Path to Growth Series: CXL Institute, Certified Optimizer Minidegree Review (Part 2)

Momoko Price

Welcome to part 2 of my review on CXL Institute’s Conversion Optimization minidegree. After doing a quick audit of the remainder of the content, I spent a lot more time this week, cleaning up my calendar to dive deeper into the course content. In this post, I cover my learnings & insights from Intro to Conversion Copywriting and Part 1 of Product Messaging.

At this point, I am deeply hooked onto CXL’s content. It’s comprehensive, well taught, and equipped with EVERYTHING you’d need to gain momentum in optimizing all aspects of your funnel.

Why I enjoyed this segment?

Writing has been the key differentiator in my decision-making and thought process. It enabled me to dissect my thinking, see it(visually) for what it truly is, find gaps in my knowledge, and ultimately reframe it to suit my goal/purpose. Untangling the tactics and lessons provided in Intro to Conversion Copywriting & Product Messaging, in particular, gave me a perspective to propel it to a new level- of converting these “fuzzy” thoughts into clear articulation to express and in this case, persuade.

Let’s dive in!

Intro to Conversion Copywriting

Delivered by: Peep Laja, CEO at CXL Institute & Copytesting
Course length: 1hr 30min, delivered across 4 topics

David Ogilvy’s famous Rolls-Royce ad copy

Peep begins by reminding us that we sell with our words and they make or break your conversions. Truer still in today’s world where attention is measured in milliseconds. A lot of first-time founders and early-stage companies struggle with finding the right way to communicate their value proposition and when they do, they fail to ensure the impact is consistent across all the pages or stages of the funnel.

Early on, I used to write from my intuition and struggled with figuring out where to begin. If you find yourself facing a similar dilemma, Peep offers 6 guidelines that you can use to write effective copy:-

  1. Research the customer, the product, and the competition
  2. Write a skeleton that acts as a visual roadmap of what you’d like to cover. A blank page is intimidating and having a rough outline helps you narrow down on what you are trying to accomplish
  3. Draft a copy, fill in the blanks of your outline, keep it simple. A few things to keep in mind, AVOID JARGON, KEEP IT SPECIFIC & SIMPLE, FOCUS ON THEM. I try to think of it as a conversation I am having with a particular someone I know in life and it helps me keep the language relevant, yet effective
  4. Conversion Boost: This is where you put your labcoat on. Optimize for different factors- clarity, information(leave nothing unanswered), and include persuasion boosts(free shipping, discounts)
  5. Now step away! Come back, ideally the next day, proofread it, rearrange if needed and get feedback from 2–3 ideal customers, and other marketers.
  6. Launch & Test two versions and track their performance

Value Propositions, Critiquing Copy, and Microcopy

Why should I ___? That’s the question you are trying to answer with your product/service repeatedly. Starting with acquisition when you are trying to relay to people on “Why should I listen?” all the way to retention when you are trying to answer, “Why should I come back?”

Key Takeway: Keep your value proposition simple, use the right language(based on customer, product, and market research), specify the point of differentiation, keep the length as long as needed to cover all aspects but not a word more.

A good format to start with is:-

Headline: 1 short sentence that explains the benefit
Subheadline: Specific explanation of what you offer, for whom, and why
3 bullet points: key benefits or features
A visual: communicates everything else or reinforces the key message

Here’s a value proposition worksheet that I found especially helpful.

Giving up on self-validation of ideas is a theme that you’ll see me cover repeatedly through the series. True to the principle, critique the copy, irrespective of the copywriter- you, the CEO, the most experienced person in the room, doesn’t matter! Every copy needs to pass the “Would you read more?” peer review. (“Ummm…how to conduct a peer review?” Read this). A lesson in stakeholder management here: Avoid criticism and suggest specific improvements- “What if it read like..?”, “How about we replace X with Y?” and follow it up with a VCC(Value, Clarity, Credibility) test.

A VCC test is a simple but powerful process in peer review where you go through the copy, line by line, evaluating for:-

Value: What’s in it for me? Is there a benefit for the user?
Clarity: Is this line simple and clear? Can it be made shorter? Can it be interpreted in any other way?
Credibility: Is this believable?

