4 Psychological Theories For Creating Scientifically Irresistible Landing Pages

Just a few days ago, I had a surreal experience — and it will change the way you think about landing pages.

I was walking to work, just like every other normal day. Except it was ridiculously hot out — as in the apple I was eating started to literally break down in my hands.

The sun was beating down, and you could see the waves of heat radiating off all the rich brick houses on the way to the office. I read online it’d be hot out, but nothing like this (yes, it CAN get that hot in Minnesota).

Here’s where the weird part comes in.

Suddenly, this bright Ferrari runs through a stop sign, swerves off the road and comes inches from clipping me on the sidewalk. The car skids through the pavement until it crashes into a fire hydrant and blows up in a big, action movie fireball.

Turns out, I had accidentally stumbled onto the set of a movie in the middle of a big stunt. Oops.

Story over.

But quick! Think of a color. Seriously, use the first color that comes to mind, and don’t scroll down until you pick a color.

……….

……….

It was red, wasn’t it? And I bet you pictured the Ferrari as red too, didn’t you (that, or yellow)?

Most of you might be creeped out right now because that is the exact color you’re thinking of. Yet I didn’t mention the word “red” in that entire story.

There are a lot of psychological triggers I included to make you think of the color red (I’ll elaborate later in the post). These types of psychology principles have tremendous use in marketing applications, but I’m going to do you one better than that.

I’m going to show you how to use psychology to make your landing pages scientifically irresistible.

Stop_Sign

We highly recommend you download the “Psychology Theories Applied” worksheet so you can follow along and fill in your responses. Download that free worksheet here.

1) Anchoring Effect

Let’s try out a little experiment. Check out this awesome water bottle I found:

9056_Stainless_Steel_Water_Bottle907103_l

Not only is it BPA Friendly, but the liquid contained inside the bottle stays warm/cold for 10+ hours AND the art is custom.

Now, I need you to do something. On a little slip of paper, write down the last two digits of your social security number and mail that slip to me (kidding about that last part).

Got the numbers? Great, let’s call that the “price” of this water bottle. For example, if your social ends in “81” then the price of this bottle is $81.

After you’ve done that, I want you to write on that same scrap of paper how much you’d actually pay for this water bottle. Throw a bid out there that seems fair.

Done? Let me make a guess, then: those of you with socials ending from 00-19 paid around $9, while those with numbers ending  from 80-99 paid about $26.

That’s what David Ariely found in an anchoring experiment he ran at MIT in 2006. People with high social security numbers paid up to 346 percent more than those with low numbers.

Why? The social security number that dictated the “price” of the item acted as an anchor point for setting a starting price in your mind.

That’s what the Anchor Effect is all about. This is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions.

On a landing page, that initial anchor is unfathomably important.

How To Use Anchoring Effect in Your Landing Pages

Price anchoring is one of the oldest retail tricks in the catalog. This isn’t a new strategy, but you’d be surprised at how many people “sink” when they forget to utilize this principle (I need a new joke writer).

See, you want to establish the value of your product right away in the consumer’s mind. Since no one really knows how much a service/product is worth, so you have the advantage of dictating the early “price mindset.”

Plus, even if they CAN compare it with similar products, you can still assign an anchored value in order to set perceived quality of your product. Take a simple white shirt, for example.

Regular-Shirt

This shirt is 100% cotton, does an adequate job of shielding my upper body from the judging eyes of society, and costs $5.

Kanye-Shirt

This shirt is 100% cotton, does an adequate job of covering my pasty whiteness from accidental public viewing, and costs $120.

There is no noticeable difference between the two shirts, yet one is instantly viewed as a “luxury item” due to the price point that was anchored in your mind.

The example above is the obvious way of displaying a true cost on your page to establish an anchor point. But, there are two other ways to practice anchoring with prices.

The first is the “perceived vs actual price” strategy. In this case, the “perceived” price is used as the anchor point, while the “actual” price is there to demonstrate how much you’re saving — even though, in most cases, you really aren’t saving anything.

Watches

Is that Baume & Mercier watch ever really sold for $4,350?

Most likely not. But you feel like you’re getting a deal you can brag to your friends about. Thus, “perceived vs actual price” anchoring in action.

The second less-obvious way to anchor on your landing page is through “contextual pricing.” This is where the product you expect people to buy is flanked by one or two other options on different ends of the pricing spectrum.

