Marketing diaries

Conversion experiment inspired by Ivy League

NOVEMBER, 19 / 2023
TL;DR: An experiment where we introduced the application process in the marketing funnel and improved conversions.

Making your product not-so-available seems counter-intuitive. Here's a quick story how we did exactly this.
“When our emotions are engaged, we often have trouble seeing things as they are.”
- Robert Greene
Marketing is professional seduction.

As marketers and copywriters, we’ve all heard way too much about leading with benefits, not features.

As consumers, when offered a list of dry details of a product, it shows up as flat, boring, and not cool enough.

Try: “10-second video” VS “A scroll-stopping ad”.

The first one is a boring description. Second is something I’d be asking you to show me.

In fact, there’s too much reality and too little mystery in the world. We are striving for a little double-meaning, fantasy, and thought-provoking details.

I didn't entirely get this mystery thing before.
Marketing is professional seduction.
We got 1000s of leads, but the conversion was just not happening.
I've been working with this e-learning business for years, and we've not been able to improve conversions.
Traffic seemed to bounce off the landing page. Folks stayed within our email list for years, converting on average after 340 days. How exhausting.

We’ve done promotional campaigns, online events, you name it. We've gotten really good at collecting leads, but conversions were just not there.

The leads are not wrong, and we know it.
But there was something about our process that didn't give us enough predictability.
What didn’t work in this process
Over 3 years of experimentation, we made a switch from running evergreen courses to intakes and the other way around, multiple times.

Promoting all the time at a mid- to high-range price point didn’t work because there was not enough incentive to "join now".

Promoting intakes with Launch Formula didn't work either because we had a suite of products, and it ended up being that same consistent intensive email marketing with very low predictability.

Driving traffic from email/social media right to the landing page didn’t do anything if we didn’t have a limited-time offer with a time constraint.
What (literally) any college has (and we didn't).
It started with one of our online events.

In the recent months, engagement of the audience dropped quite a bit, from 20-30% to about 5%.

So we thought that we needed to drive engagement up by filtering the attendees, even though the event was free.

I have to give the credit for this project to our program manager Varya, who's a brilliant team member always bringing ideas on board. Varya suggested we build a longer application form and screen registrations slightly.

But what we've noticed surprised us.

Our leads suddenly became almost 3x cheaper (in absolute terms, CPL dropped from an average of $2.5 to under $1 which is something we’ve not seen since 2019).

Engagement also went up. We activated over 70% of the leads and got about 30-40% of them engaged in the event. Again, something we've not seen since the pandemic.

So we’ve decided to test the same concept - application - on our actual registration.
Instead of letting people buy directly, we showed the price but added a hideous application form of 15 questions where they had to convince us they deserved it.
Organic traffic test of the application process
On organic traffic, we got 33 pre-applications (qualified leads) and 22 completed applications during the 1st seven days. Out of these, 3 completed registration and pre-paid for their spots. Zero adspend. A total of $2450 in the bank.

We’ve just started our little seduction experiment, but it’s very peculiar to see how a move that seemed risky (not letting people buy) ended up actually improving our sales. There would be no sales on these two products otherwise. They didn’t sell by themselves. Now they do.
My takeaways from introducing application form in sales
We’re still learning but here are a few things that we understood about human psychology from running this experiment:

  • Available doesn’t equal desirable
  • People love winning something or being accepted into something. That makes them feel special.
  • “You’ve been accepted” creates a positive press around an opportunity. That’s something they’ll tell their parents, friends and girlfriend. That’s 100x more powerful than “I’ve seen this thing online”. It's a powerful viral loop opportunity that I'm also eager to explore
  • An application is a test, but also an opportunity to talk about yourself. When built right, it’s an enjoyable process.
Next Steps
We’re just starting a paid traffic experiment with the same and I’m excited to see what happens and if we’re able to scale this much further.

Text author: Maria JD Sirotkina
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