There are two broad categories of visitors to your site. Understanding them will make you a better at conversion copywriting. You’ll deliver copy, offers and landing pages that perform.
By “better” I mean “money generating” or “lead generating.” Interested?
We recently completed a test for one of our clients that generated a 42% lift in leads for them simply by analyzing the kind of buyer that was coming.
We can find these kinds of wins for your business. Do you want our help?
Roy H. Williams of the Wizard Academy introduced these two buyers to me: Transactional and Relational.
Transactional buyers are those whose greatest fear is paying one dollar too much for something. They are the competitive shoppers. They love the shopping experience and will visit many stores and sites in search of bargains.
They want to be the expert.
They aren’t loyal to any brand or outlet, but seek the best price du jour.
On a landing page, these buyers are enticed by offering coupons, deals and discounts.
Relational Buyers’ greatest fear is buying the wrong thing. They see shopping as part of the cost of the purchase.
They seek out expert help, and will pay a premium for trusted guidance.
They rely on brands to help them make choices.
These buyers are drawn to assurances of quality, ratings and reviews, and information to help them choose.

Does Your Audience Lean Transactional or Relational?

Like Republicans and Democrats in the US, your visitors may naturally lean to one side or the other. You may even have an extreme “Tea Party” transactional audience or a “Bleeding Heart” relational audience. Testing is one way to find out.
Here’s an example. Laithwaites sells wine online. They did a test that took the exact same offer and presented it in relational and transactional ways.

Relational buyers care more getting a good wine than getting a good deal on wine.

This split test shows that more wine buyers prefer a good wine to a good deal on wine. They are relational buyers.

In their case, they found that the transactional message, leading with “Save $100 on 12 World-Class Reds” didn’t perform as well as the relational message that started with “Enjoy 12 World-Class Reds…”.
Laithwaites apparently has a relational audience, or the ad that drove traffic here made an offer with relational appeal.
Roy Williams makes another important point. Transactional shoppers are the least profitable of them all. They hunt relentlessly for your lowest price and don’t come back if they find something cheaper. We prefer not to optimize for these “LMLLV,” or “Low Margin, Low Lifetime Value” visitors.
If most of your advertising offers discounts, deals and coupons, you may be leaving your most profitable buyers behind.

Simple Copy Changes Can Make All the Difference

Our client sells home furnishings, and the offer was an on-site visit and consultation.
The best performing search ads for this client offered discounts, like “Now 20% Off – Save up to $100 on Advanced.”
However, the landing pages featured reasons to buy the product and benefits of the brand. This is a relational approach. The highest performing ads, however, are clearly transactional, offering discounts and savings.
Our hypothesis was that the landing page copy wasn’t appealing to the transactional shoppers the ad was drawing. The page didn’t keep the visitor on the scent.
To test our hypothesis, we created a “Transactional” landing page that emphasized the savings, and reinforced that the consultant would be able to offer even more savings.
The headline was changed from

FREE Design Consultation and Installation

Take the stress out of shopping


In Home Manufacturer Discounts

Our Certified Designers can offer you $100 off each unit you purchase.

This shifted the headline from a relational consultation to inviting someone into your home who can dole out the savings – very transactional.
We also added some additional copy touches that appeal to transactional shoppers. “Combine Discounts,” proclaimed one bullet. “Limited time only,” chirped another.
These changes gave us a 42% jump in conversions.
Let us design some tests for your business and draw more revenue from your existing traffic. We offer a free strategy session to help you map out our own optimization roadmap.

I have to admit, I was a little more nervous than usual presenting in front of an audience of psychologist-marketers.
You’ll see what I mean in the video.
Why would a Conversion Scientist be invited to speak at a Psych conference? Because our testing is designed to tell us things about your visitors that they cannot even explain themselves. This is why split testing is such a valuable tool. Visitors tell us what they prefer by how they act.
One thing testing has taught us is that there are bouncers in the human brain, and these bouncers must be dealt with before our messages will be processed and acted upon.
It’s just 20 minutes or so.

