10 Tricks to Boost Your Conversion Rates Using Mind Psychology

10 Tricks to Boost Your Conversion Rates Using Mind Psychology

Conversion marketing is a mind game. In fact, it can be argued that the overall practice of sales and marketing is a sub-discipline of social psychology.

This is because likeminded consumers or market segments are hardwired to respond the same way to certain triggers because of their similar personal, lifestyle and social context. World-renowned marketing guru Eben Pagan explained this in-depth in one interview when he said that when making purchase decisions, consumers use their primal, reptilian brain which responds to psychological and emotional triggers.

You might be thinking: “I don’t have a psychology degree. I’m toast.”

You’re absolutely not. A degree in psychology is not necessary to achieve conversion marketing success, but you need to know high converting psychological concepts and use them when developing your marketing and sales strategy.

Fortunately, help desk software developer Help Scout has culled 10 case studies and psychological techniques to help you win the marketing mind games, generate more leads, convert more customers and grow your revenue.

So here are 10 psychological tricks to boost your conversion ROI.

Trick #1: Encourage Your Potential Customers to Take Small Steps

It is natural for consumers to be resistant to making huge commitments on the get go, especially if they’re doing business with you for the first time. When you’re winning over their trust and encouraging potential customers to try out your products or services, they are more likely to respond positively to your offer when minimal conditions are set.

Respected and best-selling psychology and marketing expert Dr. Robert Cialdini illustrated this in one of his experiments. Dr. Cialdini analyzed the door-to-door fund raising initiatives of the American Cancer Society and he found out that a small scripting change can make a huge difference.

The research tested two phrase variations on how volunteers ask for donations. The first one is a straightforward: “Would you be willing to help by giving a donation?” The second is a slightly modified version: “Would you be willing to help by giving a donation? Every penny will help.”

According to Dr. Cialdini’s research, the second phrase yielded twice as more donations versus the first variation. This is because when asked for a donation, people asked themselves if they have enough and whether their donation will make an impact. By adding that extra line in the end clearly expressing that every penny counts, the request becomes more approachable and actionable.

During the initial interaction or the maiden transaction with your customers, encourage them to take action by asking the littlest thing. This can either be a free, non-committal trial period, a no minimum order policy, a special discounted price for beginners or not requiring them to give you their credit card information.

Frontloading that they can respond to your call-to-action without lifting a finger is a great way to achieve that break through moment with your customers and an opportunity for you to usher them deeper into your conversion funnel.

Trick #2: Harness the Power of Labels

People say they hate to be labeled. On the contrary, marketing researchers found out that consumers also clamor to be part of labels they love. The sense of belonging is indeed a powerful purchase motivator.

In a research, randomly selected participants were asked about their voting patterns and in the end, were told that they belong to a politically active group. The label was artificial because the participants were not politically active at all. Another set of participants were asked the same question but they were not told anything about belonging to any group.

Come poll day, the turnout among those who were told that they belong to a politically active group was 15% higher compared to the group that was not told anything.

It is natural for consumers to want to be identified with likeminded others in a group, especially if the label for that particular group is something positive and aspirational. Being a part of these groups is a strong social currency and allows them to assert their status. This is why luxury brands are such a hit. Service providers like gyms make a lot of money by creating exclusive groups that their members aspire for.

People fight to belong to an elite group and you can boost your conversion rates by positioning your products or services in this way.

Trick #3: Understanding Your Customers’ Buying Pain Threshold

Ever heard of the shopping catchphrase “spend ‘til it hurts?” Apparently, there is scientific truth in this as consumers do experience a certain kind of “pain” when purchasing something. Neuroscientists classified consumers into three groups based on their spending pain threshold.

61% of spenders fall under the “Unconflicted” category. These consumers know when to stop. 15% of consumers are “Spendthrifts” who spend beyond what they ideally want to spend before they hit their buying pain. Lastly, 24% of consumers are “Tightwads” who cry ouch even before they reach their ideal spending amount.

Among these three groups, the most difficult to convert are the Tightwads. They are also the most crucial if you want to grow your revenue since almost one out of four of your potential customers belong to this segment.

The key to winning over this group is to minimize their buying pain and this can be done by implementing three copywriting strategies.

The 1st strategy is to reframe the value of your products and services. Have you ever wondered why companies always price their products or services a few cents or a dollar short of the nearest 10-dollar, 100-dollar or whole dollar value? $4.99 is just a penny short of $5. $99 is just a dollar short of $100.

This is because neuroscientists found out that how you frame the prices of your services or products have a huge impact on the reception of conservative spenders, even if the difference is just a cent or so.

Moreover, if you can breakdown the cost in smaller increments, you are minimizing the buying pain for Tightwads. For example, instead of saying that your gym membership costs $1,000 per year, you will benefit from higher conversion if you say $84 per month.

