How We Doubled Our Conversion Rate and the Mistake that Cost Us Dearly

The Lead Magnet

There once was a client of mine. Their downloadable brochure was the best way to capture lead information and push leads into sales automation pipelines. I was advising them in a technical capacity and had built their website and automation platforms. They had a marketing team that had come up with a gated brochure download page that looked like the one below.

There was logic and sense behind the various elements on the page.

  1. A short description so visitors knew what this page was about.
  2. A list of things that was inside the brochure so the visitors knew what they were getting. Marketing pitch – “Why you should download the brochure”.
  3. An image of the brochure to help visualise it.
  4. Trust builders such as the phone number along with business hours, a live chat widget, and the ratings and reviews the business had earned. Marketing pitch – “We are transparent and people trust us”.
  5. A link to the privacy policy with the anchor text – 100% Privacy Guaranteed.
  6. Finally, the form to trigger the brochure download!

I hope you’ll see why all of the above was needed?

The brochure could have been a simple PDF link from this page. Instead, the visitor was being asked to provide their name, email, and phone number to access the brochure. The assumption was that the visitor would question the need for their email and phone number (a questionable requirement). The phone number was for the sales team to call the lead after a certain number of days.

The visitor had to be convinced that downloading the brochure was the best way to find out more about the services that were being offered. This is what the sales and marketing community term as The Lead Magnet – the carrot that’s dangled in front of the visitors to extract valuable contact information.

Gated downloads are very common. Think whitepapers, ebooks, recipe PDFs, etc. They are used to narrow down the visitors who are really interested. They help separate the wheat from the chaff.

Then, visitors are getting savvy. They pick up on the intentions of the business when they see gated downloads. They know they’ll be hounded by newsletters, emails, and phone calls even. They are still curious. Many are willing to bite the bullet and hand over their personal information to access the brochure, whitepaper, ebook, or whatever the pot of gold might be.

12.5% Conversion Rate

We measured the performance of the page and the form. We had a conversion rate of about 12.5%. For every 100 visitors who landed on this page, 12.5 of them were submitting the form.

Who doesn’t love the challenge of pushing the limits? We all agreed that the conversion rate could be increased. By increasing the conversion rate, we could increase the number of leads, that will see an increase in sales. There was more money to be made!

Who you gonna call?
The UX / CRO Consultant.

This is the stage when a new character is introduced.

In the search for the pot of gold, we found a UX / CRO Consultant. They came highly recommended. We were excited when they agreed to work with us. We did a discovery session (I’m starting to think that we need recorded versions of these discovery sessions to avoid having to use up a full day every time we engage a new consultant). A week or two later, we had this new page layout.

  1. The page’s design was awesome. It looked very stylish and professional.
  2. The header / navigation was dropped to keep the focus on the page.
  3. A hero / banner stock photo was sourced with a target customer reading a digital brochure (Photoshopped). Connect with your audience!
  4. Reasons to download the brochure were highlighted with sufficient details.

While this was a perfect landing page, I personally wasn’t convinced. We knew that our visitors were already hesitant to provide their personal information. We were now contriving a page to explain to them why they should hand over their personal information. We were polishing an already contrived page to make it appear even more contrived!

My opinion was considered, but the consultant was an expert in Conversion Rate Optimisation. They had to be right!

The Curse of Expertise

Landing pages were the rage then. There were a number of landing page creation platforms pushing best practice pages and forms. Of course they had to; it was in their interests. Everyone in marketing was advocating the craft of perfect landing pages. It gave marketers something new to sell to their clients.

While there was a case for landing pages, I was against the idea of cookie-cutter landing pages. And that’s what our Consultant had produced, a cookie-cutter landing page. Their expertise had considered the industry standards and best practices, but not considered our target customer and the purpose of the page and form in our customer’s journey.

We implemented the new page. The conversion rate dropped from 12.5% to around 6%! This really happened. The conversion rate halved!

The Conversion Rate dropped from 12.5% to 6%

Guess who got the SOS phone call? The guy who voiced his concern. Me!

Striking the Right Balance was the Solution

If we asked our visitors what they wanted, they’d have said that they wanted to be able to view the brochure PDF without handing over their personal information. If we asked the sales team, they’d say that the phone number is non-negotiable. How does one strike a balance?

Stop infantilizing visitors.

Depending on the service that the business is offering and the target audience, we really need to stop treating smart visitors as idiots. Steve Krug explains how not to make visitors think in his book Don’t Make Me Think. Let’s simplify the user experience; not further sugar coat an experience that’s already evoking a negative sentiment.

I made recommendations and implemented them.

I removed all the UX and CRO changes that made the page appear contrived. Strip it down. Simplify the page.

The user clicked on a link expecting to ‘download a brochure’. Instead, they were shown a form! We tweaked the anchor text to ‘Get Your Brochure’. This suggests that they’ll receive their brochure rather than download it. Subtle tweak to their expectation. We ran a number of real-life tests with our target audience. This simple change to the call-to-action text seemed to work. Download = instant PDF. Get = comes via email.

I removed all the clutter (from the visitor’s point-of-view) that were masquerading as trust builders (from the business’ point-of-view). Visitors wanted the brochure alright! That’s why they clicked on the link and landed on this page. Just give it to them already. We didn’t have to try hard to sell the brochure to them. They didn’t need all these: Why should you download the brochure, What’s inside the brochure, Look at others reading the brochure, You can trust us, etc.

We couldn’t drop the email and phone number requirements. We needed the info for automation purposes. We could at least make the page and form seem less contrived. Don’t Make Me Think. I just need that brochure!

That’s all! The conversion rate shot up to 25%.

25% Conversion Rate. Doubled the original 12.5%.

The key to any conversion rate optimisation project is striking the right balance between the visitors’ expectations and the business’ requirements. Listen to the consultants and gurus, but above all, listen to your visitors and sales people.