10 Ways to Improve Conversion Rates Your Competitors Have Overlooked

You wanted to increase conversion rates. So, you started testing all the basic, obvious things.

You split-test headlines, calls to action, hero shots, and copy. You split-test form fields and a couple of different layouts. You tested whether adding a testimonial or a trust certificate might help. Maybe you even did some multivariate testing.

Hopefully, you got lucky. A couple of those tests worked. Maybe not everything you tried worked, but some of it did. You eventually earned a nice 20-30 percent increase in conversion rates.

Your boss is happy. You’ve earned this year’s raise.

But… is that it? Is that all that can be done? After you’ve maxed out the performance of all the little elements on your website or in your sales funnel, is that as far as you can go?

Of course not.

If you suspected (or already knew) there is more for you to test, you’re right.

Now it’s time to kick your testing up a notch.

We can’t tell you which big ideas are the best things to test for you. But we can share some ideas and principles that could help you re-imagine how your sales funnel works, or how people think of and interact with your brand.

Without further ado, here are 10 out-of-the-box, bigger-than-basic ways to spike your conversion rates…or maybe change your entire business:

1. Strip it down to the essentials.

Minimalism works well for conversion rate optimization. It focuses users’ attention so they’re more likely to complete a goal.

Instead of testing different elements, think backwards: Start testing what you can remove.

What can you cut from:

  • landing pages
  • email opt-in forms
  • email messages
  • lead nurturing sequences
  • your website
  • everything else

…and still preserve results.

The classic example of this, of course, is Apple. They stripped everything down to its essence, from product lines to the design of individual products. Then they re-imagined the essence of each thing and stripped it down again.

Here’s why this works: We can keep only so many things in our heads. When the cognitive load of even a simple task (or a conversion event) gets to be too much, we bail. By reducing distractions and options, you reduce cognitive load and make things easier for your users. That makes it easier for them to act, and thus more likely to act.

This leanness also means you don’t overcomplicate things. The less you have to manage, the more likely you are to manage it better. It applies to elements on a landing page, and to editorial calendars.

Which sections of this landing page would you try to cut?

2. Do a usability test.

There’s a reason writers need editors: Most of us can’t see the mistakes in our own work.

This applies to marketing, too. All too often, we lose sight of the customer and we don’t even realize it. What they want, what they need – it all gets lost in KPIs and deadlines. We can’t see what they see anymore, and so our messaging misses the mark.

The best way to solve this is to get a front-row seat to how your audience experiences your marketing. You can do this via several techniques, including:

  • Usability tests
  • Customer surveys

Usually, usability tests are done for software products or websites. We’re stretching that idea a bit, but you could absolutely do a usability test for a landing page, or a webinar signup, or any lead generation process. And here’s the best news: You don’t need a lot of test sessions. Testing the experience of just five people will show you 80 percent of the problems. Sure, if you want to be more thorough, have seven or 10 people try to do something. But five people are often enough.


If you’ve never done a usability test, just be prepared. You – the marketer – probably shouldn’t be in the room for it. Or at the very least, you may need to have your hands tied and your mouth covered with tape. It can be amazingly exasperating to see how much trouble people have with a task that seems brain-dead simple to you — which is why it’s so educational.

While you can do your own usability test in-house, it might be easier to use one of the companies that offer this service. UsabilityHub.com can help you out, as can PickFu. Many companies even use Mechanical Turk just to get cheap and fast feedback on their ideas.

3. Test traffic streams instead of creative.

Remember that old direct marketing koan, “Which is most important, the offer, the creative or the list?”

Well, that applies to conversion rate testing, too. We all get so focused on testing offers and creatives, we end up forgetting to test “the list.”

Except in this case, “the list” is the traffic.

Take one of your landing pages, for example. Where is the traffic to that page coming from? Is it coming from ads, LinkedIn, organic search, paid search?

All of the above?

A lot of the time, it’s “all of the above.” So go look at your Google Analytics reports, and figure out what the #1 source of traffic is to that page. Then create a new page, and send that segment of traffic to it. Start split-testing. See if you can’t optimize that landing page for that particular stream of traffic.

4. Go back to lumpy mail.

This one’s for all of you who grew up in marketing after the rise of “the commercial internet”. It may be especially helpful for SAAS marketers.