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In the book Priceless by William Poundstone, a pricing experiment involving beer demonstrates the true effect of contextual pricing. Two kinds of beer were offered: premium beer for $2.50 and bargain beer for $1.80. Somewhere around 80% of people selected the expensive beer.

But then a third beer was brought in — a low tier bargain beer for $1.60. With this new option, 80% bought the $1.80 beer and the rest the $2.50 beer. Not a single person bought the cheapest beer.

They took the experiment one step further by removing the $1.60 beer and replacing it with an expensive $3.40 beer. Now, most chose the $2.50 beer, few took the $1.80 beer and about 10% opted for the $3.40 beer.

Strange, isn’t it? When faced with two options, people chose the best-sounding option. However, when another option was placed on either end of the choice spectrum, people overwhelmingly chose the middle option.

You can achieve this exact same effect on your own landing pages. Even if you only have two real options available for purchase, you can add a third “dummy” option to ensure the middle option is picked.

Pricing

Plasso, a digital selling service, shows a simplistic way to implement this effect. They have a straightforward pricing plan, complete with high and low-end options to complement the strategically priced middle plan.

Pricing2

Squarespace takes it a step further and adds the visual cue of “Most Popular” on top of the middle option to strengthen its allure. Think of it as a bit of social proof mixed with price anchoring.

Theme Kingdom PricesBut here’s a piece of mixed, advanced price anchoring. Not only are there three options and the “Most Popular” tag, but they’ve even integrated the “perceived vs actual price” strategy with price cuts. This combination is an extremely effective way to use the anchoring effect on your landing page.

The anchoring effect is a powerful means to establish value and prompt action without explicitly asking. Use this technique if you want customers to specifically buy one service over another.

2. Priming

Remember the intro to the article? How I made you pick a color after reading a quick story? I bet you’d like to know how I picked the correct color.

It’s no secret, really. All I did was sacrifice a golden chicken to invoke the temporary wizard powers of blog mind control.

Or at least it felt like it. In reality, what I practiced was a bit of priming.

Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences a response to another stimulus.

Translated to real talk: Priming is when a person does something because they were prompted to without explicit directive.

For example, let’s look at what I did in that opening paragraph. When I asked you to think of a color, that was a stimulus I wanted you to respond to. But I wanted you to specifically respond with the color “red,” which meant I needed to introduce a new stimulus to provoke that specific response.

Enter the story. Let’s break down a few of the things that led you to choose “red”:

  • Warmth: The story takes place in a warm setting. “Hot,” “sun,” “waves of heat” and other feelings of warmth are associated with warm colors like red, orange and yellow.
  • Red Objects: An apple, bricks, stop lights and a fireball are all (mostly) red, which gets your mind to think of the whole scene in a red setting.
  • R-Words: Go back and take a look at all the words that start with “r.” The words don’t necessarily have red attributes, but those words put the letter “r” on the tip of your tongue.

All these implicit pieces of stimuli eventually led to an increased likelihood of you saying the word “red.”

Cool, huh? Let’s see how you can apply that to your landing pages.

How To Use Priming in Your Landing Pages

It starts with everything leading to your landing page.

Priming for purchase is a long process. The example I opened with is easy, because there isn’t a lot of cognitive or financial expenditure on your part. In the case of asking for something bigger than a color, you’ll need to take your customer on a journey.

Generally, visitors won’t reach your landing page on their own. They need to be guided there by an initial indication or push to the landing page. That comes in the form emails, Facebook posts, tweets, YouTube videos and any other communication tool you have in your marketing funnel.

With these first touches, you want to put your prospects in a frame of mind that will make them more receptive to your message. You don’t have to sell right away — you only need to shift their mindset to the “universe” where your message is most effective.

In these first touches, words are going to be your best avenue to achieve this mindset. Quite simply, if you want to make a person feel a certain way, you have to use language that is closely tied to that feeling without explicitly drawing attention to it.

Go back to the example at the beginning of this article. I never mentioned the word “red,” yet you still felt enough context to say the color I was hinting at the whole time. Word priming is highly effective because it taps into our natural human tendency to create stereotypes.

Granted, I mean stereotypes in the positive connotation — not the negative one. We’ve built up preconceived stigmas and pictures of the world, and that plays a big part into why priming is so successful.

