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Last updated: January 2018
—Use these techniques on your own website.
—How to profit from better navigation, forms and pricing.
—Three techniques we recommend you use for research: (i) tree testing, (ii) customer-journey mapping and (iii) likes–dislikes maps.
—Mastermind Sessions and the Wins Database—two ways we generate ideas.
—Before-and-after images of winning A/B-tests.
—To get an annotated PDF of one of the winning pages, showing all of the techniques we used, subscribe to our free newsletter.
We’ve grown many sophisticated publishing companies, including GQ, New Yorker, WIRED and Glamour. But could we grow Smart Insights, run by one of the world’s leading digital marketing teams?
(We wonder whether the title of this page gives away the answer to that question.)
Conversion rate is the lifeblood of our business … there’s a lot of competition.”—Dr. Dave Chaffey, CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights
Smart Insights is a leading publisher and consultancy that provides guides, e-books and training to help businesses succeed online. It is the brainchild of Dr. Dave Chaffey, who—according to the Chartered Institute of Marketing—is “one of 50 gurus who has shaped the future of marketing.”
Note that in the following article “we” refers to a team effort between Conversion Rate Experts (with our expertise and proven methodology) and Smart Insights (with its great team and experimental culture).
When Abraham Lincoln was asked about his approach to A/B-testing, he famously said, “Give me six weeks to run a test, and I will spend the first four gathering insights about the visitors.”
(Or maybe he was talking about chopping down trees and sharpening his axe.)
Honest Abe’s approach reflects our unique methodology. The research we do before we lay a finger on a website is the most critical activity we undertake on any project. It’s also the most frequently ignored by most web businesses.
Stripped down to its basics, conversion rate optimization (CRO) is simple. You just need to be able to answer these two questions:
The mistake most businesses make is to skip straight to question 2. They start guessing what to do to increase their conversion rate, and in our experience, it usually ends in failure.
Successful businesses know that taking a visitor-centric approach is key to growing fast. When Smart Insights came to us, they recognized this right away. We spent lots of time conducting in-depth analyses to get inside the heads of their visitors. We used the following techniques:
One of the best features of the service with Conversion Rate Experts is that it’s really based on deep research.”—Dr. Dave Chaffey, CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights
Armed with an extensive body of research on Smart Insights—having sharpened our axe—it was time to chop down some trees. Using our Wins Database and our team of conversion experts, we generated a list of ideas for rapidly growing Smart Insights:
Rather than describing all the improvements we made to Smart Insights, we’ll focus on three experiments that are likely to be applicable to many businesses.
With all of our projects, we have the benefit of having “fresh eyes.” We can empathize with a company’s new visitors in a way that’s impossible for someone who has worked for the company for years.
Many of Smart Insights’ visitors have been following Dr Dave Chaffey for years, some for their whole careers in marketing. Others are brand new.
We observed during the research that, for newcomers, the funnel for paid memberships revealed the pricing too soon. At the point of having to make a decision, the newcomers didn’t appreciate the depth of resources being offered.
So we designed a new page that visitors would see before the pricing. It presented the offer and included all the key appeals and objections we had identified during our research.
Here it is, alongside the original page. In an A/B test it generated 157% more paid memberships:
The new page is a big one. There are loads of reasons it beat the original. Here are just a few of them:
Before you can sell something, you need to get your prospects’ attention. You need to interrupt them—make them sit up and take notice.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to enter the conversation already going on in their heads. If you can get your visitors nodding along in agreement, not only have you got their attention, you’ve positioned yourself as being on their side, as a trusted advisor.
Good and bad, there’s a lot of free advice available on digital marketing. Smart Insights’ prospects know this, and so had strong objections to paying for the service.
So how do we compete on price with these websites?
Answer: we don’t. Instead, we positioned ourselves as the online equivalent of getting a personal consultation from the world’s best digital marketing experts.
Then, we put a value on it and used it as the price anchor. Compare the price of a Smart Insights subscription to the cost of having Dave and the team visit you in your office. Suddenly, it transpires that the price is extremely low.