We’ve all gotten so hyper-focused on digital marketing that it can sometimes be cutting-edge to go old school. Really old school.

Like snail mail. Specifically, lumpy mail.

This definitely still works. Smart B2B marketers are still getting crazy-high conversion rates from strategic lumpy mailers. It’s not unheard of to get a 10 percent or better lead to close rate.

The trick is to be creative. You don’t need to send some super-fancy $500 gift in the mail. You just need to send some object that will have meaning to the recipient… meaning that you imbue with your mailer.

So, let your creative team chew on what they might want to send, and what they might want to say. But try it.

It could be pretty sweet

5. Forget conversion rate optimization.


I know, I know. But, just as most marketers are now focusing on lead quality over lead quantity, perhaps conversion rate optimizers need to focus on quality, too.

Conversion rate isn’t everything. Things like shortening the sales cycle matter, too. In fact, ask yourself: What would you rather have… 5 percent more conversions, or a 5 percent shorter sales cycle? Or 5 percent fewer conversions and a 12 percent shorter sales cycle?

So here are some alternative things to optimize for:

  • Shortening the sales cycle
  • Delivering higher-quality leads
  • Pursuing a specific customer profile (Fortune 1000s, for example)
  • Increase average order size… or even better, customer lifetime value (more about this next). A couple of strategically-placed cross-sells and upsells can do wonderful things for ROI.

6. Think about loyalty as you plan your tests.

Everybody knows it costs more to find a new customer than it costs to keep a customer. A lot more.

So, perhaps instead of doing tests to get more customers, you might want to do a couple of tests to learn more about how you could be keeping customers?

7. Test new channels.

Here’s where we wreck your beautiful, perfectly-optimized sales funnel by suggesting you try a completely new sales channel. Like Facebook Messenger, for example.

But let’s face it: We can’t just hang out and endlessly optimize our existing marketing channels. Everything is evolving – the competitive landscape, our marketing tools, the way people communicate. To stay current, we need to evolve at the same pace.

Coca-Cola has a smart formula for this kind of experimentation. They call it the 70-20-10 rule. They use it for content marketing, but it could be applied to almost anything.


8. Sell in a completely new way.

What if there was a completely new way to get your products into your customers’ hands. Even if that new way meant throwing out ideas like “sales teams” and “demos” and “white papers” and “marketing campaigns”?

What if you did something completely crazy, like offering your product for free, with free setup and free training for the first six months?

If you’d like inspiration for this type of revelation, watch the movie “The Founder”, about the creation of McDonald’s. It’s a story of how to completely re-imagine how a product is created and sold. And then (when Ray Kroc figures out his restaurant business is actually in the real estate business), it’s the re-imagining of a business model.


9. Hire your customers to do your marketing for you.

You’ve heard how it’s a “customer-centric” world now, right?

So, what would happen if you actually hired a few of your customers to create marketing materials for you? How would your existing customers approach selling to other customers? What would they say are the benefits of working with you?

If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably heard of user-generated content. That’s content – product shots, customer reviews, unboxing videos, even blogs – your customers have created. It’s exceptionally effective. As is influencer marketing… which is fundamentally having a super-customer with a massive audience create content for you.

What if you did take it another step, and had your customers write product descriptions? What if you invited them to marketing strategy meetings and sales huddles? What if, kinda like Amazon’s empty chair, you had a customer at every meeting.

A crazy idea, for sure. Until somebody runs with it.

Conversely, if your customers would not sell for you, why not? Which leads us to the final point…

10. Make a better product.

Nothing kills a bad product faster than advertising.

Ever heard that before? It rings true.

Again, this is a problem of perspective. We can get so focused on optimizing our sales and marketing machines that we lose sight of the driver of those sales: Having a good product. A product that solves our customers’ problems.

Consider this: What’s a better return for your time? Creating a better marketing machine, or creating a better product?

Final Thoughts

A conversion rate optimizer’s work is never done. There’s always a staggering number of things to potentially test and a limited amount of time. You have to pick between optimizing what’s already working or trying something completely new.

This is risky. Often, new things don’t work. And mistakes are expensive. But, we can’t stay inside the safe box, and just keep incrementally optimizing our marketing. If we don’t step outside what’s working, we could end up with a perfectly optimized sales funnel for a market that no longer exists. Like a perfectly optimized lead nurturing system… sent via fax.


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