Dutta on Design-driven Conversions: When Design Met Sales

If you’ve ever hit your first gym in your 40s, you know what I’m talking about.

The difficulty of trying to be sexy and effective at the same time.

At our fledgling agency, we do a lot of hardcore B2B lead generation-based marketing, for clients like Nuance Communications and Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL). And one thing that we’ve learnt to do (and learnt the hard way, after several mistakes of applying our traditional B2B thinking) is that B2B marketing is less about awareness and more about action. Our clients need our prospects to act, eg book an appointment, ask for a product demo, attend an event, download a research etc etc.

That’s how we got into this field of Conversion Centric Design. For those of you who are either running startups (with huge User Acquition targets) or creating digital design as an agency, here are some of the tips we’ve picked up.


A very long time ago when I literally wasted myself in MICA, one of my dear friends Abhishek Shahabadi once came up with this brilliant advice: Khelna welna baad mein, pehle kaam. I will skip the rather offensive context of his wisdom, but it literally means “Forget playing, first focus on the action”. His infinite wisdom still guides me as thumbrule in creating any leads-driven digital campaign.

The rule is simple. Target an Attention Ratio of 1:1. Attention Ratio is the ratio of the number of things you can do on a given page, to the number of things you should do. Ideally, your design should have minimal distractions. And if you’re creating an email or a landing page, you should only have a single goal (or you’re doing it wrong), and thus the Attention Ratio should be 1:1. In fact, that’s the number one reason why we recommend our clients have landing pages for specific campaigns, rather than direct their customers to their homepages. Homepages are typically cluttered, and your attention ratio could shoot from the ideal (1:1) to 10:1, 50:1 or even 120: 1. This inevitably will distract and lead to fewer conversions.

The first way to do so, is to create landing pages INSTEAD of directing traffic to your brand’s homepage or website. Brand websites and homepages have about 60000 different links that distract your customer. So if you’re creating a campaign, whose success will be measured by leads, not traffic, just set up a landing page.

An example: Guess which design converted more leads for Virgin Mobile?

HOMEPAGES DON’T WORK. The wireframe below is from the Virgin Mobile USA homepage — it has 57 links. If you’re promoting the campaign in red, then not only will it be hard to find amidst all the clutter (the Attention Ratio is 57:1), but also there are so many competing elements that your prospect will either hit the back button or click on another of your promos. Both of which results in a failed campaign. (What’s wrong with them clicking another promo? Surely a sale is a sale. NO. If they don’t interact with the campaign you’re promoting, your AdWords statistics will reflect a failure)

LANDING PAGES DRIVE MORE LEADS: Next, take a look at the landing page below. It’s very clear that there is only one thing to do here — Attention Ratio is a perfect 1:1. Just one call-to-action. Zero distractions.

Another great way to remove distractions and reaching that ideal ATTENTION RATIO of 1:1 is by simply removing the navigation links.

AMAZON DOES THIS REALLY WELL. When you’re considering your purchase, the navigation gives you lots of options.

But once you start to ‘check out’ and move to payments, BOOM! All the distracting links on the top-nav disappear. As a result, you’re almost funnelled and goaded to finish off the ‘action’ that Amazon wants you to do — which is BUY.

So, what’s the big takeaway? Aim for a 1:1 Attention Ratio. If you’re designing something with a focused action, why distract the viewer with unnecessary social share buttons and choices that could end up acting as ‘leaks’ from your sales funnel?

TIP#2: CLARITY OVER CUTENESS, ANY DAY. The second most important lesson for conversion-driven design is clarity of messages. Yes, as brand marketeers, we tend to get carried away with our own gyan. But there’s a difference. When you’re designing for a specific action, your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) should more be like Immediate Value Proposition (IVP). Think less ‘brand promise’, and more ‘product benefit’.

Here’s an example from CISCO. You can see from some recent changes in CISCO’s homepage headline below how distinct this difference can be when it comes to clearly communicating your UVP or IVP.

The headline “Digital means dollars” could stand in for any online business. It doesn’t speak to benefits or describe what the services actually does. It’s trying to be cute and doesn’t add any Clarity. But the new headline, “IT is fast, again” speaks a little more to what makes CISCO unique. It could stand to be more specific, but it at least explains a little of the benefits involved.



After the conversion has taken place, your work’s not done. As a optimizer you should think of what a possible next step could be, and design an experience to ask your new lead/customer to take that action.

There’s a fine line between being pushy and actually offering someone exactly what they would like to get/have/experience/buy next.

Above all though, you must ask for something. An ask that the customer wants to do, in order to get something (that you convince is) valuable.

Let’s start with a list of the types of things you can ask people to do on a confirmation page weighted by how much of a Commitment Level (CL) is required to perform the action. I’ve scored each according to an approximate level of commitment or effort required for your customer to perform the action. The reason for this is that you don’t want to have too big of a leap between where you are in the customer lifecycle and the next step you’re asking them to perform. If they just registered for a webinar (3) and you want them to start a trial of your software (7), you might determine that you’re asking for too much too early. Asking if they want to see a demo might be a 5 — and thus more appropriate. There’s no science here, it’s just a smart way to look at the types of activities that exist in your marketing funnel and in which order you might want to present them to your leads and customers.

So just to sum up the 3 things that work for Conversion-Centric Design (ie, design that generates sales/leads rather than just look sexy):

  1. AIM FOR A 1:1 ATTENTION RATIO (cut out distracting stuff in your design)
  2. CLARIFY YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION (rather than cute ‘brand propositions’)
  3. PHASE OUT YOUR CALL-TO-ACTIONS (based on commitment sought)

Anyway, now let’s see if this communication follows the principles and has enough leads aka views / comments. :-)

PS: Since you’ve read this far, here’s my way of saying thanks: A list of 100 different techniques to boost leads and conversions simply by designing for conversions, rather than just sexiness.


Thanks for reading. Was this useful? Do share your comments below.
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