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Tell Time & Be Granular With Messaging

Harrison Small
Principal Consultant for the Oracle Maxymiser Professional Services team

In this two-part series on optimization testing in the financial services sector, we discuss how granular and time-based messaging can help companies inspire users to complete the funnel.

Application funnels must, by nature, ask for a certain amount of information. Whether it’s for a new checking account, an insurance quote, or any number of other products and services, users often have to submit personal data across multiple webpages. And, let’s face it—users just as often don’t make it to the end of the funnel.

At the risk of sounding like a 2 a.m. infomercial: Does this happen to you? If your users are dropping off and you’re trying to improve funnel conversions, take a step back and examine your messaging. The best kind of messaging is both segment-specific and time-based, both of which I’ll explain in more detail below. It has to convince users outside the funnel to enter it, and then once they’re there, it has to convince them to finish all the required steps.

Messaging Matters

Let’s Talk About Text

Messaging is how a company describes itself, its purpose, and its capabilities. Users who understand these things before entering the funnel are more likely to finish it once they do. And when it comes to messaging, we marketers must keep two things in mind. One, as Mark Twain put it, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Two: It’s not just what you say—it’s to whom you say it.

Users who understand your company's purpose and capabilities before entering the funnel are more likely to finish it once they do.

In my experience, most financial institutions try to drive users to start an application process by giving them a very general value proposition. Their thought process is to keep the messaging high-level so it appeals to a broader audience. This, of course, is basically the opposite of CXO best practice. The more general a message is, the less likely it is to inspire users to take action: “74% of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests” (Janrain).

Get Granular

To catalyze user action, you have to include a more specific value proposition: one that highlights a particular benefit someone will get if she completes your funnel. If a bank user is applying for a credit card, for example, that bank might include messaging about how easy it is to set up mobile banking with that particular card. An insurance company might reveal the savings someone could receive if he bundled car and home insurance.

The danger in this, of course, is the reason financial companies tend to err on being general: What if you get granular with your messaging but deliver it to personas who don’t like it? You have to learn your segments’ preferences through testing to make sure specific messaging resonates with the right people.

How to Tell Time

Crafting a specific value proposition, however, is just half the battle. The more steps a funnel has, the more likely it is users will abandon it before converting. How can we minimize this behavior? By properly setting users’ expectations before they enter the funnel. This can be done with time-based messaging.

One idea is to employ a progress bar in the funnel, which gives people a concrete feeling of moving closer to the finish line. This tactic, which is now used in many different industries, has been proven to increase conversions: One test by FLIR Systems found using a progress bar grew conversions by 28%.

Employ a progress bar in the funnel. This gives people a concrete feeling of moving closer to the finish line.

Another idea is to give users an honest evaluation of how long it’ll take them to finish the process. Calls to action like this—“Get a quote in 10 minutes or less!”—will encourage more qualified users to not only enter the funnel but also complete it. Candor is a good idea because, while some users might choose to dive in and some might choose to postpone, most people don’t think, “I’ll never have 10 minutes! I’m done with this site!” Instead, they usually think, “I don’t have 10 minutes right now.”

Consider the other hand: When users start an application funnel and have no idea how long it’ll take, it’s easier for them to feel it is taking too long—and this is the perfect recipe for drop off. (On a related note, check out one of our previous posts which answers the age-old question: “How Many Steps Should Your Sales Funnel Have?”)

Yes, it can be hard to create good, effective messaging. But financial institutions can overcome this challenge by using testing to find and cater to the right segments with the right words, and by using time-based elements and calls-to-action to inform users before they enter the funnel. These small changes could have a huge impact on conversion rates!

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