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Try Using This Weird Tactic to Boost Conversions as Much as 13%

by Adam Kreitman

There are a lot of smart marketers out there. Very few of them, however, have graduated with Academic Honors from an Ivy League school with a degree in Neuroscience!

Marketing expert and coach Ryan Levesque has. The cool thing about Ryan, though, is that you don’t have to be an Ivy League grad to understand, and profit from, what he has to say.

His books, articles and emails are written in a relaxed, very easy-to-read (and understand) style and are stuffed with marketing and psychological insights that most experts in the ryan headshot smile bwmarketing world aren’t talking about.

While Ryan’s created 34 information and software products, perhaps he’s most well-known in marketing circles for his SurveyFunnel™ software that combines his understanding of how the brain works with online surveys to provide a unique product to help marketers boost conversion rates.

He shares his insights about surveys, neuroscience and more in this interview…

Most people probably think of surveys as a way to do research and collect data, not as a tool to improve conversion rates. How’d you first discover the power of surveys to boost conversions?

I actually discovered it in my Rocket Memory™ business,  a business in which my team and I teach people memory improvement techniques through a series of courses designed to help people improve their memory.

It’s a business that leverages my academic background in neuroscience… I actually studied and taught neuroscience at the Ivy League level at Brown University.

In that business, when I tried to expand the traffic, I struggled. And the reason why is BECAUSE all the traffic available in that market is around keywords like “improved memory,” “how to improve memory,” and “memory improvement.”

The CHALLENGE is that the people searching on the keyword “improve memory,” for example, range from the 18-year-old college kid all the way through the 65-year-old man concerned about mental decline and everything in between.

What I found was that when I was trying to build a landing page or a sales funnel sequence that appealed to the market generically, the market didn’t respond to a one-size-fits-all answer.

BUT when I started asking people, “Well listen, I understand that different people have different reasons for wanting to improve their memory and that the solution for you will depend on what situation that you might be in. So if you take a moment to tell me a little bit more about who you are, what you’re looking for, what your challenges are, and what you situation is, not only can I put you in touch with the best-match solution for your product, for your situation, but I can also customize the information for you.”

When I took that approach, going from a one-size-fits-all answer to that more survey-focused approach, I was able to take my cost per opt-in from $12.89 to under $5.

And I was able to INCREASE my opt-in rate from about 5% to about 13%, simply by taking that one approach.

So that was the first major step that opened up the power for using surveys in an opt-in process unlike anything that I had really seen before. And NOW that’s what I do all day, every day in all the markets that I’m in, which is about 25 markets right now as we speak.

Markets ranging from golf instruction, tennis instruction, basketball instruction to dog training, business funding  and markets like weight loss and fitness. So the early underpinnings were discovered in my own business, in this case, the memory business, rocketmemory.com

It makes sense that when you can use a survey to customize the experience/message your prospects get, it’ll boost conversion rates. Is there more going on there though? Can you go a little deeper into the psychology behind what makes surveys so powerful in improving conversions?

One of the things that make surveys so powerful is, at least the way I use them, is the power of something called “micro-commitments.”

Typically when you’re online, a very typical lead acquisition process is one that we’re all familiar with, which would be the squeeze page. The squeeze page typically will ask for someone’s name and email, or at least their email, as the first commitment that someone will ask of you when you are first introduced to their business.

NOW the problem with that is that asking someone to provide their name and email is ACTUALLY a pretty big step for them to take. It’s a step that, in some ways, is threatening to the brain. And the reason why is because of these small but existent fears that exist around giving someone your private contact information.

If I give someone my email information on a squeeze page, the thought that goes through my mind—maybe not on a conscious level but unconsciously—is “What are they going to do with this?… Do I trust this person?… Are they just going to sell my email to a list?… Should I just put a fake email address in there?… I don’t want them to know my name… What if they are just going to use that information to get at my personal data?”

ALL these little things go on initially with that first point of contact. So essentially, what’s happening is you are eliciting the fight-or-flight response in a prospect’s brain when you ask for that name and email first.

In other words, you’re eliciting that fear response in the limbic system of your prospect’s brain.

(You’ve probably gathered by now that, as someone with a background in neuroscience, a lot of my marketing is geared around or based on the neuroscience of what’s going on in the consumer’s brain when they’re interacting with or involved in your sales funnel.)

So when you ask for a name and email, it elicits that fight-or-flight response in your prospect’s limbic system of their brain. They have two natural, possible reactions.

Obviously the fight is the antagonistic response, something like, “Should I even give this information,” and the flight response, in the context of a website, is just to hit the back button and leave.

