How One Tweak To Your Sales Copy Converts 30% Better


As I sat in Starbucks typing on my laptop an awkward teenager in a collared shirt and slacks approached me.

“Hi, would you mind taking a survey?” He smiled nervously.

“Uh, I’m really busy right now, sorry,” I replied as politely as possible.

He nodded and walked away sheepishly.

I realized I would have easily said yes if only he had asked again and said it was only a few quick questions.

If he had said this I would have been “sold” on taking his survey…

But what was the broader lesson here as far as how you can increase sales conversions?… We’ll answer that in just a minute and but lets answer another important question first:

What is the ONE thing that is essential to making your sales funnel work?

This was question on my mind as I prepared to launch our Sales Engine course the other night.

As I edited the sales page late into the evening, I concluded:

It’s not video.

It’s not design.

It’s not even a purchase form.

The answer is words. Copywriting to be more correct.

You can have the ugliest, most basic website in the world. But as long as you’ve got words on a page it can still convert visitors into customers.

Ok, so what? How does knowing this simple fact help to move the needle for your business?

Well, it should change how you view the process of optimizing your sales funnel.

Words first.

Design second.

Video and other “creative” conversion tweaks last.

Case in point: — a CRM web app created from the founders of Basecamp.

I actually came across this conversion optimization case study a while ago while browsing the interwebs. Yet it wasn’t until now that I realized the significance of it.

It illustrates my point that small, 30-second changes to your site’s sales copy can have a huge impact on your bottom-line.

For instance, that kid who approached me to take a survey in Starbucks could have converted me if he has simply changed altered the words he had used.

Think about that a moment…

You can invest in design (2x more expensive, plus a higher time cost) or video (10x more expensive, plus a time cost there as well), or you can focus your energies on perfecting your messaging by testing different… words.

Of course, poor design will cost you an incalculable amount of sales. But, assuming your design is at a “decent,” minimum usable level, optimizing your wording is the most practical place to start.

The Split Test

Here’s how the team over at Highrise did it. Note that the images below are from their plans and pricing page.

Here’s the original with the text:

“Start a Highrise Account / Pay as you go. 30-day free trial on all accounts. No hidden fees.” original-copy Here’s the winning text that showed a 30% increase in conversion rates.

“30-day Free Trial on All Accounts / Sign-up takes less than 60 seconds. Pick a plan to get started!”   highrise-winner-split-test This one showed an increase of 27%

“30-day Free Trial on All Accounts / Pay as you go. No long term contracts. No hidden fees. No surprises.” second-best Finally, this variation showed a 15% increase in conversions:

“Start a Highrise Account Today / Pay as you go. No long term contracts. No hidden fees. No surprises.” third-best-split-test-highrise

The Key Takeaway

What’s the key takeaway from this split test which undoubtedly netted Highrise hundreds of thousands (millions?) over the few years since it was conducted?

Obviously, test different variations of your website’s copy. What else?

Well, look at the key differences in the copy between the winner, the original, and the two other better, but not as good variations.

What’s the difference in the wording strategy?

  • First, perceived risk is minimized with the emphasis in the main headline being put on the fact that it’s a FREE trial that’s being offered.
  • Second, in the sub-headline, the idea that it is extremely easy to sign-up.
  • Third, a clear call to action in the final sentence (DO THIS NEXT / NOW).

The difference between the 27% (almost) winner and the 30% (winner) is that the 27% variation spends too much time addressing risk, without leaving room to remind people how easy it is to sign-up and “by the way, hey you, get started now!”

The winner represents a fairly even balance, working to address key resistance points and objections of would-be customers.

How to Apply This to Your Sales Funnel

Here’s the exact formula you should apply to your pricing page:

Risk reversal or emphasize “free” + Time and effort risk reversal + Call to action statement

That’s a fairly universal lesson that’s at least worth testing, especially considering it’s so easy easy for you to implement and if it doesn’t work you can just change it back (see what I did there? Risk reversal jokes anyone?  😉  )

“But Matt, how do I make sure that my risk reversals are addressing the right customer objections?”

Good question. For this reason you should consider surveying prospects shortly before, or immediately after they make a purchase. Here are some smart ways you can do this:

  • Send an email to your list of prospects who haven’t purchased yet asking them “What are your concerns, if any? Do you have any questions I can answer about how _____ can help you/ your business?”
  • Add a chat widget to your website. I recommend and use Zopim which is free to start.
  • Add a survey popup tool to answer the above question(s). Many people use Quaraloo, but they are way too expensive in my opinion. Google around for other options.
  • Show an exit-detection pop-up.

You want to look for patterns in the answers you receive and then, almost as if you’re having a conversation with these people via your copy, implement the changes on the page to address those key concerns.

The good thing about this formula and test from Highrise is that the concerns and resistance their winning copy addressed are nearly universal across most industries.

  • Most people are worried to lose money or make a poor purchase decision
  • Most people are lazy and don’t want to buy anything that will make them work harder. People want to work less, NOT more.
  • People want to be told what to do so there’s no confusion about what the next step is. Even if it’s as simple as “get started.”
  • You might also want to consider talking directly on the phone with prospects and recent customers. Often times, you need to dig deeper in order to fish out someone’s true fears, concerns, and resistance points. And even in a detailed conversation people won’t tell you them directly you just have to learn to read between the lines.

It’s important that any changes you make to your sales funnel be based on real-world data rather than simply guessing. “Oh, let’s try this and hopefully it will work.” Don’t do that, that’s called “hope marketing.”

Split testing isn’t worth pursuing unless you’re seeing, at a minimum, 5,000 visits (ideally, 10,000) visitors per month.

If you’re not getting that kind of traffic yet, you can still gather data from surveys and other means mentioned above.

For split testing I recommend you use:

  • Google Experiments (which is free and including in your Google Analytics dashboard, though you’ll have to know how to code or have someone on your team who can in order to take advantage of it)
  • Visual Website Optimizer, which is very user-friendly I’ve found in the past.
  • Optimizely — also user-friendly, but slightly more affordable than VWO.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Want more, super-actionable conversion tips? Instantly download my free 11 Point Perfect Sales Funnel Checklist and start converting more visitors and email subscribers into customers today.

  • Once you have a decent / solid website design, you should prioritize testing different wording over testing design, video, or other more “creative” changes.
  • Simple wording changes at the top of your sales funnel yield surprisingly powerful results at the bottom of that funnel.
  • Test the “risk-reversal” + “time-risk-reversal” + CTA formula outlined above in your own funnel. The lesson here is fairly universal.
  • Whether you use this formula or a slightly tweaked version of it, make sure to do what is within your power to base your changes on hard data. Don’t just “wing it” because that’s like gambling with your time and money.

Go implement this now and then come back here and let me know your results.

How will you apply this to your online sales funnel? Where else can you apply this other than on your sales or pricing page?

Back to posts
Read previous post:
How to Build an Email list FAST (Tip #3 Might Surprise You)

So you want to grow an email list quickly--but why?... It was the middle of winter. I was about 5...