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Tuesday, Apr. 8, 2008 at 10:59 am

Bryan Eisenberg on Using Personas to Improve Sales

By Robert Gorell
April 8th, 2008

Got eight and a half minutes to learn about how customer personas boost sales?

In this interview from London’s recent Search Engine Strategies conference, Bryan sits down with Ralph Wilson — in what appears to be either an airplane hanger, a convention hall, or a school gymnasium — to discuss how planning websites with personas will increase revenue and ROI . . . for a few reasons:

  • Personas show copywriters and designers who they’re writing and designing for.
  • Personas allow customers to choose their own buying experience.
  • Personas prevent customers from being stereotyped.

(If video doesn’t load, click here.)

Want to learn more about Persuasion Architecture? It’s how our clients get results with personas.

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Comments (18)

  1. Bryan,

    Everything you say is spot on when it comes to the development of personas. In particular, I liked how you distinguish personas from stereotypes (the soccer mom analogy) – how you should mold a personas from your own data. The sniff test of a sales person reading a persona brief and saying “I talked to someone like that yesterday”. Obviously, for you to have succeeded in the conversion improvement game for a decade, the premise of relevance has merit – as in increase it and you increase conversion. I think the next 10 years are going to be even more exciting for FutureNow when you begin embracing Semantic Marketing to accelerate the power of your personas.

    In my opinion, the limits of Web technology have forced you in to an awkward position. I hear you say things like “try to reach everybody, and you reach nobody.” But, at the same time you may try to reach four to seven personas on the same home page or landing page. You arrange the persona specific content based on the pace of the personas, with fast-paced at the top.

    With Semantic Marketing, companies like ours with technology like Semanticator – , can enable persona development companies like yours to detect the presence of a persona representative the moment they arrive to a Semanticator-enabled website. This means content for competing personas can be removed, and the entire experience can be focused on a single persona. You’ll no longer have to rely on the principle of attraction to get that representative to notice the right content. Your energy can be focused on the content itself, not on getting someone to discover it. Visitors will be warmly welcomed and caressed by contextually-driven navigation, supportive imagery and meaningful content including offers. This will no doubt catalyze your already stellar conversion rates!

    Beyond this, we alter the phone number based on the persona being detected. So now, your personas are identifiable even as they reach out over the phone. Allowing you to demonstrate offline purchase activity improvement as well!

    We would be happy to give a demonstration of our patent pending technology or you can simply view a 5-minute demo at .


  2. John,

    Thank you for your kind words.I’m certain you don’t understand how we use personas from your comments. What you do is very different from what we do. It may indeed be useful but it’s no substitute for Persuasion Architecture.

    Persuasion Architecture recognized that persona modalities vary during a visit. Your method too quickly segments based on too little information; the same issue most personalization engines have. Persuasion Architecture personas are much more flexible and allow for continuous improvement (six-sigma system) based on observed behavior as it varies from our click-by-click plan.

  3. [...] site FutureNow nous propose une interview vidéo de Bryan Eisenberg lors de la conférence Search Engine [...]

  4. I find the fact interesting (and honestly never thought about it) that visitor modalities vary during a visit. How can you determine that e.g. the competitive persona is now interested in the more methodical content.


  5. Jeffery,

    I was afraid you would view my comment as competitive vs. complementary. We definitely agree that persona modalities are going to evolve as we gain more direct information from a visitor. We’re not a substitute for your methodology, we simply give you a superior hand-off from the beginning as they enter your click-by-click plan. This is in contrast to presenting 4 to 7 personas in a one-size-fits-all home page experience.

    We know that bounce rates are high for most websites – that is people enter and exit the same page. So, our ability to quickly connect to one of your persuasion architecture personas is going to further enhance conversion and reduce bounce rate.

    Hopefully that will help you understand how we are complementary to FutureNow. We would love to have a deeper discussion on the power of combining methodologies with you.

  6. John-Scott,

    I can’t speak for Jeffrey, but he and I did chat a bit after we saw your first comment, and I think there’s some important nuance that’s lost in translation.

    What you may not realize is that we use personas to plan dynamic scenarios, not linear click-paths.

    Take a look at this diagram for a moment, then bear with me while I elaborate…

    What we’re wary of with your approach is not whether it would fit with our personas. Our concern is a bit more fundamental than that. Our personas could fit into your model, but the effect would be one of visitors being pushed into a certain direction of our explicit design in a way that’s both unrealistic and problematic.

    By combining personas with a “click-by-click plan” as you say, choices are being ever-limited by incomplete information. It’s like tacking an assumption onto an assumption. And although Persuasion Architecture has many years and many case studies behind it, we don’t flatter ourselves to think that each of our clients’ visitors would take the exact click-paths we prescribed them just because we used personas to plan the interaction.

    If we used Persuasion Architecture to plan each click, it wouldn’t work; our assumptions would always have to be correct, our clients’ assumptions would always have to be correct, visitors would have to type what they actually mean into search engines, and people would have to fit neatly into the same persona model each time they visit a site.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I understand from your comments and your website, Semanticator is essentially a behavioral targeting tool. So, it’s possible that there may be a synergy between what you do and what we do, but the click/funnel notion is probably the wrong way to think about it.

