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Monday, Dec. 13, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Deceptively Simple Tool to Increase Conversion

By Brendan Regan
December 13th, 2010

What if I told you that asking 3 simple questions could help you optimize your website? Sound too good to be true? It isn’t!

The Three Questions Exercise is something that I’ve come back to time and time again over the years working with clients to increase lead gen and ecommerce conversion rates. So I thought you might like to learn about it and try it out yourself.

This exercise is “deceptively” simple because it’s just 3 very simple questions. But it’s harder than it looks when you start to apply it to your marketing efforts and website.

The handy thing about the Three Questions Exercise is that it can be used at the macro level (e.g. an entire website experience) and at numerous micro levels (e.g. a single web page, a banner ad, an email)

Here’s all you need to leverage the power of the exercise – just answer the following three questions in regards to whatever you’re trying to optimize:

Question 1: Who needs to be persuaded?

Question 2: What action do I want this person to take?

Question 3: How can I give this person the information, motivation, incentive, and confidence to take the desired action?

Question 1 is all about knowing your target audience. If you have personas [PDF], that’s an awesome start and will make answering this question a snap. Don’t cheat and say “People who want to buy my product.” Really think about who is being exposed to your ad, your site, your page, etc.

Question 2 is all about business goals. You’d be surprised at some of the awkward pauses I’ve heard when this question is asked of marketers. If you don’t know the business goal, conversion goal, or action desired from your page, your campaign, or your email, you’d better figure that out straight away! And be realistic: the business goal isn’t simply “buy now” unless you sell an extremely cheap, low-risk product.

Question 3 is all about persuasion. Once you know what you want from the business side, and who you’re dealing with, this question digs into the content that is needed, the objections that need to be overcome, and the user experience that needs to occur in order to get the desired action from your visitors.

Try this exercise starting at your homepage or landing page. Then click to the next desired page (e.g. a product category page). Ask the questions again. It will feel sort of silly at first, but keep going. Click to the next desired page in the scenario (e.g. a product details page). Follow it all the way into your conversion pages.

The “who” will stay the same, and the “what” will be relatively easy if you know the flow of your site. The “how” will be painful and difficult as you stretch to figure out what your target customer wants/needs/expects at each step along a multi-click path. Your answers to the “how” questions should be documented because they’re likely ‘pure gold’ for optimization.

Go through this exercise, and I’ll bet you come up with the fixes your site needs, some persuasive tactics you need to put in place, some content that needs to be produced, or some clever testing ideas. Try it with an email campaign or something small like a PPC ad, and you’ll be surprised by the mental framework you develop for thinking critically about every piece of marketing content you’re involved in.

Good luck!

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Comments (30)

  1. Yes persuasion is the hard part I think, getting people to your site is not so hard, it’s the conversion, I just try and give them what they want.

  2. Awesome post, I have been thinking about this very thing. How can I turn more visitors into clients. Looks like I have a bit of tweaking to do to my site.

  3. Thanks Brendan… simple methods like this can produce fantastic results. I’ll be applying these techniques to my websites.

  4. Measuring conversions is just one way to measure success. From a revenue perspective I understand the importance, but I also look at other KPIs to justify costs.

  5. The “three questions exercise” is helpful. Websites often become too complicated and lose sight of their main goal. It’s good to apply these questions and continue to test various ways to improve your website.

  6. Is this effective on affiliate sites?

  7. Mike- Affiliate sites carry the same questions and problems of anything else, however depending on the product you will encounter stiff resistance and need to work to overcome that on high $$ amount affiliate sales.

  8. Thank you for the great info. I will surely use this

    with my websites. One question though, does this

    improve the return rate of your visitors.

  9. If you want to improve your customer base then you have to stick on these basic points.

  10. Great article!!! We have a similar sort of formula..but we call them the IDKs…I Don’t Knows :)

  11. Interesting tips, Brendan. However, I find the persuasion part a little challenging. Say, for example, I sell organic manure in the Internet. I know who needs to be persuaded and what my business goals are. The question is, How will I present the idea to my prospective market? Should I write articles about the benefits of organic manure? etc.

    Citing concrete examples would help.

  12. Yeah, definitely harder than it sounds. However, it’s a great road map to closing more business.

  13. This is such a good set of questions. I have several sites that honestly can answer a single one of these clearly!

    Thanks again, it is back to the drawing boards, but at least I have a plan!

