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How to Consistently Increase Conversion

How to Consistently Increase Conversion

Daniel Burstein

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care makes billions of contact lenses every year, and when a customer buys a box of contacts, they’re all the same. All the same color, same shape. No contact is even slightly out of proportion. If they were, customers wouldn’t be able to see, and that would be a lousy customer experience. 

Of course contact lenses are consistent, but can the same be said of marketing?


According to its literature, Johnson & Johnson uses a “multi-patented process that took years to perfect.” Business executives in countless industries have repeatable methodologies and processes, such as Six Sigma and total quality management, that ensure consistent, high-quality customer experiences with a physical product—from massive Boeing 747s to diminutive Toyota Corollas.

But marketing tends to be the outlier, less focused on a consistent methodology and more reliant on the “golden gut.” Some marketers just “get it.” Others are a little farther off. They rarely have a common language to describe their intuition, the hunger pangs of creativity. 

So should we be surprised that, according to Korn Ferry, CMOs have the shortest tenure in the C-suite?

Give Your Team a Common Lens Through Which to See the Customer

To truly improve customer experience and your brand’s marketing results, you need a common language and methodology to empower everyone on your team to advocate for the customer.

The conversion sequence heuristic is part of a patented methodology developed by MECLABS Institute​ to help marketing teams better understand the customer experience and practice customer-first marketing. It was derived from and has been validated by experiments on more than 20,000 sales and marketing paths over 20 years. It brings a cognitive framework to the factors that affect the probability of conversion. It is not an equation to solve, but rather a thought tool to understand and optimize the factors that affect the probability of conversion for every message—from landing pages to print ads—that represents your brand to the customer. 

Probability of Conversion

You can never guarantee conversion, but using this methodology, you can increase its probability. Make sure to choose conversion objectives that truly serve your ideal customer.

Sample questions for your team:

  • Is the conversion objective in the best interest of the customer?
  • Does the conversion objective match where the customer is in the thought sequence at this stage of the buyer’s journey (e.g., asking the customer to buy before they’ve learned enough about the product)?
  • Is this the most beneficial conversion objective we can ask the customer to take, given our limited ability to get the customer’s attention (for example, deciding what to prioritize on a homepage)?

Motivation (of the Customer)

The coefficients (numbers) in front of each letter indicate its impact on the probability of conversion. Tapping into your potential customers’ motivations ​has the biggest effect on conversion.

Unlike the other factors of the heuristic that you can control, you can’t control motivation. You can only understand it.

Like the other green elements in the heuristic (and those with plus signs), motivation is a positive element. The better you tap into motivation, the better the customer experience and the more you increase the probability of conversion.

Sample questions for your team:

  • Do we truly understand the customer’s motivation, or is our thinking clouded by company logic? 
  • What evidence or data backs up the assumption we are making about the customers’ motivations?
  • You are not the customer. You are in a very different age group/income bracket/geographic area/etc. What evidence leads you to believe the customer has the same motivations as you?

Clarity of the Value Proposition (Why Act?)

The appealing, exclusive, credible and clear answer to the question, “If I am your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you, rather than any of your competitors?” is your value proposition.

Sample questions for your team:

  • What can we do to add credibility to this value claim? Why should the customer believe us?
  • Doesn’t our competitor make that same value claim? What additional value can we offer that is difficult for competitors to replicate?
  • Do we truly have a value proposition for this offer or product? Should we choose to advertise a different offer or product instead while we take steps to increase its value?

Incentive to Take Action

When brands don’t ask for customer-first conversions or don’t have a true value proposition, they try to compensate by overdoing incentives. Incentive is paired with friction in the heuristic because it should only be that little extra something that helps overcome friction, not the entire reason for the customer to act.

Sample questions for your team:

  • Are we only acquiring customers because we have large incentives? Would we lose many of our customers if we stopped offering incentives?
  • Will this incentive damage the long-term perception of our product’s value?
  • Does this incentive reduce our margins too heavily? 

Friction Elements of the Process

The minus signs in the heuristic indicate elements that hinder conversion and hurt the customer experience. Friction is an aggravation factor, representing psychological resistance to elements in the conversion process.

Like the other red element in the heuristic, friction is a negative element in the mind of the customer. Therefore, the more you reduce friction, the better the customer experience and the higher the probability of conversion.

Sample questions for your team:

  • Do we really need all those fields in our forms? Are we actually using the data we’re collecting?
  • Can we let customers access that information/make a purchase/etc. without registering for an account? Does the value we get from account registration outweigh the pain we’re causing?
  • Is it absolutely necessary to make our requirements for what a password must contain so onerous? Does the value in security outweigh the pain to the customer?

Anxiety About Providing Information and Receiving Value

Anxiety is another negative element. It’s a psychological (and not always rational) concern stimulated by a given element in the conversion process. Anxiety and friction can never entirely be eliminated, but you can optimize your marketing initiatives to reduce their impact on conversion.

Sample questions for your team:

  • Do we really need to ask for that sensitive information (e.g., social security number, driver’s license number, phone number)? How do we know the value to the business outweighs the anxiety we’re causing for the customer?
  • Are we clear enough in our marketing messaging about the value the customer will receive after purchasing the product to reduce anxiety of a purchase?
  • Is the way we’re using customer data in personalization going to cause anxiety in the customer?

Empower Your Team to Pull the Cord When the Customer Experience Isn’t Right

The Jidoka quality control method used by Toyota includes the famous Andon cord. It was draped over an assembly line to empower every worker to ensure a high-quality customer experience. If something was wrong, workers could simply pull the cord to alert co-workers and management or even stop the assembly line.

Does your team feel similarly empowered? What about partners who work on your brand?

With a consistent methodology, everyone has a language to explain what isn’t working and how to fix it. 

Invite the Customer into Your Marketing Department

Customers don’t have a seat in your marketing meetings or at your agency pitches, but they should. As a marketing leader, you shouldn’t rely on individual star performers in your organization to make it happen.

Use the conversion sequence heuristic, or a consistent methodology of your own creation, to bring a common language to your team and empower them to create an amazing customer experience.

Daniel Burstein is the senior director of content and marketing at MECLABS Institute. He oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS .