Conversions of prospects to paying customers seem to be getting tougher and tougher to generate. Particularly in this stubborn, downward economy.
But at the same time, many marketers cloud the issue of poor conversion rates by blaming it all on the economy. And that’s never the case.
More likely, it’s because you’re actually trying to sell the wrong thing – and by that, I mean the wrong attribute of your product. And if you dig just a bit deeper, it’s easy to find other, more meaningful attributes that will ramp up your conversion rates in any economy.
The “headline test” for determining if you’re selling the right – or wrong – attribute
Every marketing piece must have a “hook” – some important element of your product or service that you build your marketing piece around. One of the easiest and most effective ways to tell if you’ve picked the right hook is to give it my two-step “headline test”.
Step 1: Write a headline (or subject line if you’re using it for an email) that focuses on your hook
Step 2: Read your headline or subject line, then based only on that answer the question “Does this make me urgently want to read further to find out more?”
Using my “headline test” in the real world
Let’s take a couple of examples of actual subject lines that landed in my inbox today as I’m writing this. The first subject line comes from Apple and reads:
Make their holiday light with MacBook Air
The second subject line comes from Inc. Magazine and reads:
Renew and give a subscription completely free!
Now, let’s apply my headline test. For each of these subject lines, when you read them, do either of them give you any sense of urgency about opening the email to find out all the details?
Of course not. They are sloppy, lazy subject lines. So it’s a foregone conclusion that a much smaller percentage of readers will actually open those emails. And fewer opens clearly means fewer conversions.
So where did they go wrong?
To refresh your memory, every marketing piece must have a hook that the entire piece is built around. And that hook is some attribute of the product you’re selling.
In Apple’s case, the hook is the light weight of the MacBook Air. But the way they use this attribute is almost nonsensical. By attempting to connect it to the holidays, they’ve created a subject line that makes no sense whatsoever in the real world.
I mean, how many times have you ever woke up in the morning with a burning desire to “make yours or someone else’s holiday light?”
The obvious answer is that it’s never crossed your mind.
Now, let’s take a look at Inc’s subject line: “Renew and give a subscription completely free!”
This one is a prime example of lazily leaning on one of the most abused words in all of marketing – the word “free”. Many marketers believe that “free” is a magical word that cures all manner of ills. And if you use it, you don’t have to do much else to generate a great response.
That, my friend, is a fatal error.
“Free” is only relevant if what you’re offering is truly valued by your prospects – and the more value they attach to it, the better off you are. But in this case, there’s very little value attached to this at all.
So let me ask you the same question I posed about Apple’s subject line: How many times have you woke up in the morning with the burning desire to renew your subscription to anything so you could give another subscription to someone else?
Hmm, let me count the number of times. A bit of quick math comes up with… zero.
And I’m sure that zero is not the answer you want when your own prospects consider the attribute of your product that you’ve built your hook around.
So let’s take a look at how to correct this common problem and bump your conversions up to where you’d really like them to be.
3 secrets to creating compelling hooks that convert more prospects to paying customers
We’ve actually covered the first secret already, which is applying my two-step headline test to any marketing piece. First, build your subject line or headline around an attribute your prospects highly value.
Then, read your headline or subject line. If it makes you feel a real sense of urgency about reading more to find out exactly how you get what’s promised in the headline or subject line, you’re in good shape. If not, then you need to move on to the next two secrets.
Conversion Secret #2: Sell the outcome
The reason why so many marketers have such ineffective hooks is that they choose to focus on some feature of the product they want to sell. The lightness of the MacBook Air is simply a feature. Yeah, it’s a pretty cool feature, but not strong enough to get me out from behind my desk and into the Apple store.
A great way to solve this is to focus on the outcome your prospect wants most when using your product. So let me show you a headline from one of my own web sales pages that demonstrates exactly what I mean. Here’s the headline I recently used for selling my coaching services:
Now you can build your business with greater ease…
Increase your sales and profits — even in a down economy…
And reignite the purpose and pleasure you once felt from being in business
(And see a very real increase in sales of at least $25,000 in the first two weeks or it costs you nothing)
This is what’s called a “stacked headline” and while it obviously takes more space than a subject line, I’ll also give you an illustration of a single line in just a minute. But the important point is whether by reading just this headline, you’d feel a real urgency to find out more details of what this is about.
My conversion rate for this piece tells me that the answer was a clear “Yes”.
What I’ve done here is focus on the outcome my prospects think about on a regular basis and value the most. I can assure you that they would like to build their businesses with less difficulty, they’d like to increase sales and profits in these tough economic times, and they’d like to feel revved up about being in business again.
In fact, the promise sounds almost too good to be true, so I have to temper it by locking it down with a powerful guarantee right up front. And that guarantee further promotes the sense of urgency to find out exactly what I’m talking about.
Now, in order to come up with the outcomes that your prospects frequently think about and value the most, you have to “enter the conversation that exists in the prospect’s mind” as the legendary copywriter Robert Collier said.
What is it that keeps your prospect up at night? What goal do they want to achieve that would mean more to them than anything else? What problem do they repeatedly encounter that takes away from working on things that are more important? What robs them of the pleasure they’d like to be enjoying?
Answer those questions, then focus on one or more of the attributes you come up with and you’ll have a powerful, authentic subject line or headline that will get far more people to read your marketing piece. And far more people to buy your product.
Conversion Secret #3: Sell the offer
The third secret to higher conversions is focusing on the offer, rather than on the product itself. If you can make an offer that gets directly to the heart of “the conversation that exists in the prospect’s mind”, you’ll enjoy much higher conversion rates than you would with typical sales copy.
Here again, it’s best to feature this offer in your headline or subject line. To illustrate exactly what I mean, take a look at an alternate, offer-driven headline I created for the same sales piece that used the stacked headline I showed you above:
What if your business coach absolutely guaranteed
you’d make money?
It doesn’t take much effort to see that I’ve used this headline to enter that all-important conversation going on in a prospect’s mind when considering hiring a coach. The biggest question they have is, “How do I know this is going to work and I’m not going to lose a lot of money?”
The headline addresses that concern directly, creating a sense of urgency to find out how the heck I’m able to do this. Here again, the readership was very high and the conversion rate shows this was very successful.
Don’t let your conversion rate be a victim of lazy marketing
The fact is, it’s always easier to pick some feature of your product and focus your hook on that. But it’s a very lazy way to market and your conversion rates will continue to be low if you rely on this method.
But when you put a bit of effort into determining the exact outcome your prospects really want or an offer that solves one of their greatest problems or helps them achieve an important goal, you simply can’t lose.
So why not exercise your hook creation muscles now and start enjoying higher conversion rates regardless of what condition the economy is in.
P.S. If you’d like to see the entire marketing piece that’s built around this hook,
just click the “Coaching” link in the navigation bar at the top of this page.