    Personas (and their scenarios) would have to be measured, tested and optimized before they were used in any meaningful combination with behavioral targeting. But pigeonholing visitors based on their past behavior — rather than giving them the ability to operate in different modalities — would be far too limiting and, at best, result in a lower conversion rate. At worst, it could lead to people getting completely frustrated with the site and telling their friends all about it.

    We appreciate you thinking about us, but I would think that any compatibility between our methods would exist in the non-linear places that drive people to a site (e.g., targeted ads), but not between clicks or in the conversion funnel itself.

    (Hope I didn’t confuse anyone just now. :) )

  7. Robert,

    I appreciate you taking time to thoughtfully respond. However, it’s important to us that we clarify for you and your readers some of the invalid conclusions you have drawn about Semanticator.

    First, it’s easy to confuse Semanticator with behavioral targeting. However, the majority of attributes we use to detect the presence of a persona upon arrival are not behavioral. We organize them into five categories: Temporal, Organizational, Behavioral, Technographic and Derived – see . Semantic personas are combinations of these attributes – they form representational models of different types of visitors. We have found the combinations to be virtually unlimited. We triangulate certain attributes to infer additional attributes like gender (recognizing even that attribute can shift as well)! Jeffrey said, “Your method too quickly segments based on too little information”. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Each time a visitor arrives, Semanticator uses as many as 1,000 attribute values (data points), including behavioral “waypoints” over the last couple of weeks, to determine which persona they are most closely approximating today. Again, the combination is amazing – it is Yin and Yang! You have immense data to support your Persuasion Architecture™ Personas to deliver dynamic scenarios. We have immense data about the visitor that helps us determine which of your personas they’re approximating at point of entry – today.

    Second, just because we can detect a persona upon arrival, doesn’t mean we have to alter the experience by pushing them in a certain direction. It could be used as another waypoint, albeit a powerful one, to further enhance the dynamic scenarios determined through your methodology. It’s another measurement, one you don’t have today.

    Third, we recognize that visitors are going to shift between personas or the personas are going to evolve, our technology was architected to detect those changes and make the appropriate adjustments. In our demo, you’ll notice that as the visitor returns to the Semanticator-enabled website, after subsequent visits to competitive websites, the content adjusts. The logic behind the scenes is based on stock status and profitability.

    Fourth, we focus on conversion by increasing time on site and reducing bounce rate. Most sites experience a 30% to 55% bounce rate (varies by industry). That means the visitors enter and exit the same page. Semanticator dramatically reduces bounce rate by immediately presenting content consistent with their persona. This is where we think we offer extreme value to FutureNow and your clients. From our vantage point, it appears that your methodology is dependent on at least one click on the initial page. If the bounce rate is on the high side, you may only get to play with a minority of visitors.

    Fifth, I choose the word “hand-off” carefully in my last post. What I meant is we focus on improving the initial experience- which again, may be the only opportunity you’re given to persuade the prospect to take another step – one that will engage your methodology. We do not attempt to adjust the experience as they continue on their path throughout a site. Again, we are no substitute for your methodology, we are complementary.

    Please don’t dismiss Semanticator so quickly, we think there is an opportunity for tremendous synergy. Again, we would welcome a deeper discussion.

    Thanks for reading,


    PS The “click-by-click plan” phrase was coined by Jeffrey in his comment to describe your method. It certainly wouldn’t describe Semanticator. So, I am not sure how to comment on your thoughts regarding Jeffrey’s click-by-click plan and your personas.

  8. [...] Bryan Eisenberg on Using Personas to Improve Sales [...]

  9. John-Scott,

    Didn’t mean to sound dismissive of you or your business. If your technology can lower bounce rate, that’s a good thing.

    As for “click-by-click plan,” I now see that Jeffrey, not you, had phrased it that way initially. Please excuse me for harping on that. Yes, Persuasion Architecture does provide a series of step-by-step plans for each persona, but the scenarios are much deeper than that, so I’m sure Jeffrey was just trying to offer a way to visualize it at a schematic level.

    We definitely appreciate your sentiment, it’s just that a comment thread on our blog may not be the best venue to discuss synergies. Fair enough?

  10. Robert,

    That is definitely fair! We are big fans of FutureNow, and look forward to a deeper discussion (offline).


  11. Point of clarification – A reader of Grokdotcom emailed me the following question:

    What would most interest me if is if your technology can determine if a visitor to our site has visited one of our competitors. Would I be correct in thinking that you’re only able to tell if a visitor has visited a certain site, rather than specific sites I specify?

    My response:

    Semanticator allows you to determine your own list of competitors’ websites, including links to specific pages within their sites. You can also specify complementary sites or posts within the blogosphere. We can handle about 1,000 URLs/URIs without a performance hit.

    So, yes – we can detect specific sites that you specify.

  12. [...] 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 [...]

  13. [...] an example, Bryan discussed how your different shopper modalities (or Personas) would prefer to shop for [...]

  14. We are big fans of FutureNow, and look forward to a deeper discussion (offline).

  15. Agree, Thanks for share.

  16. Amazing video and great post/ comments.

    I really do think creating persona allows for much better user experience and long term relationship.

    If you are creating a long term business youl want long term costumers.

  17. It took me a lot to get exactly what a persona is in marketing.A video or article on market segmentation would be very helpful.

  18. [...] [...]

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