Consider this: an experiment had two groups of participants take a knowledge test. Before the test, one group heard in passing about a professor  — the other, a supermodel.

Just by hearing these different professions, the group that heard about the professor scored higher than the group that heard about supermodels. The theory here is that the stereotype of professors being smart and supermodels being less intelligent (not my views: if you’re a supermodel and want to talk quantum physics…call me) resonated in the participants’ minds, thus putting them in a different mindset.

Take note of this and mirror it in the first-touch communications that lead to your landing page. Use language that alludes to the overall feeling you want to achieve.

This Facebook ad uses words like “relief,” “comfort,” “cozy” and “support” to prime you into a comforted mindset.
This Facebook ad uses words like “relief,” “comfort,” “cozy” and “support” to prime you into a comforted mindset.

Once you make it to the landing page, stay consistent with that language, but let some of your imagery do the work. Check out what we’ve done from an implicit design standpoint on one of our best landing page templates for giving away a free report (fast forward to #4 if you want):

The image (specifically the woman) is a subtle form of priming, but an effective one nonetheless. Her looking at the content box is a slight cue that is constantly being reinforced because she just keeps looking at that one spot. You’re primed to look at that box because she’s looking at that box.

Priming is a process, but using it consistently in your text and images will increase the chances of a visitor completing the action you want them to do.

3) Availability Heuristic

This is a fun one.

Which scenario contains more words: six-letter words with the fifth letter being an “n,” or six letter words that end in “ing?” Think hard about it.

……………….

……………….

Tough one, huh? Actually, there are more six letter words with the fifth letter being an “n” than there are six letter words ending in “ing.” Surprising, wouldn’t you say?

Of course, it’s not so surprising when you realize that every six letter word ending in “ing” falls under the category of six letter words with the fifth letter being an “n.”

Brain…why have you betrayed me like this?

Don’t worry. This is just an example of the availability heuristic wreaking havoc on your decision-making skills. It was much easier to think of words that ended in “ing,” but when you thought of words with the fifth letter being an “n” it became much more difficult to recall specific words.

The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to mind. Our decisions and thoughts are based on being able to call upon readily available experiences and knowledge stored in our minds.

Along the lines of this heuristic, if you can’t readily access the information, it must not be true or relevant.

You see this all the time in the news. Journalism falls back on the “If it bleeds, it leads” mentality, meaning the stories that are the most sensational will get more views and, consequently, be aired more. Once a story is aired enough, we accept that singular story as the overall truth for anything relating to said story.

Think of it like this: How dangerous are sharks? Back in the early 2000s, every news outlet would show shark attacks, and the shark became a ruthless murder machine because of the constant coverage. Even now, if you picture sharks, you imagine a Jaws or Sharknado scenario where they take down anything moving in (or out, I guess) of the water.

Yet there’s an animal far more dangerous than a shark. In fact, it kills 2100% more people per year.

Would you like to see the face of this ruthless killer?

cow

RUN! FLEE IN TERROR FROM THE MIGHTY….cow?

Yep. Cows kill 2100% more people per year than sharks do in the US. But that isn’t reported on, which means it’s easier for you to recall cows as big cuddly creatures rather than more dangerous than scary sharks.

Similarly, politicians use the availability heuristic to reinforce their points. For example, which one of these hits home more:

  • “31% of residents in Anywhere, USA will lose income due to the new tax.”
  • “This is Anne. (Brings Anne on stage) Anne is a 31-year-old mother of two, and the new tax being proposed will take two dinners per week of her table.”

The second example becomes more powerful in this scenario. The person is much easier to identify and recall rather than the single statistic, plus her being on stage makes the example more tangible and easier to accept.

The availability heuristic relies on processing shortcuts, and your landing pages can leverage this natural psychology phenomenon in one big way.

Using the Availability Heuristic in Landing Pages

Testimonials. Case studies. Real-world examples.

As you saw above, it’s simply easier to call upon a specific, real example than an abstract concept.

We can picture the person using your product in our mind, but trying to imagine a group of people when we’re prompted with a stat is much tougher to do.

When it comes to your landing page, you should point to specific people with specific results rather than overall numbers that can be hard to grasp. The best way to do this is through testimonials and case studies.

