intended consequences podcast

How do you do performance-based web design without putting your creatives in a straight jacket? We asked a designer that has been put in that very situation.

pictures of tom niemeyer and brian massey of conversion sciences

Tom Niemeyer and Brian Massey of Conversion Sciences

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A group of kids goes to visit a ranch. Behind the ranch house the land stretches uninterrupted to the horizon. The rancher suggests that the kids go out and play. If you tracked the paths of these naturally curious children, you’d find that they stayed close to the ranch house, not venturing far out onto the land. They would tend to remain in safe groups as they played.

The next summer, the kids visit the ranch again. This time, the rancher has built a fence to create a large back yard. Again, the rancher sends the children out to play. This time, their paths would be quite different. You would see them venturing out to the very edges of the yard, exploring in this smaller-but-manageable space. They would move more freely and play more independently.

Now, this parable is based on studies of rats. I’ve turned the data into a more relatable story.

Like the wide open land, the web offers an open expanse of design possibilities. If you believe the research and my parable of the ranch kids, you’ll agree that this may be a bad thing. The study of rats indicated that open spaces elevated anxiety in the rats, while the enclosed space reduced anxiety.

If you’re designing for the web, you are in an open space of possibility. This, according to the research, results in an anxiety response. There’s a whole lot more unknown out there, and every place feels dangerous.

Alternatively, if you fence yourself in, you actually increase the area of consideration. Anxiety is reduced, exploration is increased. But you also quickly find the boundaries.

I keep this study in mind, because I see data as a fence. It creates an enclosed space, a space that can encourage exploration, but it can also create the sense of limitation. Designers are a tough bunch. They want guidelines, but they hate the idea of limits.

This makes them seem like divas, difficult to please in any situation. So what is a data-driven marketer to do?

I decided to put a web designer on the spot.

How do you deal with designers who want guidance, but hate limitations? In other words, how do you introduce data into the design process without putting your creatives in a straight jacket?

I asked a designer. In fact, I asked a designer who we’ve been doing this to for over a year now.

Tom Niemeyer has been the designer-among-nerds here at Conversion Sciences. If there is any doubt that conversion optimization can be improved by a good sense of design, Tom has put it to rest for us.

For me the question is this: How close to the ranch house do you put the fence? This topic required two episodes. Listen to what he says in part one..

“Sometimes we’re running from our old Website more than running toward the new Website”

The three D’s of Web Design

The three “D”s that Tom talks about are fences.
Deadlines. Decision-makers. Desire paths. What are the primary limiters of your design process?

This is going to require some honesty on your part.

On a scale of one to five rate your current project.

  • One to five: The deadline is King.
  • One to five: The decision maker is the Queen.
  • One to five: The end-user is the one-eyed Jack.

How did you score? Most likely there are two that dominate. And this pattern shows up in all of your projects.

Would your teammates agree? Maybe you should ask.

In Part 2 of my conversation with Tom we talk about defending your design with data. Subscribe to get that next episode. And, don’t forget to send us your questions –

Now go science something.

Resources Discussed

Quick Links

What is the key to creating a persuasive website? Calum Coburn takes a page from the negotiator’s handbook. Learn the key to being persuasive both in person and on the Web.

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“Turn the other cheek.”

This well-worn phrase has come to mean many things. Forgive easily. Don’t over-react. Be strong in the face of adversity.

All of the focus is on the person doing the cheek turning. But the truth is, there is no righteous turning of cheeks without a slap. The full quote from the Bible is this:

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

— Matthew 5:39

This is the classic hero’s journey in one sentence. The hero is presented with an event that changes his world. People will hit you. He faces a choice, to strike back or to elevate himself and turn the other cheek. If he passes this test, he will be transformed.

But none of this happens without the slap. This is traditionally the role of the villain in our stories and myths.

The hero’s journey also shows up in our marketing. We call them customer journeys. If we want to make our customers heroes, it begs the question:

Who plays the villain?

One choice for persuasive website

When we are writing persuasively, we have a fundamental choice: Do we emphasize the positive aspects of our offering, or do we emphasize the potential loss that comes from inaction.

In the first case, we are selling our visitors. In the second we are playing the villain, presenting a negative consequence and agitating our heroes into action.

Would you like to know which works better according to science?

Calum Coburn has the data, and he comes with a very interesting perspective: the world of negotiation. Calum is a trainer, coach and consultant to businesses who want to be better at negotiating.

What does he know about persuasion and how can we use it in our digital marketing.

We talk about the concept of “prospect theory,” and today’s guest is an expert. Literally.

Calum Coburn is the Director and Vice President of The Negotiation Experts, a training and consulting firm that enables sales teams to drive measurable profit improvements.

On today’s show, Calum and Brian discuss the finer points of “prospect theory,” along with how to start building the foundations of trust as soon as your prospects see your web copy.

Resources Discussed

Quick Links

What stands in the way of converting marketing leads to sales and revenue? Sammy James has the data and a solution for marketing leads that seem to evaporate when sent to sales.

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Do you remember how we got movie times before the internet? For a large part of my audience, the answer might be “what do you mean ‘BEFORE’ the internet??”.

It was a service called Moviefone 800-777-FILM. Call and it would read the local movie listings to you.

That’s right. People would actually take the phone from the kitchen wall and dial a number to have movie times read to them. This service didn’t shut down until February of 2014.

The men who created this service weren’t making movies or selling tickets. They were making it easier for people to choose movies, eventually leading to them buying tickets. They still did well. Moviefone was sold to AOL in 1999 for $388 million dollars.

The service answered two questions: “Is there a movie I would like to see?” And, “Is there a showtime that works for me?”

