FutureNow always has been known as the company that does CRO a little differently than the other players in this industry. Some Conversion Rate Optimization companies have started testing based on segmentation by demographic and behavioral characteristics. At FutureNow, we create business-specific personas that reflect the demographic, psychographic and topographic dimensions of your audience. When I tell people this, I hear a lot of different interpretations of what that means, so I want to clear the air and show you what we mean when we say our personas are rooted in behavior.
Well, sometimes it’s easier to say what something doesn’t mean before you take a stab at what it does mean. When we say our personas are rooted in behavior, we don’t mean that we saw someone look at a red dress, so now we’d recommend you display all the other red dresses in your inventory. It goes much deeper than that. It’s about meeting the fundamental needs of your prospects (not just with respect to any red dresses you sell, but with regards to any of your products or services, about your company, about your policies, etc), and doing that better than your competitors, so that those prospects become recurring customers. You do that by understanding how they collect information and make decisions, and what motivates them to buy. That includes knowing the kinds of questions prospects have about your products or services, which kinds of customers are likely to have them, and leading them to that information easily and transparently. Doing this successfully makes them feel confident that you have the right product for them.
It all sounds terribly complex, doesn’t it? No wonder so many marketing companies take the easy way out and just give you personas based on simple segmentation! But at a high level, it’s easier to understand than it first appears. Take a look at one of my favorite graphics of all time (see left) to begin to see beyond just the age and income differences among your prospects and into their more meaningful differences. Here at FutureNow, we talk primarily about four different groups of prospects. Each group has a particular information focus, and a particular pace at which they collect that information. They look like this:
Competitive – Logical information focus, fast-paced information collection and decisions
Spontaneous – Emotional information focus, fast-paced information collection and decisions
Methodical – Logical information focus, slow-paced information collection and decisions
Humanistic – Emotional information focus, slow-paced information collection and decisions
No. These four communication styles aren’t just something we invented so we could make a pretty little graphic for posts like this one. Think about it: haven’t you ever had a conversation with someone where you felt like you both were saying exactly the same thing, but somehow you still couldn’t manage to agree with one another? Frustrating, isn’t it?
In fact, the harder evidence comes from real science. In the mid-20th century, David Keirsey, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers did loads of scientific research that led to this system for classifying decision-making behavior. But they based their ideas on someone whose name you might recognize even more easily: Carl Jung. And even more famous people have been talking about these same groups of people for centuries: Aristotle talked about them, Plato wrote about them, and the Greek physician Hippocrates was the first to apply these ideas to medicine.
But it’s thanks mostly to Keirsey and Myers-Briggs that we can say these ways of thinking about people are for real. Not only did they collect loads of data to prove that these ways of collecting information and making decisions existed, but they also did lots of studies to prove that these categories are cross-cultural. That means this way of looking at groups of people isn’t just for those of us from the US, Canada or the UK, but it applies to countries and cultures everywhere in the world. Although it is interesting to note that their research, and the work of others since then, has shown that some cultures skew more heavily toward one style than another.
So, we borrowed this idea from the best, and applied it to how people make decisions about what to buy. People buy when they feel confident that a product or service will meet their needs. They feel confident when they easily find answers to all their questions. Not answering questions, or making them look too hard for the information frustrates them, and can even make them feel like you’re hiding something from them. So, the goal is to anticipate your visitors’ needs, and deliver what they are looking for before they even realize they are looking for it. Our Persuasion Architecture methodology aims to do just that: to create a sales process that is aligned with the customers’ buying processes. In other words, we help our clients to structure their website experience and the plan to continuously improve it in a way that facilitates the way the clients’ prospects buy their products or services. Bryan Eisenberg explained it this way:
“Persuasion Architecture provides a detailed process for persuading your visitors to take the actions you want them to take. Nothing is left to chance. To provide visitors with the information they want, when they want it, in language that speaks to their individual needs, you design persuasive paths based on personas.”
If you think about that, and also think about those four squares in our decision-making behavior grid, you quickly realize that the idea that a website has one path taking visitors through the sales process is a total delusion. There will be at least one path for each of the four groups of people. And although it’s certainly possible that all four kinds of people could enter your site at the same point and through the same mechanism, it’s much more likely that certain mechanisms and entry points will be favored by one or two groups over others, and visa versa. This is why our OnTarget services use personas to help plan and perfect these paths on your website: so you do a better job of meeting the distinct and identifiable needs of each of these four groups of people, and successfully move more of each group to the conversion point on your site. You can learn the details of our Persuasion Architecture methodology in this free download.
Great question. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard it, or something similar about needing four different versions of a page. But the good news is, you don’t. You can actually have four different paths on one site, and even talk to four different groups of people on one page. How?
Well, for starters, each of these four groups tend to look at certain parts of the page first, and some areas more than others. We’ve written about this before on this blog. For more on the subject, check out Howard Kaplan’s post detailing which pattern is characteristic of each persona. What this means in terms of your work to make your website better is that you can put specific content aimed at a specific persona in the areas of the page they tend to favor so they will be more likely to see it. To illustrate, think about the competitive persona, who collects information quickly and makes decisions quickly. If you bury the kind of bottom-line, logical information that speaks to their motivations at the bottom of the page, they’re unlikely to find it. Their content should be at the top of the page, above the fold.
But not only do you have to account for where a certain persona will look for answers to their questions, you have to confront the more difficult task of figuring out what to put there. This has to do with the particular kinds of questions each of the four personas has. As part of our persona creation process, we list out all of the questions customers ask, and then group similar kinds of questions together: logical questions on one side, and more emotional questions on the other. You can get step-by-step instructions for creating personas by downloading our free persona whitepaper. But the content you put on your site for a particular persona has to do more than just answer his or her question. Remember what Bryan said: you have to speak to their individual needs. The way you word your answers to their questions is just as important as what you’re saying. You have to appeal to the factors that motivate each of the four personas too. To help our clients better understand both the questions and other factors influencing their prospects’ decisions, we create something called a Schizogrpahic Diagram, which shows a variety of factors and motivations that might go into a decision about whether or not to buy a product, and depicts where each question or factor falls in terms of the four quadrants. Check out the example at the right.
Of course, not only will these four personas look to different areas of a page, they might look to different areas of the site entirely. There are probably some pages on your site with information that is more logically oriented, and other pages with information that is more emotionally charged. Some personas will be attracted to the logical information, and others to the emotional information, and there will be some pages that all four personas are attracted to.
You now have the key pieces of information you need to start thinking more concretely about the pathways you have, or need to have, on your website. You understand the big characteristics that define how people buy; you know those characteristics lead to unique buying pathways for each of them; where their pathways overlap, you have a means of understanding how to cover four sets of questions; you even have the ability to define what those four personas look like for your business, including their specific questions and motivations. Next is to apply all that new-found knowledge to your optimization efforts, so you can make your website better.
Now you can begin forming some hypotheses about your personas and their likely buying paths. Start by asking these three questions for each of your four personas:
1. Where would they land?
2. What questions would they need to research?
3. Where would they get more info?
In Part 2 of this series I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of optimization tactics to test those hypotheses, employing personas of course. So, stay tuned!
Editor’s note: After posting this piece, we realized there were several special considerations we needed to cover before discussing tactics for applying Persuasion Architecture personas. So we’re working on Part 1A and Part 1B now.