The 2nd strategy is to bring down the number of buying pain points by bundling your offers. According to neuroeconomics expert George Loewenstein, conservative spenders prefer to purchase multiple items in one go instead of buying them separately. Several purchase transactions equal multiple buying pain points versus one purchase transaction that only involves one buying pain point.

The last strategy is to make small changes in your copy. In an experiment conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, researchers used two slightly different copy variations to describe the overnight shipping fee of a free DVD trial offer. The two versions are: “A $5 Fee” and “A Small $5 Fee.” Believe it or not, but the simple addition of the qualifier “small” increased the response rate among conservative spenders by 20%.

In crafting marketing copy, small details do make the big difference.

Trick #4: When it Comes to Your Shortcomings, Honesty is the Best Policy

PR practitioners and spin doctors will flip over this suggestion. However, according to social psychologist Fiona Lee, when it comes to conversion marketing, admitting your mistakes will do far less harm than covering them up.

Lee conducted a study on how admitting to missteps would affect the stock prices of a company. Lee and her team created two fictitious reports – one that admits to the company’s shortcomings in making strategic decisions and the other blames external factors such as the economy and the competition.

The results are very clear. Investors respond more positively when the company admits to its missteps as this gives the impression that the company is in control and not prone to covering things up. Apparently, when businesses blame external forces for their shortcomings, it raises a red flag among skeptic consumers, fearing that the company can’t fix the issue on their own plus the fact that the company may just be making excuses.

Conversion is built on trust and keeping in control despite committing mishaps is a great way to gain your potential customers’ trust.

Trick #5: Couple Urgency with Actionable Instructions

Urgency is a strong emotional trigger that drives sales. It can stem from different situations – from scarcity just like how Dr. Cialdini explained it, from a sense of emergency or an immediate need to satisfy a desire or avert fear.

However, if urgency is not used smartly, it can have little to no effect on your conversion marketing initiatives.

A clear articulation of this is the popular research conducted by Howard Leventhal wherein he gauged the effectiveness of two variations of tetanus pamphlets. Both brochures contained no-holds-barred descriptions about the effects of tetanus on people with the goal of eliciting fears among readers and urging them to get vaccinated. The difference is that one brochure contains broad-stroke instructions on how and where to get vaccinated.

At the end of the research, Leventhal found out that vaccination rate is 25% higher among those who received the pamphlet with instructions on how to get vaccinated. Leventhal then concluded that people are likely to block out information that evokes urgency if it is not partnered with any information on what to do next.

He explained that without actionable next steps, people will just convince themselves that they don’t need to take action because the worst case scenario won’t happen to them anyway. In the field of conversion marketing, people will convince themselves that they are not missing out on your offer because you did not provide them with any clear instructions on what to do next.

The same principle was echoed by marketing experts Joe Polish and Dean Jackson of the marketing resource site Genius Network when they said that you should make it as convenient as possible for your potential customers to take the next step or respond to your call to action.

Trick #6: Your Marketing Copy Should Scream Instant Gratification

From the iconic (and quite ancient) marshmallow test to the highly advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) experiments – humans’ love for instant gratification has remained constant.

Marketing experiments using MRI have found out that the mid-brain “lights up” when people see words that are associated with instant gratification. The mid-brain triggers pleasure and other powerful emotional motivators and conversion marketers need to woo this part of the brain.

According to expert marketing psychologist Gregory Ciotti, the word instantly may very well be one of the most persuasive words you can use in conversion marketing (along with “free” and “new”). Researchers said that words alluding to instant gratification will allow your potential customers to picture their problems being resolved right away or their desire being fulfilled immediately making them more prone to purchase.

Trick #7: Pick a Fight with Other Brands

Loyal customers of Mac and PC will relate to this one. Most recently, Android and iOS users look like they are headed to the same path.

Businessmen and entrepreneurs don’t have the propensity to go out and make enemies. In fact, mutually-beneficial affiliations and likeminded connections are very big concepts in the business arena. However, if you want to boost your conversion rates, making an enemy is necessary if you want to generate a cult-like following for your brand.

In a study conducted by social psychologist Henri Tajifel, he demonstrated how people can “commit acts of mass hatred and discrimination” against a particular entity or ideology. Tajifel and his team were able to prove that people are capable of exhibiting loyalty to their “in-group” and pointblank discriminate outsiders even though the differences between their group and other segments are trivial and minute.

Therefore, your unique selling proposition should not only tell your consumers what your brand represents and what makes it distinct from the rest. It should also convey what you’re not and should communicate that you are against certain beliefs and ideologies in a manner that will resonate among your existing and potential customers. Your USP should define who your customers are not as much as it defines who they are. Apple was clearly against the “plain Jane” and uncool computers of PC users and this allowed it to obtain strong following and high level of loyalty among its customers.