The Truth about Marketing Leads

There’s an assumption that sales is going to just [call], that it’s like throwing a piece of steak across the fence to a junkyard dog. You don’t have to worry. They’re gonna grab it. It’s not going to sit there. That’s the assumption of how sales works.

I’m always fascinated by the kind of people that can apply technology to problems even when it seems unintuitive. Why would someone call when they can just look the movie times up in the news paper? Because someone created a service that made it easy enough, that was focused on exactly what was needed, and got the word out about it.

My guest is one of these people.

Sammy James is one of those people who focuses on a problem and single-mindedly work to solve it completely. He sees filling out an online form as the equivalent of sitting down at a restaurant with no waiters. No matter how hungry you are, you’re not going to wait for too long.

Sammy is the founder of a service that connects salespeople to prospects when they fill out a form. It’s a Moviefone-like problem with a Moviefone solution.

What the Data Says: Email, Podcasts, & Lead Conversion

What does the data tell us about effective email, podcasts and converting leads to sales? It's in here.
  • * Biggest misunderstandings
  • * Important metrics
  • * Applying the data
39 page PDF Fits on your phone
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

What the data says displayed on phone and spread of pages

Marketing Leads and Your Website

Your website is the Moviefone of your business. Unless you sell an online service, your website’s only job is making it easier for your prospects to make a choice. It answers two questions: “Is this something that will solve my problem?” and “Should I spend more time investigating this solution?”

All of the content you generate to persuade a visitor to buy your product may be wasted time. Your website doesn’t sell your business, it sells the next step. The quote. The demo. The trial. The sales meeting.

When you get back to the office, navigate your website and identify how much of your content is persuading your visitors to buy, and how much of it is persuading them to take one more step.

How much smaller would your site be if it was focused on selling the next step instead of closing the whole deal?

Now go science something.

Links and Resources

Read and Listen

Click anywhere in the transcript to listen.

Can a podcast lend an important human voice to our otherwise robotic digital brands? Here’s what the data says.

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A website has some limitations when it comes to growing your brand. A website has to wait until someone comes to visit. It’s like that kid always hoping someone will sleep over.

You can’t send it out on a tour, like a book author. It won’t fill stadiums with screaming fans. It doesn’t count as a passenger so you can use the HOV lane.

When you think about it, a website is more like the brick and mortar store of the digital world. Actually, if you’ve seen the way websites are designed, they are really more like a booth at a generic convention. In Topeka.

If you saw your website at a party, how long would you want to hang out with it, if at all? Isn’t your website more teller machine and less Teller.

Fear not, for the digital world offers a way to lend your digital brand the humanity your website struggles with.

What the Data Says: Email, Podcasts, & Lead Conversion

What does the data tell us about effective email, podcasts and converting leads to sales? It's in here.
  • * Biggest misunderstandings
  • * Important metrics
  • * Applying the data
39 page PDF Fits on your phone
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

What the data says displayed on phone and spread of pages

Podcasting is a Shortcut to our Hearts

We’ve been talking about the Cluetrain Manifesto lately, and thesis number three says that conversations between brands and people “sound human” and are “conducted in a human voice.”

Even today, this sentiment flies in the face of our tightly controlled, highly produced, and frequently foiled image-building campaigns. But we know it’s true.

Because, there is a shortcut to your customers’ hearts, and it’s not through their stomachs. Nor is it through open heart surgery. It’s through the holes we use to drain our airpods sitting on either side of our heads.

It’s podcasting.

So how does podcasting work in a digital marketing context. How do you measure it? And what can you expect from this semi-digital medium.

I went to the source. Rob Walch is VP of Podcaster Relations for LibSyn, the leading podcast host. The guy who said, “If you want to be on the radio, just call in a lot!”

It’s an opportunity to go long form with potential clients or with your target audience. You don’t have to be in pitch mode all the time. You can be yourself. You can talk about real benefits. That’s it. It’s it’s the opposite of Twitter”

I vented some of my frustrations with Podcasting — hint: it’s not a direct response medium — and got an unexpected answer. He also shared with me the data behind the top shows that Libsyn hosts.

When you get back to the office…

What would the voice of your brand be? Or who? Would it be you? Could it be you?

Have you ever practiced your radio voice. I’m using mine now.

Since you’re probably in your car now, you should give it a try. Drop your voice into the back of your throat and push air out with your diaphragm. Then let your voice drop and rise on random words.

Now, try describing your favorite movie. “In a world before running water…”

If you’re stopped at a light, don’t worry. People in other cars will just think you’re singing along to your favorite Bon Jovi tune. Unless they’re listening to this podcast too.

So, how did that feel, giving yourself a voice, a voice designed to communicate? How would it feel to give your brand a voice like that?

Again, could that voice be yours?

Now go scare someone with your radio voice.

Links and Resources

It’s a big question. “When should I invest in conversion optimization for my website?” Even though I’ve been preaching the benefits of CRO since 2006, I don’t consider it an obvious decision. Instead of telling you what I think, I asked a competitor to tell you, just to keep me honest.

We have answered the question, “How do I pick a conversion optimization consultant,” before. We’ve also told you where to go and get your CRO budget. Now we answer the question of “when” is the right time for conversion rate optimization.

If I’m going to truly help you improve your online business, I have to help you answer this question. The problem is that I have a conflict. It’s easy for me to say, “Hire my company, Conversion Sciences.”

It’s my fiduciary duty as the Managing Partner. Getting new clients is one of the goals of this podcast and why we spend so much time and money on it.

I am eminently qualified to answer this question because of my years of experience, BUT I’m NOT going to be the best source of information on this because I am biased.

So I did something crazy, something that arguably violates my fiduciary duty to my company.

Don’t tell my partner.

Getting a second opinion on Conversion Rate Optimization

To help make you better at investing in conversion optimization services, I did something I may regret.

