How To Increase Your B2B Conversion Rates By Reducing Friction

This month, I continue my series on improving conversion rates using the Conversion Sequence.  The Conversion Sequence is the heuristic that was created and is being taught by the good folks at MarketingExperiments.com.  Improving your conversion rates will obviously help squeeze more value from all of your diligent search engine marketing efforts. So let’s jump […]

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This month, I continue my series on improving conversion rates using the Conversion Sequence.  The Conversion Sequence is the heuristic that was created and is being taught by the good folks at MarketingExperiments.com.  Improving your conversion rates will obviously help squeeze more value from all of your diligent search engine marketing efforts. So let’s jump right in and talk about friction, how it causes people to abandon the conversion process, and what you can do to minimize it.

Reducing friction

Friction, as defined by Flint McLaughlin in this context, is the psychological resistance to a given element in the sales process.  Friction exists in the mind of the consumer.

Of all the things that can be done to try and increase conversion, making simple changes to reduce friction on your web pages is often one of the lowest cost, highest return things you can do. Unfortunately, and all too often, companies embark on things like rebranding, redesigns, flash demos, additional advertising and other potentially high cost, low yield activities in an effort to increase conversions and sales.  These all of course have their place and time, but friction is the underlying and uber-powerful cog in the machine that can wreak havoc on your conversion rates and therefore deserves our attention and energy.

Simplifying web forms

Where is friction found?  The simplest and common example is in a web form.  Every field we add to a form, particularly those that aren’t absolutely necessary at a given stage in the process increases friction.  Tremendous gains in conversion are commonplace among people who have simply reduced the number of fields in their forms or at least split the fields of the form into a two step process.  In doing this the marketer can still capture the lead in the first step, while still having the opportunity to qualify them with additional fields in the second step.  With today’s automated marketing systems that allow us to score, grade, and prequalify leads, it makes good sense to really focus on reducing friction with shorter, minimal forms to get the folks we pay good money to get to our site, to raise their hand and jump in the top of the funnel.

While we’re talking about forms, it’s not just the number of fields that causes friction, but the complexity or difficulty of the form itself. Often times it can be confusing or ambiguous buttons, pull downs, and error handling messages (or lack thereof) that wreak havoc on your conversion rates.  Strive to have your buttons state as clearly as possible what they actually do from the visitor’s perspective.  For example, “Buy It Now” is much better than “Submit”, and “Add to Cart” is clearer than “Continue”.   I’ve seen some very confusing pulldowns where the question and/or the answers require too much thinking and effort on the part of the visitor.   When someone creates an error on your form, are they presented with a clear and helpful error message, or a confusing and cold one?   If you haven’t banged on your forms in awhile, now would be a good time to get in the shoes of your prospect and go hunting for any elements that are possibly causing friction.

Using friction to increase quality conversions

Now if conversion was simply defined as someone jumping into the process, regardless of quality, then you could just start minimizing all points of friction.  In B2B especially, conversion is usually defined with one or more qualitative components.  For example in one case a ‘conversion’ may be defined as a form respondent who indicates they have over 50 employees, or they are actively seeking a solution.  Another case may be where the visitor is required to first view a one or two minute video in order to complete the form.

Conversion definitions run the gamut largely based on factors such as supply vs. demand, the strength and efficiency of the offline sales process, as well as your company’s philosophy and approach to marketing itself.  A company with little or no nurturing process tends to be very strict and restrictive with whom they want filling out forms.  Conversely, a company with a well-thought and effective nurturing process will tend to focus on capturing a lot more people in the top of the funnel.   This is important in helping to dial the right amount of friction your particular situation.

In some cases, for some companies, friction is not only a good thing, but a powerful tool in weeding out what they believe to be poorly qualified people.  Keep in mind though that you are usually going to pay the same amount of money for the visitor whether they ‘convert’ or not.  It’s a delicate balance, one that warrants a discussion between sales and marketing.

Understand your audience

To recap, friction is psychological resistance to a given element in the sales process.  Friction exists in the mind of the consumer.  Therefore, I encourage you to ‘get in the mind’ of your consumer and look at your website, pages, and forms through the eyes of the customer.  Print the pages out.  Grab colored highlighters and mark up things that could possibly be causing friction and then discuss them with everyone who has a vested stake in the success of the website.  Have fun with it!  If you’d like my opinion on your stuff, get a hold of me, I’m happy to give it.

As the year ends, I want to thank Search Engine Land and all of the readers for the opportunity to pass on some of the knowledge that’s been so graciously imparted on me.  Holiday blessings and a great new year to you all!


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Todd Miechiels
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