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How you can turn your traffic into sales with micro conversions

By Marvin Dominguez · March 24, 2022
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You've probably poured a good amount of time and money into getting people to find and look at your website, but if that traffic isn't converting, it's not going to do much for you.

This common traffic-without-sales problem can be addressed by using micro conversions: tiny steps along the way to the real goal. I've used this technique to help improve the conversion rates for my LevelU clients, and it's shown measurable results. It might sound like a gimmick, but it's a strategy. Here's how it works.

What is a micro conversion?

Micro conversions are super small, incremental steps that your leads take on their way to converting.

Created by the proverbial door-to-door salespeople of pre-internet days, this technique was formerly known as the foot-in-the-door (FITD) technique. The origin of its name is quite literal. Back in the day, if a salesperson got their foot through a doorway, it meant you couldn't slam the door in their face. Which, unsurprisingly, boosted sales. 

But the metaphorical meaning of getting your foot in the door is to first make a small request and then follow up with a larger one. With this definition in mind, it makes sense to think of this persuasion technique as a micro conversion: a small yes leading to a bigger yes.

Gradually leading your customer through a sales process, the true power of the FITD technique is encouraging your customer to commit more and more to a buying decision before you reach your ultimate macro conversion. 

In 1966, Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser of Stanford University tested the technique's effect on compliance and found when researchers first asked for a small request and then followed up with a larger request, they saw 135% more conversions than with their control group.

Psychologists later theorized micro conversions drew their power from the natural human tendency to want to remain consistent with whom they present themselves as. This means that if they first responded positively to a small request, then they are more likely to respond positively to a larger request if it's similar to the first. Sometimes, it's harder to overcome the need to be consistent than to simply say no.

Regardless of why it works or the psychology behind it, it's clear that using micro conversions makes it easier for your visitors to say yes to your requests and increases your conversion rates.

How to add micro conversions to your CRO process

Using micro conversions in your conversion rate optimization (CRO) process is much easier than you might think. That's because what constitutes a micro conversion is pretty broad, depending on how far you want to dig into it.

Technically, a micro conversion is anything that increases your visitors' level of compliance in a certain line of actions. Notice, I specified "a certain line of actions"—compliance only works along the same trajectory. You can't build compliance for a certain type of request only to then switch directions and try to request something completely unrelated: don't follow up borrowing your friend's car by suddenly asking if you can cohabitate.

For micro conversions to work, the "asks" in the request funnels, also called compliance stacking, have to be related to each other. With that said, given the broad definition of a micro conversion, practically anything on your website can increase compliance, to a degree. 

This could be the amount of time someone spends on your website consuming your content, a view of an on-page video, or navigation to a particular page. But homing in on the outcome you want is the most beneficial way to implement your micro conversions. And the outcome you want? That's your macro conversion.

Here are some common macro conversion examples for different types of websites:

  • eCommerce: making a purchase

  • Social networks: creating an account

  • Service-based business website: a phone call that leads to a sale

  • Content websites: signing up for an email newsletter

  • SaaS companies: requesting a demo

  • Affiliate sites: clicking a sponsored link

Don't mix up your end goals or try to achieve multiple goals with one conversion funnel—it makes the process of building up to your macro conversion harder than it has to be. 

When you have your end goal in mind, reverse engineer a micro conversion path with stepping stones to reach that conversion.

How to build a micro conversion ladder or framework

Let's say your end goal is to sell a service to a website visitor. You might be inclined to simply throw your offer at visitors and hope for a purchase. But a visitor's level of compliance and willingness to buy is low when they first visit your website—meaning the website takes a big risk by making a big request without building up compliance. 

Instead of giving your sale request prematurely, break up the end goal into micro conversion steps.

Start by requesting something small from your visitor, like watching a short video or reading more of your copywriting. If your visitor complies, then you have effectively put your foot in the door—now it's time to make a larger ask from your visitor. The larger request comes with more risk of rejection, but you've already generated compliance from your visitor through a similar, smaller request, which balances things out.

So, after your visitor has watched a video or read all of your copy, ask for an email address or some form of contact information. After the email address, move your prospect to the next step of their buying journey: surface a live presentation or schedule an exploratory call. Just remember to escalate slowly instead of jumping from a smaller ask to a much larger ask.

As your prospect complies with your gradual requests, they're also spending time familiarizing themselves with your company. This builds trust and transforms them from a cold lead to a warmer lead.

This simple baby-step micro conversion ladder can be applied to practically any sales process. Just find a small request most of your visitors would comply with in the same vein as your large ask, and then gradually ramp up your asks, ending with your ultimate goal. 

Micro conversion example: Wholesale Suite's PDF guide

Implementing micro conversions in Wholesale Suite's sales process helped their conversion rate rise 1600%. All they did was separate their opt-in form into two separate steps. The original version offered high-value content in return for an email address, a pretty typical offer. In the revamped version, Wholesale Suite decided to break up the offer into two distinct steps, and the conversion rate skyrocketed. 

Here's the first, less-effective version:

A landing page with a form on it to enter you name and email address and a CTA "Send Me The PDF Guide!"

As you can see here, they put their macro conversion request as the first—and only—step of their sales process. 

Wholesale's second version split this ask up:

Landing page with no fields to complete and a CTA that says "Yes, Send My Free Guide!"

With this version, they're no longer asking for an email address but, instead, motivating their visitors to click on a zero-strings-attached button to acquire a free guide. 

At this point, the visitor doesn't know that they're stepping into a two-step opt-in where the back half will ask for their email address. In their mind, they're on the road to a free high-value guide. This makes pressing that green "Yes, Send My Free Guide!" button many times more compelling since the barrier to entry is very low.

Once the visitor clicks on the button, they've complied with the micro conversion, making it easier to succeed with the larger request (the email address). And you can put yourself in the clicker's shoes: when the prompt to enter your email address pops up, you're probably thinking, "well, I clearly wanted it enough to click, so why not give them my email address?"

Adding a small request to their process before asking for a macro conversion increased Wholesale Suite's conversion rate to 40.19%. Their previous conversion rate? 2.5%. Talk about explosive growth.

Take it slow

Nobody wants to land on a website and immediately be thrown into a sales pitch. It's too much pressure at the wrong time. You'd ask someone out on a date long before proposing marriage, right? Do the same with your customers. Use micro conversions to sell to your visitors the way they want to be sold—gradually, without being pressured, and after they've learned to trust you. Then you can plan the wedding.

This was a guest post by Marvin Dominguez, founder of LevelU, a ruthlessly result-focused SEO and web design agency. For a (limited availability) free 30-minute strategy session on your website's organic presence, check out the LevelU website. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.

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