I invited a direct competitor onto this podcast. Why would I, after all of my investment in producing and marketing this podcast, offer a platform to a competitor?

Because you need a second opinion. Rather than make you go out and find it, I’m going to provide it to you right here on the podcast.

I believe that if I help you answer this question, you will make a better decision. I also believe that our reputation, our brand value and our track record make our brand strong. Strong brands can take risks, especially those that can benefit their customers and prospects.

There are a LOT of websites that need conversion optimization. There is plenty of business to go around.

To help you make the decision about buying conversion optimization services, I didn’t choose some slouch conversion optimization agency spewing best practices. Jon MacDonald is the founder and President of conversion optimization agency called The Good. He has been doing this almost as long as I have. I have to tell you, I was surprised at how similar our two approaches are.

And Jon’s path is very similar to mine.

“If you’re not getting the traffic and engagement to even prove your product is sustainable, then you really shouldn’t be investing in optimizing.”

When you get back to the office…

I recommend that you get an understanding of how small increases in your conversion rate can affect your income.

Search for “Conversion Sciences Calculator” using your favorite search engine.

There you can enter your average monthly traffic, the number of conversions you get, and the value of a conversion — either the transaction order value or the value you’ve placed on a lead or subscriber.

If you aren’t sure, don’t worry. You can play “what if” with the numbers after entering your name and email.

It’s the first step toward understanding if your business is ready for conversion optimization. If you like what you see there, you can schedule a free conversion consultation on our website.

Now go science something.

Positioning your product or service requires understanding the root desire of your website visitors. This changes from visitor to visitor. Positioning your offering generically to appeal to them all doesn’t work. Find out what does.


Why do people buy robot vacuums?

Is it to clean the floor? Maybe.

Is it to have more leisure time? Maybe.

Is it to be seen as tech-savvy to your friends? Hmmm.

Is it to see how your cat will react? That’s interesting.

These are the kinds of questions that the “Jobs to be Done” framework seeks to tease out. Your website and your marketing should address one or more of these positioning statements — at least the valid ones.

“So, Jobs to be Done is a framework that is used to understand the crux of what your customer or potential customer is looking for, to understand what is driving them in the moment where they are ready to make a purchase.”

How do businesses like Casper and Warby Parker carve out space in competitive markets? By positioning the product to a market desire that isn’t obvious to the market leaders.

“Casper was brilliant in convincing people with perfectly fine mattresses that they needed to receive a mattress by mail.”

This is what me and Tara Hunt, my guest on this episode of Intended Consequences discuss. We also talk about the Flywheel approach.

Positioning your product or service accurately is one step. The next is to get into the minds of your audience. Casper used podcasts as one salient way to reach their audience.

“Casper was on podcasts and people that listen to podcasts tend to think companies that advertise on podcasts are cool.”

How to Manage Positioning Your Product or Service

If you’re like me, the positioning ideas are crowding around in your head right now. Old ideas that you thought were just too risky to try are vying for attention against new ideas from my conversation with Tara.

It’s time to give your intuition a little help.

When you get back to the office, immediately open up a clean spreadsheet. Label the first column “Idea”. Label the second column “Data”.

Start jotting the thoughts in your head in the first column. Just describe them enough so that you can recall them in detail later. If you need to draw something, reference the page in your journal in the Idea column.

The “Data” column is where you will list ways to test the idea. List any and all of these that apply:

  • Similar campaigns that have succeeded
  • A report in analytics that you should run to get evidence
  • A strategy for trying the idea in the marketplace safely
  • Surveys, focus groups, or user testing that could vet the idea
  • Any allies that may have supporting evidence for the idea

This is the beginning of your hypothesis list, a list that should guide your curiosity as you write, design, plan and create communications.

Get in the habit of opening it when you start a new design, document or project.

Now go science something.

Links and Resources

Connect with Tara on Linkedin
Learn more about Truly.
Cluetrain Manifesto
Donna Pappacosta “Earbud Intimate”
Jim Collins Flywheel
Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”
Imagineering Story Trailer
Follow Brian on LinkedIn

“Markets are Conversations.” This the opening salvo in the Cluetrain Manifesto. It’s 95 theses were written at the dawn of the commercial internet to help businesses understand how things had changed. Twenty years later, did we heed their advice? Is the Cluetrain Manifesto still relevant?

Contrarians. They’re trouble. At least they’re trouble in structured organizations.

Contrarians seem to always take the stance in opposition to the status quo.

They are more likely to have an authority complex, not because they don’t like to be told what to do, but because authority figures are more likely to do things the way things have always been done.

They are the “But maybe…” in your “Of course we…”.

They are the exceptions to your rule.

They point out the interesting sites along your commute that you’ve never noticed.

It’s hard for contrarians. They believe that you don’t “get it” every bit as much as you believe they don’t get it. They tend to see things as they are and have an unhealthy disregard for tradition.

It’s hard for businesses to find a place for contrarians. But, when they do find their place, the results can be incredible. Think Steve Jobs. He was kicked out of the company he founded before returning to it at a desperate hour.

And maybe this is when we should listen to contrarians, in those desperate hours.

The Desperate Hour of the Cluetrain Manifesto

Back in 1999 a group of contrarians saw a desperate hour approaching. A new tool had begun to change the fundamentals of communication, commerce and expression. The internet was shifting marketing so fundamentally, these contrarians believed, that it would change the way buyers buy and businesses sell.

“The Clue train was all about that. It was all about disrupting the marketing conversation.”

Confused businesses saw the internet as just another broadcasting channel, a place for their crafted ads and manipulative marketing. The contrarians felt businesses really needed to get a clue, to climb aboard the train that had already left the station, headed for the future.

