Design is a way of life, a point of view. It involves the whole complex of visual communications: talent, creative ability, manual skill, and technical knowledge. Aesthetics and economics, technology and psychology are intrinsically related to the process. — Paul Rand

When thinking about lead generation, it’s impossible to ignore the science of psychology. From copy to colors to placement to incentive, your audience’s preferences and ingrained human tendencies impact the way they engage with your marketing tactics.

Psychology is a fascinating topic for any marketer—but particularly those of us tasked with driving conversions. Here are 5 key psychological principles you can tap to ensure that your user experience is designed for lead generation success.

Principle 1: Attention Is the Key to Effective UX

Dr. Susan Weinschenk, psychologist and cognitive scientist, says in The Psychologist’s View of UX Design, “I am beginning to think that the whole idea of attention is a key to designing an engaging UI.” When it comes to designing a user experience where lead gen is involved, I can confirm that attention is usually one of the biggest challenges for marketers.

Traditional lead generation tactics like pop-up forms, takeover ads, and landing pages work well in terms of capturing a user’s attention—but they’re often interruptive and annoying. Instead of fitting seamlessly into the user’s original activity, lead gen tactics are designed to pull the user away from their task—whether it’s reading, watching a video, or clicking through to another piece of content.

Lead Generation Example: Attention Seeker Pop-up

Source: SumoMe

On the other hand, lead generation tactics that are less obtrusive often perform poorly. If the design or placement of a subscriber form, for example, is too subtle, users will never even notice it. Even if your visual design is attention-grabbing, weak copy or a confusing form can also negatively impact conversions.

So what can you do to ensure users see—and also engage with—your lead gen tactics? Here are a few quick tips:

  • If you’re going to use a “pushy” tactic like a pop-up or takeover, you better have a good offer (or clever verbiage) to keep users engaged. Incentivize the user with a valuable giveaway or other benefits.
  • Put your value prop front and center when asking for someone’s information. Tell them why it’s worth the hassle of filling out your form, and they’ll be more likely to do it.
  • Balance forceful lead gen tactics with softer touch CTAs that are integrated within your experience to leverage different ways of gaining attention.

Principle 2: Novelty Can Drive Action

An alternative to using forceful or flashy lead generation tactics is to rely on novelty to get your users’ attention.

In Brian Massey’s webinar Writing Killer Conversion Copy, he talks about two “bastards” in the brain that filter out content perceived to be “typical”: Broca’s Area and Wernicke’s Area. Both of these areas are highly engaged when a person is consuming content.

Broca's Area and Wernicke's Area - Lead Generation UX

Source: Stroke Center

Broca’s Area is the part of the brain that’s responsible for taking words, casting a visual representations of them, and then triggering action inside the motor cortex. It serves as the first line of defense for the motor cortex, preventing unnecessary actions from being triggered when we see or hear something. So if something is ordinary or predictable, Broca will usually just ignore it.

The second is Wernicke’s Area, which takes a noun and attaches it to memories we have associated with that noun. This is the source of all of the info we need to associate words with past memories. Then it gets passed back to the motor cortex to trigger action.

In order to prevent your calls-to-action from being “bounced” by Broca, you need to present something atypical, something it doesn’t have cataloged in its list of usual suspects. By using unexpected, unbelievable, or even incorrect elements in your lead generation flow, you can surprise this area of the brain enough to pass information through to Wernicke, which will then trigger actions from your users.

Principle 3: Users Need Feedback

Ideally, the lead generation process should be as simple and streamlined as possible for the user to increase the likelihood of conversion. However, in many cases, your business needs a decent amount of information from the user in order to evaluate whether they’re a good fit for your products or services.

When considering your data capture user experience, feedback is a crucial element. If you don’t provide enough feedback, or if you provide feedback in a confusing way, the user will quickly become frustrated. And frustrated people are much more likely to say “screw it” to your form than happy people.

A few types of feedback you can provide during the data capture process include:

Missing data feedback: Point out exactly which required fields a user has skipped.

Bad User Experience in Lead Generation: Missing Data Form Feedback

Source: Unbounce

Invalid information feedback: Identify which fields have invalid information and tell the user how to correct their mistakes.

Formatting feedback: If your form fields require information input in a specific format, provide an example showing the right way to do it or instructions on the form itself.

Confirmation feedback: Once a user has successfully submitted their information, tell them! Nothing is worse than submitting a form and not knowing if your entry actually went through.

Principle 4: Clutter Negatively Impacts Conversions

Lead gen optimization specialists have found time and time again that removing unnecessary elements from the conversion flow increases engagement. For example, in this case study from Conversion Fanatics, they were able to increase the conversion rate on a signup form by 37% by removing a secondary call to action on this form page.

Good User Experience in Lead Generation: Decluttered Form

What’s the psychology behind this? The truth is, humans aren’t very good at multitasking. If your pages are cluttered, it makes it harder for the user to glean the key information and stay engaged with your messaging.

That said, even with some serious de-cluttering, you can still end up with a lot of information or form fields on any given page. In these cases, there are two things you can do to provide a better user experience:

  1. Group related pieces of information together using proximity and design elements.
  2. Break chunks of related information up into multiple pages or steps, where the user can focus on one piece of the flow at a time without getting overwhelmed.

I’ve seen this approach used in many eCommerce checkout flows, but the same principles can be applied to B2B lead capture flows as well.

Principle 5: Reciprocity Has a Positive Impact

The majority of B2B lead gen marketers already know that, if you want to get information from your users, you have to give them something in return. In psychology, this principle is called reciprocity, and it explains why content offers and giveaways are so effective. Asking someone for their information without offering them anything in return isn’t very compelling for the person providing their information. Giving someone something for free and then asking for their information motivates them to pay back the favor—like giving your email in exchange for a t-shirt.

Lead Generation User Experience Example: Reciprocity

Source: InVision

When thinking about your lead gen user experience, you should find ways to build in valuable freebies for your users so that, when they do reach a point of conversion, they’re primed to participate.

The Bottom Line

When considering how to tweak your existing lead generation user experience, psychology is your friend. The more you understand about how your users think, the better able you’ll be to design conversion flows that resonate.

Before you go: What psychological principles do you consider when crafting experiences for your marketing program? Let me know in the comments.

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