Doing Unto

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.

Doing unto me

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?

Doing unto you

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.

Empathy 101

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?

Volume 142: 11/2/06

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