In the spirit of Martin Luther, who launched the protestant revolution by nailing 95 theses on the door of a Catholic church, they nailed their 95 theses on the door of the church of ideas: the world wide web.

The Cluetrain Manifesto was immensely influential to me when it came out in 1999. Yes. Left to my own devices, I am a contrarian. My contrarian bent cost me more than one job and even a few friendships.

But I found my place during a desperate hour. Be mindful of contrarians in positions of power.

It was during a conversation with a new friend, Tara Hunt, that I found a fellow Cluetrain contrarian. Tara is the CEO of marketing strategy agency Truly and is launching Phlywheel, a resource for DIY marketers.

Honestly, I hadn’t thought about the Cluetrain Manifesto in years. When I read it now, it seems obvious, so ingrained is it in my psyche.

I was so glad to rediscover it, that I recorded it for you on this podcast.

Tara and I reminisced about this amazing document and looked back at its impact. Did we businesses learn the lessons of the Cluetrain Manifesto? This conversation took so many turns that we split it into two parts.

In part one, we start off talking about what the Cluetrain Manifesto was about.

In part two, we look at social media, which was nothing like it is today when the Cluetrain Manifesto was created.

Resources and links

Connect with Tara on Linkedin
Learn more about Truly.
Cluetrain Manifesto
Donna Pappacosta “Earbud Intimate”
Jim Collins Flywheel
Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”
Follow Brian on LinkedIn

The Cluetrain Manifesto was written in 1999 by Rick Levine, Chris Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger.

It struck me that the new generations of business owners, marketers and executives may have missed this amazing document. It’s been twenty years, after all.

So, as a bonus to our Intended Consequences podcast listeners, I recorded it. I hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I enjoyed reading it in 1999.

The 95 Theses of The Cluetrain Manifesto

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For more Cluetrain Manifesto audio, listen to my conversation with Tara Hunt.

In keeping with the tenets of the authors, the Cluetrain Manifesto audio is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

You are free to share and adapt the Cluetrain Manifesto audio file under the following terms:

Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

Maybe the best behavioral design framework for your website is the same one that you can use to change your personal habits.

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The man walked onto the stage in a colorful robe. He was holding a small oar. He claimed he was wearing a magician’s robe and that the oar was his magic wand and that he was going to do something magical with us.

This was seven years ago at Conversion Conference 2012. I still remember this keynote — and I’ve forgotten many.

The magic he performed was to teach us an important model for changing behaviors. Before the hour was over, he had asked us to teach the person next to us what he had shared: his behavioral model.

I live by the belief that, “The best way to really learn something is to teach it to someone else.” Indeed, his model was one I never forgot having taught it to someone else.

So, when BJ Fogg announced that he was finally releasing a new book, I invited him to be on the Intended Consequences podcast. With few changes, what he taught us seven years earlier had changed little. His new book, “Tiny Habits” has turned those business management lessons into a program for individual behavioral change.

My mindmap notes from his Conversion Conference session are available below.

Changing Habits with Behavioral Design cover and selected pages.

No time to listen? Download the Summary of this Interview

Real time behavioral design

At one point in our conversation, BJ visualized how to apply his behavioral model to the problem of conversion. I animated this part of the conversation for you.

Click to hear an explanation of BJ Fogg’s Behavioral Design Framework

BJ knows behavioral design and clearly applies it in his life. BJ teaches at Standford. He founded the Behavioral Design Lab there to study human behavior. Each year, his course tackles issues big and small. Like peace. And connecting to nature.

Anyone involved in marketing is involved in what he calls “Behavioral Design”. Listen to how this science can change your behaviors and your marketing effectiveness.

Habits make time for themselves.

When you get back to the office…

Let’s see if we can develop a tiny habit around experimenting. The habit we want to get into is considering data when we begin any creative project. As BJ told us, it doesn’t have to be big. In fact we should make it very small.

So the Prompt or Trigger is this: you sit down to write copy, to design an ad, to layout a webpage. I recommend that your tiny behavior be this: log into analytics. You don’t have to look at any reports. You don’t have to do any analysis. Just log in. Then you can log out and begin your project.

I’m trusting the process here, but according to Tiny Habits, you’ll begin to think about data more often. And then something will begin to change.

Now go behave like a scientist.

Resources and Links

Maybe the best behavioral design framework for your website is the same one that you can use to change your personal habits. Sketch of BJ Fogg presentation at conversion conference 2012

