Content marketers: 5 scientifically proven tips to boost conversions

If you’re not a convert to content marketing, you will be after reading how storytelling, scientific authority, expert opinion and customer testimonials will boost conversion of clicks into sales.

Thanks to sites like Upworthy and Buffer, content marketing is experiencing a renaissance, Copywriting is now extremely important—not that it wasn’t before.

Success no longer means cramming SEO keywords into posts and littering your site with as much content as possible. It’s means delivering useful, entertaining, quality content.

You wouldn’t make a very good content marketer if you didn’t already know that. What you’re reading this piece for are tips to increase your conversion rates—scientifically proven ways to drive up conversions.

Scientifically proven tips to increase your conversions (no, really!)

You may have heard a few of these before. This time, instead of taking them at face value, you’ll see them backed up with scientific evidence—studies that prove they are true.

The next time you read a blog post, article or marketing newsletter advocating them, you’ll know they work.

1. ‘Telling a story’ will resonate with your audience

You’ve heard that telling a story with helpful content is the best way to attract an audience.

According to Lifehacker and The New York Times, when someone reads a story, their brain language center lights up as expected. What’s more interesting: Other parts of the brain also become active, the areas that would light up if the reader experienced the event firsthand.

So, whether someone actually experiences an event or reads a detailed account of it, their brain reacts in the same way. Storytelling works because your audience literally lives the content. That content becomes a powerful, personal emotional experience and an indelible memory.

The University of Phoenix used story-as-content in their short documentary, A Career Outside of Football. In it, they told the story of NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who speaks in the first person about his life and career.

Fitzgerald reveals his experiences with his mom’s battle with cancer, his father’s encouragement to continue higher education and his goals as a student at the University of Phoenix, all while he travels and takes care of his son. Through Fitzgerald’s story, prospective students (Phoenix’s customers) see the University as friendly to adult schedules- the message Phoenix wants to convey.

2. Show the appeal of conformity

People often conform to a pattern, especially if they’re not sure about the right decision or outcome. You can use this desire to conform to spur conversions.

The psychologist Solomon Asch proved this in a 1935 study of 50 students. Asch gave the students a vision test.

To test conformity, the psychology team ran 18 trials; 12 of which were rigged so that one participant would feel strong group pressure to give the wrong answer.

One uninformed person would be sent into a room with seven others who knew the test was rigged. These seven would then give their (wrong) answers.

The study showed that 75 percent of the single, uninformed participants (who believed the test was on the up-and-up) chose to conform and gave the incorrect answer at least one time, despite the obviousness of the real answer.

When that peer pressure was removed, uninformed participants gave the incorrect answer only 1 percent of the time. That huge difference shows the pressure conformity puts on people. It means that you can use conformity to persuade your audience.

Organizations use conformity to increase conversions. One nonprofit fundraising organization, FirstGiving, uses conformity strategy on their homepage, where they list several client nonprofits and the money raised for each.

Conformity has been a successful for them: The organization recently raised $522,000 for children coping with a family death.

3. Social engagement, customer testimonials, and reviews offer credibility

Nearly 63 percent of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase products from a brand or website if it has product reviews and ratings. Also 70 percent of Americans said that they look at product reviews before buying.

This stat proves customer testimonials boost the credibility of brands, products, and services. Positive testimonials create a sense of trust. In fact, just the existence of this feedback is vital to a brand. If you don’t have feedback on your site, it looks just as dodgy as poor feedback.

Social engagement and blog interaction can serve as customer testimonials. Encourage your customers to share their feedback on social platforms.

4. Loss aversion can be used to your advantage

Quite a few studies have shown that people have a loss aversion ratio between 1.5 and 2.5. “Loss aversion” means people fear a loss in profits more than they are tempted by an identical gain.

In other words, people worry more and work harder to avoid losing something or missing out than they do to gain something.

Marketers use loss aversion all the time in advertising, but TV infomercials use it best. Make it clear to your audience that they don’t want to miss this excellent chance:

  • “Do you really want to miss this opportunity?”
  • “This offer will only last until… Get it while you can!”
  • “Before you go, this is a one-time offer…”
  • “Flash deal, it will be gone before you know it…”

Show your audience they’re overlooking something special.

Daily-deal sites used these tactics to pull in about $5 billion in 2011. Groupon and LivingSocial have said that 20% to 30% of their purchased coupons are never used. People snatch up daily offers because they’re afraid to miss the opportunity. The coupons expire because customers purchased goods and services they would have otherwise ignored.

5. Exhibit authority, expertise, and knowledge

If people believe that you’re an expert and you offer them knowledge, they can be easily persuaded.

Robert Cialdini in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” cited a study that offers an example of this. In the study, an anonymous person gave incorrect medical instructions to experienced nurses over the phone. The anonymous person pretended to be a doctor. The nurses followed the “doctor’s” orders 95 percent of the time.

These tactics can optimize conversions in many ways. Copywriting is the most obvious. Writers must provide proof, examples, and details to generate trust with their audience. The author who uses these tactics looks confident and knowledgeable. People take your word when you exhibit authority, expertise, and knowledge.

If your conversion strategy has returned less-than-stellar results, turn to these tactics to persuade customers to make that final click.

Kayla Matthews is a blogger with a passion for conversion strategies. To read her latest articles, follow her on Google+. A version of this article first appeared on Convince & Convert.

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