More Conversions Than a Kool-Aid Cult: Using Mind Control to Boost Your Lead Gen Conversion Rate!

Put on these sneakers, drink this nice drink, and submit to the conversions.

Listen, you run a classy business. You want to stick to above-ground marketing strategies. Protect your brand, do an honest day’s work, sleep like a baby.

You’re in luck! Because these tips are designed to beef up your conversion rate and leave you with a throng of admiring followers!

No one will suspect that beneath the shining facade of your marketing is a dark secret: you’re using classic mind control tactics to increase conversions.

First: Watch this video…

(Editor’s note: Make sure you watch all the way to the end ;)

1. Time control

Pop-ups. Not just for jerks and casinos anymore.

Disrupt the subject’s natural daily routine. With pop-ups!

Everyone hates pop-ups. But they can double your conversion rate, according to a recent non-scientific test. You don’t need to hurl a 900-pixel flashing dietary supplement monstrosity in front of your visitors to get in on the pop-up action. In our unscientific test, we simply enabled “proactive chat” in Snapengage, the livechat provider we use on We had already seen a surge in conversions after adding livechat: few leads are as qualified as a guy so eager to chat about pricing that he doesn’t want to wait for a sales rep to call.

But with proactive chat, we can pop a chat window up in front of visitors who’ve loitered on a given page for a designated amount of time. (We chose to trigger the pop-up after 20 seconds on the “all about how we can help your small business” page.)

No, you’re saying? I’m way too on the up-and-up to condone pedestrian pop-ups? How about a subtle, unobtrusive bar that slyly sneaks down from the top? Give Hellobar a shot. It’s like the gateway drug of pop-ups.

2. Isolation

Solitary confinement? More like solitary conFUNment!

Disallow the subject from interacting with others. By removing the navigation from your landing page!

This simple trick – removing any links, clickable headers or footers, or extra information – will do wonders for your conversion rate. Sending visitors to a site with too much information and the ability to click around empowers them – which just distracts them.

For the best conversion rate, keep your landing page simple: some copy, a pretty picture, a testimonial or two, and your lead form. Oh, and a gigantic, brainwashy button with a clear call-to-action.

3. Removal of privacy

See, Ken looks happy even though he doesn't have any privates - er, privacy.

Appropriate your subject’s sense of private identity – by being super personal and witty in your email copy!

You can dynamically insert a lead’s name into an email – but why relegate it to the salutation? Be creative with your email copy.

Try something like this:

Psst, have you heard that Anna Sawyer hasn’t updated her web security this year? She should download this free trial of web security software!

Or put it into a haiku or a rap or something. Formal salutations are for letters of apology. Embedding the leads’ names in the email copy is the new pink!

4. Reeducation

All the cool kids are washing their brains.

Instill your subject with new beliefs – like that your product is awesome! With testimonials!

It doesn’t take a charismatic evil genius to guess that pretty people all saying they like you will make you more popular. You don’t even need to use pretty people! They can be faceless! For the best testimonials, let’s be honest: write them yourself and get approval from your best customers. This way, you can write extremely self-aggrandizing-but-tenderly-honest testimonials, which will complement your landing page nicely.

Give full names, if possible – for that oh-so-crucial human connection. Don’t waste all the valuable real estate above the call-to-action on testimonials, though. Put them down on the bottom where they can serve as supplementary reading. Your visitors will be so dazzled by your eminence that they’ll have no choice but to complete that lead form.

5. Metacommunication

Controlling you is so easy it's laughab - oh look, an elephant!

Implant subliminal messages by stressing certain key words or phrases.

Uh, are we talking about keyword density here?

‘Cause yeah. Check!

6. Verbal abuse

He's cute... until you're crying (and buying).

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Making people feel bad about themselves is a good way to get them to join your cult – and a great way to get them to download that whitepaper!