BJ Fogg Conversion Conference 2012 Notes

Transcript of BJ Fogg Interview

Brian Massey: When BJ Fogg announced that he was finally releasing a new book, I invited him to be on the Intended Consequences podcast. With few changes, what he taught us seven years earlier had changed little. His new book, Tiny Habits has turned those business management lessons into a program for individual behavior change. BJ knows behavioral design, and he clearly applies it in his life. He teaches at Stanford and he founded the Behavior Design Lab there to study human behavior. Each year, his course tackles issues big and small like peace and connecting to nature. Anyone involved in marketing is involved in what he calls behavioral design. Listen to how the science can change your behaviors and your marketing effectiveness. BJ, I’m always interested in what gets people to where they are. What is it that makes you so interested in behavioral science?
BJ Fogg: I think it goes back a long, long time.
Brian Massey: It usually does.
BJ Fogg: Just training and just a sense of responsibility for helping others, serving other people. I grew up in a religious tradition.
Brian Massey: That’s interesting.
BJ Fogg: That really was the point. I mean, we’re here on this earth to serve. Even though I’m not part of that religious tradition, that upbringing certainly is part of who I am or that sense of things.
Brian Massey: This is really a way of helping people as much as a curiosity about the science behind all of this.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, for sure.
Brian Massey: Your new book is Tiny Habits. As we were talking about, seven years ago I saw the things that are in the book in an earlier form, but they’re remarkably similar. There were two things that stuck out for me seven years ago and that was a very simple model. You did something during your presentation. You had us teach the person sitting next to us that model. I want to explore this teaching as learning thing because it seems to run through at least seven years ago to today, it seems to run through it because it is part of the book. Why don’t you start off though and give us the top level view of how we change our lives using this Tiny Habits methodology?
BJ Fogg: Okay. There’s two different paths we can go. One is down the behavior design path and talk about the behavior model, which is wow, it’s hard to believe that was seven years ago, which is what we did at the conference. The other path is this specific method that I call Tiny Habits. Tiny Habits works like this. It’s basically three hacks that you do so you can create habits easily and quickly. Number one, you take the new habit you want and you scale it way back. Say you want to drink more water. You scale it way back maybe to just pouring a glass of water. Here I’m picking up a glass of water that I poured this morning as my habit. It’s not even drink the water. It might just be pour it. Or if you want to do pushups, like I do a lot of, it’s not 20 pushups. It’s two. You can make it really, really tiny. That’s hack one. Hack two is you find where does this fit naturally in the course of my day and you’re looking for what it comes after.
You’re looking for a routine you already do reliably. In Tiny Habits, we call that an anchor. You attach the new habit to the anchor. In the case of pouring a glass of water, I think or the two, when I put my breakfast plate on the counter and thank my partner for breakfast. After that I pour water. The third hack is what wires in the habit. What causes habits to form is not repetition unlike so many people keep saying, and it’s not accurate. What creates habit is emotions. In Tiny Habits, you deliberately fire off a positive emotion and we call that a celebration. You do that effectively, that habit will substantially wire into your brain. That is a part of Tiny Habits sometimes people disregard. I mean, it’s important because that’s the thing that actually wires the habit in. I know it sounds really weird and it’s odd because I’ve taught thousands and thousands of people this method so I know that some people resist the celebration piece. They’re missing the point.
Brian Massey: I don’t think that this crowd is going to be that strange because we’ve got gaming concepts where we’re trying to reward our visitors for micro conversions or little things that they’re doing. Mailchimp famously released components on their interface that whenever you sent an email or accomplished something, it would give you an animated high five sort of thing. I don’t think this is that strange.
BJ Fogg: Well, good. Brian, those are great examples. Once you get clear that it’s the emotions that create habits, you will see this all around you in successful systems. I mean, anything that’s created habit in you is doing this in some form. Yes, you’ll see it everywhere and then it’s really hard to believe that we’ve missed this point for, well, forever until I basically published the book and I have a chapter on it. Yes, I’ve been teaching it in Tiny Habits since 2011 but the book is, in my book is really the first time I’ve written about it in depth and explained it. I think that will be the reference for this concept.
Brian Massey: Now, how do you do the research on this sort of thing? I assume that you’re doing experiments to tease out these and support the premise. Is this students coming into your lab or are there other ways that you do this?
BJ Fogg: No, on the celebration piece, at first it was just stumbling across in my own life like, oh my gosh. When I say victory after I floss one tooth, they have it, why is it? At first, it’s just like a lot of research. You have a sense of something that’s like, what’s going on here? Then next step was teaching a whole bunch of people. I mean, thousands of people. Then qualitative feedback like, oh my gosh, the celebration piece really works, I did it, which is not an experiment. Then later it’s running a true experiment. In the Tiny Habits platform where people do a five day program, it’s really easy to split people out into two groups. Within a week’s time I can run a true experiment. There’s the non celebration condition, there’s the celebration condition, and the results are very clear that the people that were instructed and encouraged to celebrate did much better than those who did not. Now, that’s not a direct measure of emotion. I’m measuring the technique of celebration. There’s some inferences there. There’s some leaps there.
Brian Massey: We know that celebration improves things. Our hypothesis is that it’s because it adds emotion.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, that would be the dynamic, right, or the mechanism behind it.
Brian Massey: Yeah. Got it. Got it. That was one path that you talked about. What was the second path that you wanted to talk about?
BJ Fogg: The behavior model. One path is Tiny Habits and the book is titled Tiny Habits. For the first time I pulled together that specific method in depth. But Brian, what I’m so happy about, the book is really about behavior design which is my broader… The term that we use at Stanford for the broader umbrella of some new models of behavior change, including the Fogg behavior model and new methods. I was really glad I could expand the scope of the book to include that. Early on I talked about the Fogg behavior model, which goes like this, behavior happens when three things come together at the same moment. There’s motivation to do the behavior, there’s ability to do the behavior, and there are prompt. If any one of those is missing, the behavior won’t happen. If you want a behavior to happen, you have to make sure all three of those things are present at the same moment.
Brian Massey: This is what you had us teach each other at the keynote.
BJ Fogg: Yeah. What’s great about the behavior model, which the pieces came together finally for me in 2007 on that model is it becomes the cornerstone for a foundation of understanding behavior. Then I could build on the foundation. Since 2012, there’s been a lot of stuff that I’ve done. It’s just that I got the foundation laid and then I could go further and look at pretty much any type of behavior challenge once the foundation was right. That’s what I’ve done since 2012 besides write the book.
Brian Massey: Got it. There are a couple of exercises in here. One of them I referenced where you go out and you teach something to someone in order to instill the habit. Exercise one in the book. I thought it was interesting. I want you to explain a little bit to me. Write down three habits that you’d like to stop. You want to be very specific. Then for each habit, think of ways you might remove or avoid the prompts. Think of ways that you might make it harder to do. Think of the ways that you might reduce your motivation. Tell me why I’m focusing on making it harder rather than making it easy.
