I have recently been reading Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini, a pop psychology book in which a huge amount of research on psychology and human behaviour is distilled into one readable volume.
The essential premise of the book is that persuasion is a science, not an art, and hence there are systematic ways of bringing people around to your point of view.
This really made me think about Google and PPC advertising. Is there another advertising arena in which the advertiser (or copywriter) has less space in which to be persuasive? To communicate the core message, or brand promise?
In a PPC ad there are just 95 characters in which to sell a brand, product or service, to persuade people that your ad amongst all the others on the page deserves further investigation. Yet despite the brevity of the message, this channel currently accounts for a huge proportion, maybe 50%, of all advertising spend. To badly paraphrase Winston Churchill: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few (characters)”.
So, while a PPC ad is at heart initially a creative endeavour, I wondered if there were ways in which the principles laid out in the book could be applied up front.
Although any learnings would be fed back and cross referenced with wider creative ideas surrounding the brand, product or service, the ultimate success of any individual PPC ad is judged on a purely scientific basis. Which ad has the best CTR or highest conversion rate?
So, here are my thoughts on some basic principles from the book applied to PPC:
1. Inconvenience the audience by creating an impression of product scarcity. In studies a simple change from “Call now, we are standing by” to “If the line is busy, call again” will greatly improve call volume by creating the impression that everybody else is trying to buy the same product.
- Learning: Users on search engine results pages respond to an impression of scarcity.
- Example: “Limited webinar places available. Sign up today”
2. Introduce herd effect in personalised form. A hotel bathroom sign informed guests that many prior guests chose to be environmentally friendly by recycling their towels. However, when the message mentioned that majority of the guests who stayed in the specific room chose to reuse their towels, towel recycling jumped 33%, even though the message was largely the same.
- Learning: Use local messaging where possible by geo-targeting campaigns.
- Example: “Join London’s biggest community”
3. “Because” makes any explanation rational. In a queue for a copy machine, a researcher asked to jump the line by presenting a reason “Can I jump the line, because I am in a rush?” 94% of people complied. A reasonable excuse? However, even changing the reason to “Can I jump the line because I need to make copies?” (the same reason everyone is in the line) led to a 93% success rate. A request without “because” in it generated only 24% compliance.
- Learning: Include “because” in text ads.
- Example: “Because we offer a flexible service to fit your finances”
4. Ad campaigns that do not incorporate brands tend to not be remembered. There are numerous examples of ad campaigns that achieve increased sales for competitors as a result of unclear brand messaging. Split testing research on text ads hasn recently shown increased conversion rates and better CPA on ads that include multiple brand mentions, alongside core brand messaging.
- Learning: Use the brand name, and not just in the URL.
5. Tired people tend to be more receptive to arguments. Two groups were presented a product demo, and then asked to evaluate the possibility of buying it. Group A was tired and a bit sleep deprived, group B was in good physical condition. Group A was much more prone to buy. Website conversion stats for many direct response customers reflect this trend, and it is common to see better conversion rates in the early hours.
- Learning: Check website conversion stats and consider up weighting spend in the evenings.
Beyond these few examples, I would urge any marketer to read the remainder of the book. It is extremely well written, and the authors present in detail the general principles of persuasion and discuss an abundance of specific uses in engaing fashion. More than anything, they advocate the idea that you can and should test. Something close to the heart of any PPC marketer.