Hat tip to Roy H. Williams and the Wizard Academy for introducing me to the research I present here.


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Albert Mehrabian on Amazon

7 Eye-Catching Email Subject Lines to Catapult Your Open Rates | Unbounce

@unbounce – Writing headlines and subject lines and tweets all have something in common: You have a limited number of characters to get a prospect’s attention in a very noisy environment.
Steve Young gives us some tested subject lines to consider in our campaigns.
Have some fun with your subject lines and don’t take yourself too seriously!

Should I Use A Carousel?

So, should you use a carousel, those rotating hero images now found at the top of most B2B and B2C websites?

The answer is “carefully.”
This clever little site illustrates the reasons rotating banners are so frustrating. The timing, the amount of text and the order all come into play.
We have been able to tune a rotating hero on an ecommerce site so that it outperformed a static image. But it took several test cycles and didn’t work in every case.
Have a little chuckle at yourself and enjoy the content on this site — if you can read fast.

No More Guesswork: 5 Website Formats Proven to Get Results | The Daily Egg

The folks at CrazyEgg have a wonderful summary of the five website formulas found in my book. Read this and you can skip chapters 3 and 4.
Want to get Brian’s For Further Study posts delivered right to your inbox? Click HERE to sign up.

Apple has joined the posers.
“We love our customers!”
“We are the leader!”
“We start by asking, ‘How will it make you feel?'”
Apple was one of those brands that just didn’t have to say how they worked. They created products we didn’t expect and then showed us the products — with the same style that they built them.
This commercial is beautiful, a stylistic way to make an important point.
But it’s all about them. Not me.

I don’t think this bodes well for Apple.
If you can show how you’re different, remarkable or interesting don’t say it. If you have to say it, it probably isn’t true.

I was directed by a Facebook notification to a quotation so important that it deserved its own graphic panel. Clearly, this was a quote that needed to be read. As I read I thought, “This guy and I think a lot alike. Who is this Plato of the conversion world?”
UNBOUNCE quote from facebookAt the end was my name, and the quote had been taken from one of my recent blog posts on conversion and design. You could hear the air squealing into my already inflated head.
So infatuated was I with myself, that I immediately shared the – quotegraph? – with my entire network, and I’m writing a blog post about it. Who would have created such a honeypot for my ego? What entity would benefit from such bold action?
It was the very smart marketers at Unbounce. Their service provides easy ways to develop landing pages and to test different versions of those landing pages. Who spends their time recommending – nay demanding – that businesses use targeted landing pages to increase leads and sales? I do, as well as many other marketing experts, some of whom have already been targeted by Unbounce flattery.
If you’re reading this and this is your first introduction to the people at Unbounce, then tell us in the comments. That will be a testimonial to how effective this technique can be.
And it’s cheap.
I (and other experts) provide the content. All Unbounce had to do was lay the quote out all big and bold, and post it on Facebook. Very smart.
Will this also end up on my Pinterest page? Oh, yes.
Steal this idea for your industry.

The process of naming SXSW panels is part of the process of getting them accepted. The fine folks at SXSW seem to prefer interesting, surprising panel titles. Of course, they may be swayed by the votes that cleverly-named panels get at the start of the selection process. Thirty percent of the decision to choose a panel comes from the number of votes garnered.
An unexpected title might just help get votes.
Each year, I do a study of the SXSW panel names, looking for inspiration and common themes that I can use in my own email subject lines. This year, I present examples of panel titles that use the following hacks:

Things That Don’t Fit Together: Non-Sequiturs

Our brains are wired to discard the familiar faster than a bear can spell Constantinople. It is the unexpected that gets the attention of our conscious and prepares us for action. These titles demonstrate the use of twists to pull readers out of their inbox apathy.

Lists of Three

There is something memorable, readable, and easy-to-count about lists of three. This method is especially successful when the third item is overly specific or doesn’t fit. See “Things that Don’t Fit Together” above.

