling them that they only had 31.7 pounds of blackfish available, that was precisely accurate and therefore credible.

I didn’t manufacture scarcity to manipulate; it’s a commonly-understood reality of the industry that blackfish is hard to come by.

Their scarcity of bay scallops was another effective tactic, particularly since the scarcity was created by their fierce adherence to quality.

2. Urgency (Limited Time)

This tactic is usually accompanied by a low-price, “once-in-a-lifetime” offer.

When overused or used without credibility, this tactic quickly loses its efficacy. It trains prospects to only buy when things are on sale.

Prospects also suspect that these low prices are simply evidence that the business’s regular prices are too high.

And as prospects become immune to urgency, it takes increasingly cheaper (as in less profitable for the business owner) offers to interest them.

The Right Way to Use Urgency

Again, the key is credibility — the offer must be trusted as authentic, not fabricated or manipulative.

For example, on this website look for the 50% off ad that says “Take advantage of this limited time offer.”

Does anyone actually believe that it’s a limited time? It’s glaringly obvious that that always stays up on their website.

No credibility. While that may be a good deal, it’s not an urgent deal; you know you can get it at any time, so the effect of urgency is lost.

Credibility can be strengthened when scarce and/or urgent offers are predicated on things outside of the company’s control.

John Young‘s famous air conditioner sales letter is a great example of this.

3. Reciprocity

Simply put, reciprocity is the psychological principle that we feel obligated to repay gifts and favors.

And, once again, the abuse of this potentially powerful persuasion principle is rampant among short-term manipulators in website lead generation.

As is scarcity, reciprocity is covered in detail in Cialdini’s Influence.

He tells of his study of the Hare Krishna Society, an Eastern religious sect. Their early fundraising efforts were to simply send devotees out into the streets to ask for donations.

It didn’t work well, so they switched tactics. They solicit in public places with a lot of pedestrian traffic, such as airports and train stations.

Now, before a donation is requested, the target person is given a “gift,” such as a book, a magazine, or a flower. Only after invoking the reciprocity rule does the solicitor ask for a donation.

It worked phenomenally well — for a short time.

As Cialdini writes:

“…the reciprocation rule has begun to outlive its usefulness for the Krishnas, not because the rule itself is any less potent societally, but because we have found ways to prevent the Krishnas from using it on us.

“After once falling victim to their tactic, many travelers are now alert to the presence of robed Krishna Society solicitors in airports and train stations, adjusting their paths to avoid an encounter and preparing beforehand to ward off a solicitor’s ‘gift.'”

The Right Way to Use Reciprocity

Two Hub Mentality principles are used for appropriate reciprocity with website lead generation: permission and free content.

You give away valuable and relevant content in exchange for the permission to market to those wanting your content. Then, you continue giving them free content over time.

And implicit to the permission is their ability to opt-out of your database at any time — there is no manipulative chain of obligation hanging around their necks.

Not only does this engage reciprocity, but it also demonstrates your expertise, creates trust over time, and builds authentic relationships.

Free samples of physical products is an excellent way to engage this principle as well, as Atlantic Seafood Market did with their holiday open house.

4. Charisma/Flattery

Like scarcity and reciprocity, these related tactics are the counterfeit, transactional sales version of the principle of “Liking” found in Cialdini’s Influence.

The abuse here is to rely on smooth talk, rather than genuine, consistent action. We’ve all been taken by slick talkers who didn’t deliver what they promised.

It’s sad but true that these types have given legitimate salespersons a bad name.

This is why we’ve all learned to be suspicious of salespeople, and to put up defensive barriers when we encounter them.

The Right Form of “Liking”

This principle states simply that we prefer to do business with people we know and like.

But to use this principle for long-term customer retention requires much more than personality and being facile with words.

The key here is to let your actions speak louder than your words. In other words, earn your likability through integrity.

Be what you say you are. Do what you say you’ll do. Ensure that your backstage systems support your front stage claims.

Switch to Hub Mentality for Long-Term Persuasion & Retention

Charles H. Sandage said:

“Advertising is criticized on the ground that it can manipulate consumers to follow the will of the advertiser. The weight of evidence denies this ability. Instead, evidence supports the position that advertising, to be successful, must understand or anticipate basic human needs and wants and interpret available goods and services in terms of their want-satisfying abilities. This is the very opposite of manipulation.”

