Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) should be concerned. Walmart’s (NYSE: WMT) resources are enormous. That gives Walmart time to work on their blind spot. Does Walmart leadership understand what makes Amazon so strong? Probably not. If they do, can they adopt it?
Walmart is changing quickly. We’ve all seen all their ecommerce acquisitions and a lot of new initiatives they’ve launched and tested in the last few months. These included Bossa Nova robot in stores, Mobile, Express Returns, Scan & Go, Check Out With Me, and JetBlack premium membership.
Walmart is still the largest retailer by volume. Walmart has stores within 20 miles of 90% of Americans. Yet, they correctly perceive Amazon, and others as a threat.
Walmart doesn’t want to end up like Sears. However it might.
Let’s look at two similar initiatives from Amazon and Walmart to understand the differences.
Testing Walmart’s Scan & Go vs. Amazon’s Amazon Go
Cashier-less checkout was a big theme at ShopTalk. Nordstrom, Macy’s and other retailers are focusing resources to reduce this friction point.
Walmart executives presented their Scan & Go initiative at ShopTalk this year. Amazon launched Amazon Go in Seattle and is expanding. In e-commerce, retailers can either help customers increase their motivation or decrease the friction they encounter during a purchase. In retail, checkout has always been a significant source of friction. No one likes to wait.
Walmart’s Scan & Go Test
In January 2018, Walmart announced the expansion of their Scan & Go cashier-less checkout experiment to 100 stores.
Their promotional video looked promising:
This is how it actually worked.
The demo was “smoother” than the actual experience. During the test shoppers could use their phones with a mobile app or a separate device Walmart provided. As you walked through the store you scan the items added to your physical shopping cart. Then shoppers advanced checkout at a special lane near their current self service checkout.
The Scan & Go initiative was cancelled. Walmart executives said they did learn from it.
What did Walmart learn? It seems like they were asking: If you reduce the friction in checkout will you sell more? No surprise! They likely weren’t impressed with the results of their test.
Walmart essentially moved an already not super popular self checkout scanner onto a mobile device. Self-checkout is an extra job for the customer no matter what part of the store they do it in. They tested the same concept but moved it to a different location in the store.
Walmart tested a variation of what they were already doing. Tweaking, improving and optimizing variations leads to a local maxima, a dead end.
Let’s examine how Amazon approaches tests to see what we can learn about innovation and testing.
Amazon Go didn’t waste time and resources testing variations. They tested a variable first.
Amazon knows that customers don’t like to wait. It’s something that will never change.
“ I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.” ― Jeff Bezos
Amazon innovates with a central purpose – making things better for the customer.
Amazon, and anyone who visited a store with cashier-less checkout knows, that people aren’t excited about taking over the cashier’s job. You can see that in every grocery store, Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot that have longs cashiered lines and a handful of people struggling at the self checkout. For stores with higher margins sales people can take over the cashier’s job for the convenience of customers.
Amazon, understood that “checkout” is a lousy experience. Checkout is the variable to test.
Amazon didn’t ask how to improve checkout. They asked: would people buy more if they didn’t have to use checkout at all?
Amazon decided to innovate around replacing the checkout experience. Ironically, it was so successful that there were lines of people to try the experience for themselves.
Amazon proved that customers love their no checkout innovation. Only now will Amazon will test many variations to improve on the concept.
Walmart has a serious blind spot
Walmart focused on optimizing store operations with technology.
Amazon focused on innovating on behalf of their customers.
Walmart doesn’t understand that they don’t have an ecommerce channel problem, Walmart’s problem isn’t Amazon. It isn’t even technology. Walmart’s problem is a blind spot, a lack of interest in who its customers are. Walmart is struggling to transform from being experts in products, inventory management, supply chain, and logistics to becoming experts about their customers.
To succeed in retail today you need to start with the customer, not the product.
Amazon is beating Walmart, and others, because it knows its customers and takes as an article of faith that if they do right by customers they will succeed.
How about you? Every successful business has a blind spot!
Here’s what often happens:
A business has a unique approach, or a special emphasis that separates them from competitors so they commit to it. It makes them successful.
They eventually reach a plateau.
Most businesses double-down on what brought them success.
They do what they know how to do and improve on the margins. They press down harder on the accelerator..
They get stuck in that gear.
At first their innovation gave them momentum.
And then things began to level off.
They believe in first gear. First gear is where they feel comfortable.
Metaphorically, Walmart is accelerating in first gear.
Businesses don’t have automatic transmissions! All you have to do is look at the top retailers slide at the beginning of this post.
Few companies ever find second gear.
Let us know if we can help you eliminate your blind spot. Let us work with you to innovate your way to success by reducing customers’ friction and increasing customers’ motivations.
In most instances, digital transformation looks like changing the case of the blackberry, modernizing the screen and instead of the pixelated app icons they are now crisp and shiny.
Yet the operating system is still is slow, does not allow integration from one app to the next and you can’t really add any new apps.
In order to succeed in business today, you would want to compete with a modern operating system and up to date hardware and software processes. We all know businesses that seem to be running with those.
Fortunately, we are not living in Groundhog Day (February 2th, 2006?) where every day we wake up with a pretty little blackberry in our hands every morning instead of our current smartphones. A new option is coming:
However, the reality is that most businesses today are still running their businesses like they were running on Blackberries before IOS was released. They are slow, parts of the business don’t operate well with one another. They aren’t focus on innovating new applications. Their day to day operations and processes are programmed around last generation thinking. It is not quite the experience we were hoping for and trust me, their customers aren’t loving it either. How do they expect to stay ahead of our customers when customers are getting faster than us?
It’s no longer the big fish eating the little fish, it’s the fast fish eating the slow fish.
For every billion dollar idea there will be plenty that don’t add much to the bottom line and several that just eat up resources getting launched. More importantly, there will be many that reach the disagree and commit stage. The point is that most companies are consistently striving for innovation.
What if your team could regularly produce these type of ideas and you could implement and launch them with the agility that Amazon does? Is that a process you’d like to learn?
