A bad situation to be in
Time to investigate more
First attempts
Chasing the last mile


Note: this Case Study is a guest post by Fedor Kámen (whose real name has been edited for obvious reasons, this is a pseudonym). The author's views below are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of the host.


Having signed Non-Disclosure Agreements, I cannot disclose the company I have worked for, nevertheless I've been authorized to publish the inside story using a pseudonym and mockup screenshots.

A bad situation to be in

Here at FluffyWidget - company name has been edited with a fantasy name for obvious reasons - the marketing team were facing a common and little spoken of problem: we had to market a poor product.
Yes, poor compared to competitors', inferior in all aspects in terms of quality. We all know that having a better product makes only half of the journey, but what if the product is not that good either?

Our conversion funnel is a classic Call to Action leading to an order form.
You want to sell more? You can either increase the number of targeted visitors, or improve your Conversion Rate.

Having a steady flow of new visitors to our web site was not a problem.
We corrupted all the niche bloggers we could to have positive spontaneous reviews and links; we spammed the Internet to death; we maintain multiple fake accounts on every inbound marketing community, social forum, subreddit, FB/LinkedIn/G+ group to re-share and up-vote all the fluff we want. That stuff and all the likes, and much more.
Believe me, getting targeted traffic was not an issue.

But then? Our Conversion Rate was rather unsatisfactory, to say the least.
Of course, we did our homework and placed a prominent primary Call to Action above the fold, with reassuring messages, all the up-selling we could, all the newsletter spamming we could. That kind of stuff that works. Normally.
Did it work in our case? Not that much. The increased conversion rate was, if not negligible, too little.

This is how our landing page looked like
This is how our landing page looked like. Looked cool to us.

Time to investigate more

It was time to investigate more. Deep diving into Analytics data, it turned out that the increase in Conversion Rate affected a well defined part of our visitors: first time visitors. Now, first time visitors were not a small chunk; on the contrary, they were a worryingly too big slice of the pie. And no, it's not that they were not targeted visitors, all the data at our disposal suggested they were.

Simply put, visitors did not convert because the product was terrible.

They landed on our site, and either made the purchase on the spur of the moment without thinking twice, or went to compare with other products, read on-line reviews, and then understood it was not a good deal.

First attempts

Once measured and assessed the problem, it's time to brain storm and act accordingly.
We are serious professionals, so first things first: we already had tons of genuine fake reviews about our product on review sites to counterbalance the negative reviews. It wasn't enough. We worked hard, but it hardly worked.

After the first brainstorming sessions, we decided to summon our first secret weapon:

"if your product doesn't sell, make it pink!"

Yes, that single move shifted a damn lot of things: it dramatically increased the conversion rate among female users.
We were on the right track, and had to push more forward.
That meant to change our positioning and users target toward a women audience. We rebranded the product from "Fluffy o'matic" (note: real product name has been edited for obvious reasons, but you get the idea) to "PinkFluffy mate", we made everything 50 shades of pink, changed the whole communication strategy to make the buying process an impulsive purchase.

We made everything 50 shades of pink
We made everything 50 shades of pink. It worked great indeed.

It worked great, conversions were now ten times more, but even that wasn't enough. Conversion Rate was still close to zero.
The product was really too bad and there are far too many intelligent women out there. Heck, you don't even need to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to understand how sh*tty the product is, not matter how pink we painted it.

We needed a cannon, not a little pistol.

A new round of brainstorming session focused on what we had: a steady flow of very targeted visitors.
The most part of them were now women. Far too smart for our goal, but women nonetheless.

Even if it seemed to us we already leveraged all the stereotypes to make women buy, there must be something more to make them switch momentarily the brain off and buy our sh*tty product.

Then the idea came.
We still don't remember whether it was a product of lateral thinking, or simple serendipity, but it come.

We started recalling what makes those marvelous beings so distinctive and special, gathering solid data to back all the assertions, and two interesting pieces of datum kept floating:

"Studies show women are 183% more likely to spot an invisible stain on a shirt."
"Studies show that a blackhead is an irresistible spot to squeeze for 43% of population, percentage that increases dramatically up to 86% for women."

So we decided to make our Call to Action look like a blackhead!

How our landing page looks now
How our landing page looks now. Yes, that's the Call to Action.

We had our cannon.
Our Conversion Rate skyrocketed from night to day.

Forget everything you read about having a prominent Call to Action, we had a population of visitors extremely skilled in spotting tiny little things triggering their curiosity, and extremely likely to click on a tiny little spot if it resembled a blackhead!

Chasing the last mile

That change alone made a huge, dramatic change in the first step of the conversion funnel, enough for the business to survive ...but we wanted it to thrive.

There was a further obstacle to the buying process: the purchase form had to be filled.
It already was over simplified, but for far too many users it was enough to pause and think about it, and realise they were going to buy a terrible product. We needed more, but were now confident you can have anything you want if you ask properly.

It's here that reverse psychology come to the rescue.

The lead generation form, redesigned with reverse psychology techniques
The lead generation form, redesigned with reverse psychology techniques.

Guess what happened? (hint: the red button is glowing)

Here is the final percentage uplift in Conversion Rate:

Comparison of control vs variant, CR percentage uplift
Comparison of control vs variant, CR percentage uplift.

Note: the percentage expresses the final overall result, comprehensive of all said optimizations.


That's all it takes folks, now our business is thriving and we can focus on how to better cheat our potential customers into buying a terrible product instead of trying to improve it.

If it doesn't work first, try and try harder. Never give up.

And you, how did you manage to trick your customers into the buying process?