Why Your Customers Buy More When Value Outweighs Cost

Why Your Customers Buy More When Value Outweighs Cost

“At MECLABS we’ve spent years asking and trying to answer a simple question: ‘Why do people say yes?’

When given a whole series of options, how do you get people to say ‘yes’ to your option over another?” explained Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO of MECLABS.

Dr. Flint McGlaughlinYou don’t optimize websites, you optimize thought sequences: What are the essential levers we need to pull to get the prospect to say ‘yes?’”

A Powerful Value Proposition Results in More People Saying “Yes”

What pulls that lever fastest is a powerful value proposition.

It drives a “yes” by making it crystal clear to your marketplace why they should buy from you instead of anyone else.

This concept is illustrated in the heuristic below: Value force outweighs cost force. In the prospect’s mind, an effective value proposition works to assure her that the value of what the she is getting outweighs her time, energy and resources to get it.

Value Force vs Cost Force

Better Value Propositions Mean Better Revenues: We’ve Got Proof

While the illustration is simple, the outcomes are remarkable when this heuristic is applied and tested within the marketplace. This is what happened when three diverse organizations ran experiments to better understand the value of what they offered their customers and how their customers perceived that value:

  • The Heritage Foundation increased click-through rates on its emails by 20% and donation size by 14.66%.
  • The BostonGlobe.com achieved a 17% increase in subscribers and The Boston Globe newspaper attained 3,000 new customers and a total of more than $3.6 million in incremental revenue. (They have more results to report and will do so atWeb Optimization Summit 2014, May 21 – 23 in New York City.)
  • CRC Health, the nation’s largest specialized behavioral health-care service provider, netted 220% more leads.

How the Heritage Foundation Used Its Value to Increase Contribution Size by 14.66%

The Heritage Foundation is a nonprofit research think-tank that solicits contributors through email. They wanted to increase both the size and number of donations.

So they decided to conduct an experiment. One email used their existing copy (the control) which featured a call-to-action that encouraged the reader to renew her Heritage Foundation membership.

Heritage Foundation Control

The other email (the treatment) did far more than merely ask the contributor to renew her membership. In simple bullet points, it specified the value the Heritage Foundation brought to the issues she cared about most.

Heritage Foundation Variation

Simply pointing out three specific value points that the Heritage Foundation brought the contributor resulted in a 20% increase in clickthrough rates and a 14.66% increase in donation size.

Heritage Foundation Experiment Results

While the control didn’t mince words on what it wanted the prospect to do, the treatment clarified why it was valuable to make a contribution. As a result, they increased their membership rates with no extra investment, just a small change in an email.

How The Boston Globe Leverages Value to Thrive in a Turbulent Marketplace

Even though the Boston Globe is one of the world’s most-respected newspapers with 22 Pulitzer prizes, they have impressive brand equity and awareness and they’re nearly 150 years old, in 2007 profits were trending downward while hundreds of newspapers nationwide were shuttering their doors.

Paper Cuts Map

They realized it was time to take a fresh approach.

Focusing on the Customer Instead of Resting on Laurels

Peter Doucette“We needed to think of value proposition as the center of everything we do,” – Peter Doucette, Executive Director of Circulation, Sales & Marketing for The Boston Globe.


They stepped back and examined:

  • What they were trying to deliver?
  • Who was their target market?
  • How could they deliver the news they wanted to bring to their target market?

This research encouraged them to expand their online presence by adding a paid subscription service, BostonGlobe.com, to their existing free site, Boston.com.

It also brought about a culture of optimizing and testing value proposition.

Value Propositions are Not a Once and Done Deal

“You have to deliver value and distinguish value proposition between the two offerings,” explained Doucette at last year’s Optimization Summit. “It was an opportunity to convince the target audience that we were going to deliver a solution and experience that met their needs…It (was) a starting point to an evolution…(today) we test and optimize everything we do.”

They began by understanding their customer lifecycle. They analyzed what they were going to do at each stage of the buying cycle, and tested price, check out and email open rates to confirm this understanding.

Customer Lifescycle Stages

Just Because It Works for a Business Exactly Like Yours Doesn’t Mean It Will Work for You

For instance, at the time of the tests, The Boston Globe was a division of The New York Times Company.