Jeff Bezos recently announced that Amazon has topped 100 million Prime members. Amazon Prime started just like every other idea in the nearly 2000 experiments Amazon runs in a year. Let’s spend a few minutes to understand their process and then look at how you can effectively adopt it as your own.
Every test begins with a team developing a 6-page narrative memo. No PowerPoint presentations are allowed.
We’ve also learned that what’s most important to the process is the perspective that these memos take. The keys to these memos are to write them from the point of view of the customer’s benefit and to start from the end result or the final goal. This is what Amazon calls “working backwards.” It’s what we teach as Reverse Chronology in our Buyer Legends process.
It may help to think of these internal memos as low-fidelity rapid-prototypes to keep your company agile.
When you start from the end-point and craft the narrative from there, you’re not tied to the present conditions, which means you’re not tied to optimize what already is, and you also build believability for what your idea could BECOME rather than starting from what it might be right now. Prime didn’t become a billion dollar idea overnight. And there were some challenges that had to be ironed out with it before it scaled as big as it did.
So if you started just with the idea to “test” this out, it wouldn’t have been a success.
You had to start with the idea that Prime Members became Amazon-exclusive with their buying and what that would look like and mean for the company, AND then you work backward on how to make that happen.
These documents are well-researched and carefully considered. They are intended to help others in your organization fully comprehend the recommended experiment, all logistics and the anticipated outcomes. Before a meeting starts everyone sits, reads these memos and add their questions in the margins.
These narrative memos align the organization and allows them to commit with the knowledge and resources to see the test executed. Keep in mind no team at Amazon is larger than two pizzas can feed. So there are thousands of teams developing ideas on a regular basis. How many of these ideas could your teams develop regularly if they had the tools and the skills to craft these memos?
We had the pleasure of developing our Buyer Legends Process in order to train Google’s teams to emulate this rapid, customer-centric, innovation process. Like all teams, they needed to communicate more efficiently, prioritize based on well-documented ideas and improve execution time and outcomes. They required a process to provide direct communication instead of implied instructions. Since developing the Buyer Legends Process to achieve those goals, we’ve used it to help dozens of companies from startups to existing brands to be like Amazon.
Would your company benefit from more customer-centric innovation, executing with greater precision & agility and developing a growth system like Amazon’s? Drop me a note if you want to chat further about this innovation process.
Smart entrepreneurs know that in order to grow a business you must keep an eye on both being productive and being innovative. How do you continue to be reliable and efficient with your existing customers while trying to push the boundaries on providing the best customer experiences? What are the technologies, philosophies, and systems you need to have in place to keep pace with your competitors and best serve your customers?
After all, reliable service typically equals loyal customers.
In this on-demand webinar, presented by Comcast Business and Entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author and customer experience expert Bryan Eisenberg, and Teresa Ward-Maupin, vice president of customer and digital experience for Comcast Business, uncover the best practices for improving productivity and reliability, while striving for innovation and growth.
Are Personas Dead? According to a recent blog post on the Convince & Convert blog, they would have you believe they are.
Here’s why that’s wrong:
If I tell you “the king died,” that’s a single-event data point. Information, if you will.
And if I tell you “the king died and then the queen died,” that’s two data points. It’s still information.
But if I tell you that “The king died and then the queen died of a broken heart,” that’s a story.
I’ve taken the two data points and connected them with causality, which makes the data meaningful.
What does this have to do with Personas and Big Data?
All data records events. Little factual tidbits of what happened. At best, sophisticated analytics can record chronological records or patterns of events.
The website visitor did this. Then this. Then that.
Or, patterns: male customers tended to buy this instead of that.
But notice that the reported chronologies and patterns are absent causality and intention. A series of events for a Web or store visit remain nothing more than an itinerary. And a pattern remains nothing but a correlation. There is no visible cause-and-effect relationship. There is no underlying shopper intention, and no meaning recorded by the data itself. That all remains for the marketer to provide via interpretation.
Humans cannot transform data points to insight about causality, intention, and meaning. To do so they must turn the data into a story.
Stories with the buyer as the protagonist.
And “buyer as protagonist” is another way of saying “persona.”
Formal Vs. Informal Personas
Are we really saying that all marketers use personas and tell stories when interpreting data?
The data might be as straightforward as “the all-inclusive bundle is our most popular product,” combined with “A/B testing proves that a satisfaction guarantee boosted conversions by 30%”
And the story might be as simple as “this category of buyer chooses the satisfaction-guaranteed, all-inclusive bundled option because of its convenience and promise of risk reduction.”
Yet as simple as that interpretation of the data is, it still represents the creation of a story centered around a character in the form of a buyer.
Unfortunately, because the creation of the buyer’s persona was implicit and ad-hoc, it was also under-developed.
And that’s where the problems come in.
The Downside of Implicit, Informal and /or Ad-Hoc Personas
So what’s wrong with letting one’s personas remain implicit or unconscious? After all, we process intuitively as we make sense of the data?
Short answer: Our Baked-In Cognitive Glitches.
We have two cognitive biases when we rely on ad-hoc implied personas:
1) We assume everyone is like us. They value what we value, they make decisions like we make decisions, and what appeals to us also appeals to them.
2) We work off of stereotypes and then engage in the fundamental attribution error. When we see someone doing something, we tend to think it relates to their personality rather than the situation the person might be in.
Well-designed Personas help marketers avoid these cognitive biases. They show how a different temperament might engage in a different decision-making process. They look beyond stereotypical attributions to see the context.
The most important reason to use well-designed personas is prediction.
With a well-designed persona like a TV character, you can predict how they’ll behave. Character explains a scenario better than demographic and even psychographic data.
For example, suppose a white, middle-aged, middle-classed, white-collar New Yorker found a lost wallet, stuffed with cash. What would you predict he’s likely to do?
Well, based on that, you’d have no clue, right?
There’s no way you can confidently predict behavior based on the demographics provided unless you assume that the person in question would do what you think a typical person would do. Which is to say what you’d do.
That’s exactly the situation with implicit personas that are usually drawn from demographics or based on our own intuitions of how we or typical person would behave.