Example: VCC Review of IVPN

Not every character in a movie is the hero but the supporting cast matters just as much. Enter Microcopy. Microcopy includes the tiny instructions, error messages, and other indicators/prompts that reduces friction by letting people know what to, or conversely, what not to expect and addresses any concerns they may have. Microcopy may not be apparent but is instrumental in ensuring the flow state is maintained. A good starting point is to start thinking about questions like, “What would be the concerns, blocks, or frustrations the user could face here?”, “What would be ideal action for the person to take at this point to meet their goal?”, “What could improve clarity?”

Recommended Methodology: User-testing
What to analyze?: buttons, forms, error messages, menus, sub-menus, links, hover, search bar, etc.

Example: My Evernote Prompt Microcopy

Product Messaging

Delivered by: Momoko Price, Conversion Copywriter & Interaction Designer at Kantan Designs
Course length: 5hr 16min, delivered across 8 topics, and an exam*

*CXL Institute has short quizzes embedded throughout the lectures as well as exams following key courses. The exams need to be cleared with a 90% pass rate and will be locked for 24 hours if you fail on any given attempt. CXL has ensured that the questions are not always direct or sequential in order to ensure that you go through all the topics within each course, gain a deep understanding of the topic, and do not skim your way towards certification.

I cover Part 1 of Momoko’s course in this article (I had a hard time figuring out what to omit!) and will be covering part 2 in my next article

For most of you reading this, I can safely assume that you either have a website or want to build a website for your idea(product/service). The key question is “where do I begin?”. A powerful approach is through validating your messaging and key value proposition. While this is primarily for an online product, the logic applies even if you are running validation on the customer segment/value proposition elements of your business model canvas. The process begins by looking at the existing copy that you have(on your website, wireframes, or even your back of the napkin notes) and experimenting until the right market responds to your message. Getting this right is a huge step towards validating your offering.

Conducting a copy teardown
First and foremost you need to ensure that you are getting the fundamentals of persuasive argument and conversion sequences right. Why would you want to be starting from scratch with the sheer amount of knowledge available out there! Momoko provides a 3-layer framework that’s built on MECLab’s Conversion Sequence Heuristic, Cialdini’s 7 Principles of Persuasion, and Claude Hopkins’s Scientific Advertising.

The key takeaways for me came from Claude Hopkin’s 4 rules:
Rule 1: Be specific- Generalities and cliche borderline on lies.
Rule 2: Offer service- We are all selfish. You are trying to sell, and the person on the otherside is trying to find a benefit for themself. Leverage the “I am here to make your life better” approach
Rule 3: Tell the full story- whether that be a line or an article, ensure nothing is left out
Rule 4: Be a salesperson- If you were talking to the buyer in person, would they be impressed by it, and agree to keep on talking with you, or call you on your bullshit? (Try it out: Go out and sell to your customers in person)

This applies for all aspects of your funnel as shown below

As a Product Manager, I had previously conducted user interviews and crafted surveys that helped me create customer journey maps, empathy maps, etc.(elements of design thinking to better communicate research with stakeholders). This allowed me to understand the problem being solved within the context of the people we were building it for. In the rest of part 1 Momoko explains in depth about the methods to develop authentic communication for product messaging, sales page copy, and crafting a unique value proposition. The methods included voice of customer research, surveys, one-on-one interviews, etc. While both approaches had similarities, I learned a lot on how to streamline the process, best practices, industry benchmarks, most importantly, the exact framework Momoko herself used to execute.

Conclusion: While the lessons are not magic bullets that give you 100% wins every single time, they provide a repeatable method to ensure you are able to take the best approach, and then iterate on them as you see fit, to consistently improve your results. Far more importantly, CXL includes the most relevant and up to date content used by the top 1% and while they can be learnt, and it’s only through practice and time that you can retain and improve on the knowledge. It resonates with a key lesson from my startup days- it’s not about coming up with the solution but about how you approach the problem that makes all the difference!

Growth Marketer | CRO | Product Discovery Specialist | Writer