Minimum Viable Conversation: What It Is and Why You Need It on Your Homepage

Quick question: When you add a link or a CTA button to your web page, do you expect your website visitors to click on it or to ignore it?

“Huh? I want them to click on it (obviously). What a stupid question!”

Interesting.

Would you also stop in the middle of an important presentation, before you made your point, open a door and ask your audience to leave, because there’s another presentation going on in the next room?

“Of course not. That would be so weird! Why would I ask people to leave before I made my point?”

Exactly.

Yet, you constantly put links and CTA buttons on your web pages before telling them anything worth remembering.

Especially on your homepage, where you tend to sprinkle CTAs like confetti.

Is there a minimum viable conversation on your homepage?

Have you ever heard of Minimum Viable Conversation (MVC)?

Of course you haven’t. I came up with this term spontaneously last week, while recording a website review for a client.

I told them that on their homepage, they don’t have a minimum viable conversation (MVC), and that makes their homepage less effective than it could be.

So, what’s that mysterious MVC, why your homepage needs to have it and what happens if you don’t?

The Minimum Conversation

Let’s call a minimum conversation the shortest conversation you have with a prospect on your page before you give them a chance to jump to another page.

Basically, it’s the info from the first line on your page to the first link or CTA button other than the one you may have in your banner.

Here’s an example:

(click to enlarge)

The minimum conversation on this homepage is this:

Is your business secure? We deliver a broad range of flexible and scalable solutions customized to fit your unique business and security needs. Tomorrow’s solutions for today’s needs. On-premise security solutions for highly regulated industries.*

* – Yeah, I know. “Man, I wish I could get a scalable solution that fits my unique business and security needs”, said no prospect ever. But let’s ignore vague copy, unnatural language and false benefits for now.>

And that’s it.

That’s all some folks will learn about your company before they click on “Learn more” and go off to another page (because where is a link, there is a “clicker”).

And for those people, “a scalable solution that fits your unique business and security needs” would be all they get from your whole homepage.

They won’t learn what services you offer (what is it that you offer exactly?).

They won’t learn more about your unique selling point (why should they work with you?).

And they won’t even see the testimonials you have lower down the page (can you be trusted to do a good job?).

They will leave for another page in the exact same mental state as they had before they visited your homepage.

What a waste, don’t you think?

And that’s totally your fault, because you failed to make your minimum conversation viable.

The Minimum Viable Conversation

…is the minimum conversation that has a potential to make a shift in your prospects’ mind towards giving them your money*.

* – which I hope we agree “scalable solution that fits your unique business needs” from the example above isn’t.

Which brings up a question:

What does it take to make a minimum conversation viable?

Here’s a nice formula:

MVC = UVP + offer details + major buying criterion

Meaning, your minimum conversation (i.e. the info between the first line and the first CTA) is viable IF it:

  • clearly conveys your unique value proposition (UVP)
  • tells your prospects what products / services you offer specifically
  • has a potential to cause a shift in your prospects’ state towards conversion by:
    • using clear, specific and customer-centered language while covering the first two points
    • making it clear that your offer fulfills at least one important criterion your prospects use when making a buying decision (credibility, pricing, etc.)

Depending on awareness stage of your prospects, how famous your brand is and how competitive your niche is, you may choose to focus on giving more details as to your services, your UVP or that special criterion that is important to your prospects.

Let’s look at some typical don’t-do-it-like-this examples.

Two more examples of a missing MVC

Anti-example #1: Agency / SaaS

Here’s an example of an agency website that uses a homepage structure also typical for SaaS companies that just looove those mini sections, each followed by a CTA button.

The minimum conversation we have here is this:

Deliver digital experience that users love. (Client logos as credibility enhancers.) Premiumising the offering and celebrating purpose over profit.

#deepbreath

#countingtillten

Even if, EVEN IF these two sentences used human speak that painted a specific picture in the heads of their customers, it won’t be enough to have a minimum viable conversation.

Their prospects still won’t know what product / services they offer or learn anything important that could check off a buying criterion box for them (because… just two sentences).