Now, if instead of giving you demographics, I told you that George Costanza found that wallet…
Now you can picture exactly what Costanza would do, even though it’s probably not anywhere near what you — or even a typical person — would do in the same situation.
That’s the kind of prediction those properly designed personas bring to the table.
And when it comes to crafting and optimizing customer experiences, that’s all the difference in the world.
Increased Data = Increased Need for (Better) Personas
Data and advanced analytics don’t and can’t change our hardwired need for a story as a sense-making tool.
In fact, the more complex and unstructured our data sets become, the more robust our storytelling chops need to be to help us not only analyze, but make sense of that data.
The disadvantage of structured data is that the structure limits the answers you can pull from it. The advantage of structured data is that the structure suggests the questions the database is capable of answering.
So while unstructured Big Data presents greater opportunities for marketers, it also increases the burden of coming up with and framing the right questions to ask.
The better designed the persona, the easier it is to interpret the data as narrative. Personas help frame and ask questions about intent, motivation, and cause and effect. These questions can then be posed to the data sets for not only answers but insights.
This is the only way to move from having data to being able to use that data to increase sales, market share, customer loyalty, etc.
Personas Increase Empathy and Move Marketing Past “Optimization” to Innovation
Without personas, marketers can certainly optimize what already exists to a local maximum. You don’t have to generate deep insight into the customer to run multivariate tests on different alternatives to the established patterns. Different color buttons. Slightly different calls to actions, hero images, page layouts, etc.
But you also can’t move past optimization to true innovation without thinking seriously about customer drives, frustrations, motivations, etc. Great customer experience design requires empathy.
And for empathy to be predictive, it requires fully fleshed out characters with which to work, just like you experienced with the Costanza example.
You can’t do customer design with just data alone and advanced analytical methods alone. In fact, neuroscientists have proven that analytical thinking inhibits empathy.
Your mind can do either one of these things, but it can only do one of them well at any given time. A marketers ability to generate customer insights come to live while in emotional storytelling mode, but fall dead while in number crunching analytics mode. And vice versa of course.
The point is, good marketers need both sets of skills, as well as advanced, rigorous processes for supporting and exercising those skill sets.
No one would ever argue that marketers don’t need or benefit from accurate and advanced customer data. Or sophisticated methods of statistical analysis aimed at sifting and sorting through that data, looking for patterns.
But that same level of rigor and defined tool sets also need to be brought to the storytelling side of the equation. Meaning that implicit and ad hoc personas just aren’t good enough.
And the more context-sensitive the situation, the more important simulation through storytelling and the use of formally developed personas becomes.
In other words, personas aren’t in opposition to data, they are the other half of the coin. Personas are a contextual tool for making data relevant and actionable. They are a bridge to understanding customers at a human level.
Without this, marketers are doomed. Without well-designed personas, it’s difficult to focus on customer experiences, rather than just products, price points, placement, and promotions.
So are personas still relevant in an age of data-driven companies?
Not only are they “relevant,” they’re becoming increasingly necessary for survival.
Search Engine Optimizers (#SEO) and Search Engine Marketers (#SEM) like to throw around industry jargon. Ever feel like they are trying to make your head spin? Penguin, Panda, Possum, Hawk, these are names used for Google updates. Latent Semantic Indexing, Quality Score algorithms, schema, canonical, sitemaps, snippets, etc. It sure is easy to lose track of what really matters.
It is no surprise, we get a lot of questions about SEO. People ask us if something truly influences rankings after some SEO specializing in FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) gets them worried. Large companies often have skilled SEO practitioners in-house but SMBs usually don’t.
We are not SEO practitioners. Jeffrey and I have always tried to optimize for the end searcher (relevance) not the search engine spiders. After all, search engine spiders don’t have credit cards. Our focus remains primarily on conversion rate optimization (#CRO) and customer experience since the late 1990s.
A few weeks ago I presented at my first search conference in several years, SMX Milan. The topic of relevance is again top of mind.
What do we know about relevance? A few years ago Ping Jen, the head of Bing’s Quality Score team asked me to explain relevance to his team on a webinar. Google has also been a client, we helped their own SMB Adwords team to optimize what they do.
A new era in search engine history
Google has been working their way through the hierarchy of optimization since their founding in 1998. Any optimization hierarchy must prioritize visitors’ needs as they approach your site or Google you. You must do the same prioritization of your sales/ conversion goals:
I am going to keep this explanation as simple as possible.
Google made search Functional
Before Google, the search engine space was a mess. You would have to look through pages and pages of garbage results to find anything remotely relevant. Google launched with their PageRank algorithm that ranked results based on the links flowing to and from the page. That signal was used to make search engines truly functional for organizing the world’s information. It didn’t take long for SEO’s to start finding ways to game those results. Yet Google continued to enhance and optimize their algorithm.
Search becomes Accessible to the masses
As news of Google’s search quality spread more and more people started to use the search engine making content that was invisible previously more accessible. Google also wanted to index content that was largely unreachable and unreadable. Over time they enhanced their spiders to access different types of content (dynamic content, video, PDFs, scripts, etc.). Today you can use software like DeepCrawl to audit your site. That will determine what technical issues may be holding back your rankings.
Making 10 blue links more Usable
By the year 2000, Adwords launched and Google found a way to monetize the incredible value delivered to the public. Many of the signals they used to rank Adwords ads with their Quality Score algorithm evolved to be similar to those used to rank their SEO rankings. However, as Google kept on diving deeper into their results, they realized that 10 blue links were not a truly usable experience. So to enhance their usability, they added smarter widgets to their results pages.
The era of Intuitive search
By 2010, Google was already working on personalized search ranking. This is where the results based on personalization factors related to the individual. This was in an effort to make results more intuitive for the individual. Last time I checked, the largest set of Column Families in Google’s BigTable are related to Personalized Search (93 columns) versus only 18 column families for website crawling information. That is nearly 5x the amount of data used to personalize the experience.