So it would have seemed a no-brainer to implement TheNew York Times’ successful checkout process. It worked well for TheNew York Times, after all. But after testing, The Boston Globe saw conversions decrease by 35%.

Test 3 digital access accordion checkout

Giving Value Every Step of the Way

In contrast, they implemented a unique multi-stage checkout process that gave value points every step of the way.

This reiterated to the prospect why she should continue to move forward with subscribing to The Boston Globe. It resulted in a 17% increase in subscriptions.

This is called process value – giving prospects reason to keep moving forward within the sales cycle.

home delivery multi step checkout

Testing Your Value Pays Off

The check-out process test is just one of dozens that The Boston Globe is using to understand what its audience really values – which is evidenced by clickthroughs and subscribers.

They then adjust what they offer and how they position that offering’s value according to test results, not assumptions or speculation.

We test across all subscription products

They even do live A/B testing on the newspaper’s Boston.com website to see which versions drive the most clickthroughs. Optimization isn’t just for marketing, after all.

Headline testing results

As mentioned earlier, the results of this commitment to testing and evolving value proposition are impressive.

As of May, 2013, they attained 3,000 new customers and a total of more than $3.6 million in incremental revenue. You can find out how The Boston Globe is progressing when Doucette presents at Web Optimization Summit 2014.

Value Matters More than “Best Practices”

Take note: Value ranks far higher than rules or advice. No matter how tried-and-true the rules are supposed to be.

This was proved by Sierra Tucson, an addiction and mental health rehabilitation facility operated by CRC Health, when they revised its landing page in an attempt to drive more leads.

Taylor Kennedy, Senior Research Manager, MECLABS, who led the project, observed that Sierra Tucson buried the value of what they provided clientele in their navigation.

Here’s their home page before MECLABS worked on it.

Sierra Tucson

Make It Easy for Prospects to See the Value

Taylor Kennedy“We hypothesized that hiding value increased friction – which stops the customer from moving forward,” Kennedy explained.

So his team laced value throughout the copy on the home page to decrease friction and omitted navigation altogether (Learn more about this here: Web Usability: When should you avoid navigation?)

A long-form format was used to include all of the information a visitor might want to know on the first page. Furthermore, value proposition was emphasized throughout the headline and body copy to boost exclusivity, appeal and credibility.

The treatment was nearly twice the length of the control and the call-to-action was delegated to the bottom of the page.

Sierra tuscon longform

Breaking the rules and promoting value gave them a 220% higher conversion rate.

But that’s not what mattered most.

“The fact that a below-the-fold form worked better than above-the-fold form was a secondary learning,” says Jon Ciampi, Vice President Marketing, Business Development & Corporate Development, CRC Health. “The primary learning was that the biggest question customers had about our health care center was around trust. ‘I’m handing my healthcare to you; can I trust you with my life?’”

The learning transformed their marketing department and led to many more lifts, including a 14,000% PPC ad improvement that their Google rep called, “the highest clickthrough rate the Google healthcare team had ever seen.”


If you’re ready to drive more conversions, and the revenue that comes with them, follow the lead of The Heritage Foundation, The Boston Globe and CRC Health by:

  • thoroughly and succinctly understanding your value and
  • how your prospects perceive that value;
  • then using that knowledge to present it so they’re eager to move forward and say “yes.”

Join the Conversation Add Your Comment

  1. Hi Andrea,

    How do you approach the study of the prospects “thinking process”? Techniques, tools, etc.

    I always try to reflect my own thoughts, and ask family and friends/co workers for other groups, but that is the domestic way to do it, so nobody cant be very confident about

    This was an interesting reading, and i would like to learn more about how a prospect thinks, but with a proper system.


  2. I second roque’s question.

    I would love to know whats your process to get into the mind of your prospects ?

    Thank you

  3. Hi Rogue and Yassin,

    Excellent question.

    Testing helps clarify what your prospects are thinking. This is what optimization is all about. Testing to see what resonates most with your audience. After all, if it resonates you’ll see more conversions.

    Personally, I also recommend actually talking to your customers. This blog, 8 Questions to Steer Your Marketing Priorities, outlines an approach that is accessible to anyone: http://b2bleadblog.com/2012/03/customer-interviews.html.

    I hope this helps.

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Why Your Customers Buy More When Value Outweighs Cost