So the question IS… how do you acquire a lead, how do you get a prospect into your system, into your lead flow, into your sale’s funnel, without eliciting that fight-or-flight response in their brain?

One way to do that is by using the power of micro-commitments. Micro-commitments are commitments that are so small that they do not elicit that fight-or-flight response in your prospect’s brain.

The way surveys are connected to micro-commitments and the way micro-commitments are connected to “hacking” that limbic system is as follows…

Instead of asking someone for their name or email as the first step (the first point of contact with them on a landing page)… you ask a small, non-threatening, multiple-choice survey question as that first step, so you can bypass that fight-or-flight response. And you build what I describe as “action taking momentum” and get the wheels moving for that prospect to eventually get to a point where they feel much more comfortable providing their name and email address to you.

So the net result is, if you ask a few strategically placed multiple-choice survey questions BEFORE that name and email, then you can actually have HIGHER email opt in rates in some cases even though you’re asking your prospect to take more steps before they reach that email opt-in point.

So to go back to your original question, “is there something neurologically going on when you are presenting your prospect with a survey,” the answer absolutely, unequivocally is YES!

And what I just walked through as far as “hacking” the limbic system (hacking that fight-or-flight response) is one such example of what’s happening in your prospect’s brain when they’re going through this process of using a survey or interacting with a survey in your lead acquisition process.

That’s a great explanation of why using survey questions to get micro-commitments can lead to higher conversion rates. And it requires using surveys in a way a lot of people probably haven’t considered before. Can you describe the types of questions people should be strategically asking in surveys to get those micro-commitments and lead their prospects toward the ultimate conversion goal?

I like to typically start with a “softball” question. An easy, multiple-choice question designed to build action-taking momentum, one that’s EASY to answer and requires almost no thought.

My classic example (which I use in many markets, where appropriate) is: “Are you a man or a woman?”

Now, what’s important is to give the REASON for asking the question. E.g., “the reason why I ask is because men and women suffer from different weight loss challenges” (in a weight loss market).

The questions are designed to tell you information about the prospect that allows you to offer more customized, tailored information to the prospect in a way that’s similar to a doctor asking you questions about the symptoms you’re having. The doctor is trying to get enough information to prescribe the appropriate treatment.  You’re essentially doing the same thing with the questions you’re asking from a strategic standpoint.

When it comes to using surveys in the marketing funnel, is it the commitment of taking the survey or the ability to deliver customized, tailored information that has the biggest impact on conversion rate? For example, have you ever done a split test where you use a survey that ultimately leads everyone who takes it to the exact same landing page vs. customized landing pages? I’m curious if simply having someone go through the act of taking the survey is enough to boost conversion rates.

You bring up a good point.  There’s something in psychology known as The Forer Effect.  Also known as the Barnum Effect. It’s basically what happens when someone reads their daily horoscope or a fortune cookie:

EVEN though the information is highly generalized… BECAUSE it’s positioned as being squarely related to THEM, people have a tendency to BELIEVE the information—and find ways to justify/interpret the information as being TRUE to them.

Now, that being said… While the FORER effect can be VERY powerful in the context we’re talking about (yes, I’ve done and tested what you suggest, and YES, it IS more effective than NOT doing any survey at all)…

When the information they get AFTER the survey IS, in fact, customized/tailored to them, 10 times out of 10 it will boost SALES conversions for me. Little difference on the opt-in side of things. But it CAN have a tremendous difference on the sales conversion side of things.

I made this discovery initially by mistake. We were accidentally sending all survey responses in one market to the SAME post-survey video sales letter, even though we had created variants for each bucket.

When we fixed the mistake and started sending people to their appropriate post-survey video, response immediately jumped by 23% (on average) without any further optimization.

For more conversion boosting psychological insights from Ryan, check out his Copywriting Activity Guide that he’s made available to Crazy Egg readers that includes his “5 Psychological Forces to Boost Your Conversion Rates and Improve Your Copywriting!

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Adam Kreitman

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on

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  1. Fulvio says:
    December 21, 2014 at 12:08 am

    even a graduate with honor to say the obvious. now many many ecommerce use this system. you call it survey others call it filter or “How can I Help You?”.
    I ask questions, and based on the answers I offer a service targeted. perhaps a degree wasted? it was better to engage in years of study follow one or two e-commerce? …

    and showing pictures, get an answer filtered with product and / or service and personalized responses, including targeted mailing

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      December 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

      Hi Fulvio. I think the point isn’t that no one else is doing this, but how it helped him. And you’re right in your assessment that surveys and customer focus are basics in marketing. The difference is the way he uses that information–to let customers choose their own journey into the brand. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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