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FutureNow Article
Monday, Jul. 2, 2007

2 Ways to Get Started With Personas (Part 2)

By Howard Kaplan
July 2nd, 2007

persona non grata/gratisRegular readers of GrokDotCom, or any of our best-selling books, heartily agree: people do things according to their own motivations. And in this unprecedented day of empowered consumers,selling” to customers is 100% about facilitating their buying process. Any attempts to pitch (or push) products in ways that aren’t transparent, genuine, relevant or salient will be immediately blocked and discarded by our hyper-sensitive BS meters. Should you happen to try a high-pressure sales “trick” from yesteryear and succeed at fooling one of us, we’ll take our licks, then promptly tell ten friends, who’ll tell ten friends, who’ll tell ten other friends–all before lunch.

In Part 1 of this post, I alluded to a process to plan the customer experience around facilitating their buying process rather than your sales process. Those who’ve studied Jungian psychology or Myers-Briggs typology know how to model different decision making styles (or preferences) that make up individual buying processes. But the advent of advanced web analytics allows us to go a step further to prove these models as being more scientifically valid than ever.

Previously, I discussed the question many seem to ask once they embrace the concept of people operating according to their own motivations and preferences: “How do you research WHO makes up my audience, so you can then ASK them about their motivations?” I offered that the question was an understandable one to ask, but far from a productive use of the wise marketer’s time to go find an answer.

I was watching Morning Joe on MSNBC last week, and they illustrated my point wonderfully. Erin Burnett, a correspondent from CNBC, reporting from Wall St. (on, you guessed it, the iPhone) had an exchange with the host, former congressman Joe Scarborough. Joe was remarking at how he always looks at consumer confidence reports as an indicator of what trends are emerging, where gas prices will go, the real estate market, the economy in general, etc. Erin surprised Joe with her response, namely that history shows since the Great Depression–shortly after which consumer confidence began being scientifically measured–public opinion of what would be spent wasn’t exactly a consistent predictor what actually got spent as time went on. I’ll say it again, for the record, believe what they do, not what they say they do.

OK, ok, ok… I can see you nodding your heads in agreement. I can see you waving your hands, saying, “We agree knowing what type they ARE is not worth focusing on, but rather what type THEY WILL BE when they engage with us (and how to do we give them what they want) is where we spend our resources.” The question is, HOW do we get started?

2) Do some “work” yourself (and if need be hire a firm to come in and help wrap up)
Level of difficulty: medium (there’s a process that can be followed, you just need to allocate the resources: time or money)
Likelihood of success: great

Here’s the first exercise to kickoff your internal persona project:

  1. Assemble a small team (2 – 4 members) with diverse backgrounds. Make sure to include people who have close contact with end customers, and have a strong understanding of the value proposition (benefits) for the customers. Don’t worry about explicitly including experts in your business for now (if they’re there, great, but if not, the exercise will still work). Remember, the goal is to better understanding the buying process, not redoing the sales process.
  2. Give everyone on the team 15 minutes to brainstorm as many attributes as they can about the product, why someone would buy it, or what makes it unique. Collect these attributes, and combine them on a central whiteboard for all to see and discuss to ensure clarity.
  3. Next to each attribute, gain consensus on whether it’s more likely to be appealing to logic, or to emotion. Resist the urge to say “both” for each attribute, the exercise is designed to make sure you make some hard decisions. Re-sort the list into logical attributes on one sheet, and emotional on the other.
  4. Now repeat the process, this time gaining consensus on how hard it is to understand the attribute, and to which pace it’s likely to appeal. Is the attribute something concrete and crystal clear to anyone after 3 seconds of reading it? Rather, does it require a bit more education or a finer subtle experience level to reach it’s full value? Resort each list according to “faster” or “slower” pace.
  5. You know have 4 sorted lists into fast/logical, fast/emotional, slow/logical, and slow/emotional attributes. Here’s where the fun part comes in ;) These lists of attributes are probably too abstract for people to relate to, so make them more concrete. Use your demographic data (you know, the research you bought that didn’t answer the question of why people buy) and your market “segments” to layer a profile; a story which sets the context for the attributes on your lists to be appealing.