  14. @Jasmine Bass – anything you do to delight your customers (and practicing these concepts should definitely help you do that by helping you to anticipate their questions and make it easy for them to find the answers) should improve their return rate. :-)

  15. @Lis – you are right: the persuasion part is tricky! Some of what makes it challenging is that some kinds of people will have more questions about your product, move at a slower pace when collecting info and making a decision, or may tend to focus on different kinds of benefits from other kinds of people. You must first get a better understanding of the questions your customers will have, and what in particular about your product will motivate them to buy it. To do this, we recommend creating customer personas. Of course, if you’re still struggling with this, you can always hire the experts! :-)

  16. nice and great article…. with these and good communications will be great, but that most important is communications and service.

  17. Yep, three not so simple but very important questions.

    Although I don’t have a niche blog I do occasionally write a post promoting one affiliate or another.

    Naturally the post is aimed at those interested in whatever I’m promoting and I’m hoping that the keywords etc. that I’ve used attract the targeted traffic that I’m looking for.

    Naturally I’m hoping that they will buy the product or at least click on the link in order to trial the product.

    The post is aimed at selling the product and If I’ve done my job properly then I’ll convert a portion of my traffic.

    The problem then lies in the landing page that they’re taken to as to whether or not they can convert the people I send there into customers.

  18. I think with my site I have answered the 2nd two questions well, but I haven’t put the right level of thought into my target market and what their motivations might be. Thanks for the thoughts, I’m going to put some work into this.

  19. I have been trying to make my affiliate site look “pretty” to entice buyers. But I am beginning to realize that it takes more than just looking good to get a sale. The 3 questions you outline can help guide a more focused design. I think the “persuasion” part must be the most difficult and would like to hear more ideas on how to direct visitor’s actions.

  20. Nice general guide to optimizing a website. When I first read it I thought it was too simple, but then I went to my site to go through the questions. After I went through I found that my site needed some tweaking. I think the hardest part is persuasion. Great post though.

  21. @Sire: lack of control over part of the experience is definitely a CRO challenge for lead generator websites such as yours. Incidentally, this can also be a big problem for companies that with different departments that oversee various areas of the company website.

  22. @Anne – “persuasion” in the way that we use it here at FutureNow involves accepting that there are different communication styles in the world, and planning your site around the types of questions and motivations that each style will have about your partiular product. But you can start by just understanding the different styles themselves, and the kinds of focus they typically have. Check out these articles on Grok for some perspective on how Myers-Briggs Personality Types and Keirsey Temperament Sorter apply to planning websites:
    Personality 101: Who Are They?
    Persuasive Copywriting for Beginners (and Dummies)
    Decoding Personality: Why We Compete, Reward and Buy
    Does Your Website “Show Up and Throw Up”?
    Getting Started with Building Personas

  23. An excellent post with some good points covered. Now I’ve applied the three question method to my marketing strategy it has definitely helped. And when we talk about “Action” i would now perceive this to be a customer inquiry, or a lead for a sales person to try and convert where before i read this i always thought of it, as you say, to be the focus on “buy now” when it should be on things that will benefit business in the long run. I would be less likely to buy something from a website that had pushy and persuasive adverts and product descriptions but I would be more likely to make a purchase if the information i wanted was laid out clearly and simply and they followed up my inquiry with a polite sales person trying to meet MY individual needs.

  24. @workwear – glad to hear your definition of “action” has expanded to include any action that benefits the business! Not only can “action” mean different things for different kinds of businesses (think law firm versus ringtone sales), but it can also mean different things for the same company depending on company maturity (think growing a marketing list vs. email campaigns to that list) or seasonality (high and low season can mean pushing more sales versus pushing up the average order value of sales). This is why any credible conversion optimization program aimed at making your website (and broader marketing efforts) better will be flexible and bend with your company’s shifts in focus.

  25. Yes persuasion is the hard part I think, getting people to your site is not so hard, it’s the conversion, I just try and give them what they want.

  26. who what how are the very basic thing before we start everything. thank for sharing deceptively simple tool to increase conversion article

  27. Yes, you’re right, well though out argument. We as marketers need to deeply understand the psyche of our target market, to reach them effectively and get the sales.

  28. It amazing how we keep coming back to the simple questions: Who is the target customer?, What is their pain?
    How do I show them I can best make their pain go away?
    Thanks for the reassurance.

  29. You’re right when you say it seems to good to be true, however I’m sure it takes a lot more thought than one would initially believe. Do you go through this thought process with all your different marketing campaigns (online and offline) or mainly just with your website copy?

  30. @antiques valuations – great question! your marketing campaigns (both online and offline) are the starting points for the visitors’ experiences on your website, so you definitely want to look at them from this perspective. Just so we are clear, we ask these same questions over and over, at each click of a visitor’s experience, for each page they land on. Here’s and excellent step-by-step example of how it works from waaaaay back in Grok files. But there are plenty more to choose from on Grok. You can also check out screencasts like this one in our archives section of the blog.

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