People can be persuaded through misguided and manipulative advertising and website lead generation tactics, but those only work in the short term.

If you want to increase trust and sales, improve your website lead generation, make your marketing dollars more efficient, retain more customers, and build a sustainable business, you must be authentic, trustworthy, and credible.

You must solve people’s needs, deliver what you promise, and be transparent in your offerings.

Are Lead Generation Websites Unprofessional?

December 5, 20111 Comment

In a recent bizarre email exchange I had with a freelance writer, she told me:

The kind of lead generation websites that you are creating for clients would not be appropriate in my field — that sort of site would be frowned upon.”

The implication, of course, is that a lead generation website would somehow be seen as “unprofessional.”

I responded that I didn’t understand her curious perception of lead generation websites.

There’s nothing to “frown on” about letting prospects know exactly how to engage with you and how they benefit for doing so.

It’s not cheesy or gimmicky.

It’s simply honest and effective persuasion.

It’s a very simple, straightforward, and legitimate proposition.

To use the Website Architects as an example, here are the basic points:

  1. We make your website generate qualified leads (relevant, compelling, valuable offer).
  2. Here’s proof of what we’ve done for our clients (credibility).
  3. Get your free website quote to engage with us (call to action).

(See the website lead generation “conversion trinity”).

So where’s the problem with that?

Interestingly, the whole reason her website exists in the first place is to generate new leads.

A lead generation website simply makes that process easier and more effective.

Website lead generation simply means to tell prospects why and how to engage with you — and that’s exactly what prospects are looking for.

Why would that possibly by frowned on by anyone?

In her case, her website includes the following pages:

  • Writing Samples
  • Awards
  • Clients
  • Testimonials
  • Contact

In other words, it’s a lead generation website — albeit an ineffective one.

But increasing her website lead generation would simply mean to add a few elements to appeal to specific personas, including a professional bio, a Pricing page, a Process page, and a “Get Started” page to begin with.

So you’re telling me that to answer the most burning questions asked by your prospects on your website would be “frowned upon”?!

Now, I understand there are ridiculous online marketers who have given website lead generation a bad name.

But that shouldn’t dissuade any legitimate business from building a lead generation website the right way.

Aggressively pursuing website lead generation doesn’t mean you have to be obnoxious or overbearing.

Quite the opposite — it means you have to offer something that they care about, on their terms, back it up with credibility, and simply provide a hassle- and friction-free path for them to get their desires met.

How could your prospects frown on you making the process of them meeting their needs simpler and faster?

Lead generation websites are nothing to frown on.

Rather, they simply answer your prospects questions on their terms. They give them relevant and credible value. Then they ask them to take action, and how them how to do so.

I can’t conceive of the planet on which that would be considered unprofessional.

So to anyone wanting a lead generation website that gets measurable and meaningful results, here’s my call to action: Request your free website analysis now to see how you can increase your website lead generation.

And to anyone frowning upon lead generation websites: I pity your prospects, whose questions are going unanswered.

And I pity you for losing out on website leads that are going to my clients — your competitors — instead of you.

3 Secrets of a Persuasive Website Most Web Designers Don’t Understand

October 22, 2011Leave a reply

Most small business websites are informational rather than persuasive.

It’s the difference between a brochure and a salesman interacting with your prospects.

Implement these three secrets for better website persuasion:

1. Know Who You’re Trying to Persuade

Most people think in terms of demographics.

For example: “My customer is a 30-year-old male earning at least $150,000.”

But for a truly persuasive website, you have to go deeper into psychographics.

You have to get inside your prospects’ minds and hearts and understand their buying motives and preferences.

And the only way to find this out is to flesh out website personas.

For our clients, we create website personas based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, “the world’s most widely used personality assessment,” which measures psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

But our thorough questionnaire helps us go even deeper. We create personas based on real customers so we know exactly whom we’re trying to persuade.

This allows us to anticipate their questions and answer them intuitively and strategically.

It creates the effect of an effective salesman sitting with them, guiding them through the buying process.

2. Tell Them What to Do

It’s astounding how many small business websites lack a clear, compelling, and persistent call to action.

Once you’ve created and written to your personas and created a desire to buy, you have to tell them exactly how to satisfy that desire.