Of course, you can see a similar pattern of optimization in the way Google leveraged their paid search Quality Score algorithm. When Adwords first launched it was whoever paid most, got ranked highest. By 2005, they realized this wasn’t the best experience for searchers so they added in Quality Score as a factor and it was initially based on click-through rate of the ads. How many searchers saw your ad and clicked on it? By 2007, they made Quality Score smarter by incorporating searchers behavior on Google’s own search engine results page. Did the user click and bounce right back to the result (assuming the ad was not of great quality)? Did the user come back and refine their query. Over the next few years they kept adding more and more searcher behavior signals. They had data from all the websites using Google Analytics, Android, and Chrome to leverage as additional “online” signals. They would know how your site performed for others based on all those signals and could rank it in organic and paid search based on those user experience signals. Over the last few years, they have encouraged “customers” to share and upload offline conversion data, and other data sources as well, to close the loop.
Search Intent and Persuasiveness go hand and hand
Former CEO of Google Eric Schmidt said that Google needs to replicate results from the real world. Basically indicating that links alone are not a great ranking signal because they can be gamed online. Over the last few years, searcher behavior has evolved dramatically. We are now seeing more mobile and voice searches. Searches need to be more contextual and intuitive. Today we are finally seeing the next era of search results as Google enters the Persuasive phase of optimization. Recent reports from Wordstream and SEMRush confirm it.
These reports were so controversial, that they shocked the groups studying them. Wordstream who services over a million PPC advertisers and SEMrush, which is a must-have tool for search marketers, were actually surprised by their findings. They were trying to correlate what factors lead to higher rankings in the search engines. You should read the latest search engine ranking reports from SEMrush and Wordstream.
“What we are seeing here is that people with stronger brand affinity have higher conversion rates than people without any, because people tend to buy from the companies they already heard of and begun to trust.” – Larry Kim, WordStream
“Direct visits are fueled by your brand awareness, so building a strong brand image should be an essential part of your promotion strategy.” – SEMrush, page 42 of 55
Amazon optimized retail product search before Google did. They focused early on how to leverage the “user” data and all their purchase history to bring them a better product search result than Google would. They have been focused on this for years.
This is why over 55% of retail product searches start on Amazon today. And they captured 55% percent of Black Friday online sales. You too can be like Amazon, even if you are a lemonade stand. All you have to do is consistently deliver the experience your customer wants.
SEO is simple if you understand the cognitive science behind it
If you recognize that what the SEMrush and WordStream reports mean by “strong brand image” and “affinity” means the same thing as “Reputation” and includes being “Remarkable” today, that we have used to explain the 5 Rs of SEO for many years.
The 5 Rs of SEO are: (1) Relevant, (2) build your Reputation, (3) Remarkable, (4) Readable, and (5) of sufficient Reach.
How search engines try to enhance Relevance:
Providing relevance to the individual is the #1 priority to the search engines. After all, they want to deliver a consistently excellent customer experience to searchers. If searchers are unhappy, traffic drops and then advertiser revenues will fall.
Want some deep insights into Google’s Quality score calculations so that your ads show up higher and you pay a lower cost per click?
“Google has tons of additional data to help them decide which ad is most likely to elicit a click from that particular user based on the time of day, previous searches and many other factors. It’s a “Big Data” prediction algorithm and advertisers would do well to apply some of these same methodologies for picking successful ads to ensure users get value from their ads, Google is kept happy, and more sales are generated.” ~ Frederick Vallaeys, Co-founder Optymyzr Former Adwords Evangelist at Google
Google claims that they use over 200 different signals for their ranking factors. I don’t doubt that, do you? I took the liberty, with Frederick’s permission to bold a couple of phrases in his quote that highlight the secret to great rankings. What he is talking about is massive personalization and leveraging multiple data sets and signals in real time to deliver what Google thinks will be the best results.
Google’s Big Dataset
Google is now using more of their Chrome browser, Google Analytics, scanning Gmail and Android (location and app) data augmented with 3rd party purchase data. Purchase data is unconfirmed but we know Facebook uses that kind of data. These are becoming their primary factors because those factors cannot be gamed by SEOs. They provide a much better picture of what people do in the real world.
I encourage you to step back and think much bigger and more broadly about Big Data before taking an SEO’s advice about rankings to heart. While there are many great SEOs out there, many have not evolved since the early days of keyword stuffing and meta tags. They also count on you not keeping up with all the constant optimization tweaks Google does to their algorithms to keep you in FUD.
One of our clients, a $50+ million traditional retailer, recently realized that the agency they used for SEO were ripping them off. Martin MacDonald wrote about that time in My Secret SEO Strategy Guarantees Results… To summarize, he concluded that “If your business model requires that you hide techniques you are using to achieve results, you’re not selling SEO services, you’re selling snake-oil.”
Here is what you need to stay on top of the game:
What do you think Google knows about you from all the signals you might provide it based on your search query, map queries, click-through, Gmail account and other factors? If you think about all the types of datasets you can get access to when want to target ads on Facebook, do you think Google might have access to some of those or similar data sets? There is a lot of data available. I recommend you follow the links I’ve provided and familiarize yourself with offerings from Data.World, Enigma & Acxiom. What kind of data sources would you want to use if you were Google to deliver the best most relevant results for your searching customers?
What is Readable for a search engine?
This is one area the search engines have excelled in over the last number of years. They can now index and rank all kinds of content they could not do in the early days. In fact, they are even coming a long way in computer image recognition as well. There are still ways a good SEO can enhance complicated websites.
What traffic will you Reach?
You know those scammy SEO offers you get to rank #1 for a keyword. It is very similar to those “best selling” authors who pick a new category on Amazon and dump 20 sales through in a 3 minute period to be the best selling book of an obscure category for a moment in time. You do not need to rank #1 for keywords that no one is looking for!
Brand Reputation and being Remarkable is where it is at today & for the Future.
As Roy Williams wrote about the report’s results:
SEMrush was one of the big names in online marketing who concluded that “direct website visits” are the single most important factor in determining your SERP [Search Engine Results Page] position. In other words, they announced that Google is impressed – and will reward you with higher SERP placement – when people go directly to your web page instead of merely choosing your name from a list of search results.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Google is effectively saying, “If this is the company people think of immediately – and feel best about – in this category, then they must be the category leader.”