Shock and Awe

Boring subject lines make me want to poke needles into my eyes! Sometimes it makes sense to hit readers over the head with something that is just plain shocking. Sometimes.

Rhymes and Alliteration

Sensual subject lines supplement the bottom line. Alliteration is the repeated use of consonants. Rhymes grab your readers like a musical phrase. Don’t be afraid to add a little poetry to your prose.

Create a Common Enemy

You may find your reader united behind you by identifying a common enemy – like the delete key.

Insult Someone

Don’t be a wimp. When all else fails drop the political correctness and tell the reader what you really think.

Lead With a Number

Four session titles that use numbers. When we offer the reader a specific number of things, they know they are going to get a manageable set of tips or tricks that is easy to scan and digest.

Make Up Words

If you find yourself with subjectlinitis, tossing a memebomb or two may be your best hope. New words can turn a deletophile into a reader.

Pop Culture References

If you know your audience, you slip them some “Funky Cold Medina” in the form of a pop-culture reference. For your geeks, “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” will do. For the younger generation, something from the “Harry Potter” series might make a connection. Music is usually a sure bet. Can you name the sources of the following references?

Metaphors and Similes

Similes are like can openers for the mind. Metaphors are the batteries in the flashlight of your email. The technical term for this style of messaging is “transubstantiation,” using the characteristics of one thing to add meaning to another in the eyes of the reader.

Target an Audience

Right-handed marketers, take note! Targeting your audience can significantly increase the relevance to two groups of people: those to whom you are speaking, and those who feel left out by the fact that you aren’t speaking to them (you left-handers felt a twinge of anger at being left out, didn’t you?).
This approach takes guts, as you are consciously ignoring part of your audience in the hope of truly engaging another.

Sex Sells

Even the “oldest profession in the world” required some persuasive messaging. Your reader may see sex as the most base or most exalted activity humans can engage in. This is the risk and the reward for bawdy banter in your email subject lines.

Big Promises

If you’ve got the goods, big promises will make you rich in as little as three days. Big promises make the reader ask, “So, how can you do that?” even if they are skeptical. Of course, if you can’t deliver on the promise with sufficient proof in your email, all is lost – including your credibility.

Add an “i”

New This Year, turn your subject line into an iLine! All it takes is one little vowel.
I give you over 100 examples of each of these in my ClickZ column 14 Email Subject Line Hacks. I promise you’ll be amused and inspired.

Joanna Wiebe of CopyHackers.comI’ve been putting the finishing touches on my Conversion Conference presentation entitled Creating Killer Conversion Copy: Emails, Landing Pages, PPC Ads and MoreI asked Joanna Wiebe of to give me her opinion on writing copy that converts. She clearly has an opinion. I thought Scott Stratten was the epitome of a Canadian Diva. Then I met Joanna. (She’ll be mortified that I wrote that.)

Download | Subscribe
We cover a lot of ground in the podcast.

  • A well-thought-out definition of copy.
  • Is copy images? Is the Pinterest home page copy?
  • Can anyone write copy?
  • Does a copywriter for the Web have to understand design? How about analytics?
  • How can I choose a copywriter that is going to increase conversions?
  • What is Joanna’s process for creating copy that tests well over and over? Get $100 off of the Conversion Conference West 2012 in San Francisco, March 5-6.

For more on social media strategy, sign up to get a copy of my up-coming book: The Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Formulas of the Conversion Scientist.

We have a little fun with Copywriters in my newest Content Marketing Institute post, How to Find the Right Copywriter for your Landing Pages.
Pencil-pusherIf you could only hire one professional that would increase the number of people who buy or become a lead on your site, it would be a copywriter.
They can paint more detailed pictures than a photographer.
They can use more colorful language than a designer.
Communicate with humans and search engines.
If you’re going to dominate your competition online, it is because they write their copy themselves. I suggest you find a good direct response copywriter and let them do their work.
To help you get familiar with the kinds of copywriters you might meet in a dark alley, I’ve described five that I’ve run into on a regular basis.