Let’s say you’re a fitness expert. You’ve got the next P90X-esque product, and you’re ready to unleash it upon the world. The results are there, the sales pitch is perfected, and you’ve built a landing page to generate some serious sales.

The big hook on your landing page? A rolling counter that shows how many total pounds of fat have been shed with your program. Right now, it currently sits at 65,243.

Great. That’s….a lot of pounds. I think?

Honestly, I can’t even imagine what that looks like. Is that an airplane’s worth of fat lost? A cruise ship? I know the product works, but it’s hard to wrap my mind around what that concretely means for me.

Now imagine instead of that counter, you had a rotating area that showed specific people and their weight loss stories. “Michael S. from Michigan lost 25 pounds in six weeks.” Then it had the before/after pictures and a story from Michael about how he used to be like you and then he used this product and his life changed.

That’s a much more compelling narrative AND one that is easier to imagine. The image of a normal person losing weight is more available to recall in our minds, rather than an arbitrarily large number like the rolling counter example.

We follow that philosophy here at Leadpages. One quick look at our homepage and you’ll see a scrolling list of testimonials to show the specific impact Leadpages had on these people’s businesses.

Testimonial1

Testimonial2

If you want to still use a large number (like we do after our testimonials), you can! When placed in the context of specific, human examples that are easy to understand, large, more abstract examples can work well because they give a sense of large scale that compliment the specificity.

With a landing page, you only get a few minutes to leave an impression and make your sale. If you follow the availability heuristic, you’ll be able to make the biggest impact in the shortest time possible with real-life examples.

4) Expectation

This last psychology principle isn’t niche or unheard of, but you’d be surprised to see the experiment results behind the perception-altering power of expectation.

For the most part, you know what expectation is: an expected belief that is centered on a future event.

The thing is, expectation can literally turn a cheap product into a world-class luxury — as long as the context around the product creates a heightened sense of expectation. Look no further than the world of wine for this next example.

In 2001, a man named Fredric Brochet took 54 oenology students (students studying wine) and ran two experiments dealing with expectation.

wine-0709p30-m

In the first experiment, he asked the students to taste one glass of red wine and one of white wine and describe the drinks with as much detail as possible. He talked up each glass of wine beforehand, citing how delicate and intricate they were.

All 54 students described the tastes of the wines, with the red wine containing deep berry flavors and grapes and tannins that a red wine would always contain.

The thing is, what they were describing was white wine. Brochet had poured the same white wine in both glasses, except he put red food coloring in one to create the “red wine.”

There was no reason the students should taste a hint of red wine in the “red wine” glass, yet all 54 students thought they tasted the red because they expected to.

Brochet took it a step further. He then asked the students to rate two bottles of wine. One was a ludicrously expensive wine, which was explained to the students in great detail. The other wine was a cheap quality, and Brochet spent very little time talking about this particular wine.

The students sampled both wines and, again, universal praise was given to the expensive wine, while the cheap wine was described as weak and flat.

If you’ve followed the general trend of this section, you’ll know what comes next.

Yep. The students had been duped again. This time, the cheap wine was put in both glasses. The “expensive” wine the students praised was indeed the exact same as the “cheap” wine they condemned.

I repeat: these students spent four years and tons of money to become wine experts. This is all they did for four years of their lives.

And yet they still succumbed to the power of expectation.

Using Expectation in Your Landing Page

You hear it quite a bit from marketing gurus across the internet.

“Make your product irresistible.”

They use that buzzword quite a bit, when really all you have to say is, “Build expectation.”

Expectation is the key to an action like buying or subscribing. It’s that expectation, the feeling of inserting yourself into the promised success of others, that drives decisions.

Let’s take a look at an excerpt from a landing page online marketing expert Lawton Chiles created. On his page, he’s trying to achieve sales for his new book that promises to help you create excellent sales copy. Look at this section in particular:

Lawton

Look at the expectation he creates with his copy. In Section 1, you get the expectation of creating a high-converting subject line in a ridiculously short amount of time. He talks about how this is an easy, proven way to attain success, and how you can basically write like him.

Section 2 uses a lot of emotional triggers like “instant desire” and “persuade” in order to heighten anticipation and build on the expectation from the previous section. These are both successful ways in which Lawton uses expectation to stimulate sales.

