It takes more effort to win over and convert first time buyers. Consumers are more apt to buy from someone they know and trust. That’s a given. After all, they don’t have much of a relationship with your business initially, yet you still expect them to commit themselves to you. Getting new customers to identify, engage and trust your business quickly helps move relationships forward with more ease and with a higher likelihood that they will buy from you again and again.

You can’t always get it right the first time, as I have learned. But through trial and error and by learning from others in my industry, I’ve been able to learn some tactics to boost the conversion rates of first time buyers. Here is what I know works today:

1. Focus on Design

Steve Jobs once said “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” In his words, design is not just about color, placement and UX. It’s how intuitive your product, landing page or website is. It’s how people relate and feel about it.

How your website or landing page is designed will affect your conversion rate. Less is more. Take a tip from Morgan Brown and stop designing pages and start designing flows. “Design flows that are tied to clear objectives allow us to create a positive user experience and a valuable one for the business we’re working for,” says Brown in an article for Smashing Magazine. We are often too quick to jump to determine web copy, messaging or web personalization before setting out clear site objectives.

“If you start with a detailed look at the objectives of the user and the business, you would be able to sketch out the various flows that need to be designed in order to achieve both parties’ goals” she explains. Only then, should you turn to the next step of copy creation.

And on the note of less is more, only provide the necessary information or data needed to convert the user. Kissmetric’s Anatomy of a Perfect Landing Page couldn’t explain it any better.

Once you have determined the flow, articulate the headline(s) and copy that relate to the behavior of the visitor (assuming you would know this based on your funnels). Create a very clear call to action, testimonials and social proof. Which leads us to ...

2. Social Proof

I like to think of myself as an independent, autonomous being, but, like most people, I just can’t resist doing what everyone else is doing. The human brain likes to know that others are also onboard when decisions need to be made - perhaps its instinctual (in a “safety in numbers” kind of way).

Why not use this natural phenomenon to your advantage – incorporate numbers (but not statistics) into your sales copy to give your potential customers confidence that your company is a safe bet, tell them how many others have done what they are about to or explain how many people have been affected by your company, etc. Tell them a story (based on facts) that puts them at ease and melts their fears. A quick use of A/B testing will prove if this works on your audience too., a marketplace for advice, has a great customer success page. On it, both experts and advice seekers share their incredible stories and successes won after having used the service. It is just the type of content a new user needs to see before committing themselves and signing up.

3. Web Personalization

Web personalization will increase the relevance of the content on your landing page or website. The greater the relevance, the greater the conversion rate (remember your funnels!). Tailoring content for your potential customers is proven to increase engagement and far more likely to result in a new lead. Use words that speak directly to the person, like it was meant for them alone. Even go as far as creating customer profiles and customized campaigns to appeal to specific groups – this is far more effective than targeting buyers across multiple demographics.

“Recent research from Adobe and Econsultancy reveals that 52% of digital marketers surveyed agreed that ‘the ability to personalize content is fundamental to online strategy. The more relevant the page the visitor lands on, the more likely they are to convert the sale.” explains Jamie Brighton.

Even more, a study completed by Pauline de Pechpeyrou and Pierre Desmet of ESSEC Business School and Paris-Dauphine University, concluded that web personalization gives three types of benefits to the visitor:

  • Cognitive: Reduced search and comparison costs to find the best product.
  • Financial: Reduction of perceived risk
  • Experiential: Discovery of great new products

Essentially, what web personalization is trying to solve is to break down the barriers to entry of new and returning visitors and to expedite the speed of trust.  At the end of the day, if you can communicate a relevant message to every visitor and make them feel unique and empowered, you might be surprised by the results.

4. Focus on Referral Traffic

When you click on a link from a friends Facebook update and post to your own page, retweet a tweet sent from a follower or buffer an article you just read, you are endorsing that content. You are trusting that content is relevant, good and shareable based on the person who originally posted it. The funny thing is that most people don’t even read the article! (I am guilty of this too). They share without reading because they trust that, based on who this person is or based on their previous shares, that it will be great and relevant to you.

Referral traffic tends to convert better than most other forms of traffic and, in this case study from Social Media Today, it is proven to convert four times better. The reason for this is clear – people are more likely to buy something when someone they already trust has endorsed it.

