emotional targeting

Emotional Targeting 101: How to Leverage the Power of Emotion to Grow Conversions

Talia Wolf Conversion Optimization 1 Comment

Talia Wolf

Talia teaches businesses how to plan and execute conversion optimization programs. She runs thousands of AB tests using emotional targeting, real time data and consumer psychology to increase online revenues, engagements and sales.

Talia is a frequent keynote speaker at marketing conferences, teaching conversion optimization and growth on stages such as Google, Unbounce, MozCon, GMIC, CXL live, Search Love, Learn Inbound and many more.

She is the Co-founder & CMO at Banana Splash and was recently listed as one of the most influential voices in conversion optimization.

When I started out as an optimizer, almost 7 years ago, I was making all the common mistakes optimizers make; I’d find the leak in Google Analytics and test random stuff, based on tips I read on different blog posts, “hunches” I had or team suggestions.

Then I’d see the results (or lack of) and end up with no insights, learn nothing, and would be left with absolutely nothing I could use to grow the business (saying I felt “frustrated” might be the understatement of the year).

It was this frustrating experience which led me to establish an optimization process, one that I and my team could follow, one that could be optimized as we moved forward but also serve as our foundations and a guide on how to actually conduct meaningful optimization to websites, ad creatives and email marketing campaigns. This process has been guiding as ever since and consists of 7 steps:

If you don’t have a conversion optimization process in-hand, here’s one you can start using today. Click to Tweet

Our Conversion Optimization Process

#1 Finding the leak (behavioral analysis)

Identifying the leak in the funnel using Google Analytics, heatmaps and other tools or platforms that allow a behavioral analysis of the site. This is also the first gateway into our customer’s behavior, understanding what they do on the site, what browsers and devices they are using, the pages they visit, their geographical location and other behavioral elements that help assess where the problem is.

#2 Prioritization

 just because you found the leak in the funnel, who’s to say fixing it would make an actual difference on your bottom line? We’d had enough with wasting time, money and energy on A/B tests that yielded no results, so we used a scoring system I picked up from Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg that would measure:

    • Impact – how much of an impact would optimizing this part of the funnel have on the bottom line
    • Time – how long it would take to execute the project
    • And resources – the associated costs (people, tools, space, etc.) needed to execute a project.

Since then we’ve optimized our prioritization method a lot and have added many different elements to it. Many experts have created their own prioritization system, here’s a new one by ConversionXL which can get you started.

#3 The emotional targeting methodology

 This is where my optimization process became the process I envisioned it could be. Thanks to this part of our conversion optimization process I’ve been able to increase my client’s conversion rates by 10X or even 20X over and over again, this is the part of the process we’re going to focus on today in this article so you can deliver these types of results too. This step includes an in-depth analysis of the customer’s emotional triggers, their buying decision process and psychological profile.

This is how emotional targeting increases conversion rates by 10X or even 20X Click to Tweet

#4 Hypothesis

Once we find the leak in the funnel that’s worth optimizing, we establish a hypothesis of what could fix this leak and come up with a way to do so. This is where we combine all our research, insights and observations in order to come up with ideas on how to fix that leak. Craig Sullivan wrote a great piece on establishing a hypothesis, it all comes down to being able to answer the following about your hypothesis:

    • We saw {data/feedback}
    • We expect that {change} will cause {impact}
    • We’ll measure this using {data metric}

#5 The creative process

Now that we have a hypothesis and a strategy we move on to choosing colors, copy and other elements that serve to support our hypothesis and bring it to life. Thanks to the emotional targeting methodology, we know what emotions we’re trying to triggers, now it’s just a matter of using the right elements to highlight those emotions and values. 

#6 Test launch

 This is part includes setting up the A/B test in your chosen platform, launching the test and conducting in-depth QA by several teams: design, QA, copy, dev, strategic planners and anyone who had a hand in putting this new variation together. Remember that QA isn’t just about 

#7 And Reporting

 A profound report that provides a strategic analysis to clients and/or colleagues on the impact of the test, provides clarity, significant insights people can use for their marketing endeavors and a record of everything we’ve tested for future reference.

