There's an old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." Typically, we think of marketing as being the "lead a horse to water" part, and "sales" is the next step, that effort to get the horse to drink. However, marketing can have a significant role in convincing those customers that we bring to the website to purchase or take some other desired action. Good marketing can convert a visitor into a customer, potentially without any additional sales effort. We call analysis and action aimed at increasing the percentage of visitors who respond in the desired fashion "conversion rate optimization" or CRO. CRO is based on the science of persuasion, which is in turn informed by discoveries in neuroscience. Let's take a look at neuroscience insights for CRO and see how one company achieved a 93% increase in direct sales in under a year.
Who Is In Charge Here? Neuroscience & The Three Parts Of The Brain
You've probably heard of the Freudian concept of the brain being divided into the Id, ego, and superego. Neuroscience also offers a three-way division of the brain. This organ is, in many ways, the most complicated thing humans have ever discovered. It has evolved, differentiating us from other animals. Over the years, at first, by observing people with brain injuries, and later by watching areas of the brain light up in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines, scientists have developed an understanding of how the different parts of the brain work.
The Medulla Oblongata: Basic Involuntary Movements
The oldest part of the brain is the brain stem, also known as the medulla oblongata. This part of our brain governs involuntary physical functions like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and reflexive coughing or vomiting. The medulla oblongata operates below the level of our consciousness to regulate essential physical bodily functions.
The Cerebrum: Home of Emotions and Memory
The cerebrum is the second oldest of the three parts. This part of the brain does a lot of different tasks. The cerebral cortex is part of the cerebrum. The cortex itself can be further divided into fifty-two different cortical areas, each with a specific function. In general, the cerebrum takes care of sensory perception, voluntary action and movement, emotion, and memory. The temporal lobe, occipital lobe, and the parietal lobe combine sensory information with information from memory. In the frontal lobe, we can see activity in an MRI when planning, and abstract thought is taking place.
The Cerebellum: The Part That Thinks It's You
The cerebellum is the newest part of the brain. Before the 1990s, scientists believed that it was mostly responsible for motor control, based on observations of individuals with injuries to the cerebellum. However, our understanding has changed in the past few decades. Scientists have discovered connections from the cerebellum to over half the areas of the cerebrum. Now we believe that the cerebellum is involved in our awareness of emotion and our active decisions about behavior. As our instructor Andrew Lloyd Gordon puts it "this is the part of the brain that thinks it's you." The cerebellum appears to be where the thinking that we are consciously aware of takes place. Moreover, research shows that this kind of thinking is responsible for a lot less of our decision making than we might guess.
Heuristics: Your Brain Takes Shortcuts
Our rational brain thinks it is in charge of making all our decisions, but really, that is just too much work. As we evolved, we developed mechanisms for taking in the vast amount of sensory data available, matching it to patterns in memory, and instantly coming up with a plan for action. We can call these mechanisms "heuristics."
A heuristic is a method of solving problems using patterns that will not necessarily provide the best solution or operate based on recognized rational principles. However, it is going to get the job done quickly and adequately. We are talking about conscious heuristics when we refer to concepts like "a rule of thumb" or the process of making a quick educated guess. We begin to cross into our unconscious heuristics when we talk about relying on intuition. You can find more on Heuristic on the Best-Seller book by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman.
It turns out many of our reactions are based on heuristics. Our cerebellum thinks it is in control, but the older mid-brain, the cerebrum, is calling a lot of the shots. We rely on snap judgments and patterns that happen below the conscious level of our awareness much more often than we might think.
Heuristics: Implications for Marketing
This discovery is immensely crucial for marketers. Once you understand this, you can strive to understand your customers' subconscious decision making patterns. It is pretty challenging to find triggers that will guarantee a sale. However, you can easily find triggers that will make a person leave your website without a second thought. By identifying patterns that turn people off, you can keep customers around long enough to influence them. The longer you can keep them engaged, the better your chances of hooking into a good pattern that will make them feel comfortable and lead them to sale.
"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." - Sir Isaac Newton
The Science of Persuasion: Robert Cialdini
People are constantly churning out material promising new secrets about marketing. Our researchers are discovering further details all the time. However, the most powerful insights into the big picture of marketing have been around for quite a while. Robert Cialdini studied the question "what makes people say yes?" for over three decades. Then he laid out some very influential thoughts that have stood the test of time in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which first came out in 1984. His six principles are as revealing and useful today as ever.
Reciprocation is the first principle. Humans are social creatures. We have evolved to have habits that are conducive to getting along and succeeding. Consequently, we have an instinct for reciprocation. When someone gives something to us, we are inclined to give back. We delve further into this principle and the other five keys to persuasion and explain how you can use them to get your customers to say "yes" in our online CRO course.
The Power Of CRO - Protalus Increases Sales By 91% In Six Months
Protalus makes an insole that corrects postural misalignment. They had a good amount of traffic coming into their website, but nobody was buying the product. They hired an outside consultant to figure out why. One of the first things they discovered was that the cerebrum was choosing to leave the website before the cerebellum could even get involved. A company called Dr. Scholls makes a product that's widely available and much cheaper. People saw the Protalus's prices and bailed without a second thought, having quickly recognized a pattern - "too rich for my blood."
To overcome this objection and assure potential customers that the product was worth it, the company deployed two powerful techniques of persuasion, social proof, and appeal to authority. For the latter, they brought out their heavy hitter, Dr. Romansky, Protalus' resident podiatrist, who advises the Phillies baseball team and the U.S. Women's Soccer team to explain how and why the insoles really work. For the former, they arranged many celebrity endorsements and placed them around the page. These measures, along with several others, dramatically increased sales, turning the previously useless flow of web traffic into dollars in the bank. So that's what CRO is all about.
Excellent Marketing Courses Are Scarce
There are plenty of fad-based marketing courses out there, focusing on one narrow area or another and one limited perspective, promising secrets. The truth is that you need a comprehensive view to succeed in marketing. Our courses cover everything you need to know, and real experts teach them, people like Andrew Lloyd Gordon, who teaches our online Conversion Rate Optimization course. Andrew has researched marketing for decades, and he is still at it. However, he has also put that work into practice, working from businesses of all sizes, from small family-owned businesses to global titans like Google.
You can take Oxford Learning Lab's Conversion Rate Optimization course by itself or sign up for our complete Marketing Strategy Academy, which has 42 courses that cover everything you need to know to take your business to the next level. Sign up today and set a course for success.