Education sounds boring, stiff, formal, dusty. Yet education is one of the most overlooked and undervalued forms of conversion dynamite.
Most optimizers are eager to embrace tactics and techniques that will enhance their conversion optimization.
I’m convinced, however, that the true power of conversion optimization comes not in tactics and techniques, but in a deep, systemic approach.
ConversionXL put the concept brilliantly in their recent ad:
Long have I championed conversion optimization as a model, rather than a grab bag of tricks. Conversion optimization depends on heuristics, processes, and underlying methodologies. One facet of this heuristic is the need to educate your users.
I will explain what education is, how it fits perfectly within the CRO heuristic, and how you can unleash the educational methodology in your conversion optimization attempts.
How does education fit into a conversion optimization framework?
Education conjures up images of tweed-clad professors, dusty chalkboards, and ivy-clad red brick buildings.
By definition, however, education is a lot more fuzzy, a lot broader, and a lot more diverse.
Conversion optimization is a rather narrow slice of marketing. Education is a rather broad slice of life. But together, conversion optimization and education make up a fairly distinct entity.
Let me provide my standard definition, and then we’ll get into some good stuff.
In conversion optimization, education is the process of reducing user anxiety, enhancing user trust, and proving the value of a product in the mind of the user. The net effect of this process is an increase in conversions.
As definitions go, that’s a bit wordy, so let me unpack it.
- Education reduces user anxiety. Anxiety is one of the leading demons of conversion optimization. More anxiety means fewer conversions. The opposite is also true: Less anxiety means more Education has the upside of slashing and burning vast amounts of user anxiety. This leads indirectly to more conversions. Directly, reducing anxiety improves the user’s trust.
- Education enhances user trust. If you can build someone’s trust, you can sell them you product or service. Think about it. If you want a recommendation for the best tree trimming service, you’re going to go to your neighbor who just had an arborist do some work on their front yard. Why? Because you trust your neighbor. Her experience with a local arborist doesn’t lie. You know you’ll get some trustworthy feedback. Trust enhances the process. The same is true for education. Education improves trust. When you establish yourself, your brand, or your content as a credible source of educational information, your trust quotient skyrockets. The result? You get major conversion uptick.
- Education proves the value of the product. So what about value? The entire effort of conversion optimization is to assert the value of a product or service. One of the early-stage tasks in conversion optimization is to create a USP — a unique selling proposition. You have this killer product. You uncover its unique selling proposition, and wham — you’ve got instant value.
From this mashup of slashed anxiety, increased trust, and unleashed value emerges the crown jewels — more conversions.
It is an inevitable result of the process. Education directly targets these three pillars of conversion optimization. If you do your education thing effectively, then you can’t help but jack your conversion rates up.
It just happens!
My thinking tends to be rather organized and hierarchical, so let me provide a brief word on how to fit education within the conversion optimizer toolkit.
A perfect taxonomy is impossible. Education is also a hallmark of content marketing. A blog like this one helps to expand my personal brand, disburse my viewpoints, and engage users. An educational piece of content also qualifies as an SEO approach, as it gains relevant queries, attracts the right kind of users, and builds keywords around a given topic.
My effort is not to conclusively categorize education in the precise domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. Rather, my goal is to demonstrate how education — in all its marketing glory — is a methodology in conversion optimization.
And it’s pretty darn effective.
What does education do?
I’ve asserted that education increases in conversions. Pretty much everything that I explain on this blog is meant to help you increase conversions.
But let me explain in some more detail exactly why education can boost your conversion rate.
Education and the fight against friction and anxiety.
If I had to boil conversion optimization to one negative statement, it would sound like this: Conversion optimization is a fight against friction.
I’ve explained my viewpoint, rationale, and methodology in the Kissmetrics article, “How to Win the War Against Conversion Friction.”
There are plenty of ways to fight friction.
Waging battle royale against friction takes legion forms, but one method is consistently successful: Education.
Dr. Kristy Short, an education and marketing professional, has explained that “great marketers are educators first.”
Why? Because to be aware, persuaded and converted to a purchase, the user must first be educated.
They lack a certain component of knowledge. You, the conversion optimizer/marketer/educator are responsible for imparting to them this knowledge.
It’s education, plain and simple.
Education covers the marketing world. What’s the secret to SEO? Educate with content. What’s the secret to content marketing? Educate with content. What’s the secret to CRO? Educate with content.. What’s the secret to social media success? Educate with content.
The Content Marketing Matrix includes educate as one of the four main components of content marketing.
