Boiling a frog online

They say that the way to boil a frog is not to put them in boiling water.  It’s to put them in cold water and slowly turn up the heat.  Because the change is gradual, the frog will not notice until it is boiled.

Who “they” are and why they want to boil a frog is still unknown.  But the somewhat unfortunate metaphor has a point — it’s often easier to get someone to make a big change in small steps.

Thus, instead of thinking in conversions (for example, getting a visitor to your site to donate), it’s often easier to think in terms of microconversions — the little steps that lead to your (and hopefully your prospect’s) goal.  As the great conversion expert Avinash Kaushik says, “Focus on measuring your macro (overall) conversions, but for optimal awesomeness identify and measure your micro conversions as well.”

There are a few ways you can make this work for you:

Track microconversions and how they lead to your ultimate goal.  Some of these microconversions can include:

  • Connecting with you on social
  • Commenting on a blog post
  • Taking an advocacy action
  • Signing a petition
  • Downloading a white paper
  • Looking at a donation page
  • Subscribing to your e-newsletter
  • Contacting your organization
  • Creating an account
  • Looking for directions to your office

From here you are looking at a classic consultant’s 2×2 matrix:

  • High usage of the microconversion; high conversion to your end goal.  These are the things that make you happy.  For example, if action alert usage is the highest activity on your site and advocates are among your most likely people to donate, you are doing your job well.
  • Low usage of the microconversion; low conversion to your end goal.  You can ignore these things for now; they’ll require a lot of work to get into shape.  You have lower hanging fruit.
  • High usage of the microconversion; low conversion to your end goal.  This is one form of an opportunity — you want to work to optimize the path from the microconversion to your end goal.  Let’s say many people are downloading your white paper, but few of them are donating.  You might find that your communications are largely around different topics from the white paper and your asks aren’t related — these are all fixable things.
  • Low usage of the microconversion; high conversion to your end goal.  If almost no one is commenting on your blog, but almost everyone who comments donates, you should be working to get as many people as possible comment on your blog.

Also, if you are getting fancy, you can compute the value of each microconversion by looking at the donation history of people who take the action.  I’d advise you to get fancy, but the matrix is a good start.

Test a multi-stage donation form.  Tradition says that you click a big button that says “Donate” and you are taken to a long form that you fill out in its entirety.  Tradition will get you all of the gifts that you traditionally get.  The boiling a frog analogy works here; people want to finish things they start, so turning a long form into a series of microsteps easier can increase your overall conversion rate.

Heritage Foundation tried this technique and found it increased registrations by 99% with a two-step versus one-step form.

A few ways to do this include:

  • Ask for a donation amount up front.  If you mouse over a donate button, an ask array or a free response question can capture an amount immediately and pass it through to the next step.  It’s a simple step and once someone has taken that action, they are more likely to fulfill their donation.  (And if they don’t, you have a solid ask amount for their next visit or remarketing.)
  • Separate the credit card information from basic address information, with the address first.  Credit card information is the most personal information, so you want to get someone to volunteer their more basic information first.
  • Remember to use the period after donation confirmation to make a monthly giving ask as described here.

 

Introduce your surveys with easy questions first.  There is a reason that professional pollsters save questions like race and household income to the end — they come at a time when the subject is already psychological committed to completing the survey.  As we’ve discussed, commitment is a very powerful thing.  (Also, because if the person stops at that point, you still have the main data you want.)

If you are doing an online survey, start with a simple question up front, then build on future screens.  An online progress gauge is also helpful.  When a person knows there’s only 20% left in the survey, they are more likely to complete it (just like they are more likely to donate when there’s only 20% left in a campaign).

The big commonality with all of these techniques is to start small and build to a larger commitment.  It won’t help convert those who come to your web site looking to make a donation (OK, may it might), but it will help you build commitments among constituents who are less certain about taking a big step forward in their relationship with you.

Boiling a frog online

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