It seems the key is building awareness for your brand online and offline so that when they go to their browser they type in your URL. This can be done with a combination of great advertising, strong public relations, remarkable social media and an exceptional customer experience.
Advertising is a tax we pay for not being remarkable.
Many people reading the ranking reports will make the decision that they need to ramp up their advertising to type in their website directly. However. if all those people do is find a less than remarkable experience then the signals the search engines receive are that you are less than remarkable. Sorry, advertising only accelerate the inevitable.
Win the SEO game and earn the love of customers
The type of company that is going to win at the top of the search engines is one that drives a lot of people directly to their website because the search engine is detecting all these relevant signals:
- People typing in “yourdomain.com” directly into the address bar
- They’ll get there because they either heard of you from one of your offline ads or…
- They heard and have seen great reviews and shares on social media about your business or…
- Because you built such a remarkable customer experience that they heard about you from other people.
- People share their experience with your brand through PR, review sites and social media.
- People engage a whole bunch with your website and your email marketing.
We hope you will you be creating the types of experiences that enhance or detract from your being remarkable and enjoying a great reputation in the eyes of the search engines and your customers. Your customers do have credit cards, you know?
So if you are looking to get great results in 2018 and beyond, focus on building a great brand experience. Remember Be Like Amazon: a lemonade stand can do it.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.
Conversion optimization is a growth strategy, but it’s been handicapped. We all know what a sales conversion rate is, it’s the ratio of sales opportunities to closed sales. So if you close 3 of 100 opportunities your conversion rate is 3%. Sadly, this too simple understanding is holding businesses back, and not just online.
To increase sales conversion rates you can do one of two things:
- Decrease Friction – remove the obstacles that slow, block or confuse buyers while they are engaged in the buying process
- Increase Motivation – help the buyers gain confidence that this is the right purchase, at the right time in the right place and from the right people
Decreasing friction is much easier and more immediate than increasing motivation. I’m certain that’s why in 2017 the average US eCommerce conversion rate is approximately 3%. The top performers convert closer to 15% and Amazon Prime Members convert at 74%. Funny, in 2003 it was controversial when we asked people to consider why their online conversion rates were below 10%. We still ask.
Decreasing friction can be accomplished short-term, with a cross-functional team and a modicum of intra-company cooperation. That’s hard to accomplish. It’s worthwhile. Please don’t stop there!
Increasing motivation requires empathy for the customer across the organization and a cross-functional team. It also needs a leader who advocates for the customer, irrespective of silo or department. That leader needs enough authority to influence buy-in so it’s probably not the head of a department like marketing or sales. This so much harder to accomplish. It requires a leader who cares more about the customers than the particular internal structure of their organization. It’s the juiciest part of optimization and it’s a long-term growth strategy.
Caring about customers is what stimulates agile innovation and optimization. Optimization creates a virtuous cycle of high growth. It primarily requires caring about the quality of the experience of customers and potential customers. We wrote about Amazon’s Four Pillars of Success and how customer-centricity is the first push on the flywheel in Be Like Amazon: Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It.
What stops businesses from extracting the juiciest parts of optimization?
- Internal teams focused inwardly instead of on the customer. They need a leader to help them see the bigger picture.
- Internal teams don’t think they have to change. Nobody likes change. They need a leader who knows when it’s necessary.
- Internal teams see themselves relative to competitors but not relative to the gap in customer expectations. They need a leader with a different reference point.
- Internal teams perform against a benchmark. However, often that data doesn’t reflect the customer’s reality. They need a leader who is focused on optimizable qualitative inputs instead of quantitative outputs.
Not caring enough about customers is what stands in the way of dramatic growth. It takes courage and vision to do what it takes to help customers buy from you. If you’re not the CEO or an owner you probably can’t pull it off without their full support. If you are the CEO or owner we’d love to hear from you. Do you have the courage and vision to sustain a long term high growth strategy?
Crecimiento Empresarial – primero un resumen de los conceptos básicos.
El departamento de marketing y ventas son los responsables de la adquisición de clientes, pero no la experiencia del cliente. La responsabilidad es de persuadir a los clientes potenciales para comprar productos y / o servicios. Aquí es donde la mayoría de las empresas se centran en el crecimiento de su negocio. Es un error.
El Costo de Adquisición es crítico. Añada todos los costos de adquisición de clientes. A continuación, dividir por el número de clientes adquiridos en ese período. Por ejemplo, si ABC S.A. gastó $ 100,000 en marketing en un año y adquirió 1,000 clientes su Costo de Adquisición es $ 100.
Margen Bruto es el porcentaje de beneficio que queda después de pagar los costos. Si el margen bruto es de 40% y la venta promedio de ABC S.A. es de $500, su beneficio bruto es de $200,000. Les cuesta $100,000 para generar $200,000 en nuevas ventas.
Cada empresario responsable y ejecutivo se preocupa por Costo de Adquisición y Margen Bruto.
Peter F. Drucker fue considerado el mayor filósofo de la administración (también conocida como management) del siglo XX. Fue autor de más de 35 libros, y sus ideas fueron decisivas en la creación de la Corporación Moderna. El escribió: “El propósito del negocio es crear y mantener un cliente“.
Crear un nuevo cliente es fundamental. Es sexy.
Y mantener un cliente también es fundamental. No es sexy.
La retención de clientes, el mantenimiento y servicio a los clientes, siempre reciben menos atención. Las acciones que toman las empresas para reducir el número de defecciones de los clientes no se celebran.
El valor de la vida del cliente, es abreviado a menudo como LTV, es Life Time Value en inglés. LTV predice los beneficios de la futura relación con un cliente. La retención del cliente afecta directamente a los valores de por vida. Si la ABC S.A. gasta $100 para atraer a un nuevo cliente, obtiene un beneficio bruto de $100 en la primera transacción. Si ganan $100 cada mes durante cinco años ganan $6,000. Cuanto más larga sea la relación, mejor será el retorno de la inversión (es abreviado a menudo como ROI).