Anti-example #2: Freelancer / One-person business

And here’s a don’t-do-it-like-this example typical for freelancers who insist on sending their prospects to their About page before telling them more important details about their offer.

(click to enlarge)

Are you sure it’s a good idea to send your prospects to your About page before they learned that you also offer therapy for couples – something that’s not evident either from your navigation or from anywhere else on your homepage and can be a deal-breaker criterion?

Even if you consider the first link to be the one in the video or the one from “Upcoming Workshops” section, this homepage doesn’t have a minimum viable conversation.

What happens if your homepage doesn’t have a minimum viable conversation

It just becomes less effective. Instead of persuading them, you are literally wasting your prospects time and leaving money on the table.

How to make sure your homepage has a minimum viable conversation

That’s a good question that has no one-fits-all answer.

Depending on your niche, business model and target audience, your MVC can range from two paragraphs to 10 (!) sections.

To give you a better idea as to what you need to do on your homepage, let’s look at five great (but also typical) examples of MVC.

Five great examples of minimum viable conversation

Example #1: Marketing Agency (Articulate)

…or “When the nature of your offer doesn’t need much explaining”

(click to enlarge)

Marketing agencies. They are a dime a dozen these days. Their clients already know they need one and just want to know if your agency:

  • offers the services they need
  • had experience working with businesses like theirs
  • can be trusted

Want to stand out from your peers by not wasting your prospects time and just tell them what they need to hear straight away? Drop the jargon and answer those questions in clear and plain language.

#clarityispower

Example #2: Podcast outreach company (Be My Guest)

…or “When what you offer isn’t that common”

(click to enlarge)

If your customers know what they want (“I want to appear on more podcasts.”) but don’t know whom to hire to help them achieve that, your minimum conversation needs to become longer before it becomes viable.

Apart from what you offer, your prospects would what to know how you do it and what the benefit of it all is. They may have never heard of a service like yours and wonder if that works, so you’d also need more social proof before they even consider exploring your services in detail.

Example #3: SaaS (MailerLite)

…or “When there is one major buying criterion”

Your offer is clear. Your prospects are solution-aware. You have a ton of competitors that your prospects will be comparing you to.

But you’re in luck: Because you’ve been doing customer interviews, you know that there is one-two buying criteria that your customers would need you to fulfill first before they even consider exploring your services.

For MailerLite, as for almost every email marketing software out there, that major criterion is pricing (more specifically: how much do I get for free, when I will have to start paying and how much).

So, their minimum viable conversation goes like this:

We are email marketing software. Super-trustworthy. Here’s what you get for free / how much you need to pay later.

Only when their prospects are happy with the pricing will they start exploring their features.

#tellmemore

Example #4: Freelance SEO trainer (Danny Richman)

…or “When you want to charge a lot of money in a competitive niche”

(click to enlarge)

If you’re a freelancer who doesn’t have any blog posts that rank well in Google, your homepage will be the most visited page of your website. Especially if your location is relevant.

So, if your prospects google for, let’s say, “seo training london” they land on your homepage and want to know just two things before they start exploring your services:

  • Do you offer what they need?
  • Can you be trusted?

The more money you want to charge for your services / the more competitive your niche is, the stronger your social proof needs to be from the start.

The more impressive your minimum viable conversation is, the higher are the chances that your prospects will remember and come back to you once they’re done checking out your competitors.

Imagine, how much less impressive would the MVC on Danny’s homepage be without the bullet points in the banner and the video testimonial!

#shutupandtakemymoney

Example #5: Freelance B2B copywriter (André Spiteri)

…or “When your UVP is easy to communicate, and your individual services are what your prospects are most interested in”

(click to enlarge)

You may think by now that your minimum viable conversation needs to be long.

Granted, for many websites MVC needs to be longer that it currently is, but more isn’t always better.

If:

  • your offer is common (“b2b copywriter”),
  • you need just one sentences to communicate your UVP (“experienced fintech b2b copywriter”),
  • and details / fees of your services is what matters to your prospects most (“does he also offers blog posts? how much is the fish?”)

