You’ve probably never given it a second’s thought, but do you know what the largest organism on the planet is?
If you’re thinking a whale, you’re close… but wrong.
If you said a tree, you’d be closer still… but still wrong.
It’s actually a fungus. Yes, like those little mushrooms you see in the field (well, not those particular ones, unless you’re wandering around Oregon).
Armillaria ostoyae is the world record holder for the largest organism on earth, which occupies some 965 hectares of Oregon’s Blue Mountains.
But if we’re considering how to turn tentative prospects into warm leads, large is not the way we should be thinking.
Large, up-front commitments scare people off.
Giving out their email address is a huge investment. Their name might have just as much value too.
So when they’re confronted by a form asking for both of these, along with a phone number, address or any other personal details, it’s not alarm bells ringing in their heads, it’s mega-sonic klaxons…
- Why do they need all the information?
- How are they going to use it?
- Is this some kind of scam or rip-off?
- How can I trust them?
These are just some of the questions swirling in their head when they’re gazing at your form. And once these questions trigger, you’ve already lost your prospect more often than not.
“It’s always been a matter of trust”
As Billy Joel once famously sung, your prospects’ biggest blocker is trust (though the song wasn’t based on his thoughts around marketing).
And no amount of convincing copy, images of smiling people or video testimonials is going to convince someone who didn’t know your business even existed 60 seconds earlier to completely trust you.
Expecting them to make a huge commitment is unreasonable and often the cause prospects leave your landing page without signing up.
For example, look at this form...
Filling it out is a serious step for any prospect to take.
Unless they REALLY, REALLY want you’ve got, most people will hesitate to share that much info with an organization they don’t really know.
Sure, you can ensure your web page design is professional and looks authentic. You can add a micro-copy to the form about how you never share emails or spam.
And still… there’s no way for them to know 100% if any of that’s true or not.
Plus, there’s no safe way for them to dip their toe in the water.
But what if you could make it easier for prospects to trust you?
A way to dabble a little at first before they entrusted you with their sacred email address.
As the classic Volkswagen ad of yesteryear proclaimed, it’s time to think small.
The 8-field form is a step too far for many people. Even the common “First Name & Email” combo is too much for some. But what about a form that only asked for an email address?
Or, what if you moved from gathering personal info straight away to something less threatening, like answering a simple question?
These are techniques used by businesses to connect and engage with prospects in a safe, non-threatening way. These are techniques using the concept of micro commitments.
Micro commitments are a way of slowly and safely warming the prospect to trust you enough to connect. Most of these ideas focus on opt-ins and forms, though there’s no reason why you couldn’t apply the same ideas elsewhere (e.g. getting them to contact you offline).
Micro commitments serve three important purposes:
- They let your prospect ease into accepting you into their life
- Lets you engage them safely
- And as Jeb Blount puts it, “Micro commitments help you collect yeses.”
Every tiny interaction the prospect makes with you is a “yes”.
Answering a survey question is a “yes”. Watching a video is a “yes”. And of course, filling out your form is the all-important “yes”.
With each passing “yes”, your prospect feels that little bit safer engaging with you.
So, how do you use micro commitments to get that “yes” and move prospects gently along those tentative, first few steps with you?
The Email and Nothing but the Email
The most common format of the email opt in form asks for a name and email address. These are basics most marketers want: a way to contact the prospect and a name so they can run personalized marketing.
So suggesting to reduce your form down to a single field might seem a little silly. But let’s explore the two points here a little more closely.
“Reduce form fields”
If you’re using this kind of form, it seems ridiculous to say “reduce the number of form fields”. But studies have shown that lowering the number of fields a person has to fill out reduces friction and increases the number of conversions.
The Email field is mandatory (since you kinda wanna be able to get back to the prospect), so that means giving the Name field the boot. And where does that leave you in terms of personalized marketing?
“I need the Name field for personalized marketing”
Well… maybe you do, and maybe you don’t.
As a GetResponse study showed, using personalization for personalization’s sake isn’t that effective. The gains of higher open rates and CTRs can be wiped out by negative side-effects, like complaints and unsubscribes. So if you’re not using personalization carefully, it’s probable that details like a name won’t improve your marketing one jot.
So, why not try the barest minimum for your initial opt-in form?
Caveat: Remember the context in which we’re talking; making new prospects feel safer in engaging with you for the first time. As you build a relationship with these folks, you can ask for more specific information. For now, the single field form may be your best bet of getting them through the door.
But if you’ve absolutely, positively gotta have more form fields, you don’t have to leave the world of micro commitments behind. Instead, you can simply...
Step It Out
The bigger the form, the more risk of disengagement. People see a data entry exercise staring back at them and close the tab.
They didn’t come to your landing page to do work. Your offer might sound nice, but they don’t want it that badly. Plus, there’s that pesky little matter of not knowing or trusting you.
So, if you need to get more than an email, break things up.
1 or 2 fields on a pop-up or page is much more non-threatening than a mega-form. A single question vs a battery of them will always feel less overwhelming.
And that adds up to more people willing to fill it out.
One small thing: notice how the button in the image above indicates progress through the number of questions? It’s important to show people how much more they’ve got to go, instead of presenting question after question. They might tolerate it for a couple of questions, but if they have to guess how much further, they’ll tend to bail sooner rather than later.
Another way to step your form out is to start with a simple, “safe” piece of info you can use to help your prospect before getting any other details. QuickSprout shows how it’s done with their traffic tool.
Once you’ve already made the initial “investment” of entering your URL, the next step of entering other details feels less of a stretch.
Ask a Question
Ryan Levesque is the master of the “Ask” method, which centers on surveying and quizzing people to discover exactly what they want.
His way of gaining a micro commitment before asking prospects to opt in?
Start with an easy question.
Something hat doesn’t need people to divulge personal information. Something that that requires little thought. Just a simple, multiple-choice question that anyone can answer with minimal effort.
If you need to, ask another easy one after that (though make it a useful one).
Then ask them for an email address.
Bucket.io, which is Ryan’s funnel-building company, exemplifies this approach. Want to download some free templates? Easy. Just answer a couple of multiple-choice questions, then enter your email, and they’re yours.
Change the Context
The term “micro commitment” implies that your prospect has to make a commitment, however tiny.
But what if you present that commitment in a way where they want to make it?
Quizzes are a fantastic way of doing this, as people can’t get enough of them.
Just like the “Ask” methodology, a quiz offers the prospect a series of questions (albeit in an often fun or entertaining way) with the pay-off of an answer at the end. Each question the prospect fills out is a micro-commitment, so by the time they’re asked to enter an email to get their quiz result, they’ve already “committed” many times over.
Plus, the quiz completely re-frames the context. It’s no longer them trading their precious email for something that may or may not be useful, but now about them having a burning desire to know the result.
These are just a few ways to create micro commitments that make your prospects feel safer (and more inclined to interact with you). That doesn’t mean these are the only ways to build “small steps” of trust. For example, you could happily mix an incentive with a single field
Are there any places in your funnel or websites where prospects might be scared of over-committing? If so, how can you use micro commitments to help them “dip their toe in their water” and feel safer connecting with you?
Owner of the imaginatively-titled Dean Mackenzie Copywriting, Dean is a conversion copywriter who uses direct response skills to write landing pages, emails, lead magnets and sales pages. He enjoys talking about himself in the third person and a good cup of tea.