In the broadest sense, persuasion is about one entity (an organization of any stripe) trying to persuade another entity (usually an individual) to do something. Take action. Satisfy the conversion goal of the site.
I get a number of emails pleading, "Grok, would you lay off the retail examples and help us long-suffering [fill in non-retail type] businesses?" To which I always reply, "Retail is an easy way to demonstrate the principles, but those principles apply across the board." My correspondents rarely seem convinced.
My buddy Melissa Burdon, a conscientious Canadian, emailed me an interesting banner ad and appended some commentary. "Where's the persuasion, Grok?" she griped.
It just so happens, no product or service was involved. The conversion goal this time? Sign up to support a humanitarian cause! Email the Prime Minister! End poverty NOW!
Goodie, I thought, an excellent non-retail example for me to dig into!
Non-profits have it rough - they've got a tough persuasion task to master. There are lots of important causes we could give to and lots of hands trying to dig into our pockets. Most people have to make choices in what they support and how they can give. It's a difficult emotional decision. How do you choose the cause you'll back?
My loyal readers know that in lieu of undertaking a full-fledged uncovery with persona design, it's possible to improve the persuasive abilities of your site simply by speaking to the four dominant personality types. Each asks different questions, based on what matters to them. For example, in the context of a non-profit:
Methodicals want to know, "How can your solution solve this problem?"
Humanistics want to know, "Who has used your solution to solve this problem?" or "Who supports your solution to this problem?"
The Spontaneous wants to know, "Can you quickly tell me why your solution is best for solving the problem now?" and "Why is this the cause for me?"
And Competitives want to know, "What makes you the best choice for solving this problem?" and "What are your credentials?"
Keep these profile questions in mind as we enter MakePovertyHistory.ca.
Scent is that important trail you develop to keep your customers motivated to stay engaged with your persuasive system. No scent means folks don't stick around. Say bye-bye to your conversion goal.
Here's a banner for MakePovertyHistory:
Who is that woman? She looks vaguely familiar ... oh, right, I saw her on an AOL shopping ad for beauty products! That makes me think immediately of a charitable cause (not!).
What does she have to do with ending poverty? What does "Trade Justice" have to do with ending poverty? Where's the copy that snags interest and compels any of our profiles to take the next click? Even a low-level plea like, "With your help we can make it happen" would be something. All our profiles have to be supremely self-motivated to click through this.
If they do, they land here:
Ah, Sarah McLachlan ... for the Canada-connection? Snapping her fingers to the beat or demonstrating how we instantaneously can make a change? (yeah, right). But hey, there's bilingual copy. The thing is, this copy banks on someone having the will to act, when the focus really should be instilling the will to act (aka, persuading). And "English" is nobody's idea of a clear, compelling call to action! Nothing here engages our four.
Amazingly, however, our intrepid profiles click through and arrive here:
Two clicks later, folks find something that might actually be able to meet their needs. Copy and links ... let's look at where our profiles might go hoping to be persuaded this is the cause they should support.
"How can your solution solve this problem?"
Good question! The page shouts at us to take action ... even gives us a form front and center:
Ya know, I'm not ready to send something to any government official until I know what I'm going to be saying. You don't get my personal information until you start proving yourself to me first. And there's nothing on this page that speaks to the Methodical's "how" questions.
But let's just say she scrolls below the fold to click on some of the "What We Are Calling For" links ... for example, "End Child Poverty":
There's a little more meat here, and the goals sound good. But no real explanation of how MakePovertyHistory works to help accomplish this. Even the downloadable PDF doesn't expand much on the page copy. And beware! The sudden change in look/feel, as if our Methodical has clicked into a totally different site, is a big conversion problem (take this comment as read for all the profiles ... it will disturb them all).
Our Methodical is not persuaded.
"Who supports your solution to this problem?"
Relationships are important to the Humanistic profile, so knowing the relationships you foster with the people you help as well as the people who help you is highly motivating. On the home form page, celebs who presumably support the organization are prominently featured. So, finding no information on how MakePovertyHistory relates to the people who join, our Humanistic profile clicks on "Who's on Board."
Lots of faces! Oh, look ... the actor, Brendan Fraser. What does he have to say about MakePovertyHistory? Not much, apparently ... and not much about the topic in general:
There's a nice picture of four people holding a banner on the home page, so our Humanistic clicks on that, thinking it might take him to a page that speaks to the experience of involvement with the organization. The click just delivers him lower on the form that asks for his name, email address and postal code.
Feels kind of cold, really.
"Why is this the cause for me?"
Our Spontaneous profile is looking to live a rich, full life. He values experience and wants to take action, but he doesn't want to get bogged down in decisions. Unfortunately, there's not much persuasive content here to meet his needs. The "What's New" column, which he's attracted to, is past press releases. He clicks on "Events" but everything on that list has already happened. The freshness factor is a problem.
What he'd really like to know is how he can make a donation. But the only way MakePoveryHistory seems to raise cash is by selling white silicon bracelets ... and who knows what do they do with the money, anyway. Besides, it's way too complicated to place an order.
So our Spontaneous looks at the global navigation, where he sees a "Take Action" link. He clicks:
This tells our Spontaneous nothing he didn't already know from the home page and the highly motivating (Ha!) "click here" call to action only takes him back to the form that didn't satisfy his needs in the first place.
