Reducing Friction to Help Drive Decisions

Larry WitzelBasic Marketing Principles, Evangelism Practices, Marketing Practices

We’ve all experienced marketing friction. At some point it has impacted each of us from following through, or making a decision. Friction is any barrier to someone taking the action you want them to take. It could be an emotional barrier (“I don’t trust you”), a mental barrier (“I don’t understand”), or a physical barrier (a long checkout line).

As we’ve looked at the Marketing Principles used by SermonView every day in evangelism marketing, we’ve already talked about the Sales Funnel, which breaks down a big ask into smaller, lower-friction steps. We also looked at how to get interests into the mouth of that funnel using a marketing campaign, with its components of the Offer, the Audience, and the Creative. In this article, we’ll look at Friction and how to make it work for you.

Every time you ask someone to make a decision, there’s going to be friction. We are creatures of habit, and asking people to get out of their routines requires them to overcome inertia. Your job is to remove as much of that friction as possible.

Reducing Friction

Okay, so you feel you have a strong offer and you’re communicating it to the right audience with great creative. But you’re not seeing the results you want. Somehow people aren’t moving through the funnel the way you expected.

That could be from too much friction in one or more of your steps. So here are five ways you can reduce any friction to your offer:

  1. Add value. The more valuable the offer, the lower the friction. A free physical book has more perceived value, and therefore lower friction, than a free downloadable PDF. A 50% off coupon has lower friction than a 15% off coupon.

    Now, we’re talking about perceived value here. It’s interesting that in e-commerce, studies show that free shipping has a higher perceived value than an equivalent discount in dollars. More people respond to a free shipping offer than a coupon with a higher dollar value, like $20 off when shipping only costs $10.

    So when you look to add value to an offer, make sure you’re thinking about it from your prospect’s perspective. For it to actually lower the friction, they need to recognize the value themselves.

  2. Reduce effort. You intuitively know that lowering cost will reduce friction. But how does that help us in evangelism when the cost is free? Well, there are other aspects to cost than just monetary value: time required, reputation, and risk are a few. But in the context of evangelism, the most important one is effort.

    The more effort required, the higher the friction. For example, a free book mailed to someone is lower friction than a free book delivered to the door by a volunteer, because getting up to answer an unexpected knock on the door takes effort. But asking someone to leave her home to attend an event is more friction, and asking someone to come to 24 meetings is even more.

    Look for ways to reduce the effort required to respond to your offer.

  3. Be clear. Confusion increases friction, so be clear about the action you want someone to take. State it simply and clearly. Use the imperative voice.

    Get inside your prospect’s mind to make sure you’re clearly communicating the value of your offer. That’s a common misstep, and a key reason why the SermonView crew will often recommend making changes to sermon titles in an evangelistic series. Congruence in the message increases clarity. You can also clarify the value by talking about the benefits of your meetings, and tightening the language to clearly articulate what you’re offering.

  4. Ask Less. Part of the exchange for a free Bible study offer is personal information. The interest provides some information like name and address, and you deliver the Bible study. Obviously, we would like as much information as possible about each interest, to help us decide where they fit into our cycle. Unfortunately, our request for information can mean we lose people that would have been great attendees or prospects. This happens when we ask a question that benefits us and not the interest.

    Asking for a phone number is a good example. If you just ask for a phone number while someone is requesting a mailed Bible study, the respondent may think, “Oh great, I’m going to get spammed with calls,” and leave the funnel. But if you tell them why you want the phone number—like offering to send a text when the resource has been mailed—you can reduce the friction. Asking for a physical address to access an online webinar doesn’t make sense, and will cause a lower response rate. But asking for that address to send them a free book that comes with registration makes perfect sense and shouldn’t materially harm your numbers.

  5. Build a relationship. An established relationship reduces friction. When people feel like they know someone, whether it’s a brand or a person, they are more willing to do something when asked. Think about it: if a stranger calls you to pick them up because the car broke down, how likely are you to do it? Now what if it was your best friend? Relationship reduces friction.

    That’s one reason we believe it’s important to put the name of your church on marketing materials instead of Church Auditorium. The more someone sees the name of your church associated to events that clearly offer something of value, the more that person feels they know your church. (Of course, if you live someplace where the name of the church increases friction, you might want to leave it off. Better yet, find ways to improve the reputation of your church through friendship and compassion ministries.)

    That’s also why it’s crucial for your members to be building relationships with the people around them, because those people will more likely respond to a personal invitation when that relationship already exists. It is also important for your members to participate in evangelistic events, to build relationships with your guests. Knowing someone reduces friction.

When More Friction is Better

Let’s close by reviewing a case where we intentionally added friction into the process. This happened to us when we were first experimenting with Facebook advertising for evangelistic events. Facebook has a system where a user can complete a form right on the Facebook feed, with field data already pre-populated with the user’s information. We found that more people pre-registered for an event when they could complete that form right in Facebook. It was a lower-friction action.

That’s good, right? Not quite. Few of them actually attended the meetings.

As we reviewed the results, we realized that we actually needed more friction in that step. Remember, a funnel breaks down a big ask into smaller, lower-friction steps. What was the big ask in this case? Attend in person on opening night. The interest has to get off the couch on a Friday night, drive to a church she’s never been to, walk through the doors of a strange building, and find a seat among people she’s never met. Friction is really high!

To improve our response rate, we’ve added the interim step of pre-registration. Our call to action on the handbill or postcard is to reserve a seat, and we direct them to a website and phone number to do that. There is friction to pre-register, but once that step is taken they are closer to actually attending. There is less friction for that final step of showing up on opening night.

So what did we break by using Facebook’s form system? That interim step of pre-registration was so easy, the resulting next step was left with nearly all the friction. It was too much to overcome. So instead of using Facebook’s form system, changed the flow send them to our own website, where they had to take the time to key in their information. That higher friction resulted in fewer pre-registrations, but more of them attended on opening night.

There is another reason to add friction: decision longevity. The harder someone works to make a change in his life, the longer that change sticks. Adventist evangelism has always had a problem with losing people after they join the church, what has been called the “back door problem.” This is obviously a concern, and we would prefer 100% retention of new members. But the real number of 65% is actually one of the highest among all denominations in the United States. Why is it so high? Because once someone puts forth all that effort into doing Bible studies, and attending meetings, and shifting perspective on multiple core beliefs—well, that person is more likely to stick with that decision.

Consider Friction in Your Funnel

Once you understand the concept of friction, you can look at your funnel and see where people are getting stuck. You can then test ways to reduce the friction of that step and, if necessary, break that step into two or more smaller, lower-friction steps.

When you ask someone to do something, there’s going to be resistance. We are creatures of habit, and asking someone to get out of routines requires them to overcome inertia. Remove as much friction as possible out of the equation, to help others make life-changing decisions for Christ.