In another unscientific Trada test, we held a bunch of webinars with titles along the lines of ‘How to Improve Your PPC’ and ‘Boost Conversions’. Then, we held a webinar called ’13 Ways You’re Killing Your Conversion Rate’. We tirelessly berated our registrants in the email marketing and the event itself, and the slides depicted grisly scenes and scary font. And guess what? Record turnout!

You can verbally abuse your subjects in your PPC ads, too.

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In the immortal (no, seriously) words of L. Ron Hubbard:

“If you want to make a little money, write a book. If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion.”

I like to think he was talking about lead gen conversions here.

To the conversion mothership!

— Anna Sawyer

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About Anna Sawyer
Anna Sawyer is the marketing manager for Trada, a crowdsourced paid search marketplace that connects advertisers with PPC experts. When she's not running integrated vertical and demand-gen programs and producing episodes of MasterPPC Theatre, Anna likes to ride her bike around in Boulder and rock the mic at karaoke.
» More blog posts by Anna Sawyer


  1. Rick

    Anna, this is absolutely awesome! Authentic, funny, and educational. I’m sharing the video with everyone I know.

    Thanks so much for participating!


    • Anna Sawyer

      Thanks to you and Oli for hosting this great contest! I’ve gotten more fab diverse, densely informational but still approachable marketing advice in these two weeks than I usually get in a year :)

  2. Blake McGillis Web Design

    I’m surprised to see that big popups actually increase conversion rates. I usually leave a site the instant the screen dims and a 500px X 500px popup materializes in the center of my screen.

    I am glad that there are popups like Hello Bar, though. That way, I can feel okay about myself when I use popups.

    Great list!

    • Anna Sawyer

      Thanks for the comment, Blake! I definitely agree that screen-eclipsing pop-ups are a turn-off. I do think, though, that subtle, well-designed pop ups like a live chat box, or a fading subscribe-to-my-blog overlay (KISSmetrics does this) can be unobtrusive and even helpful! And hellobar is awesome – we have tested it in the past and we’ll be using it to get the word out about our webinar series in the future.

  3. Yomar Lopez

    That video was GOLD! I particularly like the mention of Hellobar, something I’ve got to implement more on my sites (yes, I know, I recommend stuff I don’t use myself.. how terrible of me). I can speak from personal experience that those subtle pop-ups get more of my attention than the ones that take control of my browser until I close them out.. The ugly side of pop-ups is when they are scripted so that you can’t close them so easily.. But I suppose some folks get conversions from that too.

    I am particularly passionate about reeducation as there is so much misinformation out there or people that swear their way is the ONLY way. We all have to be honest with ourselves and admit that, regardless of what case studies may show, everyone will get different results. Do your trial runs and A/B testing, then go with what works for you.. The point is: do SOMETHING (different)!

    On the matter of guilt tripping, I think it was Deborah Tannen who said that this type of marketing is more effective with women and in certain markets. Beauty and diet products come to mind. Again, that’s a generalization backed up by hard science but it doesn’t make it a universal truth.

    That said, guilt trips don’t work with me most of the time. I feel like it’s a gimmick or I’m being talked down to.. But, if you catch someone at the right time, it can certainly have wonderful results. I guess it all depends on the steps in the qualification process. Once you make that connection, it’s easier to use these emotional tools to drive action.

    Removal of privacy is something we’re gravitating towards but not without some people, like activist hacker group Anonymous, kicking and screaming. Some still want their anonymity but most seem to want to feel connected again. The social web has shown us that folks want to regain the parts of their lives and themselves that they lost hiding behind handles and avatars, so it’s a great opportunity for what I like to call “warm marketing”, where you build a relationship little by little so that the opportunities come naturally.

    All and all, your comprehensive article here should certainly open many eyes. There’s more than one way to peel a potato! I have the munchies so the food reference, once again, seemed proper.. No, I’m not a stoner. ;o)

    • Anna Sawyer

      Thanks, Yomar! It’s funny, because all of the tactics I suggest are somewhat subversive, but when they’re delivered with style and a sense of humor, they can really pay off: possibly by getting extra attention for their sheer gumption! For example, using personal information in email copy. I know that folks get nervous when a company seems to know “too much” about them, but writing with an upbeat style and being friendly and fun is disarming.