By focussing on increasing your referral traffic, you are tapping into sources of traffic that are already one step closer to trusting you. That means you essentially need less effort to convince them and are more likely to convert as a result. Use Earned Media to drive leads from highly-reputable sites, or even partner with people who already have audiences that trust them. This type of traffic is worth far more than just a back-link or an impressive analytics page.

5. Use Images Appropriately

We now know that design can dramatically increase conversions, that web personalization builds trust and that referral traffic increases exposure, but what about images?

Photos and images are especially powerful in your landing page or website design. Take Airbnb for example. Their homepage is always so welcoming with the clear, crisp images of actual places for rent. The feel and warmth of Venice, Paris or Boston quickly and elegantly pops up on your screen. The catch? Intisement. The use of such images increases trust, speed of rent and commitment of the user.

There are three types of images that can help increase your conversion rate:

  • Photos of real people
  • Images of women, babies, and attractive people, smiling
  • Unique, colorful and eye catching images

It’s easier to connect with real people than a cartoon – something that again ties into social-proofing your site. Using images of faces your customers want to connect with, or in Airbnb’s case, images of actual places, helps to build that relationship. Like it or not, in the real world attractive people are often judged as being more successful, likeable and even intelligent. Associating your company with these types of people will help your leads see you in a more attractive light, and that is only going to help your conversion rate optimization.

There is even a belief that larger images can have a beneficial impact on your site’s ability to convert. But be careful though, if it’s the wrong image, you are likely to reduce your conversion rate, so make sure you know which images are good for your customers.

6. Make Your Lead Generation Process Amazing

The quicker (and more obvious) it is to complete a form, the easier it will be to convert visitors. Take DrayTek for example. Their landing page is painfully obvious as to what they want the visitor to do. If the big red arrow didn’t give it away, then you need glasses. Why is this page so successful? It’s beautifully designed (gains trust), easy to read (quick), has a short explanation (informative), offers something for free (yay free stuff!), and asks for only a few pieces of information.

There are five things you can do to increase the ease with which people complete your forms:

  • Make them short
  • Remove navigation options
  • Have one CTA, tops
  • Keep forms above the fold
  • Write clear and concise copy

Reduce the number of fields on your forms to the absolute minimum. Remove clutter and distraction, especially navigation menus that would entice your lead away from completing the form. Call-to-actions should not confuse – keep them precise and relevant. Simple and easy to understand copy is best. Finally, keep lead gen forms above the fold. If you hide them, no one will complete them.

7. Test Your Landing Pages

I think we’ve all been guilty of this before – doing what we read, instead of testing it ourselves on our own site. Why test? Because you need to determine what variations actually convert, duh! You can and should be testing your landing pages to see which variation produces the best conversion rate. The testing possibilities are almost infinite, but don’t get overwhelmed - just start testing something and see what happens. Conversions will become optimized as you learn what your audience likes and dislikes.

Offering discounts or other incentives is a great way to increase conversions. For example, GetResponse tested the difference between a “Free Trial” call-to-action and a “Buy It Now” and found that offering a free trial not only increased clickthroughs by 47 percent, it also rocketed actual signups for trials by 158%.

Giving your leads a less intimidating stepping-stone is a great way to entice them to start a relationship with you. Think of ways to get customers to take steps forward to engaging with your business, even if it just a small step.

Things you can try today:

  1. Ebook
  2. Whitepaper
  3. Videos
  4. Infographics
  5. Tips of the day
  6. A gift

Neil Patel does this well on his blog. He offers a free SEO report to first time, and returning visitors who haven’t used his services before. Being one of the top inbound marketers sets the standards for what you can expect.

The best relationships can take time to build. Don’t lose them on a long form, a crappy CTA, too much copy, or bad images.  These eight tactics have helped me increase the rate at which first-time buyers convert. You need to focus on showing you are trustworthy. You need to show others have trusted you and were successful, and you need to include a web personalization strategy to ensure relevance. By tackling just a few of these things, will help you enhance your conversion rate optimization.

What have you found to be the most powerful tactic to boost conversions among first-time buyers?