  1. The Styrofoam Sandwich Writer

  2. The SEO Substituter

  3. The Frustrated Novelist

  4. The Soviet-era Propagandist

  5. The Persuader

Most copywriters you meet will be a combination of some of these.
Tell me about your favorite copywriter in the comments. Let us know what combination of the above he or she exhibits.
Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist teaches businesses of all sizes how to get more leads and sales from the traffic coming to their Web site.
Contact Brian Massey
Photo courtesy nkzs.

The amazing SXSW conference has kicked into full swing here in Austin. I haven’t been to a single session yet, and I’ve already learned something of great value I can share with you.
It came in the SXSW session catalog.
The session selection process is very competitive. Every summer, SXSW puts out a call for session and panel ideas. People vote on their sessions and then the crew at SXSW passes final judgment.
It’s very competitive. This year, some 2500 ideas were submitted.
If your session gets accepted you will find yourself competing for attendees with some of the most interesting, influential and innovative professionals. Your session title has to really grab attention in a sea of hundreds of choices.
It’s kind of like the competition for your inbox.
All of this competition has created perhaps the most creatively named agenda in conferencedome.
Your commercial email would enjoy significantly greater open rates if you used SXSW subject lines. No one’s going to click through from your email if they don’t open it and read it.

Subject Lines Must Wake Up the Mind at Any Cost

To use these techniques, you must believe that you can use almost any premise in your subject line to engage the reader and entice them to click.
To prove this point, I am going to take the most abstract title from the following list, use it as a subject line, and create an email that will get readers to click through to my site.
First, the list. Yes, these are actual SXSWinteractive 2011 session titles. I’ve grouped them by the strategies the presenters used in naming their sessions, strategies that you can incorporate into your email subject lines.

Sex and Relationships


  • The Sexual Survival Guide for Geeks: Healthy sex and relationships

  • Sausagefest: Getting More Women into New Media & Tech

  • Fun with the Lights Off: Interactivity Without Graphics

  • How Social Media Fu@k’d Up My Marriage (Learn how not to have your relationship ruined by the online world)

  • Subtle Sexuality: Adds Spice to Shows

Things that Don’t Fit Together (non sequiturs)


  • Block Party Capitalism: Where Analog and Digital Intersect

  • What Comic Books Can Teach Mobile Application Designers

  • Your Mom Has an iPad: Designing for Boomers

  • Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better

  • Why New Authors Should Think Like Indie Bands

  • Why my phone should turn off the Stove – Mobile monitoring of energy consumption

  • Building Fences in the Sky: Geo-fencing Has Arrived

  • I’m so productive, I never get anything done

  • Your Computer is the Next Wonder Drug (Improving interactions with the medical community)

  • What Digital Tribes Can Learn from Native Americans

Left Field


  • Help! A Giant Meteor is Headed Our Way! Cause Shift, Things that need to change

  • OMG – My Pancreas Just Texted

Pop Culture References


  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Babelfish: Automated Translation

  • U.S. Military’s Mad Science Revealed: DARPA Projects predict the future

  • Dear Miss Manners: the Social Web, WTF?

  • Social Media and the NBA

  • Zombies Must Eat: How Genre Communities Make Money

  • Minority Report: Social Media for Decreasing Health Disparities

  • My Prototype Beat Up Your Business Plan

  • Geppetto’s Army: Creating International Incidents with Twitter Bots

  • #FAIL: Infamous social Media PR Disasters



  • Stop Listening to Your Customers: Researching customer needs without asking them.

  • I’ve Never Met My Coworkers: Running International Teams

  • Who Are You and Why Should I Care? Personal branding

  • When Facebook Falls: Future-proofing Your Social Media Efforts

  • 27 (Fun!) Ways to Kill Your Online Community

  • HTML5? The Web’s Dead, Baby.

  • A World without SXSW

  • Fail big, Fail Often: How Fear Limits Creativity

  • Congratulations! Your Brand is About to Become Obsolete

  • The End of Reading in the USA

Science or Science Fiction References


  • The Next Rocket Scientist: You

  • Do Tablets Dream of Electric News?