      (Yes, this sounds super creepy. But disarming people with charm is a trick as old as time. Doctors do it to make patients feel less nervous before surgery. And there’s another obvious example here… let’s just say it’s the “oldest profession”.)

      Or pop-ups. As the comments here reflect, there are different tiers of pop-ups. Something like Hellobar is practically innocuous. And those pop-ups on sketchy sites that won’t let you close them are at the other end of the spectrum. We hate them because they mess with our notions of usability. But entertainment is a component of the user experience, too. I’m all for pushing envelopes. See how far a sense of humor can get you while you torture your visitors with disruptions. I bet it’s pretty far.

      Here’s a great example of the guilt strategy being served up with a great sense of humor:

      You may be planning to leave Groupon anyway, but now you’re leaving with a smile on your face.

      We had a great sales team member whose final email to lists she hadn’t heard back from was entitled “Why are you breaking up with me?”

      I guess if I were being honest, I’d call myself an entertainer first and a marketer second. (What can I say? I am a middle child. Pay attention to meeeeee!!!!!) Yes, this can occasionally backfire. But for the most part, if you have a big smile on your face and an appreciation for fun, you can get away with murder. (Or conversions.)

      • Yomar Lopez

        I’m with you here, Anna!

        I’ve always professed that business entities have to have more fun with things.. I can’t stand doing business with stuffy people. Boooorrriiiing!

        And you’re right about disarming people.. Treading that thin line between creepy and endearing is tough but well worth it. Most importantly, it helps you focus on the right-fit customers. Personality match is HUGE.

        Speaking of entertainers, it reminds me of that old communication profile thing where there are four types of people: Entertainer, Controller, Thinker, and Feeler. This system has been rehashed many times with different titles but the spirit remains the same. You have to play up your strengths and feel out your audience too. I definitely can tell you’re an Entertainer, perhaps with a bit of Feeler mixed in.

        Controllers are more the folks that feel they have to, well, control the pace of everything, micromanage, etc. Then your Thinkers are the ones that, if you’re used to getting a response from people, you may have some trouble dealing with them.. Because they’re generally emotionless. They sit back, listen, and observe.. And that can be disarming (and creepy) on it’s own because you don’t know what to expect.

        But I digress…

        Hands-down your blog entry was the most fun one of the bunch (even more than Dr. Seuss, and I love me some Dr. Seuss). I’m a bit of a joker myself.. I think I need to be more humorous cause that’s what comes naturally to me. Working many years in IT and traditional business operations made me a bit boring.. I’m still purging myself of the old-money ways. LOL

        You’ve inspired me, Anna! BTW, I added you on Twitter.. I look forward to indulging in your energy! ^_^

        (How much for the purple sneakers?)

        • Anna Sawyer

          Haha – I actually read somewhere that Nike discontinued the Heaven’s Gate sneakers for some PR reason. Ludicrous! Those babies are not only rad, they could fetch a fortune!

  4. daddy

    damn… nice

    i’m actually going to do this…

  5. Jakub Pajer

    After reading this story….I feel abused! However I am going to subscribe to your RSS feeds and follow you on Twitter. ROFL.

  6. Oli Gardner

    More people need to try on those purple sneakers.. Once you get a taste of the Kool Aid there’s no going back.

    Love the video – it;s one of those gems that you want to see out-takes from.


    • Anna Sawyer

      This may be an ask-and-ye-shall-receive type of situation.

      • Oli Gardner

        I hope so!

