The Psychology of Conversion Optimization: Accomplishment

The digital marketing arm of Adobe is constantly creating work that speaks to other digital marketers. As Senior Manager of Conversion Optimization, I am continually digging deeper, mining the data, and reaching out to users to better understand where the psychology of user experience (UX) meets the psychology of conversion rate optimization (CRO).

I have an exercise I like to do at conferences: I will call on audience members and ask, “What motivates you to work?” Initial responses might be something like, “I want to please my boss,” or “I want a raise.” I’ll keep probing, “Why do you want that recognition or raise?” As we peel back the layers to get to the core of what motivates them, we often find that it’s a desire to provide for their families, experience pride and fulfillment, or earn enough to gain the freedom to live the lives they want.

This exercise reminds us that we are not in the business of selling people on our products; we are selling the personal benefits the product will yield in their lives. For example, I can tell you that Adobe Analytics gives marketers real-time reports and makes it easy to segment audiences and analyze customer data to predict campaign success. That’s great, but you’ve probably already forgotten what I said.

Alternatively, I can tell you that your ability to more accurately predict campaign success will earn you respect and praise in your workplace, leading to promotions, greater earning power, and access to the lifestyle you aspire to. Now you’re picturing a corner office and resort vacations. One version speaks to a company, the other connects with a person.

Motivation = The Most Important Factor in Conversion

You have likely seen the conversion heuristic developed by Marketing Experiments, which captures the art of CRO in a formula:

C = 4_m_ + 3_v_ + 2(if) – 2_a_


Conversion = 4(Motivation) + 3(Value Proposition) + 2(Incentive – Friction) – 2(Customer Anxiety)

It’s an interesting formula to use when evaluating your CRO strategies, but the most valuable takeaway is that motivation carries the most weight.

Tapping into an individual’s core motivations is a powerful way to engage. Whatever your industry, products, or services, you can use motivators to align your brand with your customers’ aspirations.

I introduced the four most powerful human motivators (accomplishment, freedom, connectedness, and growth) in my post, “Is Poor User Experience Slowing Your Conversion Rates?” In a series of posts on the psychology of CRO, I will explore each of these motivators. First, I’ll unpack the psychology of accomplishment and how it relates to your work as a digital marketer.

Defining Accomplishment

Accomplishment is closely related to other motivators, such as power, ambition, recognition, success, and achievement. It’s distinct from all those other terms, however, because accomplishment refers specifically to internal motivations.

Psychologists have distinguished accomplishment from achievement, which focuses on quantitative, externally imposed measurements of success, such as letter grades and scorecards. Accomplishment is a qualitative feeling, and it encompasses the goals we seek outside of others’ expectations, such as happiness, belonging, meaning, knowledge, and fulfillment.

Achievement is a powerful motivator, too, as we’ve all experienced. I chose accomplishment, however, because it is a deeper and more enduring motivator. When you align with customers’ pursuit of accomplishment, you become associated with the positive feelings that we value more than transactions. When you drive engagement by aiding or speaking to personal accomplishments, people will be happy to interact with and invest in your brand.

What Can You Help Your Audience Accomplish?

Think beyond gamification, and fleeting rewards such as points and badges. Although these can be effective motivators, and encourage engagement in the right context, they’re not enough to make you exceed and sustain your company’s conversion goals.

Try to gain a deep and detailed understanding of the types of accomplishments your users desire. Offer them authentic and consistent content and services to facilitate these goals. When they discover the value you contribute to their lives, they will return again and again to consume your content, subscribe, download, purchase, share, and interact, ultimately becoming ambassadors of your brand’s good message. Achievement is fickle, and can sometimes leave us disappointed and disillusioned. Accomplishment, on the other hand, has a direct link to loyalty, because it’s the feeling we seek most consistently throughout our lives.

When your brand taps into individuals’ internal incentives, you will foster a more reciprocal relationship, leading to a lasting increase in conversion rates. How can you help your users accomplish something great?

Follow along as I explore the remaining motivators: freedom, connectedness, and growth.