5 Subtle Tricks That Inc. 500 Companies Use to Increase Conversion

by Today's Eggspert

Last updated on July 27th, 2017

The fastest-growing companies in the USA are hyper-successful for more than just the obvious reasons, such as that they provide good value. They also make subtle refinements to their websites.

These companies, chosen and ranked by Inc. Magazine each year and known as the Inc. 500, use a variety of hardly noticed yet highly impactful tactics to increase their conversion rates. Here are 5 of their more subtle strategies that you can use too.

1. Show Customers Using Your Product

It’s well known that reviews can help increase the percentage of visitors that convert, because a third-party’s opinion is always more credible than that of the company selling the product.

Even so, consumers are often skeptical of written reviews, because it’s easy to fake them. Indeed, there’s a whole slew of places you can buy text “reviews” online. In fact, an exposé by CNBC showed how someone conjured up a fake business that generated real leads thanks to fake reviews.

So, how does this jibe with the tested fact that reviews do increase conversion? Here’s how Luiz Centenaro of Experiment Engine explains it:

“70% of consumers trust opinions posted online, even more so when they are from people they know (92%). Seriously, in social proof we trust.


“Reviews from Instagram and other social media networks are more organic and not staged. This authenticity resonates extremely well with consumers who are buying on a site for the first time.”

Therefore, if you can show your customers actually using your product, your credibility in the eyes of website visitors will be significantly enhanced. And that’s just what two companies from the Inc. 500 have done. Quest Nutrition, 2014’s second-fastest-growing company, shows customer-uploaded pictures of Quest protein bars on its website.


And, lingerie site Adore Me, 2015’s fifteenth-fastest-growing company, also shows pictures submitted by customers.

To similar effect, expert inbound marketer and CRO Vinny La Barbera of imFORZA points out that cosmetics company Tatcha, 2015’s twenty-first-fastest-growing company, shows a video of a model using their product. While that doesn’t carry the third-party endorsement value discussed here, it does enhance the authenticity of the product and company. In La Barbera’s words:

“This video gives a really good depiction and explanation of what the product is and how it looks/feels. Providing this experience is really important for ecommerce sites now as many people are moving their shopping exclusively online.”


2. Eliminate Risk

One of the aspects of converting visitors into buyers that is often overlooked or misunderstood is risk elimination or even risk reversal. Any time someone is asked to give their contact details or money, there’s risk. But, the most common risk of all for a visitor is wasting time.

This was taught best by famous ad man David Ogilvy in his classic book, Confessions of an Advertising Man. According to Ogilvy, once you’ve written your headline, you’ve spent 80 cents of your marketing dollar. That’s because the decision to read the ad depends on the headline. The same is true of website headlines and the first 15 seconds of a TV or radio ad.

Joel Klettke, of Business Casual Copywriting and veteran moderator of Inbound.org’s landing page critique section The Pit, investigated iCracked, 2015’s twenty-second-fastest-growing company, which is a popular repair company for smartphones and tablets.

Here’s a look at the site:


Remarkably, Klettke commented on five different aspects of the page, and all of them answer some aspect of a visitor’s risk, mostly the risk of wasting time. However, other risks are addressed too:

“There’s a lot of smart stuff going on here that’s helping their conversion rate:

  • That headline makes a clear, desirable promise. Any customer reading knows exactly what they’re going to get.
  • Visitors bear no risk if the product breaks. They use their summary paragraph (below “all devices, all problems”) to add a lifetime warranty.
  • They show the process, eliminating uncertainty. That 1, 2, 3 numbered process shows leads EXACTLY what’s going to happen, so they’re not left wondering what to do next. They can see themselves in the transaction already, so they’re confident enough to move forward.
  • They eliminate ambiguity and answer customer questions before they can be asked. By listing all the models they service, there’s no question for a lead as to whether or not they can get help – they just know. Brilliant, because it saves research time for the customer, and time on the call answering questions for the company.
  • They’ve added an interactive element that answers customers’ questions. The image on the right can be moused-over by section, revealing common problems with each component of the phone that the company can fix. It’s WAY more interesting to look at than text, and super easy to navigate for a customer with a problem.

“All these elements add up to a hugely useful, clear, and persuasive landing page. It’s no wonder they’re seeing so much growth!”

Another Inc. 500 company doing a good job of this is Tatcha, which sells geisha-inspired makeup. As Vinny La Barbera of imFORZA notes:

“’Free Shipping and Returns’ is fixed in the header on every page instead of waiting until checkout for the visitor to see this information. Free shipping has been known to drastically improve conversion rates so I like how they keep this callout front and center.”


Many companies offer free shipping, of course, so the offer is becoming less unique. What makes Tatcha’s offer special is the free returns. If you don’t like a product, you’re not stuck with it even though there’s no physical store to return it to, as stated in Tatcha’s Happiness Guarantee.

Full, Anytime Returns for All Domestic Orders on Tatcha.com: No questions, no paperwork. We understand skincare is a personal purchase. Sometimes an item just is not right for you. Email info@tatcha.com or call (888) 739-2932 ext. 1 for a pre-paid return label to return the items you weren’t happy with and we will issue a full refund to your original form of payment.”

My friend Claudio Etauri refers to this sales tactic as the “puppy dog close” – let them take the puppy home and see if they can part with the cute little thing after a month!

3. Provide Context to Enhance Value Perception

Nobody perceives value without any surrounding context. Rather than leave context to chance and let visitors guess at appropriate comparison points, smart companies take the initiative to offer context on their offers. As Claudio Etauri would say, “You don’t ask them whether or not they want it; you ask them which version they want.”