I took his great copy and changed it to show you what would happen if he wrote copy that didn’t build massive expectation:

Lawton_Edited

You can easily see the difference, and you can feel it, too. It just doesn’t seem as tantalizing, and you certainly don’t feel the need to buy this product with the copy I wrote for the example.

When you create landing page copy, try to weave in not just expectation, but heightened expectation. This isn’t a time to be humble. Show your audience and potential buyers that you’re not just an option.

You’re the option.

So tell me — which one of these four psychology principles did you like the most? Leave a quick comment below and tell me what surprised you! And if you haven’t yet, click on the button below to grab your free copy of the worksheet that goes with this post. It’ll help tremendously!

  • Confused

    I saw blue, This post is too long to be of any positive affect.

    • Sean Bestor

      Interesting. Can’t be 100%, otherwise I’d go buy a lottery ticket. Thanks for the input though.

  • Wendy

    I didn’t see red; I chose purple; my number ends between 50-99 and I picked $6. Other than that, I found this article helpful. I loved the cow example, and will use it in today’s revision of my very first lead pages via this site. Thanks!

    • Sean Bestor

      Hey Wendy,

      Yeah, these sort of techniques aren’t 100% (though I wish they were: I’d be a millionaire!), but they do drastically increase the likelihood of the desired outcomes. Though I’m glad to hear you’re going to use the cow example! Come on back here when it’s done and let us see how it turned out.

  • Myra Hall

    I did see “red” but chose $25 and my ss# ends in 08.But it is still fascinating and know I have succumbed to many offers based on the “perceived value” pitch. Has me thinking hmmmm……………..

    • Sean Bestor

      Perceived value is the hardest one to get a beat on. If you don’t know the product price points in relation to competition (and who even does?) then basically all of us are at the mercy of that fixed price anchor.

  • Great article on high-conveting copy on landing pages!

    • Sean Bestor

      Awesome! Glad you liked it, Christina!

  • Eeva Lamminen

    I was astounded by the effect. I do know that words trigger things like this but I didn’t expect them to be so powerful when used correctly. I will definitely take this lesson and put it to work on my own LeadPages.

    • Sean Bestor

      Strange stuff, huh? Words are powerful things. I’m glad you liked the article!

  • Mohammed Aaser

    I’ve used these techniques quite a bit and they work…Have you read any of Cialdini’s work? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cialdini

    Also on the three options study – the results are true. That is why grocery stores usually have 3 tiers of products – bargain, mid price, and premium. Most people gravitate to the medium priced. However, in the software world, I don’t think the tiering works as well and I think this is because the tiers are based on functionality – e.g., for squarespace the tiers define how many products you can list or how much space you get etc. So people make their decision based on their functional needs (my store will probably have less than 100 products so I will go with lowest tier) and they upgrade when they require. When I buy a hamburger or a drink I buy it because I’m hungry, but I can’t necessarily quantify my hunger, so I just take a guess – and when I can’t quantify it…I make the easiest choice possible..I go for the medium sized. Hopefully that made sense!

    Have started putting together a short list of examples on this – would love to exchange notes at some point.

    • Sean Bestor

      Hey Mohammed,

      LOVE Cialdini! “Influence” was such an awesome book. Another book you should check out if you can find it (it’s stupidly rare) is a book I read in college called “Persuasion, Social Influence and Compliance Gaining” by Gaas/Setter. That book is what I hold in the highest regard as the #1 most influential book I’ve ever read on the subject of social psychology.

      Interestingly enough, they do that stuff in electronics stores, too. “Predictably Irrational” talked about televisions with this same philosophy of the middle option being the one they want you to pick due to outside anchoring points. What’s REALLY interesting is what movie theaters do with popcorn. It’s like the next step of this three price anchoring. They make the 3rd option (the large) more appealing with the “well, it’s only $.25 to $.50 more for a large” and SO MANY PEOPLE switch their buying option to the large. Fast food has been doing that form of price anchoring for a looooong time, so either can really work.

      I’d love to see your list on this stuff. Shoot me an email at sean@ave81.com!

  • Jeff Nabers

    This is genuinely, by far, the most valuable piece of content you guys have ever produced!

    Seriously, for anyone using persuasion, implementing what’s in this post is literally worth millions 🙂

    • Sean Bestor

      Oh man, that’s so kind of you to say, Jeff! Thanks for the blog love! I hope this post is as awesome for everyone as it was for you.