When Design Met Conversion: A Love Story?

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How does the relationship play out in your business?

Tragic like Romeo and Juliet?

Or Disney style like Cinderella?

In your marketing, whether it’s landing pages or Facebook ads…

There is a delicate balance between design, look and feel, and optimising for conversions, leads and sales.

I’m going to make sure you leave this blog with 7 principles for conversion-centric design to use immediately in your expert business.

But before that let me paint the scene for our allegory…

Once upon a time....

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess called design.

Everywhere she went, she made things pretty and look amazing.

Because of this she always thought that she didn’t need a man.

She believed she was beautiful and captivating all by herself, she didn’t want any man (or woman) to dim her shine.

Despite the stories she told herself, she still wasn’t happy.

Something was missing.

She’d heard stories about a man called conversion.

He wasn’t always pretty (or handsome), but he was the man every woman needed.

He could build them up and make them more than the sum of their parts.

When they met it was love at first sight, but as their relationship deepened, tensions started to arise.

It was clear they agreed and collaborated on some things, but on others, their intentions were worlds apart, like the sun and the moon.

Let me explain how this played out.

Take their first home as an example, it was a constant battle between design and function.

Some things that were beautifully designed also functioned just as well.

But this isn’t the case across the board.

A 1930’s aga oven may look beautiful but it isn’t practical for a young family.

Let that serve as an example of what was to come.

It would be some time before they would reconcile, and learn to work together, to use both their strengths in the proper context.

I’m going to take this line to transition abruptly out of the story and esoteric examples into the REAL & PRACTICAL things you can do to ensure design and conversion play out as a beautiful marriage, on every landing page or ad you create.

Here are the 7 Principles I personally use to ensure I don’t swing the pendulum too far one way or the other

The first and most accessible is:

Contrast And Colour

I have often been pulled up by my team and my clients for not using brand colours on landing pages and promotional material.

However, as I often tell them, marketing and direct response should be approached like psychology and science, rather than art.

Please don’t take this as me slating design as a profession or as a tangible thing to improve results in your marketing and create a powerful, recognisable brand.

I implore you to place it in the right context when it comes to designing your marketing.

In studies, the primary colours yellow and blue produced the best results, but beyond this, the contrast of text colour and background colour was just as vitally important when it came to the copy.

Black text on a white background outperforms white text on a black background in tests, and with this in mind, you should definitely avoid combinations of colours with low contrast, such as black text on a blue background. 

See the colour wheel for ideas of how you should use contrasting colours.

I am by no means stifling your creativity but make sure to keep the end-user in mind, as well as the purpose of your copy and marketing, which is ultimately to produce leads, interest, demand and sales.

As any of my colleagues will tell you, I’m obsessed with black and gold, it’s my favourite aesthetic. I believe it gives a premium feel and has proven work great for conversions. I have seen first hand from split-tests and sales figures.

This said, I am not a slave to it, I’m willing to be creative and break the mould, all while keeping these other 6 principles in mind.

The Triplets – Urgency, Scarcity & Fomo

I want to preface this principle before we go into the tactical advice.

Please don’t use fake scarcity, evergreen timers that always countdown from 17 hours when people land on the page, and don’t always have a sale running (I’m looking at you DFS).

Now that is out the way let’s get to the advice, these triplets are most powerful when used together.

Let’s start with urgency, this boils down to “why should people buy your product or service now instead of later?”

Let’s start with urgency, this boils down to “why should people buy your product or service now instead of later?”

Classic examples would be:

A fast-action bonus – like the first 5 to buy get extra 1 on 1 time with you (if you’re a coach/trainer)

Limited time offer – Like Matt Elwell who included his 6 most valuable sales scripts with the purchase of his book ‘Open With A Close’ for a limited time (around a week if I remember correctly, and I should, it was my idea!).

Or just a sharp cutoff – Take the Expert Empires Global Priority List as an example, it closes (or closed, depending on when you’re reading this) on the 27th February at 8pm, so we can stress that in our marketing and communicate that they won’t get access to the best price for their tickets or other bonuses unless they’re on the list.

Next is scarcity, and to reiterate, it’s counterproductive to manufacture a false sense of this.

There has to be a real scarcity to what you’re selling.

Maybe you’re a copywriter and you only have time available to take on 1 new client.

Maybe your book is a limited run and there are only 200 copies up for grabs.

Maybe you are only offering 200 free upgrades to a live event as it doesn’t make financial sense to do any more.

These are all real-world examples of real and ethical scarcity.

I had my biggest realisation in this area when listening to the audiobook of oversubscribed by Daniel Priestley, which I highly recommend.

Try to include all 3, don’t use false flags.

social proof

Do you know who people trust far more than you talking about your product/service?

Other people talking about your product or service.

I can hear you saying “I already know this, I’ve been told a thousand times I need testimonials”


90% of people I see aren’t utilising them fully.

I have a bit of a theory that quantity over length is the way to go, it provides a heuristic to prospects that you’re trustworthy and get people results.

All this can happen without them reading them all.

If you don’t have them, ask for them or work for free to get them.

And make sure when clients tell you they got a great result, you answer them with “I’m really pleased for you, how could you possibly give me a testimonial video or write-up?”

As we move on, I’m going to make the next few more specific to copy and landing/sale page.

No Navigation

This one is very landing page specific.

And it’s all about what was taught to me as ‘controlling the click’. 

Every landing page should have 1 purpose.

It’s not a website or a directory, you want to generate leads.

