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FutureNow Article
Monday, Nov. 12, 2007

Use of Personas Boosts Conversion by 400%

By Robert Gorell
November 12th, 2007

Countless once-skeptical businesses have changed their tune about personas [define]. The successes have been well documented, but a lot of smart people continue to scoff at the idea, thinking personas are a touchy-feely attempt to connect with customers on, like, a cosmic level — and that you’d have to be some kind of marketing hippy to waste budget on fluff like that.

Those attitudes are changing. This month’s Internet Retailer magazine shows how companies like Future Now are using personas to bridge the gap between business and customer*; not by targeting specific people, but by attracting them according to their needs and buying preferences. By speaking their language. By anticipating their questions ahead of time in order to answer them at the right time. By reducing friction in buying process. And it works.

Just ask Steve Franzman, founder of, a client who used personas to boost conversion by 400%, and get a 2 to 1 return on a floundering Pay-Per-Click campaign. Steve didn’t even go for the full-on, from-the-ground-up implementation (see also: Howard Kaplan’s “six-figure” quote in the article). Instead, the company did a low five-figure analysis of its current site and used just four simple personas to get enough perspective to rework the entire website.

When it comes to personas, the return you get depends on how much you’re able to implement. It’s why we encourage clients like Steve to think big by starting small. As with any marketing spend, the focus should be on spending the least amount of money to generate the best possible return on investment. Time and time again, personas have proven to be the most effective tool to plan multi-channel campaigns. But not all personas are equal.

An entrepreneur struggling with a lot of other tough decisions, Steve spent a month pouring over whether he should invest in personas. His competition was marketing themselves in ways that made Steve uncomfortable. They seemed successful, but he didn’t want to be like them. He felt he understood his customers better and had serious empathy for their needs — his website just wasn’t showing that, and he didn’t know where to start. Before personas, he says, “Our customers were everybody and we didn’t know how to deal with them.”

If you feel the same way, you’re not alone. To find out how the use of personas can boost your marketing potential, don’t be shy. Reach out and ask us anything and everything about personas. But remember, with personas, you are what you implement. It’s like having your own customers as a personal trainer. Personas can tell what to improve and what to avoid, but it’s up to you to take the first step.

[*Pay attention, B2B's. You have customers, too.]

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Comments (18)

  1. [...] Use of Personas Boosts Conversion by 400% [...]

  2. Reach out and ask us anything and everything about personas.

    Since you ask:
    - How do you define where to make the personas different?
    - Do you just force yourself to create absolutely different people or you base your preference on existing problems, your own experience or something?
    - Any more efficient ways of differentiating the personas?


  3. Yuri,

    Great questions. The best reason people hire us to create personas with them — not just for them — is to avoid the Curse of Knowledge. Without getting an outside perspective, it’s easy to revert to piling new assumptions on top of existing assumptions, and that can distort things even more.

    Howard wrote a series of posts called “2 Ways to Get Started with Personas” (here’s Part 1 & Part 2), which explains how to go about it on your own if you must. Waiting for Your Cat to Bark goes much deeper on the subject.

    To answer your question, though, before diving into persona creation, we start with an “uncovery” phase to gain insights into the business’s key metrics. We find out what people are asking the sales staff, customer service reps or anyone else customer/client-facing. Analytics and log files often give us pieces of the puzzle. But once we all have that information out in the open, we start to ask the bigger questions. In Steve’s case, for instance, there are a few different products to choose from. He’s been a nutritionist and health supplements expert for many, many years, so there’s no way we could pretend to swoop in and be more of an expert than he is in his business; rather, we sought the best way to leverage his expertise to help create personas on a limited budget.

    Once we roughly group the customers you already have into certain types, we then give the personas not just a name and basic demographic and psychographic info, but define the specific problem or set of problems they’re hoping to solve. So, for each persona, there’s the question of “What problem(s) are they looking to solve?” as well as “What buying mode will they be in at various stages of the buying process?” (e.g., are they early-stage, not ready to buy, and Spontaneous; late-stage, ready to buy, and Humanistic?”).

    Different personality types buy in different ways, so we write narratives for each persona to give them a back-story, and to help us get under their skin once we develop buying scenarios [define] for each of them. Scenarios either result in an end action (a conversion) or give us a sense of where the persona has abandoned the buying process so we know how to communicate with them when they come back, ready to pounce.

    If the personas, and their respective scenarios, aren’t seen as different enough by that point… Well, that just wouldn’t happen. People who know their business know when a customer sounds made-up, and if that were the case, we would discard the persona altogether. It’s important to stay clear of stereotypes.