BJ Fogg: What a good question. Early on in the book I introduced the behavior model, like I said, and what I want people to do is understand that you can use that model to do lots of things with your behavior including stopping a behavior. This book will be very, very helpful for professionals, but it’s actually written for everyday people. When you do connect with everyday people and what they want to do with their behavior, first and foremost, there’s a habit they want to stop. People working in conversion, of course, they don’t want to stop the behavior. They want to get it to happen. But for the reader of this book-
Brian Massey: We want to stop abandonment for sure.
BJ Fogg: Well, that’s a funny question because it’s almost like a double negative. You want people to actually continue, but I guess the quick answer to wrap up my answer, Brian is just one, give people a really quick application of the behavior model and do it in a domain that most readers care about a lot. How do I stop snacking? How do I stop getting mad at my kids? How do I stop using Facebook so much? If you remove the prompt or make it really hard to do or move the motivation, any one of those three things will help you succeed.
Brian Massey: Yeah, you’ll see a version of this. What I loved about this being the geek nerd that I am was the graph that you used that made it very clear, the relationship between motivation and ability and where those prompts lie or at the time that I took the notes you were calling them triggers, and where you’re going to fail on the graph and where you’re not going to fail. This can be applied of course to changing my life. It can also be applied to increasing the motivation, increasing the ability of people to work with our websites, people to buy our products, people to sign up and become leads. In my notes, there’ll be a version of that and perhaps you’ll let me replicate that on the website as well.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, but they wouldn’t let me do Brian, I’m talking my editors on Tiny Habits is include a business chapter or have a really strong business thread through the book, which I really wanted to do because I teach business people all the time behavior design. It’s super helpful and practical. In the business chapter, which people can get, it’s like a bonus outside the book. If you think of my behavior model with the curve line, and then you draw a circle over the curve line. Let’s say 40% of the area of the circle is above the action line, 60% is below. That’s how you might visualize any one, say step in your conversion funnel. Let’s say you want people to sign up for a newsletter and you send out, people land on the page let’s say miraculous by some miracle, 40% are signing up. That’s the 40% of the circle above the action line. What you can do, man, I wish people are with me and I’d be drawing it out on the whiteboard.
That discussion is okay, here’s our population, 40% are converting like we want them to, whereas this other 60% are below the action line. They’re either lacking motivation or they’re lacking ability. Then you could run a test to, well, let’s make it easier to do and see how much increase in conversion we get. Okay. I’ll make it more motivating and see how much increase we get. In the book and elsewhere, I’ve really talked about the behavior model as an individual person, but you can with the circle and it really would be a scatterplot, it wouldn’t be a circle. At least you could convey that here’s our market and 40% are doing what we want and how do we increase from 40% to I think about the top is about 70%. That seems to be a ceiling for most things.
Brian Massey: Well, I think that if we were getting 40% conversion rates on almost any business, that would be amazing.
BJ Fogg: What I’ll do is I’ll try to capture this in the show notes so that folks can go in and check that out. A lot of the language in the book, especially things like look at your behavior or the way a scientist looks at what’s growing in a Petri dish. You are inviting people to look at this a bit more scientific way. I also learned a new verb, scrolling. One of your examples, someone was, I’m going to stop my scrolling, and by scrolling you mean checking Facebook and scrolling through. That’s become a new verb of the week. The point is scrolling in bed.
Brian Massey: Yes.
BJ Fogg: There’s a woman, very successful executive. I’d tell her story in the book where she wanted to stop scrolling in bed. It turns out, I mean, I don’t have… That’s not my habit, but it turns out a lot of people have that habit. She figures out how to stop it using my behavior model.
Brian Massey: The motivation is it keeps you awake. It interferes with your sleep because of the blue light and all of that. What else do we need to know about tiny behaviors? We see, I think we’ve got the two larger models that you talk about.
BJ Fogg: Let me give the two broadest statements from my book. I call them maxims. There are two things. One is to help people do what they already want to do. Two is to help people feel successful. Those two maxims map to Tiny Habits, that’s what the method does. It also maps to other kinds of engagement and so on. I think those maxims are really, really relevant to the listeners here. That’s what you have to do for any winning product or service. It’s those two things. If you fail on either of those two things, you don’t make it. It’s helped people do what they already want to do. You’re aligning whatever behavior you want them to do with something that they want, of course. Then if you want ongoing engagement, and I know in some cases with conversion, it’s not, it’s like a one and done, but for most products and services and most ventures you want ongoing engagement.
To create the habit and to create engagement and get people to like you and advocate for you and so on, all these great things happen from helping people feel successful. We’re going back in the Tiny Habits, the way you do that is you do the celebration like you pointed out in video games and even practical software, thumbs up, the high five, they’re celebrating, they’re affirming that you’re succeeding. As they do that in video games or on your systems like survey software, it’s not just random and it’s not just to be nice, it serves a purpose. That is to, one, wire in the habit. Two, motivate you to do more with that product or service or brand.
Brian Massey: Always I’m mapping these things onto how I’m communicating and engaging with my audience, the people that are coming to my website, into my client’s websites, is it the things like sending an email or a note that says congratulations and kind of celebrating with them? Is it something that’s going to be something more meaningful?
BJ Fogg: Yeah. Surprisingly, no. Okay. Everybody, be patient. I’m going to share something really, really important.
Brian Massey: Awesome.
BJ Fogg: I do not use the word reward in behavior design and I only use it in the book to say, don’t use this word, it’s a messy word. Reward, if you rewind decades, it’s a good technical term but the use of it today has at least two meanings. One meaning is when somebody does something, let’s say you achieved some level in a video game and you hear sounds and you see animations and you get points. That’s a type of reward. That is the kind of reward that creates habit. It happens instantly in that moment and your brain associates whatever behavior did with that positive feeling. The reward only works if it creates a feeling and then the habit. That’s one use of the word reward and it’s the right technical use or it’s one of the right technical uses.
The wrong use is, oh, meditate for 30 days and then we’re going to give you the reward of this trophy you can put on LinkedIn. That’s not a reward because, at least not the way I see it from a technical perspective, that doesn’t wire in the habit, that’s like an incentive or a prize that comes at the end of a 30 day journey. People use the word reward for both of those things. If there is a distance in time between the behavior and that thing that’s supposed to make people feel great, it’s not going to wire in the habit and it’s technically not a reward.
Brian Massey: Amazon could say, thank you very much for your order, but it’s really when that package shows up on your doorstep that you get that dopamine squirt or that emotional reward that, oh, I have something here for myself now to open.
