My 9th week in the CXL Institute Mini Degree of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) — A Review

So I started with Peep Laja’s course on “People and Psychology” last week and this week was the second week of the course where I completed 1 more lesson. This blog is about what I learned this week in the course. This is the 5th course of the “Foundations” section in the Conversion Optimization Mini Degree from CXL Institute.

In the course intro, Peep has talked about understanding the human mind is important if we want to persuade someone to buy from us. Indeed, human psychology is at the heart of any sales-oriented function.

Lesson 3: Lessons from Neuromarketing

This part has a lot of detailed explanations of how Neuromarketers understand the psychology of why people buy. I thought I knew that humans use emotions to make a purchase and then justify it with their own logic. However, as it turns out, it’s not even scratching the surface. There’s so much detail in the original “Neuromarketing” book and in this lesson as a result.

This lesson provides an overview of 6 main principles from that book that will help marketers appeal to the decision-making part of our brain (i.e. the old “reptilian” brain).

These 6 principles are:

  • Self-centered: Your customers are self-centered. So don’t make your marketing messages all about yourself/ your company/product/service. You must always aim to provide value and serve customers to make your marketing copy/content resonates with them.
  • Contrast: The old brain notices a sudden change. That’s why the “before/after” transformations (for weight loss) work so well. Try to make it visual. If you can’t make it visual, use numbers. The old brain seeks clear contrast to make instant decisions (because stone age people couldn’t take days and weeks to make decisions about dangerous situations). It helps us avoid confusion that results in delayed decisions.

From the book Neuromarketing: ”…the old brain is wired to pay attention to disruptions or changes” such as before/after, risky/safe, with/without, and fast/slow. Therefore, to get the old brain’s attention, create contrast and avoid things like neutral statements that dull contrast.

  • Tangible: The old brain prefers and scans for tangible input to avoid the extra time and energy involved in thinking. It’s a lazy mother****r! The way this applies is that people typically don’t care about jargon (or googling its meaning to understand the jargon). Also, marketers must write their messages as something their audience would understand i.e. get into their world and talk about things in a way they understand (not how you understand). Hence, empathy is so important in marketing.
  • First and Last: Our brain is wired to pay attention to the first and last. If you want it to jolt into action, you must capture your viewer’s (or reader’s) attention THROUGHOUT. To do that, you must serve novelty (new content) at every stage. This means avoid walls of text and keep the web-page design fresh throughout the length of long-form copy. This avoids the feeling of “oh, it’s one and the same, nothing new!” in our readers of the marketing messages — wherever they read them.

Our brain pays close attention to patterns and quickly learns to ignore anything that is routine, repetitive, predictable, or just plain boring.

Stone-age man developed this pattern-seeking, curious-about-change thinking to save himself from death. It was used in those times to notice enemies or animals in the distance or look for threatening changes on the horizon.

Now the same development trait helps people ignore “series of same” and “pay attention to differences”.

  • Visual: Old brain deals with visuals much faster as in the early days of humankind, there was no text communication and so our brain has developed structurally to absorb visuals near-instantly.

Always use visuals, screenshots, and GIFs next to your product to make sure your users absorb the message faster.

  • Emotion: Old brain can only be triggered by emotion. Evoke a different emotion in your user’s mind than the one he’s already in or tap into his motivation, invoke value in their minds, reduce anxiety, provide incentive.

How to create a message to sell to the Old Brain (main components)

Address the pain

They will listen to your solution claim only if you can get them to agree on what the problem really is. A lot of founders and marketers think they know a lot about customers’ problems. It’s why they started this business and they want to solve these problems for them. But the ways senior management describes the problem is often quite different from the way your actual audience does.

Words matter and the type of vocabulary that each type of audience uses is different for the same set of problems. For example, a teenager may not talk about a broken door the same way an adult does. Every type of audience brings a new context and that’s what is wonderful. As marketers and founders, we get to learn so much from our customers about them. This mindset of curiosity and learning helps sustain our motivation to work in the niche we chose to work in.

Differentiate your claim

Our old brain likes contrast so to make your leads receive your company’s solution, appeal to their old brain by offering your service in contrast to your competitors.

Show proof of your claims

Our old brain doesn’t like to learn from new things — its only job was to keep us safe, not to help us grow. Growth happened as a consequence of living and learning to survive in dangerous years of the stone age.

To make your sales messaging more attractive (to overcome the resistance of the “old brain”), show people proof of your claims through these artifacts:

  • customer testimonials (full name + photo or video)
  • neutral expert opinions
  • third-party reviews
  • verified (scientific) studies

Deliver a message to the old brain

Start with an “attention-grabber” (i.e. the headline or hero shot) that evokes strong emotions of fear, belongingness, or anger, or any other primal emotion. Use principles that appeal to the old brain (as described above) in the text headline or the hero-shot image or both.

Keep it focused on customer’s benefits. Try to put benefits in the context of their lives so they can visualize using it in their lives. Remember, the old brain is self-centered.

Mistakes to avoid when talking to the old brain

  • Never focus only on yourself, your company, or your product/service so much so that you exclude your target audience and their needs. The Old brain is selfish, always remember that.
  • Never miss out on sharing clearly contrasting reasons that support your selling proposition. Contrast is important. Never forget to differentiate it from your current competition (if you have competitors) or what came before you (if your product is a first of its niche!)
  • Don’t be too conceptual or require thinking from the audience to get it. Your messages must be simple and tangible — the old brain isn’t interested in growth, it wants to survive and thrive.
  • Don’t communicate unnecessary content and or skip emphasizing selling points at the beginning and the end. Address the pain, differentiate your claims.
  • Don’t rely too heavily on words, both spoken and written. Use visuals.
  • Don’t ignore the role of emotions in decision-making.

What has happened so far?

  • I completed 4 courses of this degree, mostly fundamentals, and a lot of new/revised learning from them.
  • Wrote about them as reviews on my Medium profile. Check out These are reviews of my self-paced learning which often comes to a snail’s pace (not because I am busy, but because I have executive functioning challenges).

What’s next?

It’s a vast course-list and I have a lot of catching up to do. I will most certainly have to buy this mini degree once 12 weeks of my scholarship are over.

My next lesson in this course is “A big list of persuasion techniques”. It’s a huge lesson and I expect to publish a review of it next week.

Navin is a Senior Content Marketer and Copywriter with a firm belief in the power of Growth Marketing.