This process is what took my optimization skills to the next level. The most meaningful and different part of it was and still is the emotional targeting methodology I created. It’s what made me a better optimizer and helps me not only increase sales, purchases, downloads or subscriptions for clients, but also deliver incredible insights that manage to positively transform entire businesses based on the knowledge they provide. So, let’s dive into it and get you using it too.

Getting Started with Emotional Targeting

Every time I speak at conferences, do workshops or present in various webinars or online events, I get the same question and hear the same frustrated complaint over and over again – “I spend a lot of time, resources and money on optimizing my website, landing page or customer journey yet the results almost never yield those amazing results I read about and if they do, they never hold for long.”

Turns out, conversion optimization (or CRO) is hard. It’s not like any other discipline in which you learn one skill (e.g- becoming a front end developer) and focus on getting better at it. Conversion optimization requires many skills and disciplines such as web analysis, copywriting, design, UX, psychology and much more. In order to be a good optimizer (or hire one) you must focus on constantly improving all skills.

If that isn’t enough, another huge reason this complaint keeps recurring is because most businesses treat CRO as a bunch of tactics or tasks and dedicate all their time to analysing the data and behavior but not enough time on getting to know their customers and what they actually need. And I mean truly getting to know their customers.

In order to optimize your site successfully and grow your business with conversion optimization you must first recognize that there’s more to customers than just gender, age and type of browser they use. Behind each screen are people not numbers.

In fact, every visitor that comes to your site faces some sort of challenge, whether it’s finding something to wear, getting past communication barriers with their remote team, finding a solution for their child’s anxiety or perhaps just entertain themselves while bored – every visitor on our site has a goal and as Bryan Eisenberg once said:

“For us to achieve our goals, we must first help our customers achieve theirs”.

Bryan Eisenberg

Bottom line: if you understand your customer’s challenges and needs, you can optimize the site for them and as a result increase your conversions.
To do that, you need to get to know your customers on an emotional level, understand what makes them tick and learn how to address them on an emotional level. Why emotional? Because every single decision we make in life has an emotional component to it and though many of us think we’re rational people who make rational decisions, that is very far from the truth.

At this point you may be saying to yourself “well that’s nice Talia, however, my product/service isn’t emotional at all״. Well let me assure you, whatever you’re selling IS bought based on the buyer’s emotion. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a cardboard box, heavy accounting software or toilet paper, you have the ability and need to connect your product, service, or experience to an emotion your customers’ crave more than anything. To better understand how emotions affect our buying decisions, let’s take a look at how our brain works:

How our brain makes decisions

Our brain has two main thinking paths:

  1. The first is the deliberate, logical part of our mind that’s capable of analyzing a problem and coming up with a rational answer. This is the part of our mind that we’re aware of. It’s an expert at solving problems, but it is slow, requires a great deal of energy and is extremely lazy.
  2. The second part of our brain is intuitive, fast and automatic. This part of the brain is actually responsible for most of the things that we say, do, think or believe. It’s the part that’s in charge of helping us buy stuff irrationally (and then let’s our logical mind come up with a rational reason of buying it or thinking in a certain way). We’ve all done it before right? buying an expensive shirt we didn’t need, or jumping out of a plane (that might just be me). As Dan Ariely explains, this part of our our brain is the system that causes things like overeating, smoking and texting and driving.

What’s more? Back in the early 1990’s, a famous study conducted by neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, presented scientific proof that emotions impact our brain and directly influence our decision making process.

Study shows: emotions impact our brain and directly influence our decision making process. Click to Tweet

Damasio studied people who were suffering from brain damage that prevented them from experiencing any emotions. While most of their behavior was completely normal, they all had one big issue; they were unable to make decisions. The fact that they experienced no emotions at all made it hard for them to make decisions on even the most trivial things like, what to have for lunch – chicken or turkey. The participants knew what they had to do but just couldn’t make up their mind.