BJ Fogg: Well, possibly. I mean, that will make you love Amazon. I have such mixed feelings. The box shows up and I just feel dread like what have I just done to the environment by having this box come and I have a tiny little marker. No, it’s really in the moment. The moment I pushed either add to cart or I pushed the buy now button, that’s the habit Amazon wants to wire in, is like add things to your cart and click buy now. The proximity and time needs to be right when the behavior happens, that’s when you need to help people feel successful and certainly not unsuccessful. If I clicked a button and said buy now, and I didn’t get any confirmation that the purchase went through, then I would be confused. The reward, the reinforcer, the thing that creates shine, that happy feeling, I’m using those as synonyms.
It needs to happen right there but it doesn’t have to be hugely dramatic. It can just affirm that somebody has succeeded, oh, I pushed the buy button and then immediately I get a screen that said, great, your order is done. It’s on its way. That’s confirming, that’s giving me the feeling of success and it’s wiring in the habit of using that system. It has to be immediate and it doesn’t have to be confetti falling from my computer screen. It can simply be a way to affirm that I’ve succeeded.
Brian Massey: Maybe it’ll help to pull this into maybe some of the examples from your book, like for our scrolling friend, what did she do to celebrate those nights when she didn’t pick her phone up and checkout Facebook?
BJ Fogg: Yeah, we’re talking almost two opposite things here. One is the buy button is like, let’s create the habit of people pushing buy on our website. What Katie was doing was trying to stop a behavior. One is about, for most people listening to this, they want people to do a behavior. In the example with Katie, it was how does she get herself to stop scrolling. What ultimately worked for her was to put her phone in the kitchen to charge, not on her nightstand. In that way, when she woke up in the morning, she couldn’t just reach over and grab her phone because it wasn’t there on the nightstand. She’d have to go out to the kitchen and then she wouldn’t go back and get in bed. For her to stop that behavior, the key was to make the behavior harder to do and just charge in the kitchen rather than in the bedroom.
Brian Massey: I see. I see. Are there examples of celebrations, way we can celebrate just in the context of if we’re trying to change a habit?
BJ Fogg: Oh yeah. A lot. Oh my gosh. Yes. So much on this, Brian. If we’re talking about personal change and you’re trying to wire a habit into your own life, when you do a behavior that you want to become a new habit, and I really encourage people to use the Tiny Habits. Make it really tiny, find where it fits in your life. As you do the behavior immediately after, do something that makes you feel happy and successful and positive. For some people, it’s a fist pump, think Tiger Woods. Other people it’s like, they just say the word awesome. Other people raise their hands over the head. Other people just smile. Some people like doing a little dance that makes them feel happy. Anything that brings up a positive emotion and signal you have succeeded, and it’s different for different people. This is part of the skill of change is figuring out what for you is that thing you can do that fires off a positive emotion so you can wire habits in on demand.
It’s not the same for everybody. What works for me may not work for you, and what works for my sister may not work for listeners. The part of what I do in Tiny Habits and the chapter about is chapter five, emotions create habits is I guide people through a process so they can figure out what can you do to create this positive emotion inside of you on demand. That’s a really, in some ways, Brian, that is the most important skill that someone can have to create habits in their own life.
Brian Massey: I get it. I get it. I want to drill down that because I think this celebration piece is really the hardest piece. We know that motivation is hard as you say in the book, setting up anchors can be done behaviors. This celebration piece, it seems to me because it is emotional it’s going to cement some things in our minds and our brains. It isn’t easy. It isn’t easy, especially when you’re at the arm’s length across a digital connection with your visitors like we are to celebrate with them. Those of you that are listening, I’ll be very interested to hear your input on any celebrations, digital celebrations that have worked for you.
BJ Fogg: Well, but just look and look at systems that are working with the lens of what are they doing to affirm or confirm success. Those examples are out there. Now, there’s an industry, the supplements industry like vitamins and supplements and so on. That’s an industry where it’s like, okay, I take this vitamin, I’m not getting the results right away. They call it a faith-based industry, but I knew there were ways to help their customers feel successful, to have this feeling to wire in the habit. I did a special webinar series for that industry and I said, hey, in pitching the series, I said, hey, we’ll come up with six different ways to help your customers feel shine. We found at least 12. There are ways to do this, but for most people listening to this, you’re not in the faith-based industry like taking vitamins and supplements.
You can test stuff. You can go out and look at who really has a really a good system that’s converting very well, but watch and see what that does to a firm that people have succeeded again. Like I said before, it can be a simplest thing. Good job, you placed the order, or yep, you’re done now. It can simply be a confirmation screen that’s very clear that they got done what they were trying to get done.
Brian Massey: I’m already trying to figure out who I’m going to go and test some of this stuff with, which of our clients we’re going to go put this on the list for. The book, when is it going to launch?
BJ Fogg: January 1st.
Brian Massey: What better time to change habits than when you’re setting up all of these new year’s resolutions that you’re inevitably going to be failing.
BJ Fogg: Yeah, that was the plan two years ago. It was like, okay, when is this book going to come out? It was like January 2020. I was like, oh my gosh, that long. This is going to drive me crazy. I was like, no, let’s do it faster. They’re like, that’s what this kind of publishing takes. I’ve had to be very patient and yes, but now, yes, it’s [inaudible].
Brian Massey: Where can we, so we’ll be able to I assume find it on Amazon. Where can we find out more about you between now and the first if we want to learn more?
BJ Fogg: I have too many websites, but the best ones to go to are and There’s a whole bunch of buying options. Yes, Amazon is one. If you go to, there’s other buying options. Brian, what we’ve done with my team is we’ve pulled together a toolkit for Tiny Habits that if people pre-ordered, they can get the toolkit right away. Yes, that was a pre-order incentive, but it was also a way for me to start sharing and helping people right away and not to say, hey, you’ve got to wait months for the book. Now it’s not that far away, but the toolkit is still really good. People can go get that immediately.
Brian Massey: That comes back to how we opened appropriately, that it takes two years to get a book out. Let’s get something out where we can start helping people right away. That touches me really. Well, thank you for joining us. I took notes during BJ’s conversion conference session. My mind map notes are available on the Intended Consequences website and At one point in our conversation, BJ visualized for us, how to apply his behavioral model to the problem of conversion. I went ahead and animated this part of the conversation for you. It can also be found on the Intended Consequences website and When you get back to the office, let’s see if we can develop some tiny habits around experimenting. The habit we want to change is considering data when we begin any creative project.
As BJ told us, it doesn’t have to be a big change. In fact, we should make this change very small. The prompt or trigger in this should be you sit down to write copy, you sit down to design an ad, you sit down to design a web page. I recommend that your tiny behavior be this, log into analytics. You don’t have to look at any reports. You don’t have to do any analysis, just log in. Then you can log out and begin your project. I’m trusting the process here, but according to Tiny Habits, you’ll begin to think about data more often, and then something will begin to change. Now, go behave like a scientist.