Likewise, this can create an aspirational aspect for your brand to lure your competitors’ customers into your own camp. Still using the example of PC and Mac, a PC user might find the arguments of Mac appealing and something to want. This would trigger the primal need to fit in and in order to do this, a switch to the perceived better brand is necessary.

In the business world, it’s a risk to exclude outsiders, but if done properly and smartly, the reward is not only profitable, but has a long term positive effect in strengthening your brand equity.

Trick #8: Take a Stand for Something

According to one survey, 6 out of 10 consumers develop strong loyalty to a brand if they feel that they share the same values with it. Leading advisory company Corporate Executive Board (CEB) found out that customers don’t appear to develop to a brand or company itself. Instead, customers are loyal to what the business stands for.

For example, Starbucks stands for creating and nurturing “connections” with its different stakeholders – from personalized interactions with every customers to how it ethically source its coffee beans from farms around the world. On the other hand, Burger King stands for customizable burger experience. People share these values and these two are two of the most successful brands in the world.

While your marketing collaterals are not the proper communication channels to elaborate on your company’s mission, vision and values, it should always be there, weaved somewhere, either in a sublime or obvious manner. For your brand to truly have a voice, your customers should echo what you stand for, giving them enough reason to patronize your brand.

Trick #9: Be a Devil’s Advocate to Your Customers

Just a quick trivia. The term devil’s advocate originated from the canonization process of the Catholic Church. When someone is about to be canonized as a saint, the church gets a “lawyer” whose job is to dig into that person’s life and find anything and everything he could to prove that the candidate is not deserving of sainthood. This allowed the church to carry out a more objective canonization process.

When this is translated to conversion marketing, your role as a devil’s advocate is to oppose whatever belief or opinion your potential customers might have that is preventing them from positively responding to your call-to-action.

According to researchers, when consumers are faced by people who genuinely oppose their position or point of view, they tend to open up more and sincerely begin to appreciate the dissenting opinion. When they start to listen, you already passed their “hostile” layer and you can start your process or persuasion.

For your existing customers, this will make them more convinced that they made the right decision to do business with you. Because you are bringing up possible alternatives to your own products and services and later on dismissing them, your current customers feel much more confident with their purchase decision.

Likewise, this allows you to address hesitations and doubts about your products’ potential shortcomings even before your customers make the decision whether to buy or not. It’s sort of a preemptive medication – you address potential illnesses even before they happen.

Trick #10: Take Advantage of Surprise Reciprocity

Reciprocity is a hot buzzword among conversion marketers. It’s a human interaction concept that has been in existence since time immemorial but it’s most recently being extensively explained and exhausted in conversion marketing.

Reciprocity is one of Dr. Cialdini’s six pillars of influence and basically says that consumers feel obliged to respond positively to your offer if you show them an act of kindness. It leverages on the basic human nature of fair give and take.

The thing is that everyone is practicing reciprocity. So, how do you stand out? By using a secret ingredient – the element of surprise!

Surprise reciprocity is giving something or showing an “act of kindness” to your customers when they expect it the least. A good example of how you can do this is by looking at Zappos. The online shoe retailer frequently gives its customers an overnight shipping upgrade. While you were waiting in anticipation for your new footwear that you expect to arrive in 3 days, the delivery guy knocks on your door the next day bearing a nice surprise.

Of course, not all businesses have the financial resources to dole out grand gestures. But as the old adage reminds us, it’s the thought that counts. Psychologist Norbert Schwarz who also did several studies on reciprocity couldn’t have put it any better: “It’s not the value of what you find. It’s that something positive happened to you.”

It’s All in the Mind!

The real marketing battle does not have inside your stores and not even at your ecommerce site. The real battleground is inside your customers’ head.

Being able to harness the power of psychology in conversion marketing will give you ROI you only dreamed of. And at the end of the day, it’s not rocket science or something that will require you to get a PhD in psychology. These are simple concepts waiting for your deadly executions.

Good luck!

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About oleg@japkin.com

Oleg Posternatsky is the Founder of Japkin. He's a bit of a perfectionist. Hates leaving work unfinished. Writes about marketing strategies, conversion centered design and landing page optimization.
  • http://www.predictiveedge.com Marty Hu


    I’m familiar with a lot of the psychological literature but I thought that you had some original thoughts that were quite good. I particularly liked your ideas on surprise reciprocity and buying pain. These ideas might kickstart a blog post I’ve been thinking about writing.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this post.


    • admin

      That’s always good to hear. Thanks Marty.


  • Carlos

    You articles are VERY useful and actionable. Thank you!. Don’t you have a way to subscribe to your list in order to receive future blog posts?