Even if our customers or clients don’t realize it, we all invest our money in products, experiences, and services that make us feel a certain way – loved, safe, appreciated, part of a community, strong or perhaps just better than others.  Emotions play a key role in our decision making process both online and offline and in order to truly grow your business you have to start understanding your customers and their decision making process better.

By now, you should be thinking: “Ok Talia, I get it: emotions matter. Now what?”
Well, it’s time to get acquainted with emotional targeting methodology that will help you connect to your customers on an emotional level.  

So what is the emotional targeting methodology?

Most conversion optimization processes consist of 3 main steps:

  1. Finding the leak in the funnel
  2. Create new variation
  3. Launch A/B test

The first step is simple to do using Google Analytics, heatmaps and other elements I mentioned before. But what about the second step? How do you know what to change? as we mentioned, most marketers rely on blog posts, random guesses, staff recommendations and personal feelings. This is extremely problematic and in NO way effective. You need a system, and that’s where emotional targeting comes in.  

Emotional targeting helps you identify what changes to make for a better experience and higher revenues.

The emotional targeting methodology I’ve created is all about understanding our customers better. It’s a methodology that helps us tap into our customer’s most inner emotional needs and cater to them in our design.  Simply put, the root of every conversion is our decision making process. The better we understand how our customers make purchasing decisions the better of an experience we can give them which leads to more sales and higher conversions.

It’s a simple math equation:

Emotions affect decisions

Decisions affect conversions

Conversions affect revenues.  

So let’s take a look at how we can tap into our customer’s emotions and affect their decision making process.

The 3 Pillars of the Emotional Targeting Methodology

The emotional targeting methodology will help you understand what drives your customers’ decisions to buy your product or service and how to improve your website. There are 3 main pillars that guide us in this methodology:

#1 Make it about the customer

This is the first and most important step of the emotional targeting methodology. It focuses on becoming customer driven rather than having your product, features and pricing front and center. You goal now becomes highlighting your customer’s value and making it about them.

It’s simple really, no matter what you’re selling, what people really care about isn’t the what, it’s the why. Our customers want to know what’s in it for them and what their outcome is going to be.  Since the average person sees between 4000-10,000 messages a day (redcrowmarketing), we tend to skip and skim most of what we see every day.

In order to change this we need to first capture our customer’s attention and give them a reason to continue reading, to invest more time in getting to know us and to learn about our solution. We do that by making it about them.

No matter what you’re selling, what people really care about isn’t the what, it’s the why. Click to Tweet

A couple of ways to find your “WHY” and make it about the customer include:

  1. Conducting surveys – Gain valuable insights into what your customers are looking by asking them specific questions. Each survey should have one goal, and answer one main issue you want to address, for example: “I want to know which features to kill in my product” or “I want to know who my exact target audience is”. By setting a goal before getting started you ensure the questions being written, support that goal and that you keep on track rather than write many different questions that may confuse you later.
  2. Interviewing clients – Talk to customers, meet with them and interview them. There’s no replacement to actually having a conversation with your customer/client and getting to know them better.
  3. Interviewing members of staff – Interview the teammates that have a daily or weekly touchpoint with customers. These types of interviews offer two great takeaways – 1. understanding how your team sees the customer and how they address them and 2. understanding how far your staff’s opinions and thoughts are different from the clients.
  4. Doing competitor research – No, this isn’t a tip to copy from your competitors. Most of the time your competitors are copying from theirs and have no idea what they’re doing either. So what should you do? Take a look at the reviews and testimonials on their site to discover what your potential customers (who are currently buying from the competitor) are concerned about, excited about and more. You can later use these insights to define the type of content you want on your site. 
  5. Profiling customers – while most customers fit into several categories of personas and profiles, profiling certain types of customers can help with aligning the team, understanding your customer’s intent better and creating certain content for your different persona types (checkout this buyer personas article to get started).

