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Thursday, May. 26, 2011 at 8:27 am

How To Practice Persuasion Architecture with Personas – Part 1B

By Marijayne Bushey
May 26th, 2011

Hang on! We’re almost there: this is the third piece in the How To Practice Persuasion Architecture with Personas series, and only one step away from Part 2 of the series, where you’ll learn some practical applications for your Persuasion Architecture personas. In my last post, Part 1A, we covered the first of two special considerations about practicing Persuasion Architecture with personas. Here’s a quick re-cap of that:

Persuasion Architecture personas are not about identifying the “type” of each individual who visits your website so you can control exactly what you show them (ie – the goal is not to enable dynamically loaded content). They are about focusing your attention on the proper planning of scenarios (click-by-click pathways) specifically designed for each persona (tool to describe pace, and information focus). Doing this removes the need to identify a visitor’s type and the pressure of showing them just the right info, since the presence of an option that is “just right” for each type of visitor results in self-selection anyway.

And here’s the quick take-away of the highlights from Part 1 of the series too, so you have the full context for today’s post:

  • Persuasion Architecture personas are rooted in behavior in the sense that they describe both a pace for gathering information/making decisions (quick vs. slow), and information bias (logical vs. emotional).
  • Your sales process needs to account for and align with four different and identifiable ways of buying your products or services.
  • It’s possible to cater to all four types of personas on one website, and even within one page of that site.

If you want more of the details (and to see what tools are out there to help you with your personas), read the full post on Part 1 of the series. If you consider yourself ready, then press onward to the second special consideration about practicing Persuasion Architecture with personas…

Usually I like to have all the facts, and I spend lots of time weighing my options before I make my final decision. But at work I don’t have time for that, and I have to decide much more quickly.  What persona am I?

Yes. You’re right: personas don’t represent groups of people as much as they represent groups of behaviors. I know this is hard to digest, but it actually makes things easier. If you let go of the false assumption that each of us has a type, and fits into one of these groups, things start to make a lot more sense. That’s because even though each of us has a preferred way of acting, and a preferred information focus, certain situations can make us act differently. This is one reason we here at FutureNow prefer to think of the personas as describing a mode of behavior rather than describing a particular kind of person.

Let’s take a closer look at our very own Howard Kaplan, and his self-identified purchasing patterns to get a better understanding of how mode really works. Howard is an admitted Competitive (he feels most comfortable with, and naturally gravitates toward, a quick decision-making pace and a logical information focus). But he doesn’t always act like a Competitive buyer. See the chart at the right for four purchases that cause Howard to exhibit each of the four modes of behavior. Certain products or kinds of purchases cause his behaviors to skew toward other modes of behavior and decision-making. This is not uncommon, and explains why you might be able to see parts of yourself in each of the four personas for your company, or imagine different situations where you’ve exhibited distinctly different behavior from how you would act under “normal” circumstances.

Hmmmm… if personas are more about “mode” than they are “type,” I can see how that accounts for differences in my behavior patters. But what factors do I need to be aware of when it comes to figuring out how my customer’s modes might skew?

Touche! Keeping this question in mind will be essential when you’re doing the Schizographic Diagram for your personas. Remember that little bugger from Part 1 of the series? There’s a snapshot of it to the left in case you’ve forgotten how it looks. It’s the tool that displays the questions you hear from your customers, the motivations, and topology of your personas within the context of the four mode quadrants. You can see evidence of the factors that influence your personas in the diagram we’ve been using in these posts. Here are some of the things you’ll want to think about as you take a stab at doing a Schizographic Diagram for your business:

1) Products, brands and companies frequently have a “type” or “mode” associated with them too, and that can be part of what causes a person’s preferred mode to skew toward another mode of behavior and decision-making when purchasing a particular item. Technical products with lots of details, like computer hardware, for example, tend to fall into the Methodical quadrant. This can cause even the spontaneous types to act more methodically when purchasing them. But that’s not to say you won’t have competitive or emotional buyers purchasing computer hardware.

2) The circumstances in which a person is making a purchase can also influence their mode. Think of someone who makes those kinds of purchases for their department at work. They purchased a secondary hard drive for a colleague’s computer last month, and now another colleague has come to them with a similar request.  They know just what they want, and where to go to get it. They are unlikely to need all the facts and details this time, because they already did that the last time they made a purchase. This situation is very different from the man looking for more storage for his home computer because he and his wife are about to have their first baby, and want to make sure they have enough storage for all the videos they plan to take in the next year or two.

3) Believe it or not, we may even shift modes several times while attempting to complete one purchase. Our stage in the buying process can influence our mode too. We may be much more methodical at earlier stages of the buying process, collecting lots of details, and comparing the stats for one product to those for another. But by the time we’ve narrowed down our options, it’s possible we’ve reverted to our naturally preferred mode of decision-making, and just want to read some testimonials to see what other people thought of the products, before we make our final decision.

The variety of reasons why people might have need of your product or service, the image your company presents, the nature of your product, and other factors that can skew persona behavior all will be evidenced in your Schizographic diagram. That’s where you’ll be able to see how those factors play out in your personas. And that about sums up the second special consideration about practicing Persuasion Architecture with personas.

I almost can hear the collective sigh of relief as this post comes to a close, and feel the twitchy anticipation with which you yearn for Part 2 of the series. Alas, patience dear folk! For although it’s in the works, it will be at least another week before you can get on with reading about practical applications for PA personas.  Take that time to digest, re-read Part 1 and Part 1A, and ask any questions you may have.

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Comments (9)

  1. Thanks MJ,

    I’ve printed out this article. Really great stuff.


  2. What i like to do is to split test in order to segment my customers correctly. It’s proven that only 10% of your readers are responsible for 90% of your income, and that’s another reason to treat each of your segments based on their behavior on your website and of course their value. Thanks for the great information

  3. Clearly personas can be used in all aspects of internet marketing – seo, ppc, email, site pathways, product pathways etc. I’m looking forward to the practical applications in part 2 to see how you deal with complexity.

  4. Glad I came back to read this piece because I was reading Part 1 before and something was broken or truncated. So, I went back and reread the article and this continuation. Rather long and lots to digest, but great post. Readers should not miss the statement that you dont need multiple websites to cater to all these personas, but just one if you do it right. Thanks!

  5. Interesting article. When it comes to personas it’s unwise to be too definitive. Personas can change, morph… depending on circumstances. The observation that “we may even shift modes several times while attempting to complete one purchase” is very true. So yes it’s wiser to focus on mode patterning rather than a particular type of individual.

  6. Are there ways to identify or infer personas tot trigger a more relevant site experience?

  7. @Marc – check out this free download with tips to create personas.

  8. This is insightful and yet pretty simple. If you know your buyers’ ‘mood’ or mode, you can design a site accordingly. I have a site about college for minorities, I am trying to think about my state of mind when I decided to go to college. Thanks for providing this information.

  9. @Dan – so glad to hear this series is proving helpful to your own efforts. Word of caution though: careful not to market to yourself! We see many sites that clearly were designed by people who were considering their own “state of mind” when planning out their sites… but you only represent one of the four main “modes” of buying! ;-)

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Mj has been proselytizing the merits of customer-centric, data-driven, continuous Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) for FutureNow since 2007.

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