El patrimonio del cliente es el total de los valores de por vida de todos sus clientes actuales y futuros. Es la suma total de todo el valor que jamás se dará cuenta de los clientes. Los clientes crean todo el valor. El patrimonio de los clientes es el mismo que el valor de “Negocio En Marcha” de su negocio.
Valor de un Negocio = Patrimonio del Cliente + (Activos – Pasivos)
Compradores Transaccionales Versus Compradores Relacionales
Cada persona tiene un modo transaccional y un modo relacional de hacer compras. Los compradores transaccionales son aquellos cuyo mayor temor es pagar demasiado por algo. Les encanta la experiencia de compra. Van a comprar muchas empresas y sitios en busca de gangas.
No son leales a ninguna marca o negocio, buscan sólo el mejor precio.
El miedo más grande de los compradores relacionales es comprar la cosa incorrecta. Ellos ven las compras como parte del costo de la compra.
Buscan ayuda de expertos y pagan una prima por la guía de confianza. Confían en las relaciones, con marcas y personas, para ayudarles a tomar decisiones.
Cada persona tiene un modo transaccional y un modo relacional de hacer compras. Así que no se sorprenda cuando se vea en ambas descripciones. Usted es extremadamente transaccional en ciertas categorías de productos y servicios. Usted también es totalmente relacional en otros. En cualquier momento dado y en cualquier categoría dada, aproximadamente la mitad de todos los compradores estarán en modo transaccional. La otra mitad estará en modo relacional.
Los compradores en modo transaccional irán de compras por todas partes. Les encanta negociar. Las empresas a menudo concluyen, equivocadamente, que la mayoría de los compradores están en modo transaccional, porque son mucho más visibles y vocales. Pero en verdad, más compras son realizadas en silencio por los clientes en el modo relacional.
Esta equivocación es una de la las fallas que más dañan al emprendedor.
El Costo De Adquisición Del Cliente Depende De La Retención Del Cliente
Las empresas tienen un 60- 70% de probabilidad de vender a un cliente existente. La probabilidad de vender a un nuevo cliente potencial es sólo de 5-20%. – de acuerdo al libro Marketing Metrics: The Manager’s Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance,,
Tenga en cuenta los datos públicos de Amazon. Las visitas de los clientes de Amazon Prime (ellos que pagan una suscripción anual por el privilegio de ser miembros se convierten en ventas el 74% del tiempo. Gastan 300-500% más que los miembros no pri- meros. Aproximadamente el 60% de los hogares norteamericanos son miembros de Prime de Amazon.
¿Puede ver el impacto que el enfoque en la retención puede tener sobre los costos de adquisición?
Enfoque En La Experiencia Del Cliente Para El Crecimiento Sostenible
El estudio de Rockefeller Corporation encontró que el 68% de los clientes se van porque creen que las empresas no se preocupan por ellos.
Bain & Company encuestó a 362 empresas. Encontraron que el 80% cree que entregan una “experiencia superior” a los clientes. Cuando le preguntaron a los clientes, informan que sólo el 8% están realmente entregando. Bain & Co. llamo a este resultado la “brecha de entrega”. ¡Yo lo llamamos trágico!
Ahora fíjese en este dato bien conocido: que los líderes de la experiencia del cliente superan las valoraciones del mercado de acciones de los rezagados de la experiencia del cliente:
Cuando se trata de crecimiento, la experiencia del cliente claramente importa!
Ahora, yo quiero ser generosos y darles a los 80% de los ejecutivos el beneficio de la duda. Ellos realmente creen que sus empresas están centradas en el cliente Nadie discute cuando explicamos los cuatro pilares del crecimiento de Amazon.
Estos son los cuatro principios unificadores de Amazon:
UNO. Centricidad en el cliente.
DOS. Optimización Constante.
TRES. Cultura de Innovación.
CUATRO. Agilidad Corporativa.
¿Qué es lo que impide en el camino? Piense en lo siguiente como los cuatro principios disunificantes.
UNO. Un enfoque organizacional: los impide centrarse en el cliente. Los equipos internos se centran en el “rendimiento” de su propio equipo, no en la realidad del cliente
DOS. La aversión al riesgo: mantener el status quo, los impide de la optimización continua. La gente no percibe su proceso como roto y no ven el beneficio de optimización.
TRES. Un enfoque en los competidores – observan a los líderes de su industria – es lo que les impide tener una cultura de innovación. Las empresas se ven en relación con los competidores, pero no en relación con las lagunas en las expectativas de los clientes
CUATRO. La imputabilidad errónea -la necesidad de culpar a alguien- los mantiene fuera de la agilidad corporativa. Los equipos internos cumplen o exceden sus puntos de referencia internos, pero esos datos no reflejan la realidad del cliente
Las Intenciones Son Importantes, Pero Las Acciones Hablan Más Que Las Palabras
Nos juzgamos por nuestras intenciones, pero los clientes nos juzgan por nuestras acciones. Juzgarte por sus intenciones no es un peligro entre amigos. Un amigo conoce su corazón. Pero es un peligro muy real en los negocios. ¿Qué sucede cuando un posible cliente hace contacto con su empresa? ¿Conoce a su mejor empleado en el mejor día de ese empleado? Por supuesto no. Reúnen a un empleado promedio en promedio
O peor aún, se encuentran con un empleado por debajo del promedio en un día por debajo del promedio. Y entonces usted está confundido por esas críticas negativas.
Triste, ¿no? Sus intenciones, motivaciones y compromisos personales nunca llegaron a la fiesta.
En Resumen: Usted Tiene Un Negocio En Crecimiento. Pero Podría Crecer Más Rápidamente.
Usted necesita conocer mejor a sus clientes. Reconocer que los clientes tienen sus expectativas establecidas por las empresas ni siquiera en su categoría de negocio.
Como líder, hay muchas demandas en usted. Es difícil priorizar y mantener un enfoque a largo plazo cuando lo urgente interrumpe lo importante.
En lugar de centrarse sólo en el crecimiento de las ventas, los competidores, la tecnología o todos los cambios en su mercado, nos gustaría ayudarle a centrarse en las cosas que no cambiarán. Usted puede construir un crecimiento sostenible y saludable si se centra en las prioridades de sus clientes. Por favor creame. Si usted entrega una gran experiencia, mantiene un margen razonable, y permanece enfocado en sus prioridades entonces el crecimiento es inevitable.