SEO and CRO expert Patrick Coombe of Elite Strategies (Elite Strategies ) shows that Hostwinds is off to a good start by sharing different options and addressing the audience they serve, but he comments that their comparison could be clearer:


“As a customer, what I’d really like to see is a product comparison between all these products. I know what a shared, vps, dedicated, and reseller is, but wasn’t sure what a business plan was. A less savvy person might have been even more confused.

“Customers have really gotten used to comparing products side by side, and I think when there are multiple products, they’ve even started to expect it.

“Most major tech retailers offer a product comparison, such as:

  • Newegg
  • Best Buy
  • Radio Shack
  • Even Target and Walmart

“One thing to remember, if you don’t offer a side by side comparison of your products, an affiliate will. We’ve all seen examples of affiliates stealing the rug out from under their product by doing it themselves.


“Another trick I like to use is comparing your products side by side against your competitors. You offer a better value than some of your competitors, so compare yourself only to them, if you don’t mind playing ‘dirty.’”

Indeed, competitive positioning isn’t new, but we’re used to it mostly being the realm of either sketchy affiliates or big detergent brands and paper towel manufacturers. Yet, Inc. 500 member Saatva shows how devastatingly effective this can be, even for digital marketers representing non-sketchy yet not-enormous brands.

Saatva makes a luxury bed that they sell exclusively online. By cutting out the middlemen and their large markups, Saatva is able to sell directly to consumers at a deep discount. And you had better believe they tell visitors this at every turn.


4. Lead the Eye to Key Points

You’ve probably seen those annoying “shoot the balloon” banner ads that use motion to draw your eye and force you to click on them. While their implementation is awful, there are user-friendly applications of the key idea of using the biology of the eye and eye-tracking science to get visitors to read key messages.

This isn’t new, of course. Going back to David Ogilvy, he often included product benefits in the captions of his ads’ photos. Photos draw the eye, and captions therefore are almost certain to be read.

Today, the science has advanced further and has developed into mouse-tracking tools like Crazy Egg (I assume you know the URL ;)) and eye-path forecasting tools like Feng-GUI.

America’s business growth leaders are no strangers to this, of course.

La Barbera of imFORZA points out the clever use of this tactic in association with user-centered design on Tatcha’s site. Let’s have a look at that screenshot one more time:


“Customer reviews, which are usually buried down below the fold on a product page, are kept right under the product name so a visitor sees them immediately.”

What makes this example even more noteworthy is the 1-2 punch it packs when visitors click on the link. They not only get reviews from customers…


…they also get reviews from the press, which is another thing that gains visitors’ trust significantly. When a visitor clicks the link and sees this, the magazine icons draw the eye. Visitors see that not only do ordinary Janes like the product, but so does the media!

Another Inc. 500 company smartly using gentle cues to lead the eye to key conversion points is Bois Blanc Sports. Look at the product page before I add something to my cart.


Now, look at it after I add a product to my cart. Notice the little overlay in the upper right that draws my eye to the checkout? Fellow Inc. 500 retailer Pharmapacks does this as well.


5. Tell Prospects How Your Product Is Made

The folks at MECLABS Institute are some of the most advanced and influential conversion rate experts, and their quarterly research digest is a must read. The most recent edition touts the benefits of giving visitors a behind-the-scenes look into the making of a product. It makes a company relatable and helps persuade influencers within the target audience, even if they’re not the decision makers.

Saatva does this by sharing a video about how they make their beds. They also go into detail about their green manufacturing efforts elsewhere on the site.


Likewise, Quest Nutrition has shared their story about the lengths they went to in creating their protein bars, developing sugar-free chocolate ingredients with iterative recipe testing. Since their audience is into bodybuilding and healthy eating, they needed to eliminate sugar from the product, but all the manufacturers they sought to work with said it would be necessary to use sugar. Turns out, it wasn’t. And telling that story – rather than just keeping the struggle they went through to themselves – makes people appreciate them and buy.


  1. Show visitors that customers use your product with pictures or video. Don’t expect them to just trust your word or the words of reviewers. If you don’t yet have customers, at least shoot pictures or video of yourselves using the product to be more authentic.
  2. Eliminate risk – not just the risk of a product being inappropriate, but the risk of visitors wasting time or being unable to get a refund or otherwise losing their time or money.
  3. All purchases include some element of comparison. Don’t leave the comparison point to chance – either offer multiple versions of your product and compare them side-by-side, or at least show how you stack up against competitors.
  4. Lead visitors’ eyes gently through your site’s key conversion optimizing points. Think of where the eye will focus – headline, picture, something surrounded with whitespace, or something that contrasts in shape, size, or position – and tuck your key messages into those spots. If necessary, create these spots but do so without [visually] shouting.
  5. Tell people about your approach to production. We’re emotional beings, and hearing about other people’s efforts makes us relate to them and want to reward them for their hard work.

About the Author: Gab Goldenberg helps companies increase their website conversion rates (the percentage of visitors who become leads or buyers). Get a free site review to see how your site can increase conversion at ConversionRateOptimization.co.



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  1. Ross Simmonds says:
    December 16, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    Love the idea of using directing the readers eyes. This is a trick I learned many years ago after reading PresentationZen – Applying this concept to a website or landing page just makes sense. Great post and round up of different insights!

  2. Luiz Centenaro says:
    December 16, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks for putting this together Gab. It’s definitely interesting to analyze the trends that the top companies are using to convert more customers. I love story telling and think it’s something that should always be tested.

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