All these steps and others will provide you with meaningful insights to your customer’s emotional needs and help you determine the kind of content to highlight, what concerns to address, which testimonials to get and essentially help you plan every single part of your customer journey.

#2 Don’t just show it, make em’ feel it

It’s not enough to just make it about the customer by using plain words, you must also use visual elements in order to enhance emotional triggers. While no element on a page can work alone (copy, design and all other elements must work together to influence your customer’s decision making process) this pillar is based on using different elements in your design according to the way our brain processes information.

Our brain processes images and color much faster than text which means that the first thing people see on any landing page, banner, pricing page or email marketing campaign is the images and colors you use. In order to take advantage of the emotional targeting methodology and make it about the customer, it’s not enough to just say it in words, you have to make them feel and see it within the first few seconds they set their eyes on your landing page (or any other creative).

As mentioned, our brain simply cannot take in every little bullet and sentence we see on a page which means we need to use the power of colors, images and even fonts to get our message through.
In one of our recent monthly webinars I presented a case study we did for a client while I ran Conversioner. As you can see this website’s entire strategy focuses on the product itself: The headline, “Easy to Use Infographic Creator” highlights the product’s usability, the bullets points refer to all the features they have and their main visual is a video explaining how to use the product.

emotional targeting

However, once we conducted our emotional targeting research, we established their customer’s emotional triggers and understood that the main concerns of their customers were to be able to stand out in a sea of marketers, to create memorable presentations for their team and to make a good impression on their colleagues and manager. This understanding of their emotional drivers (and the why they would buy this particular product) helped us create a hypothesis and design a new variation that enhanced all of these triggers:


Rather than stating what the platform does (“Easy to Use Infographic Creator”) we highlighted the “why” and their personal interest → “Make Impressive Infographics”. The subtitle was used to empower customers and help them feel confident in creating these infographics within minutes. This was highlighted since most marketers feel insecure about their design skills and that presented itself as a major concern in our research. The main visual which was used to “show it and not just say it” was a visual of the outcome, what the infographic can look like. This variation outperformed the original one by 24%.

As you can see, during this stage of the emotional targeting methodology (once we’ve identified the emotional triggers we want to test in the first stage) we establish what images, persuasive colors (here’s free guide on how to use the emotional power of colors to increase conversion), fonts and the entire design strategy we want to test that supports these emotional triggers.

#3 Test strategies, not elements

While the first two pillars focus on our research, messaging and design, the third pillar focuses on driving meaningful outcome from this process and validating our research (and in fact, our entire conversion optimization process). Our goal with this pillar is to make sure we’re making meaningful changes to the customer journey and have a meaningful impact on our results.

Rather than running A/B tests on individual call to action buttons, headlines or single elements on the page, the emotional targeting methodology encourages using the insights we’ve acquired, to run meaningful A/B tests. While the results of testing individual elements on a page can be hard to analyze, understand and scale, testing strategies and hypotheses based on our research will ensure our A/B test results are understood and that they spread the knowledge within the organization.  

The beauty of this stage? We’ve already defined the emotional triggers we want to test and the colors, fonts, visuals and content to go with, now all that is left is to test them.

Rather than focusing on improving single KPI’s, the results of these types of tests allow us to optimize other parts of our funnels such as our retention efforts, email marketing, ads and much more. The insights and knowledge driven from these types of A/B tests can completely transform your business and help all teams optimize their process according to the customer’s needs.

Your Next Steps

The true value of the emotional targeting methodology is that it does more than just turn more visitors into customers, it also delivers powerful insights to the entire company, from your marketing teams to sales, retention and even your shipping, which as a result increases retention rates, since your entire team will then know how to communicate with your target audience and deliver the best kind of product.

Remember that our biggest challenge in conversion optimization isn’t the tools we use, the lack of resources or having low budgets, the biggest challenge is us, we’re the problem. If we keep treating our customers as if they’re just devices, browsers or geographical locations we’ll keep striking out, missing out on the real potential of CRO and continue getting frustrated with our results.

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