Did you just create fancy Personas you can put up on your walls? Are you now in line for that promotion? Sorry, probably not, but if you’re a shareholder, what you’ve done is likely far more valuable. You’ve taken the first step toward building a system to plan different experiences for different types of people, all easily executed on the same website, within the same copy, that provides feedback to prove or disprove the motivations and attributes you assumed. You’ve begun to answer question 1 of the 3 questions for designing persuasive systems.

Yes, learning to crawl can seem frustrating when all you want to do is walk. But remember, given the state of affairs online, our collective track record dictates we’re very good at persuading our visitors to take an action (97.5% of ‘em, anyway). Unfortunately, that action is pounding on the back button until they find someone who seems to understand them better! Set aside 60 minutes to go through the exercise above, and put it into place in whatever capacity you easily can.

I’d love to hear what happens from all who try, and I’ll gladly offer any advice or feedback if you just reach out and share. (If you’d prefer not to comment publicly, please do email me: howardk [at] futurenowinc [dot] com.)

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Comments (30)

  1. [...] 2 Ways to Get Started With Personas (Part 2) [...]

  2. [...] Part 2 to learn how you can build Personas from the ground up without costly research, and build in the [...]

  3. Great series, Howie. Real “down and dirty” info for those who are really interested in making a marketing difference. It will be interesting to see who gives your method a try… and fun to hear about the successes in the long run.

  4. Paragraph 2: “I eluded to a process to plan the customer experience around facilitating their buying process…”
    You ALLUDED to, not “eluded to.” If you’re going to write, learn the language or at least hire an editor.

  5. Marc,

    I’m the editor. It seems I overlooked this sadly common mistake. Offensive as it may be, I assure you that errors in grammar and syntax will occasionally slip through on our blog. As such, we appreciate and encourage all manner of constructive criticism.

    (By the way, you left a period hanging outside a quotation mark in your reply. Don’t worry, I fixed it.)

  6. Will certainly try this and let you know if it worked.

    However, we sell services and not products. Clients read our service pages and fill an enquiry form. The sale is completed after an email exchange between the client and our sales team.

    I wonder how to apply this idea in our context.

    Robert, if there are any errors in my post, I assume you will correct them too:)

  7. Nishi,

    I’m confused by your question. All services have attributes and benefits, just like like products, and different motivations attract buyers at different points in the buying process. I’m still not sure I’ve cleared it up. Can you please tell me exactly what you see as the challenge?

  8. Cute. As it happened, however, I wasn’t writing in a professional capacity on a marketing-related site (which one would think might devote additional effort to avoiding errors suggestive of carelessness with regard to final copy). And by the way, when quoting directly from a passage, the period is NOT included within the quote proper unless it was included in the quoted passage. (And by the way, I’m aware that sentences should not begin with a conjunction-or for that matter, consist entirely of a parenthetical remark). But having successfully delivered your redemptive riposte, I suspect my own will fail to make the cut as a public post.

  9. Nishi,

    Sorry, but I don’t plan on editing you. :)

  10. Marc,

    We’d never censor anyone for disagreeing with us. I’m no grammarian, but your assertion that the “quoted passage” to which you’re alluding is necessarily direct–rather than a nonsensical, erroneous phrase, requiring no context at all to be wrong–is, at best, subjective. We recommend visiting the Grammar Girl blog for insights on grammar-related issues. This blog, though, is about other things.

  11. Well, you certainly lost me with that one…but I suppose that was the point (I hope). The fact that even more space would have been devoted to the matter is what’s surprising. And disappointing.

  12. Must…resist…temptation…to rip on … anal retentive…troll…

    If marc’s comments are indeed a deliberate troll, he got me.

    If not, I at least hope he doesn’t work in marketing. You just don’t make points in a “persuasion ecosystem” by pulling out the old red pencil. Grammatical gaffes and spelling errors—even when unintentional—just let me know you’re “one of us.” Target audience affinity is more relevant than technical presentation.

    Otherwise I guess we’d be used to seeing those billboards that say,” Have you GOT MILK?” or even more accurately, “Do You Have Milk?

