Have questions lost their power to engage?


Engage. Persuade.

These are two things we are always trying to do with the people around us. And in business, when our livelihoods depend on engaging and persuading, the stakes are especially high.

That’s why I wanted to share with you the results a recent A/B test as it was reported on the Behave website.

Two versions of a simple sign-up form were tested against each other. The goal was to capture the prospect’s email address by offering a free three-part guide on investing. All the type and graphics were the same, except for a handful words at the very top of the signup form. Here’s how they differed:

  • One version started with a question. (Do you trade shares?)
  • The other version simply instructed the prospect how to sign up and get the guide.

I was expecting the version that asked the question to produce more signups by a large margin – demonstrating the power of a question. However, in this case, the simple instructions beat out the question by 41 percent.

The experts at Behave attributed the instructional copy’s win to the “Trend of Convenience.” I hate to say this, but the Internet is making us lazy. Instead of wanting to engage our minds and think for ourselves, we’re taking the attitude of “Just tell me what to do!”

Further, I think it’s well documented that when we’re surfing the Internet, we won’t stand for anything that slows down our speed. If a page takes too long to load, we click to go somewhere else. If an e-commerce checkout system is too lengthy, we abandon our shopping carts.

This is also, I believe, why one-page scrolling websites are all the rage today. We can’t get people’s brains to say, “That looks interesting, I think I’ll click on it” and navigate to a new page.

I don’t want to give up on using questions to engage people, but today I’m less confident in its power. Sometimes a short and simple instruction is all that’s required to get prospects and customers to take action.