And that means no ‘about’ section (unless it’s part of the copy), no ‘contact us’ or similar, and no other unnecessary navigation links.

Your landing page should be built for purpose, everything on the page should be driving them to download your e-book, join the waiting list or and download any other lead magnet.

Whatever your primary goal is.

The way they do all that is by entering their details, so this should be clear and all the copy of the page should be selling them on clicking the button and entering their details.

That’s why they have landed on that page.

 That’s what you want them to do.

So make that the one objective of your page!

 They either enter their details and go to the next step or they navigate off the page.

No confusion, no extra links, no fluff.

Clear, Concise Benefit Driven Headline and Subheading

The next one is pretty universal when it comes to marketing.

Let’s start with no funky colours or hard to read backgrounds.

To reiterate again, the #1 objective is to communicate your product so that comes before colours, textures and backgrounds.

I will add that there is a number of theories or methods you can use when it comes to headlines.

It doesn’t need to be “How to do x in y, without z”.

I recommend you look at anything by David Ogilvy or Claude Hopkins, they may seem outdated or not totally relevant, but as I’ll explore in a future blog post, you should study principles not tactics.

Formulas for headlines and other marketing tactics are sexy and helpful when you’re starting out but your goal should be to graduate from them as soon as possible.

You can view these as by a quick search on swiped.co

Now we’ve handled what not to do, I’ll try to be more helpful and tell you what you can and should do.

To put it plainly, you can’t go far wrong using a benefit driven headline, take Claude Hopkins Palmolive adverts:

5 Mistakes Corrected for you in a shaving cream”

“Happy Faces — Men tell us this makes shaving a morning joy”

“Learn why thousands of men are flocking to this new shaving creation”

You could argue these all include some intrigue too, which I would definitely agree with, but as a man that shaves, it’s clear the benefit you’ll get from reading further into the advert.

This kind of concise communication is what is really important, as with sales your prospect will be asking themselves “what’s in it for me?” as soon as they come across your ad.

To labour the point further, try to be creative and remember that great writing is the reason these Claude Hopkins headlines are great, not some formula that promises to make your sales letter convert £1m in sales in 20 minutes without having ever written an ad before.

Risk Reversal

Some of the points above aren’t exactly logical, however, given how much this one makes sense on a human level, I’m surprised so many people miss it in our industry.

The basic premise is simple, reassure people that there is a way out if things don’t work.

Am I saying offer unconditional refunds?

Of course not.

What I’m suggesting is that you make it a no-brainer for the person and satiate the animal part of them that fears making a bad decision.

This can take a few forms, such as:

“A 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee.”

“We’ll work with you until you make your first sale.”

“You’ll lose 2 stone in 90 days or your money back.”

Or in the case of the expert empires mastermind:

“Double your investment in 12 months or your money back” (This would actually be a shit result for you and us)

The above are just examples, what’s truly important is empathy for your customer.

Anticipate what objections they will have and meet them where they are.

Ask yourself what you can do to make this decision easy for your prospect and what you can do to reverse the risk for them.

Marketing is Science & Psychology, Not Art

Let me preface this principle before we go any further, I’m not bashing my colleagues, friends or anyone else who reads this that is a graphic designer, creative director or any of the other creative functions within marketing.

To quote David Ogilvy:

“Advertising is not an art form, it’s a medium for information, a message for a single purpose: to sell.”

I’m more and more inclined as I grow within marketing and specifically advertising to view the end goal as compelling communication.

As I chose function over flair more often, I wanted to share how I think about marketing and codify my thoughts in this final principle.

Let’s tackle the science part first.

This is an area I’m working on extensively at the moment, I’ve always tested and fine-tuned with Facebook and youtube ads, treating the strategy as a science experiment.

Keeping a control and testing one variable at a time to produce results that are as accurate as possible.

Where I’ve fallen down is not taking this approach into email, funnel building, direct mail and any other medium I use.

The problem with relying on the results of someone else’s test is that you’re removing the context.

That’s why I believe you should be committed to testing and tuning everything you do and striving always to gain insights through data.

I plan on sharing more of my musings with you as I crystalise them into a strategy and practical guide I can parse and put into some kind of readable/understandable format.

But for now let’s move onto the Psychology part.

An important thing to mention here is that I believe that copywriting is ‘sales in print’, so much of the same principles apply, this belief has not only helped me write copy, but has allowed me to nurture a healthy relationship between sales and marketing in our organisation.

Don’t get me wrong, there are bumps in the road, but I feel we have achieved an elusive understanding and harmony.

So if copy and landing page design draw from the same skillset as sales, the long form copy vs. short form copy argument is easy to settle.

If I ask our head of sales Jack ‘The Beluga’ Duggan whether he’d prefer to pitch someone for 1 minute or 30 minutes… his answer is predictable.

So apart from certain instances, it’s hard to make the case for short-form copy.

As I said above, I want you to make decisions for yourself, but from all my testing, long-form copy has won out every time.

In summary, I want to stress that it’s important to respect the creative function and place it in the proper context.

My ultimate hope from you reading this blog is to have sparked a dialogue in your head about Design and conversion, that you can take into your next marketing campaign.

And that next time you’re ready to create a landing page or Facebook ad, you approach it like a scientific experiment rather than like you’re painting the sistine chapel.

That concludes the principles I’m sharing with you today, which of the 7 do you think would get you a better result from your marketing when implemented?

Until next time.

Stay Classy