        • Yomar Lopez

          Makes me think of the part where Anna says she *IS* standing on the “X”.. haha.. I love how that was cleverly inserted in there. GREAT video! One of the few that truly held my attention… Well, besides lolcatz – those are always great! =oP

          • Anna Sawyer

            Thanks, Yomar! Whenever I make a video and am cutting up the footage, I create a bin in Final Cut called something like ‘funny shizz’ with all the clips that don’t really fit anywhere but shouldn’t be tossed… that was one of them :)

  7. Amanda O'Brien

    I really liked this post and got a few good ideas on things I want to do better. Can’t wait to try out Hello Bar and to verbally abuse our customers!

  8. Anna Sawyer

    Hello, gang! Would you like to see some just-released, NEVER-BEFORE SEEN LOST FOOTAGE from the More Conversions than a Kool-Ade Cult video shoot?

    Warning: scary!

  9. Jacqueline Dooley

    You just finished that book about Scientology too, didn’t you? Another disturbing realization – I had no idea Ken’s thighs were that large.

    • Anna Sawyer

      I haven’t read it yet – but I *did* read an excerpt on Gawker, I think. Fascinating stuff!

      Also, for the record, if you ever think you should do a google image search for ‘Ken’s crotch’… think again.

      • Jacqueline Dooley

        At least you can close your browser. I have a 7-year-old daughter with a huge collection of Barbie and Ken dolls. They’re lying naked all over my house. I highly recommend you read the book – I mean HIGHLY. I agree Hubbard was likely a brilliant marketer.

  10. Naomi Niles

    This was simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. LOVE it. :D

    Seriously though, usability and behavioral testing with stoners would be kind of interesting. You could see how difficult it would be to motivate really, um, un-motivated people. Hmmm.

    • Anna Sawyer

      Yes!!! While I personally don’t need any substances (I mean… look at me, I can clearly entertain myself for hours with no help), I always claim that I am the ultimate beta tester because

      a) I never read the instructions
      b) when something doesn’t work, I click on it a lot until it breaks, then send a support ticket

      This might sound insufferable, but if you’re building a product you need to consider the whole spectrum of users, from savvy to cro-magnon!

      Basically, I think stoner testers would be a more scalable version of getting me to bug-test products. There should be a section for that in UTest!

      Excellent idea, Naomi :)

  11. Terry

    Love this. Verbal abuse gets my attention in a second. Why? Ask a psychologist. All I know is it’s magnetic. There’s a post I read recently about how to “stop doing stupid shit” that got my attention WAY more than “focus on getting the basics right” would have. Even though they mean the same thing.


    • Anna Sawyer

      Right?!? And consider the way we speak to each other in real life. Terry, if you were doing something inefficiently, I wouldn’t pull you aside and offer you ‘Ten Efficiency Tips’. I’d slap you upside the head, call you a dipshit, and tell you how to fix yo’ business :)

  12. Kristi Hines

    I think when it comes to pop-ups, you have to give your visitor a little time to get to know you before you blast one in their face. There’s nothing worse for the user experience than reaching a site for the first time and you can’t even see the content fully load before the pop-up halfway displays on top of it (also contributing to higher load time).

    Definitely a good idea on a landing page to give people less options – the less links they see to possibly distract them out means they’re more likely to focus on the real call to action on the page.

    The verbal abuse – that one is a bit tricky. Some people may respond well to it, while others might prefer the gentler approach. It really depends on your industry for that one. :)

    • Anna Sawyer

      I definitely agree that you shouldn’t be too abrasive with your pop-ups or your messaging if your industry doesn’t support it. I may be lucky because my demographic tends to be educated, geeky, and on the young side: basically, we’re talking about Monty Python fans here.

      And Monty Python fans love verbal abuse :)

  13. kp

    HA! I think this is great Anna. Well played. #thatisall

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  16. tyler watts

    well your a parasite really arent you?,, probably a nihilist as well?

    lacking morals possibly?? neurotic ?? apathetic??

    a leach giving a leach lesson,,

    you people are all sleeze,, your the slime i walk on,, a souless biofilm,,

    in one word your pathetic,,

    get a life and do something positive,, playing jedi mind tricks with sheep, your evil,,

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  18. TechMD

    Verbal abuse.. that’s a great idea! lol

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