3 Controversial Conversion Tactics That Will Increase Your Engagement & Revenue

 3 Controversial Conversion Tactics That Increase Customer Attraction
Don’t do this at home kids (Image Source)

Some people like to play it safe. And others like to make money. Those don’t have to be mutually exclusive propositions, but in my experience revenue tends to go up as safety —or at least the perception of safety—goes down.

Here are three conversion tactics I use routinely that feel very unsafe—but are surprisingly effective at bonding my customers to me and increasing my revenues. Many mainstream marketers might consider these tactics controversial—even mildly insane. But they work, and they work well.

1. Making Prospects Jump Through Hoops

Making Prospects Jump Through Hoops
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You know what they say about playing hard to get. An aloof man will drive the ladies crazy, whereas all those fawning, drooling idiots falling over themselves to buy a girl a drink are a complete turnoff.

Or so I’m told.

Why is that? Jim Camp, one of the world’s top negotiators and creator of the “Start with No” negotiation system, says it’s because deep down, we’re all basically predators. When we sense weakness, we ain’t attracted to it — we want to kill it.

And in a social or transactional situation, there’s nothing weaker than neediness.

When prospects sense that you need them, that you are almost desperate for them to buy, they feel that you’re weak. And that’s extremely bad news for you, because they are not looking for someone weaker than they are. They’re looking for someone stronger, who can solve a problem for them, guide them through a difficult situation, or somehow improve their own lives.

They need someone who they can lean on —not someone they sense will be more of a burden to them.

So while, oddly, making it obvious that you want someone’s business can turn them off, giving the opposite impression can turn them on. You can do this implicitly in your copy, of course; but one of the best ways is to overtly change the seller/buyer relationship in your favor.

Instead of you being the seller, and the prospect having all the decision-making power, wouldn’t it be better if your prospect felt like he had to prove himself to you?

One method I use often when promoting products by email is the “Reasons against” campaign. Take, for example, this email promoting a webinar:

3 Controversial Conversion Tactics example 2

2. Get People Riled Up & Engaged

get people riled up and engaged
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The examples above lead rather nicely into a second way of increasing conversions: antagonizing your prospects.

This can take many forms. You can dis on certain kinds of people, as I often do—calling people raving fanboys and questioning their grip on reality. And you can do it in email campaigns or on sales pages, or even on opt-in forms and in your paid products. You can also do it in ads or articles—for example, I recently wrote 3 Reasons Batman is Better Than Superman & How it Can Improve Your Conversion Rates.

Those might seem like unimportant topics — who really cares, right? Does it really count to “antagonize” people who prefer the Big Blue Boyscout to the Caped Crusader?

Well, there’s a lot of benefit in choosing topics that are ultimately unimportant. (Especially if you’re a bit chickenshit.) They get people riled up, which means they’re engaging with your content —but at the end of the day it’s not something they’re going to really hold against you. Conversely, the people who agree with you will bond to you: they’ll like you better, trust you more, and ultimately become better prospects or customers.

That said, if you’re up for a fight, and you know that most of your audience is going to agree with your stance on some important issue, why not go the whole hog? You’ll get the same bonding effect, but in the infamous words of Vegeta —it will be OVER NINE THOUSAND!

Having the stones to stand shamelessly for your convictions really sets you apart from your competitors. The stronger the convictions and the more shameless you are, the more a certain kind of customer will trust you.

Sure, you’ll send others running for the hills to get their pitchforks. But wouldn’t you rather have a smaller number of highly loyal and motivated customers (at the expense of a bunch of lousy prospects), than a larger number of lukewarm ones?

3. Talking About Irrelevant Nonsense

Talking About Irrelevant Nonsense
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Let me ask you what would come across as a random question: What do possums, sheep, guinea-pigs, bow-hunting, computer games, driving, or a 1,200-word joke about the secret of a long-forgotten monastery have to do with marketing?

You might think nothing whatever —and you’d be right in a way. Yet they are the topics of my most popular email campaigns.

In fact, “the secret that only monks can know” is one I’ve reused because of its effectiveness. People want to be entertained just as much as they want to learn about improving their business figures. Probably more in most cases, because entertainment is fun; whereas improving your business tends to get pretty dreary after a while. It is, after all, work.

That’s why many subscribers write to tell me that they read through the entire 1,222-word monk email, even if they already knew how it was going to end —just because it’s so entertaining. Whereas they’ll barely skim more “useful” information that’s half as long.