  • How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

Pure Shock


  • Bordering Incest: Turning Your Company into a Family

  • Baby’s Gotta face For Radio: Web Based Radio?

  • Grow some balls: Build Business Relationships

  • Social Media and Comedy: F**k Yeah!

  • Kill Your Call Center! Bring Your Support Home

  • Bend Over? Surprise! Agencies Are Screwing You

  • How Blogs with Balls are Saving Sports Media

  • How to Personalize Without Being Creepy



  • Bloggers vs. Journalists: It’s a psychological Thing

  • Seven Reasons Your Employees Hate You

  • Influencer Throwdown: Proving Influence Once and For All

Invented Words


  • Radically Onymous: How Ending Privacy is Awesome!

  • Old Spice Resurrected: How Aging Icon Pwned Internet

  • The Future Enernet: a Conversion with Bob Metcalfe (Internet founder)

  • Technomadism: Becoming a Technology Enabled Nomad



  • Defining the Diaspora: Global Collaboration and Social Change

  • The Man in the Van needs Geo Location

  • Chatter Matters: Using Twitter to Predict Sales

  • People as Peripherals: The Future of Gesture Interface

  • Of Fanboys & Fidelity: Adopting Comics for Broad Audiences

Twisted Euphemisms


  • Cure for the Common Font – Secrets of selecting type

  • Influencers Will Inherit the Earth. Quick, Market to Them!

Any Subject Line Will Do

Even the most abstract subject line can be used to make a point. Here’s how I would tie one from the list to an offer for my business:

From: Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist
Subject: OMG! My Pancreas Just Texted
OMG, my pancreas just texted.
My Liver just phoned.
My stomach just tweeted.
My brain is sending smoke signals.
Every cell of my body is dying to tell you about a new video I’ve just released.
Why am I (and all of my bodily parts) excited? Because online video marketing is rocking conversion rates.
Search engines love it.
Visitors love it.
Businesses like yours are getting more leads and sales from it.
And I think I’ve made it easy for anyone to understand how to use video on their Web site.
In just 11 minutes, I’m going to show you how to present a video on your site that will significantly increase the number of leads you’re getting from the traffic you already have.
Skeptical? Maybe I’m crazy.
I challenge you to take a look and see. If you don’t come away with a better understanding of how to increase conversion rates with video, I’ll get my spleen to cut down the chatter and leave you alone.
If you DO get it, I invite you to join a very special mailing list in which you’ll start to understand how to make all of your marketing convert visitors to leads and sales.
Watch Getting a Reaction from Online Video, and let me know what you think.
My heart will thank you for it.
Best regards,
Brian Massey

It’s 130 words long, and can build your practice or get you more interviews

Email is the biggest social network on the planet. Even 80-year-olds have been on email long before giving Facebook a try. Because of this, it is the most effective tool for building a network that will connect you with the people that can give you work — whether you are a freelancer or a The Market for Me Book Blog.
The problem is that email is a very personal medium. If we send unsolicited email, we feel we’re invading someone’s personal space. After all, we’ve all had spammers invade our space.

The Magic Email

The Magic Email gives you polite, respectful access to your email network. It contains the following components:


  • It is specific about it’s purpose: to get permission to contact someone by email

  • It states exactly what the recipient can expect from future emails

  • It states specifically how the recipient can help

  • It offers to reciprocate, making you a resource for them

  • It tells the recipient how to remove themselves from your list

As a bonus, it should offer something of value; a link to something of broad interest.
The Magic Email creates an email network that has given you permission to contact them. It is through these contacts that you will win more freelance opportunities, and have your resume and cover letter delivered directly to hiring managers.

The Details of the Strategy

If you want to turn email into a work-generating network, listen to my presentation at Freelance Austin. Furthermore, Austin-based™ has sponsored a free copy of my book The Market for Me: Surviving Job Loss and Building Your Lifetime Career Network.

Download Audio | Subscribe to Podcast
The Job Song courtesy of Industrial Jazz Group via Music Alley.