A few weeks back we at naked apartments conducted a little test. (We like tests, because the answer is almost always not what we expect.)

We ran what’s called an A/B test: we created two versions of our home page. The “A” version had a big button (the “call to action”, or “CTA” in marketing-speak) that said “Create a Profile”. The “B” version had an identical button, but it read “Search Now”. Visitors were shown one version or the other.

The basic idea was to see which version resulted in more contacts between renters and brokers, which, bottom line, is what we’re trying to promote. A renter sees an apartment listing, likes it, and contacts the broker. Job well done.

We also wanted to see which version would yield more renter signups. Even though renters don’t *need* to sign up to use the site and contact brokers, creating a profile does have certain advantages: you can get email alerts about new apartments, brokers can get in touch with you directly, etc…

We assumed that the “B” (search) version would give us more renter/broker contacts, simply because the CTA (remember that term?) would be encouraging search, rather than asking visitors, for the 1,000,000th time, to create yet another account. Sign up forms, in general, are not loved, and we understand why.

But, against our expectations, the results didn’t bear this out.

After running the test for a few weeks – long enough to make the test statistically viable – not only did the “signup” version result in more signups – no surprise – but it also resulted in more renter/broker contacts. So those renters who took the time to create a profile (bought the cow) then went on to contact *more* brokers than did those renters who were just searching (took the free milk).

That’s where the facts end. Now for some interpretation.

Who really knows. But it’s easy to argue that those renters who invested a little time and effort into creating their profile then felt more invested in the whole site, and were therefore more active. Or maybe they just wanted to get their time’s worth out of it. Either way, it suggests that asking for some small level of initial engagement upfront can result in more engagement down the road.

And maybe owning a cow can be more fun than getting milk at a deli.