En mis próximos artículos voy a hacerle un seguimiento de cómo uno se enfoca en el cliente y los fundamentales que los impacta.
Mientras tanto, por favor, lea Triunfar como Amazon: Hasta un puesto de limonada puede lograrlo. Hay muchos ejemplos de los cuales puede aprender. También siéntase libre de contactarnos si tiene alguna pregunta.
What Gets In The Way? Think of the following as the four disunifying principles.
- An Organizational Focus– keeps them from Customer Centricity. Internal teams are focused on their own team’s “performance”, not the customer’s reality
- Risk aversion—maintaining the Status Quo— keeps them from Continuous Optimization. People don’t perceive their process as broken
- A Competitor Focus—watching the industry leaders—keeps them from having a Culture of Innovation. Companies see themselves relative to competitors but not relative to the gaps in customer expectations
- Misplaced Accountability—the need to place blame—keeps them from Corporate Agility. Internal teams meet or exceed their internal benchmarks but that data doesn’t reflect the customer’s’ reality
You have a growing business. But it could grow more quickly.
You need to know your customers better. Recognize that customers have their expectations set by companies not even in your category.
As a leader, there are a lot of demands on you. It’s hard to prioritize and maintain a long-term focus when the urgent disrupts the important.
Instead of focusing on only on growing sales, competitors, technology or all the changes in your marketplace we’d like to help you focus on the things that won’t change. You can build healthy sustainable growth if you focus on your customers’ priorities. Please believe me. If you deliver a great experience, maintain a reasonable margin, stay focused on your priorities then growth is inevitable.
Please read Be Like Amazon: Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It. There are many examples you can learn from. Also feel free to reach out if you have any questions,
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This week’s video we look at how an innovative retailer uses the 4 pillars of Amazon success to grow their business:
I had a chance to chat with John Lawson, fellow IBM futurist and best selling author of Kick Ass Social Commerce for e-preneurs.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Alex Langshur, the CEO of Cardinal Path for the Google Partners podcast on Journey Mapping: Connecting the Customer Dots.
The sales team is having a hissy fit. They proclaim we’re 11% ahead of goal and we’re in the slow season! Why are you making life more difficult for the sales team? This change project is unrealistic! None of our competitors do better than us! It’s not broken, why fix it?
There’s a disturbance in The Force.
Ten seconds into our call I hear that Chuck, our client who owns a thriving $28 million business, is shaken up. We’ve been working together for almost three years. It’s not the first time we’ve met resistance to what the organization calls The Customer Rules Initiative.
In almost three years we’ve rolled out eleven important changes and dozens of small improvements. The Customer Rules Initiative has helped our client grow beyond their expectations.
Chuck is second guessing his twelfth change. The pushback on this change project is almost as hard as the first project where we decided to put all the information a customer needed on the website. The sales team was in open rebellion. They couldn’t imagine why anyone would call if we answered all their questions online. They were wrong then, they’re wrong now. Being wrong is human, acknowledging it and pushing beyond it is hard.
How Do You Stay On Track?
My job is to remind Chuck why the Customer Rules Initiative matters. First I listen. I listen for about half an hour. This has the desired calming effect.
I remind him of his favorite quote: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton
Chuck is listening, that’s good. The problem is real. We have to fix it.
Chuck is committed to what we teach as The Four Pillars of Amazon’s Success:
- Customer Centricity
- Continuous Optimization
- Culture of Innovation
- Corporate Agility
If you’re a growing company it’s hard to argue with any of them. Intuitively every business owner knows they need all four pillars, they are unifying principles.
Funny thing is that Chuck was the first client we drew the flywheel for. We published that flywheel in Be Like Amazon: Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It
Chuck’s the guy that pointed out that The Force that propels this flywheel is Customer Centricity. The gap between customer expectations and customer reality is what needs to inform change.
The Force = Customer Centricity = Caring about the customer’s perspective
What Caused The Disturbance In The Force?
After almost three years of continuous improvements, why don’t they just trust us? If it were only that simple.
We came up with the twelfth change the first month we engaged. We’ve been putting off taking action on it since then.
A few months ago while visiting with Chuck and his senior executives at an offsite retreat we needed to print out several documents. The hotel couldn’t accommodate us. Bryan, my business partner, ordered a printer using Amazon’s Prime Now. Less than an hour later we were printing.
Bryan decided to point at the elephant in the room. We can get a printer here in an under an hour, why exactly can’t the sales team always respond to an inquiry within two business days? What do your customers expect?
Sales Team Response Time
In our first draft of our Buyer Legend, the narrative originally read that the customer was delighted because sales team responded in four minutes. That draft was abandoned. Two business days was substituted. They didn’t know their actual response time but anecdotally we estimated it averaged 2-4 days. We didn’t win this battle but we did insist on compliance with updating Salesforce. We now know that they respond to 87% of leads within two days. Of course, there are automated emails that are intended to follow up.
Yet, customers are human. Humans want what they want now. Not later, not even in five minutes. We want it now!
A New Goal – 5 Minute Response Time
After a long discussion, we agreed to tackle the twelfth change. We agreed that customer expectations could be unrealistic but we could meet that challenge. It helped that this time we had internal data to back us up. Leads that were reached by phone the same day closed a little over 3x the leads that took more than a day to respond to. Leads are expensive! We also reminded them of The Lead Response Management Study by Professor Oldroyd, a Faculty Fellow at MIT.
The new buyer legend says: “John (the prospective customer) is delighted because the inquiry was responded to immediately. John says “if they respond that quickly to an inquiry I bet they do that for customers too.”
Let’s examine why this change makes sense based on the unifying principles of Amazon’s Four Pillars Of Success:
- Customer Centricity – immediate response is what the customer wants and expects
- Continuous Optimization – be better today than yesterday is always the way towards our new goal
- Culture of Innovation – find solutions and embrace change to improve customer experience
- Corporate Agility – work to become more nimble and react to changing customer expectations
The Sales Team Rebels
This change is what the sales team was up in arms about. They missed the part where the sales coordinator, a new position, made the call answered a few questions, asked a few questions to qualify the prospective customer and scheduled a follow up with a sales person.