    Ultimately, the personas tie into existing business GOALS — not problems. It’s the customer’s problems we’re hoping to solve, and personas help to identify those roadblocks before they’re an issue. The process of matching business goals to human goals is what’s so powerful.

    As you can see, though, it’s not simple stuff. The concepts are easy, but it takes commitment to planning, execution, and optimization. Most companies don’t want to do the work. They want consultants to feed them clear answers; to be a black box. We warn people against investing in personas done by any firm that makes a practice of trading your assumptions about customers for their own — it just won’t work.

    Our process for bringing personas to life is called Persuasion Architecture™. Without a way to tie the personas to business goals and account for their differences, there may be no way to tell whether drop-offs in a certain area of the site mean that we need to fix one of the scenarios, or that the entire persona is wrong.

    Hope that answered your question without giving you too much of a headache. :)

  4. HI,

    Thanks for this article. Can you show me some examples of sites that uses personas well?

    Brooklyn, NY

  5. [...] all they’re good for. And it’s these imaginatively constructed conversations that lead to persuasive messaging and improved marketing ROI. It’s talking that [...]

  6. [...] Use of Personas Boosts Conversion by 400% There really isn’t much more to add over the title. Think about the users, and who they are, and you’ll do OK. (tags: internet marketing webdesign development publishing) [...]

  7. Congratulations on finally catching on to what I’ve known for years. Check out too and voila… maybe I can help you help others… if you can handle a little controversy every now and then.

    “Persona”ology is a cute theory but it doesn’t amount to much if you don’t have a zipper on your pants.

    Shed some skin and drop me a line. I can guarantee that what I add to the convo will split a few atoms… and I’m “going first” because giving is the best way to get… isn’t that what they say?

    Alright, that’s enough… back to Sam Freedomville and my internet marketing controversy blog…

    Cheers people.. keep spreading the word,

  8. While you didn’t answer my questions directly, you do give the background for the answer. Thanks for that :)

    Well, examples of the sites that have upped sales by 400% with personas might help, indeed.

    I, for one, remember their case of It is a really well made website. I heard they worked with CafePress, too.

  9. Yuri,

    Sorry for not directly answering your question. I suppose I was just trying to be careful, since some people — and this seems to happen each time we share a client success — thought I was insisting that “the use of personas will ALWAYS increase your conversion rate by 400%.” Um… I didn’t say that.

    But here are a couple of other case studies involving personas:

    -Volvo Construction used personas to boost its conversion rate by 700% (you can download the case study as a PDF).

    -Universal Orlando improved online ticket sales 80% over the previous year in just the first few months after launching a site we helped them restructure with personas. (You can read the case study from Harris Interactive on ClickZ.)

    Hope those help! :)

  10. [...] Recently I came across this article about personas and headlines at Psychotactics. And of course, over at GrokDotCom, the Eisenberg brothers know a lot of reasons to like and use personas. [...]

  11. I still like one source.

  12. When a visitor enters a site from one source and comes back at a later
    date from a different source, how does GA count the referral from the
    second visit – is it still from the original source, or the new

    Example: A new visitor enters the site through a Google CPC ad. GA
    counts this visit under the Google CPC source. The same visitor has
    now bookmarked the site and comes back 2 weeks later. Is this second
    visit now considered “Direct” or is it still considered Google CPC?

  13. [...] Everybody’s favorite radio station – what’s in it for me. Are you speaking to the reader about what matters to them?  And are you speaking their language?  Different personality preferences have different ways of engaging with your content and making decisions.  This is where (and why) using personas to decide your content strategy can be so valuable in improving your conversion rate. [...]

  14. [...] Everybody’s favorite radio station – Ca l’est pour moi en tout cas. Parlent-ils avec leurs lecteurs de ce qui comptent pour eux ? Parlent-ils leur langage ? Différents types de visiteurs ont différentes manières d’appréhender le même contenu de votre site. C’est pourquoi la technique des personas pour définir votre content strategy peut être si bénéfique sur votre taux de transformation. [...]

  15. How could you boot conversation to 400% ? It’s so great for running and grow up your business

  16. Fantastic post. We’ll be using persona’s in our healthcare offering to combat chronic diseases. Thanks,

  17. [...] of Personas Boosts Conversion by 400% [link] think big by starting [...]

  18. [...] Use of Personas Boosts Conversion by 400% [...]

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