Marketing Inception

Marketing Inception

How to get your messaging right and improve conversion

(3 minute read)

This post below will show you:

  • The method we use to 2x conversion
  • What message you should get across
  • How to change your messaging


This morning, the CMO of a company said to me on a Zoom call:

“We’re always looking for ways to improve conversion.”

“Especially we’re spending quite a bit on ads and we’ve tried everything but there’s just no major improvement.”

Yeap – I know.

After optimising over 700 landing pages, I can assure you that the ‘Marketing Blind Spot’ is real.

Because I have it too.

This is the double-edged sword we have.

We know so much about marketing and strategies that we struggle to know what to prioritise and optimise for our own business.

We are so close to the market, yet somewhat disconnected from it.

Today, most marketers are obsessed with studying marketing rather than studying the market.

We come up with new ideas and changes, one after the other.

  • Trying new themes and designs
  • Testing different copy
  • Learning new Facebook ad tactics
  • Adding new tools and extensions…

CRO shouldn’t just be about making cosmetic changes.

Most of us think that we’re doing a good job improving the user experience and optimising every funnel step.

In fact, we can just be painting a broken pipe.

So what is this CRO no one is doing?

What is the most effective (and profitable) way to maximise our conversion?

Last night, I revisited one of my favourite movies of all time – Inception.

Surprisingly, we got the answer from it.

The movie started off with Leonardo saying the famous line:

“An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.”

I was immediately captured.

Dom Cobb, starred by Leonardo DiCaprio then followed:

“Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate.”

I paused the movie and meditated on it.

Isn’t that what we’re doing as Marketers every day?

Planting ideas.

We’re influencing people to engage with content and marketing pieces.

Every interaction we have with people, we’re seeding an idea.

When that idea grows, they take action (convert).

Conversions aren’t the numbers on your dashboard.

Conversions are the fruits of what you’ve been seeding with your marketing.

If we want the fruits, we have to stop thinking about the fruits. Rather, we need to focus on seeding – seeding the right idea.

CRO is Inception.

Selling is Inception.

Marketing is Inception.

We’re seeding an idea in people’s head.

The second we realise, accept and respect our role and the responsibility as a Marketer, we turn the table upside down.

We’re no longer that advertiser who is just blasting emails and ads at people.

Now, we’re the one who helps them shape their decisions.

Now, we’re the one who is responsible for seeding.

More importantly, we’re the one who decides what ideas to seed.

With each interaction, whether they see your Facebook ad or look at your website, you’re influencing them.

You’re planting a seed.

The question is – do you know what exactly you are seeding?

What is the idea you’re trying to grow?

What do you want them to conclude about your business?

In the movie, the Inception Team emphasises one point.

For the person to truly believe in your idea, there are two rules:

  1. The idea must be crystal clear and simple
  2. We don’t tell the idea, we SUGGEST it

The Inception Team has to find a way to plant an idea in their target’s mind that he shouldn’t continue his father’s business.

So what is the first thing they do?

They write down, “I will split up my father’s empire.”

They clarify and verbalise the exact idea they need to seed.

Why? Because from now, everything they’re about to plan and execute is going to suggest this idea.

It is the same when it comes to making changes to your website.

What is the idea you need to get across?

What are the changes that you need to make to ‘suggest’ that idea?

Rule #1Know exactly what is the idea you need to get across

Once we know the idea and we verbalise it, why can’t we just tell them the idea?

Why can’t we tell people we have the best product?

Why can’t we tell people we are the best service provider?

Why do we have to ‘suggest’ it instead?

Let’s imagine I dig a big hole in the middle of your garden now and plant a 5-meter tall lemon tree.

Will you notice it?

More importantly, will you accept it, feel an ownership of it and protect it?

Human brains are programmed to defend new ideas.

(Thanks to hundreds of years of sneak-oil advertisements)

This is the difference between ‘Someone telling us what to do’ and ‘Us realising what to do’.

Telling someone we have “the best product” doesn’t make us “the best product” in their mind.

It just makes us a bragger with nothing meaningful to say.

How many times have you seen companies claiming something without clearly explaining why?

How many claims are on your website with no explanations?

Are you Telling or Suggesting?

A large portion of our work is to help companies audit their messaging.

To put it plainly, we need to point out the complication, confusion and BS in their marketing message.

We needed to create a methodology that can help us and our clients to clarify exactly what to say.

This is why I created Decision Seeding.

Decision Seeding is part of our CRO process for Conversion Clinic.

We created it about 2 years ago and have been using and refining it every day since then.

It has been (and still is) the most effective way I know to do meaningful CRO.

First, we need to clarify and verbalise exactly what messages we need to get across on the website.

Here’s what it looks like:

As you can see, there are two main messages.

The first layer is the big idea and conclusion we want people to have.

The second and the third layer are the seeds we must plant to SUGGEST the big idea.

For example, we want website visitors to draw the conclusion:

“This is the best place to buy products to teach my kid about Emotional Intelligence”

Should we just tell them ‘Hey, this is the best place to buy!’?

What should we do instead?

We suggest.

What information do people need to draw this conclusion by themselves?

What are the seeds we need to plant?

Let’s see:

  1. Every product on this store is hand-selected by a Child Psychologist
  2. It has the largest range of products in Australia with over 100 games and toys

Can you see the clarity and specificity of our seeds?

As people scroll down the website and see the messaging, they will slowly conclude the idea of ‘This is the best place to buy’.

Effective execution requires absolute clarity.

If you can put one idea in your ideal customer’s mind, what would that be?

What must they know about your offer?

Don’t try to plant a tree that people will reject.

Spread the seeds.

Let the customers grow the tree, own it and protect it.

Our job, as Marketers, is to seed the right idea.

So now, perhaps the question isn’t “What should we optimise next?”

Perhaps the question is “What are we actually optimising for?”

What’s the inception you need to do in your marketing?


Will Chan

Founder of ScaleMessaging