Anchor and Ask: Use Messages to Turn Signups into Real Customers

Posted by Josh Weissburg on May 19, 2015


Most companies spend a lot of time and money trying to find new customers. But big businesses are not built on signups - they're built on converted customers. And yet, last fall I heard an amazing statistic from Optimizely CEO Dan Siroker: 92:1. That's the ratio of dollars spent on customer acquisition compared to conversion! That makes for a very leaky funnel, with lots of leads at the top but very few real customers at the bottom. Messages can help fix this.

Now, we all want visitors on our web pages and users of our apps to convert to customers. Everything we do is geared towards getting them to pull the trigger. And yet, it's easy to forget that they're not done when they sign up. Too many people sign up for something and then abandon it because they either changed their mind, lost interest or were convinced to go elsewhere. It’s your job to ensure your users actually turn into real customers who make money for your business.

Below I'll lay out a simple strategy to increase conversion from signups to customers:

  1. Anchor in an action your user just did;
  2. Ask that user to do something specific, relevant (given what they just did) and measurable.

For the full methodology behind this technique, check out my class on Platzi. Below are some of the highlights:

Retention = Growth

Instead of spending a lot of time and money acquiring new users, make sure that the ones who do sign up actually use your product. This sounds optional, like it's one thing you could focus on of many. But if you actually think through it and plot it out on a graph (like Facebook VP of Growth Alex Schultz does here), you'll see that acquisition without retention is worthless over time, but good retention with weak acquisition is still very valuable. Valuable business retain well. This is how Facebook got big! (See Alex's talk.)

Messages = Retention

So how do you retain? When a user stops doing things in your product, it’s time to engage. You need to know where the sticking points are and you need a way to talk just to those users. It is critical to not only recognize the bottleneck but to use it as an opportunity to reach out to your customer. Messages are just your side of the conversation, and if you don't start a conversion, most relationships will die. This is true of your relationship with your customers too.

Figure Out Your Ask

First, figure out what specific, measurable thing you want your user to do. It should be something critical to your business, some point in your funnel where people get stuck. Want them to complete a customer profile or survey? Want them to continue the purchase when their cart is full?

Got it? Do you know how you'll measure it? Good. Now park it to the side for a minute.

Figure Out Your Anchor

Don't begin the conversation with your customer with the ask. That's not a nice greeting in any kind of relationship. Instead, treat your users like humans and anchor your message in your shared history with that person. The anchor is a reminder about the steps they've already taken and the benefits they’ll receive if they keep going. Then make your ask. This is where knowing what actions your customer has already taken is vital. When you base your ask on customer action, your customer feels you understand and value them.


You'll have to work through different anchors and ways of phrasing your ask. You need an easy, quick way to see what combination causes your customers to take action and respond to your ask. If you have to involve engineering every time you want to test messages, you’re going to be in your own bottleneck. Use tools that give you control over setting goals for each message, testing different messages and determining which changes had the most impact.

Make Your Winners Permanent

When you find a strong anchor and ask combo, you will likely see a huge increase in the number of signups who convert to real customers - that's how your customer communicates back to you that your ask makes sense and is worth doing. Make that anchor and ask part of your product flow so all customers who find themselves in that situation have that same kind of conversation with you. And test other anchors and asks at other points in your product flow.

Topics: Triggered messages, Multi-channel messaging, Best practices