Filling The Pipeline

How a LeadGen Test Strategy Achieved an 86% Increase


Whether your market is B-to-B, B-to-C, or both, testing and optimizing even a few key aspects of your landing pages can provide major gains for your lead-gen efforts.

The principles of the MarketingExperiments Conversion Sequence serve as a guide to optimizing your pages and your sales or lead-gen process to improve conversion and ROI.

This Brief examines three tests we conducted with our research partner to demonstrate how you can use Incentives and Friction to generate more leads.

For extensive training and professional certification in the fundamentals of online testing, we recommend interested marketers consider our Fundamentals of Online Testing course.

The audio from the Web clinic on this topic can be downloaded here:
Filling the Pipeline: How a LeadGen Test Strategy Achieved an 86% Increase

The Impact of Friction and Incentive on Lead-Gen

Friction and Incentives are two of the most vital elements of the conversion process. Friction is balanced against incentives because in every process there is inherent friction.

Conversion Formula
The Marketing Experiments Conversion Sequence

Friction: Psychological resistance to a given element in the sales process.

Incentive: An appealing element introduced to stimulate a desired action.

Friction vs. Incentive

You can’t eliminate all Friction and capture a lead, because you are eventually going to ask people for something. The key is to have your value proposition tuned properly so that what you ask them for is compensated by what you are offering — and sometimes that requires you to add an incentive.

Three principles to bear in mind with regard to Friction:

  • Principle 1: One of the most effective ways to increase Conversion is to decrease Friction. Our experiments suggest that reducing Friction produces a disproportionately high return on invested effort.
    Friction Formula
    Friction of Sales Conversion = Length + Difficulty
  • Principle 2: The objective is to minimize—not eliminate—Friction.
  • Principle 3: Once Friction has been minimized, seek to overcome the remainder with Incentive.

CASE STUDY 1: Incentive vs. No Incentive

We ran a sequential test with the goal of increasing conversion rate on a form page that requested demographic information.

In the first phase of the test, the control offered an Incentive (e-book) and the treatment did not.

Primary research question:

  • Which page will produce the higher conversion rate?

Secondary research question:

  • What is the impact of an incentive on completion of the form?

SEC Control Page SEC Profile Page
Control (with e-book incentive) Treatment 1 (no incentive)
Form Page Conv. Rate
Control — e-book incentive
Treatment 1 — no incentive
Relative CR Difference (Control vs. T1):

What you need to understand: The treatment page outperformed the page with the e-book incentive by 45.69%.


  • The e-book incentive did not increase conversion on this page. Despite the page’s 54% conversion rate, the incentive had a negative effect compared to the treatment.
  • Was it the content? It’s possible that the “5 hidden investment opportunities” did not have a high enough perceived value.
  • However, the page headline and design led to confusion about the page’s objective: Instead of asking visitors to complete a profile, it asked them to get a free e-book — even on the submit button.
  • The presentation of the incentive confused the offer.

Key point: Never use an incentive that requires you to sell it, before you can sell the main offering.

Using (or Not Using) Incentives Effectively

Incentives must be tested until you’ve found one that provides a major boost (the “ideal incentive”).

Even good incentives can fail due to presentation errors, such as:

  • Weak copy
  • Design or image-related issues (hero shots)
  • Limited relevance to, or confusion with, the primary offer
  • When testing lead-gen incentives like white papers and e-books, examine their perceived value as products as well as how they are presented on offer pages.

Use incentives in proximity to the call-to-action to overcome Friction and encourage sign-ups.


In the next phase of the sequential test, we ran the winning treatment from phase one against a new treatment.

The primary research question was the same:

  • Which form will produce the higher conversion rate?

With no incentives on either page, our test sought to determine the impact of using a longer form with more demographic questions.

What effect would a longer form — with additional Friction — have on the conversion rate and amount of demographic data submitted?

SEC Profile Page SEC Control Page
Treatment 1 (previous winner) Treatment 2 (more friction)
Form Page Conv. Rate
Treatment 1 — short copy with no incentive
Treatment 2 — long copy with no incentive
Relative CR Difference (Control vs. T1):

What you need to understand: The longer version of the form reduced the conversion rate by 22.22%.