If you’re close to a product or service, it’s easy to overlook—or take for granted—the value it provides.
When we talk to customers, they often highlight features or benefits they love that weren’t communicated on the website. It’s no surprise that sales usually increase when we explicitly mention these features or benefits.
That’s exactly what happened with Smart Insights. Members get a lot of great stuff, and when we asked them what they liked best, we received many different answers.
This made us excited, so we made a list of all the stuff that you get as a member, and how it can help you. Then we added the list to the new landing page (click it to enlarge it):
Are you communicating the value of your product or service effectively? It’s worth taking a step back to make sure you’re not missing anything. Better still, ask your customers what they like best about you. You can learn more about this in our guide to communicating value propositions.
Forms lie at the heart of almost every conversion funnel, so they’re an obvious—and powerful—candidate for optimization. They are also, surprisingly, an often-overlooked part of the funnel. So make sure to prioritize your forms when planning your optimization strategy.
Forms are a necessary evil, so focus on making them as intuitive and pleasant an experience as possible. In other words, reduce “form friction.” You’ll find some tools to help discover what’s causing friction in this article.
Our research revealed several factors that were causing friction on the Smart Insights form:
We designed a challenger form to address the first two issues. The new headline and sidebar content promoted the appeals that we had identified, and we added proof elements to counter the lingering objections.
In addition, we split the form into two parts, removing any fields that weren’t essential to the sign-up process, and repositioning them as a post-form wizard to “configure your Smart Insights profile.” By doing so, we turned an objection into an appealing part of the service.
Always remember that visitors are filling in your form to solve a problem they are having. Take time to find out as much about their problem as you can—then promise to solve it.
A good navigation should reflect how your visitors expect to find things. Someone new to your website should easily be able to find the information they need.
Supermarkets are experts at navigation. They organize complex information so you can walk into a huge building for the first time and find a single product among hundreds of thousands—usually in seconds. (Unless you’re looking for eggs—we can never find those.)
When we conducted usability tests, we identified a group of visitors for whom Smart Insights’ information architecture didn’t reflect their mental model.
What those visitors didn’t tell us was how to fix it. So we used tree testing to analyze the routes that prospects were taking through the navigation to solve common problems. We then came up with an optimized version to test against the control.
Never turn a blind eye to what your visitors are telling you. The original navigation was based on the industry standard, so it was a bold decision to test something different. Thanks to Smart Insights’ willingness to fly in the face of convention, memberships increased by 75%.
Here are just a few of the tools we used on this project:
We have taken a screenshot of the page that generated 157% more paid memberships, and we have added 45 “tooltips” that explain, in detail, the persuasion techniques behind each page element.
Just subscribe to our free newsletter and we’ll send you a copy of the PDF straight away. It’ll reveal many persuasive techniques that you might otherwise have overlooked. Our newsletter is read by the world’s most successful companies, and you can easily unsubscribe whenever you wish (though few people do).
It’s great working with the team at Smart Insights. They are passionate about testing and get things done quickly—two key ingredients for winning businesses.
You can get free access to many of Smart Insights’ reports by signing up for its free membership, here.
1. If you’d like us to work on your website—to dramatically improve your conversion rate and profits (like we did for all these companies), then claim your FREE website strategy session. On this free phone consultation, one of our experts will discuss your conversion goals and suggest strategies to double your sales.
2. If you’d like to learn conversion for free, go to our “Learning Zone” page, where you can download templates of million-dollar winning pages. Or, if you’d like us to build your company’s in-house capabilities (not for free), then contact us and we’ll discuss your requirements.
3. If you’d like to work for us—or see why our team members love working for us—then see our “Careers” pages.
All of our articles are subject to our Testimonial Protocol, which is described here.
So far, we have helped to grow clients in 37 countries in 11 languages.
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Phone: 0800 043 2650 or
+44 (0)203 368 6212
Fax: 0870 838 1135
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