Fifteen years ago, I got a beautiful bound journal. I remember the month and year because the first entry in that journal is dated September 21, 1999.
My intention was to journal every day – I've heard from many successful people that the journaling habit is a crucial part of their success formula.
My second and third entries were also from that month. The fourth entry was made in August 2001, and looks like a page of notes from a prospecting meeting. The fifth entry is from 2009.
Clearly my plans for daily journaling had not panned out.
Then, on January 27, 2014, I picked up the journal and decided to get serious this time. Since then, I've written at least a page a day with only four exceptions.
I used a simple trick to turn a source of frustration and shame into a pretty bulletproof habit. And once you understand it, that same trick can be deployed on your website to get more visitors to convert into leads.
BJ Fogg, PhD, has developed a system of habit formation called "Tiny Habits." It's kind of the opposite of the New Year's Resolution.
Instead of making a giant, hard change (like suddenly going to the gym three times a week or giving up cigarettes or yes, writing a page a day in a journal), you implement a tiny habit by identifying the ultimate desired behavior and making the very smallest step in that direction that you can possibly make.
Fogg's flagship example is flossing. He notes that people find starting to floss hard. It can hurt, our gums can bleed, it takes a couple of minutes, the floss can get stuck between our teeth, and so on.
Rather than try to increase our motivation for an unpleasant and difficult behavior, Fogg suggests simply making the behavior much easier.
So instead of flossing, here's his formula for a tiny habit: floss one tooth.
Write One Sentence
My new journaling strategy: Every day I wake up and write one sentence in my journal. There's no quality assurance either: I'm fine with, "Here is my one sentence for today."
And here's what happened: I wrote one sentence.
And since I had already opened the journal and uncapped the pen, I wrote a second one. And a paragraph. And a page. It was really helpful to see my thoughts unfold, my insights come out.
Next day, one sentence. And then the rest of the page.
And so it goes. Each day, I write a single sentence. Sometimes that is all I write, if I'm in a rush or not in the mood. But most of the time I write a page or two.
Should We Focus on Motivation or Ease?
Fogg developed "Tiny Habits" after seeing the implications of his behavior model: that behaviors occur given sufficient motivation, ability, and a trigger occurring simultaneously. The harder the behavior, the higher the motivation required. The easier the behavior, the less motivation.
We search marketers spend so much time analyzing our markets, sleuthing our prospects' fears and desires, and honing our copy, that we naturally default to amping up motivation.
The art of copywriting is all about motivating people to action. Features and benefits, social proof, psychological triggers, urgency, scarcity, and the whole toolkit are there to make our prospects want it more.
But search marketing, although a descendant of the old sales letters that tried to sell anything and everything through the mail to the uninterested masses, is actually a very different beast.
Search marketing is driven by desire. I search for "healthy meal delivery" because I already want vegan meals delivered to my home. Yet the ads and websites triggered by my search are spending most of their real estate on convincing me that I want their product.
For example, BistroMD.com has gorgeous food photos and lots of copy about how much weight I can lose easily and deliciously. But their primary call to action is to order a week's worth of food for $159.95.
I don't care how easy it is to receive, store, reheat, and eat their food. Spending $159.95 is hard for most of us when we don't know if it's a good idea.
Inviting Your Website Visitor to Develop a Tiny Habit
Instead of motivating your prospect to do something hard, why not work the other part of the equation: ability?
BistroMD.com could offer a days' worth of food as the first call to action. Cheaper, simpler, less risky. And that one day, if pleasing to the prospect, can easily be converted into a larger habit, just as my single-sentence journaling easily grew to its natural size. Writing wasn't the hard part; starting was.
And with many of our products and services, once folks get a taste, and develop a tiny habit, they'll increase their order size and frequency to its natural dimensions as well.
So next time you try to increase your conversion rate, try this: make one thing easier for your prospect. You may find that approach becomes a habit.
This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) will bring together the industry's leading online marketing practitioners to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, the comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!