Complexograms: Thumbnail Sales Portraits of Your Personas

Around here, we rarely worry about whether a client's business is B2B or B2C or any flavor in between. Because any "sale" takes place largely within the context of a customer's buying decision process, we look instead at how customers view the complexity of the sale.

This customer-centric perspective allows us to fine-tune the personas and scenarios that make up your persuasive system based on the various dimensions of your sale's complexity.

As we proceed through uncovery, gathering information about how you sell and how your customers buy, we create little thumbnail portraits of your customers that will guide us through the process. We call these ComplexogramsTM. These visuals help you translate the nature of your business into terms that are meaningful and persuasive to your customers!

What's a Complexogram? How do we use it? Glad you asked!

Dimensions of Sales Complexity

We've discussed the four dimensions of sales complexity, so I'll quickly recap here. When we examine a business's sales process, we evaluate it in terms of need, risk, knowledge and consensus. These aren't new ideas - marketers have always been sensitive to them. It's just that no one has really dealt with them in a systematic way before.

You'll notice these dimensions focus the topology of your sale on your customers' perceptions and experiences, not the role your business occupies in relation to your customers. And that's exactly how we feel any discussion of sales topology in the context of designing persuasive systems should be framed.

Need. We can describe need on a continuum that ranges from critical to necessary to luxury. Through uncovery, we want to understand how urgent the felt need for the product or service is or might be.

Risk. Risk can be perceived as pertaining to the physical body, a career, self-esteem or self-actualization.

Knowledge. Knowledge contains depth and breadth, which can widen and deepen. Changes in knowledge can redefine the perception of need or risk. Uncovery helps reveal how difficult is it for customers to understand the nature of the product or service, or the procedures for buying. What do they need to know?

Consensus. We can understand consensus issues as decisions that are made anonymously, personally, or by groups. It's important to understand how many people you have to persuade and at which point in the process you have to persuade them. Consensus is the dimension most people fail to define well when they design persuasive systems.

The Complexogram

When we have a pretty good handle on these dimensions as they pertain to your business, we begin creating different "sales portraits" of your customers on a Complexogram. These portraits reflect the ideal status of each customer segment as they near the close of the buying decision process.

A Complexogram has four quadrants representing the four dimensions of sales complexity.

Along the diagonals of each quadrant, we use a scale from 1 (low) to 5 (high) to plot an importance value for each of our dimensions of sales complexity.

We'll be the first to tell you this is an inherently subjective process. But it offers us a reference and direction that we continue to investigate and refine as we dig deeper into our understanding of the business. Eventually, we merge these thumbnail portraits into the full-fleshed out personas.

Assessing these dimensions helps us create scenarios that build a customer's confidence by alleviating the concerns or confusions they might have that are associated with the nature of the sale. It helps us make sure crucial information appears in scenario paths for the personas who require it, and allows us to develop scenario paths that avoid information other personas don't care about.

David Commonsense's Complexogram

Because a Complexogram shows the persona's state (with respect to the dimensions of sales complexity) at the end of the buying decision process, it helps us identify the information and language each persona requires along the way.

Let's look at one example of a Complexogram. David Commonsense is a persona we designed for Leo Schacter's branded diamond site. David is a Methodical who wants to make a well-educated decision about the diamond ring he plans to buy for his fiancé-to-be. He wants her to be pleased, but he is also concerned about the financial risk of making an ill-informed decision. His Complexogram would look something like this:

David's primary concerns are for diamond knowledge - he needs to understand what goes into creating a beautiful diamond and the associated costs. Near the end of his buying decision process, he must feel satisfied he has the knowledge he needs to make the best decision. As David's knowledge about diamonds increases, his perception of risk decreases.

Because David is making this decision without his fiancé-to-be's knowledge, his consensus dimension is low. However, David's consensus is what we would consider "personal." His fiancé-to-be is still an influence, as he is motivated by thoughts of her happiness. David' need is not urgent, but instead will be guided by his feelings that he has gathered information that makes him feel comfortable about his decision.

Do you see how this kind of portrait can help you flesh out David's persona, his scenarios and the language that will appeal to him, satisfy his motivations and meet his needs?

One of the essential components of persuasion is our ability to remove the friction that prevents our customers from buying. The humble Complexogram helps you identify those aspects of your sales topology that potentially bog down you customers, so you can smooth the path and offer them clear sailing!

Volume 126: 3/1/06

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