… that’s all your minimum viable conversation needs to cover.

#moreisnotalwaysbetter

Final words of wisdom

Don’t think of your homepage as a collection of mini sections with CTA buttons.

It’s not a patchwork quilt that looks prettier with more patches.

Nor is it a self-order menu where you can explain the value of your offer in one sentence before letting your customers click “Order”.

Think about it like a presentation you’re giving in a room full of potential clients.

Every time you add a link or a CTA button to your homepage you open a door and loudly tell your prospects they can leave now if they want to learn more about something.

It’s fine to give them options.

But before you do that, make sure that mini convo you two just had on your homepage will make them remember what you do, how it helps and what sets you apart from your competitors.

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Leave a Comment

14 thoughts on “Minimum Viable Conversation: What It Is and Why You Need It on Your Homepage”

  1. Hello Gill. The thing I found most useful about this article are the live examples of websites that get it right.

    Figuring out what prospects already know, what they want to know ASAP and avoiding waffle, are some of my top priorities.

    Your email newsletter this week asked your readers their opinion of this post…
    * No it’s not boring.
    * Yes it is useful.

    Maybe your next book could be a set of “website tear-downs” showing examples of good design and copy in the real world.

    Thanks for yet another brilliant, useful and engaging post.
    Philip.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Philip. Glad to hear you found the article useful.

      Re a book with website tear-downs: It’s an interesting idea, but I can imagine video would be a better format for it. It would be easier to review a website step-by-step while simply scrolling down. Plus, a book with many colorful images would be very expensive.

      I’ve been planning to do a couple of website teardown videos like forever. Hopefully, will find time to do that soon. And when I do, you as my subscriber will be among the firsts to hear about it 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hi Gill, Kitty Kilian sent me over here, and I’m glad she did. I started a blog (about my huge student loan that I’m paying off like crazy) last year, and I still use an old school blog page as my front page. Or, well, it’s a curated blog page, like a magazine. And I love it! Still debating whether I should add a more traditional front page. Anyway, I really enjoy your advice. Thank you and have a great day!

    Reply
    • Hi Maaike and welcome! Kitty’s friends are my friends 🙂

      Re your page: It really depends on three things:

      • What you want to achieve from your blog (in theory)
      • What your audience expects from it (in theory, based on your ideal reader profiles)
      • What your current website visitors think of it, i.e. whether your website is achieving these goals practically (you’ll find this info among Google Analytics data and session replays)

        But if you say you love it, I’m guessing it’s also because you see many people reading your articles. And that’s what matters 🙂

      Reply
  3. Your posts always make me think, and this one is great for a specific reason: I’m selling something I charge a lot of money for in a competitive niche!

    Readers of mainstream literature are the last holdouts from the self-publishing juggernaut: they usually do NOT search on Amazon for books, but come there to purchase books they’ve decided to buy already. Many think SP automatically means ‘not well-written,’ and they’re just not going to take any chances.

    I need to persuade them otherwise.

    Reply
    • Glad you found this useful, Alicia. Yes, persuading your prospective clients is the main goal of your website. Hope this article gave you some ideas as to how to do it more effectively.

      Reply
  4. Gill. You are brilliant! Your timing on this couldn’t have been better for me as I was in the middle of redesigning my home page and, wouldn’t you know it, I had a button on every single section on that page leading to another.

    What you laid out here makes total and complete sense and you explain it in a way that is easy to understand.

    I’m so glad I found you and your advice!

    Reply
  5. It’s again a brilliant observation and a huge help to improve my website. It’s that find balance to provide enough information but don’t overwhelm your prospects and also be mindful of page load times and conversion optimized design. It takes a few trial and error cycles to get it right I think. But all your tips and suggestions Gill help me make my website better.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Petra 🙂 Glad you found it useful. And yes, almost everything in life takes trial and error to get right, especially websites 🙂 I wish you best of luck with yours.

      Reply
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