Michael Cassman

CASE STUDY: The #1 most overlooked lead gen conversion-killer 

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Hi. I don’t usually write when I’m pissed but I’m breaking that rule today.

Here’s the story…

The other day I subscribed to the Ridge wallet email list to give my minimalist tendencies a little hit of dopamine.

The next day (today) I got slapped with a Facebook ad… it was from Ridge.

I don’t remember the details but it was something canned like “bUy nOw lImItEd tImE OfFeR 20% OfF!!!!!”

(jk here’s a screenshot…)

It pissed me off. I rolled my eyes and scrolled right past.

But then something crazy happened. I got whacked by another ad… It was Ridge’s #1 competitor.

The headline read:

“Ekster vs Ridge… who wins?”

Not only did it stop me in my tracks, but I found myself intrigued and ACTUALLY clicked through to see what was on the other side.

The ad took me to an article comparing the two wallets. It was a not-so-subtle paid promo for Ekster… it was a poorly written story-based advertorial, but that’s not what’s most important here.

Think about what just happened.

I ignored the ad from the people I actually subscribed to and clicked on their competitor’s ad. 

A competitor I’d never heard of, that I didn’t trust and knew nothing about. But still, in the battle for my click and attention, the strange competitor won…


I’ll tell you that in a minute. But first, lemme tell you what wasn’t the deciding factor.

It wasn’t the offer or product cuz I knew more about Ridge than the other guys.

It wasn’t the clout or reputation of the company because Ridge had that.

It wasn’t the copy per se…

It’s something deeper than that. 

The most overlooked question in marketing

It’s a marketing truth buried deep inside our brains that legendary Gene Schwartz says is “the most overlooked question in marketing” and pre-launch expert Brenna McGowan says “nobody ever talks about”.

It’s got many names, but may as well have zero because it’s so rarely considered or discussed you could almost call it secret…

So let’s dig into it.

Some call it “customer ascent.” Others call it “market awareness”. Still others “the customer journey” or “customer right fit readiness.”

They’re all ways of measuring how deeply your prospect has created a relationship with you. From the first time they hear about you – to downloading a free lead magnet – to making a multi-thousand dollar purchase. They’re all stages of the same journey that your customer passes through…

…and your marketing’s job is to lead them by the hand every step of the way. 

This creates a non-negotiable obligation on your part. Any time you create a funnel, an ad, an opt-in page… whatever… you have to meet your prospects where they’re at and walk with them, lock-stepped, through the customer journey.

You must tell them what they need to hear, when they need to hear it, in the way they need to hear it so they can advance into the next phase of engagement with you.

At the beginning they need less offers, more story. Less sell more tell. Less you, more them. As they progress their needs will change, and so must your messaging. 

If you try to copy/paste the same 1 size fits all messaging across the board, you’ll alienate vast portions of your audience because of 1 of 2 reasons

  • It’s irrelevant to them because their problems have matured beyond what you’re telling them
  • It’s irrelevant to them because they haven’t matured enough to appreciate what you’re telling them

The Key? Proper Nurturing.

This stuff can get kinda heady so let’s keep it simple with an analogy from my seminary days inspired by one of St. Paul’s writings…

Feeding a baby. 👶

I know it’s different, but hear me out.

Everybody knows you can’t feed a baby steak. You feed a baby milk. As the baby grows, then you give it the horrific pureed food from the little baby jars. Then more solid foods. Introduce diversity and increase quality and quantity. Maybe eventually the child starts cooking for itself.

But if you jump the gun and try to feed toothless Junior a fire-seared ribeye you’ll experience less than favorable results. 

This is Nurturing 101. Ever heard of nurturing your audience?

Same concept. 

The fact is, only about the top 3ish% percent of your audience is ready for steak, let’s call that the Big Gun No-Brainer offer you’re trying to sell them. The other 97ish% of your audience are not ready to hear your straight pitch. They’re not ready for steak. They need something easier to accept and process.

You need to nurture them to the Steakpoint.

Meet your prospects where they’re at… not where you want them to be.

At one stage they need free premiums to gain your trust. At others they need to hear how you’ll improve their life. At another they need to hear how you outperform your competition. At the very end, and only at the end, do you start blasting them with special deals and limited-time offers. The Steakpoint.

This is where Ridge and so many other advertisers fall flat on their face and roll around in the muck. They lose touch of where their prospects are in the buyer’s journey and hit ‘em with Big Gun No-Brainer Offers right away. They whip out the steak and wave in front of prospects who haven’t even graduated from baby food yet.

Obviously, that won’t work, but most marketers do it anyway… because they get so wrapped up in “who’s my audience? What are their pains? Does this copy flow?” that they forget to dig deep and meet their prospects where they’re at.

A straight offer on cold prospects is too much too soon. It comes off too strong. It presumes too much. 

When the human brain recognizes that it immediately marks it as “Spam” along with all the other cacophony of inane babble seamlessly filtered by our Categorical Imperatives.

That’s exactly what happened when I encountered Ridge in my news feed. They jumped the gun and went straight for the “no-brainer offer” pitch before I was ready. 

They tried to feed me steak, but I was still just a baby.

But Ekster met me where I was… 

And where was I?

Floating around weightlessly in the infinite virtual newsfeed, vaguely aware of what I wanted, aware of certain products that might do the job, but not completely sold on one over the other. Still ruminating, still doing my research. I was in no state to receive a Big Gun No-Brainer Offer, but I was in the perfect state to check out a “my brand versus the competition” story. 

No trust required, only curiosity.

No commitment except to indulge in that curiosity.

It’s the marketing equivalent of baby food.

If I’m not yet decided, of course I’m more likely to click on something that proposes to help me decide…rather than “buy this NOW.”

You need both to convert your prospect – “meet them where they’re at” + great copy

Ekster nailed it, a “us vs them” story-based advertorial is the perfect ad for where I was in the buyer’s journey which is why they hands-down dominated against the Ridge wallet.

(SIDE NOTE: if only the advertorial had been well written with a compelling opt-in, I may have jumped on their list as well. It would’ve been a perfect example of a well-executed funnel. Oh well. This goes to show you how important it is to have bang-up landing pages to convert your cold traffic. They got my click, but lost my conversion cause of weak copy.)

Here’s the most important lesson: no matter how good your copy is, even if you pay John Carlton $40,000 to write a landing page for you, if you don’t meet your prospect where they’re at, it’s like trying to dance to two separate tunes… Not gonna work. You’re gonna fail and fail miserably. 

And even if certain messaging works at one phase of the process, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for others… in fact, it most likely WON’T work at others. It will be either “too much too soon” or “been there done that.” Because as your buyers progress, like children, their problems mature or even disappear and get replaced with new ones. Which means you need to grow and mature along with them or they’ll outgrow you and leave you for someone who will.

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