How long should your emails be? Do people read long emails? Do short emails convert better? These questions have been debated for a long time. My guest has the data and this is one question she answers for us.

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There’s nothing better than getting another shot at a conversion. Sometimes, people aren’t ready to buy. I get that. I’m fine with that.

But I always want another shot. Maybe when the time is better.

Because it took a lot to get that person to the site.

Email makes more website visits valuable

The search engines are getting ever pickier at the kind of content they consider authoritative. You’ve got to work for it.

Social media requires so much time to do right, and most of the activity stays on the social media apps.

Every online advertising source has gotten steadily more expensive, prohibitively expensive. It was Google. Then Facebook. Then “the Gram”. Competition has driven up the cost of each of these in turn.

And what do I have to show for it? A landing page bounce or a full shopping cart left abandoned on one of my digital aisles.

No, I want another shot.

I’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to catching a wayward visitor. Exit overlays, live chat and the BB8 equivalent, chatbots. I can try to get you to agree to push notifications. I can give you a discount in exchange for permission to send you a Facebook message. I can pout, I can cry, I can beg.

But after almost four decades, the best choice is still that quaint old communication medium email.

“So a lot of experts nowadays will tell you that you need to write really short emails because there’s a statistic out there that says that our attention spans are that of a goldfish. I hate that.”

What the Data Says: Email, Podcasts, & Lead Conversion

What does the data tell us about effective email, podcasts and converting leads to sales? It's in here.
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What the data says displayed on phone and spread of pages

Email is the new email

It’s the original social media platform.

Every year, we hear about the demise of email. And every year email is the new email.

Email still can’t be beat for rich content, for conversations that feel one-to-one, and for getting another shot at a future customer. While everyone was fawning over the sexy new kid, social media, good ole email kept my readers close. Despite these new channels, the money is still in the list. And no algorithm change is going to take your list away from you.

People reply to my emails and tell me a little about themselves. Because they can. And I write back. And it can make my day.

Because that means I’m going to get another shot at making them a customer. Customers are some of my favorite people.

“Only 10.9 percent of e-mail experts send emails with subject lines of 20 characters or less.”

Yes, we may have abused our email privilege, but not by sending too much email. It’s something else.

To explore this, I’ve invited Liz Whillits to join me. Liz is Senior Content Marketing Specialist at AWeber, one of the OG email services. She is a self-proclaimed marketing nerd, and that makes her our kind of crazy.

“46 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices. Most mobile devices will cut off your subject line at somewhere between 30 and 40 characters. So anything over 40 characters is definitely getting cut off for your mobile readers.”

Liz doesn’t think you’re sending too much email, and she’s got the data to prove it. If we’re not sending too much email, then what’s keeping our email from being more productive?

When you get back to the office…

Our inbox has become our task master. If we want to know what’s going on with our team, communicate with our clients and agencies, or handle that return, it’s still done through email.

Email used to be the place we turned when we needed to take a break from creating that report, from polishing that design, or from meeting with the team. It used to be email to which we turned for a distraction.

“If you don’t clean your list, your emails are less likely to reach the inbox. So you could be putting all of this work into your email marketing strategy only to have your emails not reach the inbox.”

Today, the inbox drives our daily to-do list. This is true of veterans like me, as well as the younger members of the Slack generation. This is where it gets its power.

But instead of suggesting that you review your autoresponder, I’d like to invite you to make your everyday emails a little more personal. Add a bit of wit when you acknowledge receipt of that spreadsheet. Drop a meme to that terse, business-like reply you’ve just banged out.

Do something… anything that will make your coworkers glad to get email from you. In the long run, I think this will change the way you write for your prospects and clients.

I’m going to start doing this today.

Now, go science something with that personal flair.

How Long Should you Emails Be Show Notes

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