Persuading people to say Yes to your organization is part art, part science.

The science part is the discipline you follow to execute a campaign flawlessly. Things like setting up your test panels so you can be confident in your results, and using careful targeting to present your offer to the most likely audience.

The art part is where you leverage your past learnings to creatively build on your results (copy/offer/format testing).

In both categories, you absolutely want to do things according to that magical mantra, “best practice.” But how can you be sure what is best practice and what just sounds logical?

Test yourself with our “two truths and a myth” challenge. Which one is the myth?

  • It’s best practice to limit the amount of information/choices you ask for at initial enrollment.
  • It’s best practice to immediately follow up acquisition with a multi-part onboarding email series.
  • It’s best practice to give people as many channel options as possible to respond so they will do what is easiest for them. 

Limiting initial enrollment choices

Here’s a clue: The more hurdles you put in front of a prospect, the fewer you will get to the finish line. 

Asking a prospect to tell you seemingly personal information before they “know” you will raise questions about how the information is going to be used, and why you need to know. While your database analysts would love to know date of birth, level of education, household income and all manner of other personal information to make their modeling and analysis more robust, every time you ask a personal question you can count on prospects backing away. Especially when it comes to personal information that they have been trained to protect from evil forces (like date of birth). 

Instead: encourage people to complete their profile AFTER they join and can see that they will benefit from the organization’s ability to tailor their experience based on personal information. 

Presenting too many offer choices when they are deciding to join can also be daunting. “Why would I join for three years, even for a discount, if I don’t know if this organization is a right fit?” While your retention department loves three year memberships (for good reason, says this article by Barry Elk), you have just said they can save money if they commit…but what if they aren’t ready to commit? 

The conundrum will cause them to pause and potentially walk away. 

Instead: Offer a multi-year “deal” as an early-bird (meaning around 6-months prior to their renewal date) renewal after they have had a few months to learn to value their participation in your organization. And definitely offer multi-year options in your regular renewal series when a good deal feels like a smart choice rather than something they don’t know if they can get out of if they aren’t comfortable with the initial decision.

Much like multi-year commitment deals, auto-renewal can feel like a “gotcha” at acquisition. They might trust your web security certification enough to pay the initial cost of entry by a credit card, but trusting you to store it and use it again? They aren’t ready. And, they might have concerns about being able to get out of the auto-renewal commitment.

The true Best Practice is to keep it simple. One (very low) hurdle to overcome to achieve that first Yes.

Verdict: Truth

Immediate follow up with a welcome series

Everyone probably got this one right. But knowing and doing are often different animals. Plus, this one is so important it belongs at the top of everyone’s best practice list.

Your prospect said yes to something (a premium, a trial, an attractive offer), but that doesn’t mean they understand how to access their benefits, who is behind the content, how to connect with others and a myriad of other opportunities to engage. 

Now is the time to start the conversation, but don’t do it with a dump truck. Respect how busy your new prospect might be, and recognize that they didn’t wake up this morning thinking about you. It’s your obligation to break the education up into bite-sized nuggets, with WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) as your content-guiding star. 

Take a breath. Take a look at your audience patterns and pick your priorities of engagement based on popularity and ease-of-entry. If your current audience highly values parts of your publication, start with that (“other people like you find value in the regular column about _____. Here’s how that column is developed, and a link to the archives for you to catch up on what others have enjoyed”). 

Like peeling an onion, tackle your engagement process one step at a time. Use this free guide as a starting point to onboarding.

Verdict: Truth

Call or text or mail or fax or online or in-person or carrier pigeon?

Well, maybe carrier pigeons are a bit facetious. And few people (outside the healthcare sector) use a fax machine any more. But thinking your prospect needs lots of response options is a surprising myth. It’s one we have tested many times, simply because the results are surprising to most well-meaning marketers. 

You think you’re doing your prospects a favor by giving them options. What you’re really doing is invoking the paradox of choice: too many and they are stymied. 

This is related to the first truth above (don’t make a prospect answer too many questions or make more than one enrollment choice). But it’s particularly true when it comes to channel switching, with exceptions. If yours is a consultative sale (like insurance), bringing the prospect to a channel where they can have their hand held throughout the journey (phone, an agent, a good online experience), then it doesn’t matter what channel you’re using (mail, email, paid media, outbound telemarketing). You can live with some level of channel-switch loss to increase your conversions. 

But, if you’re looking for an impulse Yes, keep it in the channel you are using for the invitation whenever possible and logical. If you send them an email, don’t make them print out and mail a form. If you send a mail piece, include an easy-to-return form (and a pre-paid envelope) OR a reason to use your convenient URL for fastest service. With any kind of digital offer (email or paid media), pre-populate or use pass through functionality (without being creepy or setting off privacy alarms). 

Verdict: Myth

While best practices evolve, some truths remain at the top

Best practice tactics didn’t just happen because something seemed logical. They earned their spot on the list through careful (and sometimes repeated) testing and subsequent results. The things we knew to be absolutes years ago have slid down the list (always using typewriter font may have lost a bit of its power in the digital age, for example). But keeping the decision(s) to a minimum and keeping the hurdles low remain top of the list of effective consumer persuasion.

There are other best practice learnings in the Next Yes Consulting Insights archives. Help yourself to the published content, and let us know if you want more clues to help your acquisition, engagement and renewal process succeed.  

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