Now, if you’re thinking that simply engaging your audience is really worth nothing if you aren’t making any sales, you’re exactly right.

What would be the point of telling my prospects jokes — no matter how entertaining — if I didn’t make any money? That’s not a business model, and if you ever come across someone who claims that the key to successful marketing is to engage your audience without selling to them, run away.

But the monk story email is followed a couple of hours later by another short email, as follows:

3 Controversial Conversion Tactics example 3

Naturally, this campaign isn’t meant to produce outrageous profits —the product is only $29. But it’s a quick and easy way of getting people to put up their hands as prospects for a higher-priced writing training program and make a few bucks in the process.

What Bold Marketing Tactics Do You Use?

These tactics aren’t the only controversial ones I could write about. But they’re among the most solid, proven ways of increasing customer attraction that I know. Yes, they’re scary to implement, and not for timid and faint of heart. But that’s part of what makes them so effective.

What conversion tactics have you tried that others might disagree with or consider mildly insane? Share your own insights below.

— D Bnonn Tennant

About D Bnonn Tennant
D Bnonn Tennant is the author of the free email micro-course “5 Sales-Spiking Website Tweaks Gurus & Designers Don’t Know”. When he isn’t teaching on turning visitors into customers, he’s schooling his kids in archery, fisticuffs and how to grapple a zombie without getting bit.
» More blog posts by D Bnonn Tennant


  1. TaeWoo

    I can’t say i know EVERYTHING about online marketing.. but I do know I try a lot. This works well for certain products targeting certain demographics. For example.. younger men in the fitness products industry… or info products in affiliate marketing space. (I know this b/c I tried and it worked).

    The only way to tell is with any other marketing.. ABT.. always be testing. Don’t assume. Just test.

  2. Liam

    Really insightful post Bnonn, great stuff.

    I think entertainment in particular is an oft overlooked factor. In NLP they call it ‘pattern interrupt’ and it engages like crazy, I mean who expects to read about monks and batman when seeking out copywriting help?

    I’m not a guru fan boy (although they are good to pay attention to at arms length) but the recent Video Genesis launch was a prime example of entertainment providing a solid message and converting like crazy

    Thanks again


  3. Andy Kuiper

    Uhhhmmm…. interesting ideas :-)

  4. Pam Neely

    I, um, know someone trying to sell books online. They are doing Facebook advertising, and driving people to a landing page. This landing page has a simple header, a video (about 300 px wide) and some minimal nav at the bottom. The video is 4 mins long.

    They do not show the order button until 3 mins into the video. I have looked at the analytics data on this page. People typically stay 37 sec and then leave.

    Is there any way this could NOT be the worst landing page in the world, ever?

    The, um, friend thinks that the video builds allure and pre-screens people who aren’t interested anyway. I think they could just as well be lighting cash on fire.

    The video is one of those AdToons approaches, then it goes in customer testimonials… which begin about 37 seconds into the video.

    Could I be wrong? Could there be some benefit to not letting people order… for 3 minutes?

    • Luke

      No, tell your friend to change it! In this case I can’t see any value in that at all.

  5. Randall Magwood

    Typically making people jump through hoops is something that i almost NEVER do. But for the right cause, and the right price of the product that i am selling… i would do it.

  6. Manya.pe

    In our agency we also use NLP tools.
    For example, instead of saying, “Read the article to know …” we say: “After reading the article you will know ….” and thus predispose the user to read the article

  7. Automated Marketing

    Good negotiation skills, persuasive help with sales, but proper marketing strategies, tools and medium will make you to the top.

  8. best creatine

    Those are 3 things I certainly would have never thought about doing! Great ideas that I am going to implement and see what happens.


  9. Eslam Nabil

    Thanks a lot bro :)

  10. Randall Magwood

    I’ve always been taught that making people jump through hoops is a great way to lose and miss out on hot subscribers. But in some niches, i do think that making people jump through hoops is a good marketing idea.

  11. Frederik

    Groupon uses (at least in the Netherlands) ridicule copy on their day offers. It is really like their day offers are written by a 14 year old with a large imagination who is on drugs. But it must work since they are using it for quite some time. It is entertaining to read and I can imagine people reading them every day in their mailbox and grin…. Good example of the ‘irrelevant nonsense’ you wrote about!

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