    And DAMN that Abe Lincoln for (reportedly) misspelling “Gettysburg” on the back of that envelope (again, reportedly) back in 1863! Where’s a good impeachment resolution when you need it?

    Virtually (though obviously not literally) 100% of the guests at this blog come for the quality of the concepts, not the execution of the editor.

    Carry on, Robert, Howard, et. al.!

  13. Resist temptation?A pitched battle, no doubt-but it’s the lip service that counts,right? Anal retentive,troll? Oooh, is this the where I’m supposed to lock myself in the bathroom and cry?
    Apparently the readers suffer from the same lack of professionalism and emotional development as the staff (if, in fact, Kurt’s a reader rather than a plant-unlikely at best).
    Golly, what fun! I could continue this for days! That is, if I had the time or inclination to play a 3 day long game of footsie with what would appear to be a group of frustrated community-college students. Keep up the good work guys-time-management is obviously as important to you as proofreading!

  14. Jeffrey, I now see what you mean. I somehow had this wrong idea in my mind that this article was to be applied to web copy as opposed to the whole process of selling a service.

    You are right- every service has its own attributes and benefits. So this exercise will work irrespective of whether I am selling something using a web page or a sales team.


  15. Im haveing trouble trying to convert visits to sales.

  16. Mark – you must be jealous. As far as personas go i dont think they planned on optimizing this site for you – “All knowing perfectionist(well perfectionism would be part of your mask – believes he is unfaltering) and suffering from illusions of grandeur.” Next time you make a mistake let us know, ohh wait i forgot you dont ever make mistakes.

    Back on Topic:

    Great article – just started looking into personas and increasing usability on some of my sites – Its what lead me here. As most things are when we are starting out this topic seems a bit daunting at the moment. Your 2 part article was an excellent start to demystifying the subject. Thank you!

  17. marc,

    I assure you I am not a plant and I’m actually somewhat of a competitor of Future Now Inc, (although they’re a lot better than me) and I won’t publish my company/site name b/c I’m not a spammer, but you can look me up: Jean-Pierre Khoueiri!

    For someone to take their time and knowledge and pass it on FREE of charge is generally accepted as a positive action and appreciated, as I very much do.

    For you to come along and waste my mudda fooking time on your BS observation is upsetting, when I’m trying to read constructive comments.

    Either make your comments short and sweet or get lost!

  18. *Hear Hear Jean-Pierre

  19. Thank you Sascha. ( I love your name, what’s your nationality?) Sorry Future, I know this isn’t a dating site, but I couldn’t resist :-)

  20. [ Jean - Haha well it is shortened version of Alexander which is a Russian name. In Russia, i believe, 'X' are pronounced like 'sch'. It has in recent history become a popular name in Germany and this is where I come from. PS: A unisex name. ;) ]

  21. Oops

  22. [...] personas. If you are extremely detail oriented, it may make sense for you to follow through in creating full personas around your [...]

  23. [...] B) Blueprint/plan persona-based copy. [...]

  24. [...] more in-depth instruction on how to creating personas for your business, read Part 1 and Part 2 of Howard Kaplan's series on "How to Get Started with [...]

  25. [...] Grok readers are doubtless familiar with the four temperaments we at FutureNow use to form personas.  If you’re new to personas, we suggest you take a detour and read this overview and then part 2 of how to get started with personas. [...]

  26. This appears to work fine for the ‘team’ group effort, but what about the solo practitioner who works alone?

    How does all this koombayah work for them?

  27. marc, your annoying stfu. Why be a hater for? These guys are actually trying to help you with this post. And your having the biggest cry about a word.

  28. redtube milf , xtjwinf,

  29. [...] points or text links differently; different language will attract the various types differently. We map the demographics to the psychographics to create “real” personas to help us, as well as you, really empathize with your customers, which will help you treat them as [...]

  30. I think the buying process is very complex. The client must be well served in the real life by the vendor. I think the online shops must do the same thing.

    If the text is persuasive and the site is looking good, the client will have more trust and the decision will be more easy to happen. I believe the most important elements are the text and the images of a website,

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