  • Increasing the number of fields also increased the amount of Friction and substantially reduced conversion.
    • Other factors besides form length might have played a role and could be tested further, for example:
    • Language (all fields are “mandatory” vs. “required”)
    • Comfort level on some questions (net worth, marital status)
    • Button text (“submit” vs. “Complete My Profile”)
  • Although the longer form yielded fewer conversions, 61% of visitors still completed the form and provided more demographic information than the short version.

Key point: Friction is typically a negative factor — but not in every case. There are ways to use it to your advantage.

Using Friction to Your Advantage with Lead-Gen

Scenario: You want to increase the quantity of leads your offer page generates, but you also want to capture high quality leads — and you want an easy way to segment them.

    • Test breaking your offer page into a two-page process:
      Two Page Process
    • This “two-dial” process can increase lead quality and volume. You can continue to adjust the level of Friction on either or both pages to get the desired results.


We conducted a separate, radical redesign test for the same research partner. The key goals were to increase sign-ups for targeted email alerts as well as registrations.

Primary research question:

  • Which page generates the most e-mail alert sign-ups per unique page view?

Secondary research questions:

  • Which page generates the most registrations per unique
    page view?
  • Which page generates the most page views per visitor session?

Control Version

Here are the original versions of the pages and registration process:

SEC Registration Process

STEP 1: Decide what to do: email alert? RSS? View it? Get it in a PDF format? RTF format?

STEP 2: Fill out registration form in pop-up window.

MAA Filing on SEC
Detail of Control Page 1 (multiple options)

SEC Co-Registration Page

STEP 3: Decide on additional offers.

STEP 4: Fill out the alert request.

Test Design

Channel traffic from the partner was sequentially fed and split between:

  • the Control path, and
  • the streamlined Treatment path.

Treatment Version

Here’s how we optimized the pages and registration process:

SEC Registration Page

STEP 1: Decide what to do and click the call-to-action button.

Key changes:
Decision points have been greatly reduced:

  • RSS feed option removed
  • RTF format option removed
  • Row of icons removed
  • Stronger Call to Action copy
  • Call to Action button says “Turn On” the email alerts

SEC Detail

Clicking on the “Turn On” CTA button now takes the visitor to

STEP 2, a combined Registration and Alert sign-up form.

STEP 3: The same special offers page.

STEP 4: Confirms the alert has been created.

Sessions Alerts Alerts/
Page Views
Registrations Registrations/
Relative Difference:

What you need to understand: Our radical redesign treatment increased:

  • alert sign-ups by 2,559%,
  • page views per session by 35%, and
  • registrations by 86% per unique page view.


  • The new path significantly reduced Friction by combining the Alert and Registration sign-up into one step. It made the registration process a less demanding, more natural process.
  • The simplified design and options reduced “unsupervised thinking,” made it easier for prospects to make a choice, and offered them immediate action — which increased page views and registrations.
  • Areas to test in the future could include:
    • Changing headlines based on logged in/out status
    • Button copy and design (color, size, shape)
    • Additional options at sign-up (format/delivery preferences)

Key point: Friction occurs at the page level and throughout the lead-gen process itself. Look to reduce it in both areas.

  • Testing the elements of Friction and Incentive on your offer
    pages and lead-gen process can provide significant gains.
  • Adding an incentive does not automatically pull more leads
    or conversions. Find the “ideal incentive” first and examine how effectively it is presented with your offer.
  • Friction is typically a negative factor—but not in every case. Look for ways to use it to your advantage, such as sorting leads and improving lead quality.
  • Friction occurs at the page level and throughout the lead-gen process itself. Try to reduce it in both areas, then consider adding an incentive to further increase conversions.

Related Marketing Experiments Reports

As part of our research, we have prepared a review of the best Internet resources on this topic.

Rating System

These sites were rated for usefulness and clarity, but alas, the rating is purely subjective.

* = Decent | ** = Good | *** = Excellent | **** = Indispensable



Managing Editor — Hunter Boyle

Copy Editor — Frank Green

Contributor(s) — Flint McGlaughlin
Peg Davis
Bob Kemper
Paul Clowe
Boris Grinkot

HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer
Mel Harris

Email Designer — Holly Hicks

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