How should they engage with you? Free demo/quote/consultation/download?

Whatever it is, you have to tell them clearly. All roads on your persuasion website must lead to your call to action.

This is achieved through:

  • Highly-visual, clickable buttons.
  • Contextual hyperlinks throughout your copy. For example: “Want a persuasive website? Get your free website quote now.”
  • Web forms on strategic pages and on your content sidebar.

3. Give Them Confidence to Take Action

Anticipate and address their concerns strategically.

Tell them exactly what they can expect once they’ve taken action. Explain the process they’ll go through.

Highlight your credibility and credentials. Showcase your work through a portfolio, case studies, and customer testimonials.

Publish your methodology and research. Demonstrate your competitive advantages. Vividly describe the benefits they’ll receive by taking action.

Offer a bold guarantee. Explain how they can customize your product or service.

Again, all of these tactics should be revealed by fleshing out your personas. When you’re inside their head, you’ll know what they need to feel confident taking action.

To build a persuasive website, understand the psychographics of your prospects, give them a clear and compelling call to action, and give them the confidence they need to take that action.

Want to see how you can improve your website persuasion? Request your free website analysis now.

Increase Your Website Conversion Rate By Getting Out of Your Box

September 7, 2011Leave a reply

I don’t like to swear.

But to make a vital point I’m going to swear. Multiple times. The vulgarity will gush.

Brace yourself – and don’t say you weren’t warned.

The single most important attribute website copywriters must possess and cultivate is empathy. And your, ahem, “box,” is strangling yours.

There. I said it.

See, “box” is a four-letter word when it comes to website conversion rates. I feel nasty just writing it.

Your–(cringe)–box is your view of the world.

Your preferences and desires. Your perspective and attitudes. Your view of your offerings and qualifications and why your customers should care.

Guess what? Your prospects, customers, and website visitors don’t give a hoot for your box.

They live in their own box, and if you want to sell them, you’ve got to crush yours and live from theirs.

Your box harbors your blind spots and limiting factors.

Only by getting out of your box can you identify and overcome those to grow your business.

For example, I’ve consulted with dozens of financial services clients.

There’s one question that tells me everything I need to know about their business: “How have your clients fared in the recession–have they lost money, maintained, or gained?”

You can guess what the answer is for 95% of them.

Still, they want to spend hours explaining to me how they’re different, that they “really care” about their clients, that they’re more qualified and educated than other advisors, etc.

It doesn’t matter if they have dozens of official designations with important-sounding initials oozing from their business card.

Only one thing matters to their clients and prospects. Find out how to give them that and you’ve got a message worth sharing — something to make your website conversion rate jump.

What do your prospects and customers care about? Why should they switch from a competitor to you?

Which of their problems do you solve (versus the problems you think you solve)?

What are your flaws and weaknesses in the eyes of your customers? Are you seeing them?

Does your website copywriting try to educate your customers on why they should care about you, or simply give them something they actually care about to begin with?

Empathy is the magic ingredient that will increase your website conversion rate and grow your business. That is the secret sauce, the x-factor of successful businesses and persuasive website copywriting.

It’s what gets you out of your box and into the box of your prospects and customers.

And when you see through their eyes, feel through their heart, experience their frustrations, envision their goals and dreams, you’re able to craft your offerings and message to resonate with them.

Here are a few questions to help you do this, as provided by copywriter and consultant Jeff Sexton:

  • What are their fears?
  • What are their secret hopes and dreams?
  • What (and who) do they most admire?
  • Who (or what) holds power over them?
  • What frustrates them?
  • Where have they come up against limitations and failures?
  • What’s their current worldview when it comes to your offerings/message?
  • What conventional wisdom do they subscribe to?
  • Where is the system and the conventional wisdom letting them down and leading them astray?
  • How do they see themselves?
  • What’s the biggest threat to that self-identity?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What do they wish for before blowing out the candles or while seeing a shooting star or when praying?

You can spend your life trying to sell people your box. Or you can simply give them what they crave inside theirs.

Which do you think is easier and more profitable?

Now, enough swearing for one day. Go cleanse your mind by cultivating empathy for your prospects.

Get inside their heads. Figure out what they want. Then give it to them on their terms.

Empathy is the key that will unlock your limitations, increase your website conversion rate, and boom your business.

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