Our impulsive Spontaneous profile has already been disappointed too many times in this process. He decides to find another cause.
"What makes you the best choice for solving this problem"
Like the Spontaneous profile, the Competitive doesn't want you wasting her time. Like the Methodical profile, she wants you to prove yourself, quickly and efficiently. She wants the bottom line: What have you accomplished? What will you do to achieve your agenda? Convince me that sending a letter to the government will have any effect!
Unfortunately, there's virtually nothing on the site that answers these questions beyond assertions that voices crying in unison to end poverty will make a difference. Not a compelling motivation for a Competitive.
Nevertheless, she clicks through on the "What We Want" link, which seems most likely to meet her decision needs:
In 14 words... MORE AND BETTER AID. TRADE JUSTICE. CANCEL THE DEBT. END CHILD POVERTY IN CANADA.
The rest is just a dance. There's no meat here for the Competitive. She saw these same words on the home page. She's disillusioned and she's not about to give MakePovertyHistory another chance to waste her time.
The MakePovertyHistory site has several conversion goals, so far as I can see. They want to get people's email addresses. They want people to write to government officials. They want people to buy and sport a white silicon bracelet. They want people to put a clickable banner on their websites.
The problem is, they ask for the conversion goals before they provide the visitor with a justification to sign on. There are too many steps, not enough scent, no points of resolution, terribly weak calls to action, minimal language targeted to varying personality needs.
More than any other business endeavor, a non-profit must appeal to our need to feel good about ourselves. That appeal must be managed through a persuasive process that meets the decision needs of those the non-profit is trying to convert.
We've been busy bees over the holidays. Check out our services page - new services have already been launched and more are coming!
You'll also want to keep an eye on our publications page. We've been working on creating resources that will help you put many of our principles into practice more easily and more efficiently. We're just about to release several of our newest products, including Which Sells Best?: A Quick Start Guide to Testing for Retailers and The Conversion Experts Handbook.
I've decided. When it comes to this online stuff, I want to rewrite The Golden Rule. You know, the one that says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I'm definitely not opposed to folks extending themselves for others ... I just don't think folks should always use themselves as the yardstick of doing unto.
So, in the world of online business, what's a better way to look at The Golden Rule? How about, "Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves." That's why we're so gung ho about personas and their role in helping us develop empathy for our audience.
Look at it this way. I'm taking you out to shop for your birthday present (Happy Birthday!). We're walking through the mall, looking in the windows, and I see a hat shop. I love hats. I think hats are the coolest thing since sliced bread! So I drag you over to the window:
Me: You'd look brilliant in that hat!
You: *yawn* Which one?
Me: That bright green one ... with the yellow band! I want to get that for you for your birthday.
You: You're kidding.
Me: Nope. That's what you need ... look, it even matches my skin! It'll help you remember me if I ever have to go back to Mars.
You: That's really nice of you, Grok, but I'm not a hat person. Hats smash my hair and I just hate hat-head. Besides ... um ... you're not exactly forgettable.
Me: But this is what I want to get you!! I love it! It's perfect!!
You: Well if you want one, knock your socks off ... but don't go out of your way for me.
Me: You'll see ... you're gonna love this hat.
You wander over to another window to drool over leather brief cases, whereupon I buy the hat, hand it to you with a big grin, and you proceed to write me off your Christmas list.
That didn't go well, did it?
The bit about the hat? It was just to hammer home the point that most people don't like it when others tell them what should matter to them, and deliver it in a way that sets their teeth on edge. It turns them off. It does not endear you to them.
If I really want to be nice to you, I'll be sensitive to you - your preferences, your needs, your ways of making decisions and solving problems. I'll work on understanding you, so I can give you what you want in a way that makes you feel valued. I won't force you to do things my way; I'll work on figuring out ways to do things that make you feel comfortable.
When we work with clients and create personas for their business processes, this is exactly what we do. We become as aware as we possibly can of who the customers are (there's never an "average" anybody!), and we figure out what those customers need so they will feel confident making the decision we want them to make.
Achieving that state of awareness demands an ability to empathize.
I'm never going to share your feelings about hats. It's hard for me to sympathize with your dread of hat-head. But I can easily develop an intellectual and emotional awareness of your feelings about hats. I can empathize.
The secret to creating personas is creating "real" people with whom everyone involved in managing your persuasive system can empathize. The ultimate value of a persona in any persuasive system is to stand as a focus for empathy.
When we think empathically, we "borrow" another's feelings to observe, feel, and understand them, so we can help them. Empathy allows us to develop and articulate respect for our audience, which allows us to view and treat their needs as perfectly valid, regardless of whether we see it their way or agree with them. Empathy is the foundation for solid relationships.
You may not like everyone in your audience. But you must be able to empathize with them. If you can't, you will never be able to speak to them respectfully or persuasively.
The persuasive effectiveness of applying The Grok's Golden Rule - do unto others as they would have done unto themselves - is your most compelling reason for designing with personas. When you can completely empathize with your customers, when you can interact with them in ways that are meaningful, emotionally engaging and persuasive to them, everyone wins!
So, can I interest you in a never-been-used green hat with a bright yellow band?