ConversionXL’s article on “lead magnets” continually points to the necessity of education. After a while, it starts to sound repetitive:
- Free education in any format …
- Educational content on how to achieve / build stuff with what you sell …
- Educational material related to the need they will solve with your product …
- Educational content for DIY projects …
Education underlies conversion strategy. It lies at the center of the conversion marketing execution process — development, and it continues to the pinnacle — performance and conversions.
Education is at the heart of what we as conversion optimizers are doing holistically.
Education and the preeminence of content.
Talk to any conversion optimizer long enough, and you’ll eventually discover that, yes, content is king. As overused as the phrase may be, even the most anal conversion optimizers have to admit that conversion depends on content in order to become successful.
I use the cliche “button color” illustration. We’ve all heard how a little button color tweak led to an explosion of conversion rates by 19,000 percent.
With mouths agape and fingers twitching, we scurry off to make big orange buttons, hoping against hope for the miraculous explosion of our conversion rates by Thursday morning, and maybe a 400-foot yacht by Friday.
And yesterday I saw a unicorn on my front lawn. Pretty sure it looked just like this:
Mucking around with button colors does not win the war against friction, does not persuade users, and does not score more conversions. Not drastically and not normally.
What does win the war against friction, persuade users, and score more conversions? Educational content does.
Which is more likely to persuade a user — a carefully-researched 3,000-word article, or a massive yellow button that says “Buy Now!”
I think you know the answer to that.
Users are not successfully persuaded unless their minds are changed. While button color, size, position, and layout does have an impact, this impact is negligible when compared to the power of content. Content — education, words, copy, context, discussion, argument, persuasion, analysis, review — this is what changes minds and encourages conversions.
Content, obviously, can be extraordinarily broad. It may include webinars, infographics, Google+ hangouts, articles, PDF downloads, ebooks, non-ebooks, articles, tweets, FB updates, and nearly any other conceivable form of information transfer.
What does education look like?
It’s great to talk about the wonders of education for conversion optimization, but now I want to explain on a tactical level how you can achieve this.
Education is persuasion through content.
Once you face up to your role as a conversion optimizer/educator, here’s how you implement the process:
- Focus on educating users with your landing pages. A user needs to learn about the product, its benefits, its purpose, and its value.
- Use long-form content to educate users about every facet of your product or service. The long-form model is an excellent educational tool. The more content and context you can provide around your product or service, the more education you can accomplish.
- Attempt to persuade your users through education. Persuasion and education have a lot in common. As discussed above, the best way to persuade an individual is to educate them. Knowledge empowers people to change their minds, their behavior, their attitudes, and their actions.
- Create a model of conversion optimization that advances knowledge to the user. As a whole, embrace the concept of education in conversion optimization. It works.
Education involves learning about your users.
Here, I want to point out the importance of educating yourself for conversion optimization success.
Education is a two-way street. Even the least seasoned professor knows that different students have different learning styles. Each student is unique.
The professor must learn where his students are coming from before he can successfully educate them in a given field.
In conversion optimization, knowing your users is a prerequisite for educating them. You should know their demographics and their psychographics. You should understand where they’re coming from, why they might be interested in your product or service, and how to successfully educate them toward a conversion.
What are some examples of education for conversion optimization in action?
Let’s take a look at the organizations that are successfully educating their users for increased conversion power.
One method that HubSpot used to educate their users was e-books. They pioneered one of the most-used educational methodologies in marketing: The free e-book.
I counted the books that HubSpot has collected at https://library.hubspot.com/. The number was over 500. This does not include the vast quantity of video resources that HubSpot also provides.
Why all this education? Is it altruism? Kindness of their heart?
No. It’s conversion. Notice the persistent CTA on the resource page. They want you to buy their service, not just get the free stuff.
Another educational master is Buffer.
The Buffer blog is is praised for its massive impact, in-depth style, and comprehensive approach.
Buffer frequently unleashes magnum opuses that exceed 4,000 words and provide detailed instructions on how to do something or another, usually in social media or content marketing.
It’s education. These blogs aren’t some BuzzFeed LOL post. They’re dense, solid, and detailed.
And why do they do it? Notice the CTA — conversion city.
Education like this ends up getting shared among the masses. People love information, and they love to share it.
Contently, itself a powerful purveyor of educational content, sings Buffer’s praises:
Buffer’s passion is education, and their marketing modus operandi caters to this goal.
The result? Tons of conversions.
When you visit the Buffer blog, you can’t access this educational treasure house without being called to action.
QuickSprout sells education packaged as aesthetic guides. They’re long — up to 50,000 words each — and packed to the hilt with educational magic.
This is just the table of contents …
When you get better at education, you’ll get better at conversion optimization.
Educate yourself. Educate your users. Then let those conversions roll in.