What we had was a failure to communicate. Chuck assumed the sales team reread the Buyer Legend carefully. The did not. Crisis averted.
Publishing a new Buyer Legend means employees scan quickly for changes. There are always minor changes highlighted but major ones are deliberately not. That is supposed to encourage careful reading.
Disturbance In The Force A Post Mortem
There are four forces that pull against the unifying principles of Amazon’s Four Pillars of Success:
- Organizational Focus
- Maintaining Status Quo
- Competitor Focus
- Misplaced Accountability
We could call them disunifying principles.
Let’s examine how they almost derailed the twelfth change:
- Organizational Focus – the sales team metrics were focused on their own team’s “performance”, not the customer
- Maintaining Status Quo – the sales team didn’t perceive their process as broken
- Competitor Focus – the sales team saw themselves relative to competitors but not relative to the gap in customer expectations
- Misplaced Accountability – the sales team was exceeding sales goals, an internal benchmark, but that data didn’t reflect the customer’s reality
Happily Ever After?
The sales team was asked to reread the Buyer Legend and some minor edits were made and agreed upon. The twelfth change is underway and initial results are positive. We’re nowhere near the 5-minute goal but our motto is #BeBetterToday. Nearly every lead is having a conversation within the same day as their inquiry. The hero of a Buyer Legend is always the customer. Chuck is unshaken in his faith that when he takes the customer’s perspective things work out well in the long term.
Do you have faith in The Force?
This week we talk about the incredible business impact of a red screw.
Hopefully, you will find ways to apply Amazon’s Four Pillars of Success to your business and accelerate your business model’s flywheel. Check out the flywheel in Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It.
How can your business be more like Amazon?
Shep Hyken interviews Bryan Eisenberg co-author of the book, Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It.
Shep Hyken’s opening comments focus on how any company can improve their customer service, by thinking about how they can become more convenient for their customers. The reason that Amazon has become so successful is that they have developed a way to create customer convenience. Shep gives an example of how, in areas where Amazon offers two-hour delivery, a product could arrive at your home faster than the time it would take you to drive to the mall to purchase it.
Shep begins the interview by asking Bryan Eisenberg about the four secret ingredients to making a great presentation, which are:
1. Provide entertainment – tell a story.
2. Present a Big Idea.
3. Give the “How to’s.”
4. Give the audience or the reader the hope that they, too, can do it.
Bryan continues his “rule of four” by telling you exactly how you “can do it,” by discussing the four unifying principles of how to successfully run your business:
1. You must be customer-centric.
2. You must have a culture of innovation.
3. You must be agile. Execute, test and fail quickly, so you can keep learning.
4. You must continually optimize by shaving costs and adding value.
• Don’t “water the soup.” Putting a little water in the soup may give you more soup, but it takes away from the great taste. It’s not smart to do things that produce an immediate profit if what you are doing isn’t in the best interest of the customer.
• Don’t think short term. An example Bryan gives is when Starbucks payment system went down, they gave away the coffee. Most coffee shops would have shut down until they could take payment for their coffee. But, not Starbucks. They knew the cost of free coffee was better than losing customers – and it showed how committed Starbucks is to taking care of their customers.
Bryan Eisenberg is the co-founder of BuyerLegends. He is the co-author of the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, USA Today and New York Times bestselling books “Call to Action”, “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?”, “Always Be Testing” and “Buyer Legends.”. Bryan is also a professional marketing keynote speaker.
Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, best-selling author and your host of Amazing Business Radio.
Micheal E. Gerber asked 50+ experts, “What’s your best tip for growing/scaling your business?” You can read Bryan Eisenberg’s contribution below:
You can read Bryan Eisenberg’s contribution below:
Plan A Customer Journey That Is Channel Agnostic
Charlatans are endemic to all forms of marketing but they are especially attracted to digital. I’d like them to go away but there is always somebody willing to buy what they are selling.
ALL business is becoming digital!
Connected customers engage in many ways (foreseen and unforeseen) with brands in and out of stores, offices, call centers, social media, catalogs and websites.
Those customers don’t care what channel they interact with or what department gets the credit. Customers think of every interaction with a brand as THE brand experience.
Then they happily share the best and worst of those experiences. Wonder why customer experience isn’t what most CEOs focus on for differentiation?
Customer satisfaction and customer experience appear not to have budged at all.
According to Bain & Company, 80% of surveyed companies claimed to be delivering a superior customer experience, but only 8% of those companies had customers that agreed with them. What a dangerous blind spot!
That leaves an awful lot of companies actively disappointing customers while smugly congratulating themselves on their “superior customer experience.” Couldn’t be you, right?
Most companies don’t have a map. They haven’t mapped out the customer journey, either in terms of what it is now, or what it ideally ought to be. And without that map, they can’t plot the data to determine what’s actually happening — or what they ought to do about it.
Jeff Bezos said it best “If you’re customer-focused, you’re always waking up wondering, how can we make that customer say, wow?
We want to impress our customers — we want them to say, wow. That kind of divine discontent comes from observing customers and noticing that things can always be better.”
Why do so few companies bother to plan and then validate the buyer journey with accountable metrics?
Is it inertia?
“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work” – Thomas A. Edison
Or perhaps it is…
“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” – Andy Grove
There is some hard work on your business involved. There is the careful navigation of people’s territories, channels, and silos, There is the inherent career risk that comes with greater accountability.
There is also a great opportunity. Plan a great experience, deliver a great experience and then improve on it. That is a challenge all businesses face. Some will live up to that challenge and most won’t.
You can read more about planning customer journies in Be Like Amazon: Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It
I sent my friend, Tom Grimes, Amazon’s New Bricks-and-Mortar Bookstore Nails What the Web Couldn’t. In reply he wrote me:
My son Zack went to Tennessee to carve a rocking chair.
He’s into that sort of thing.
When all is said and done he is going to have hours and hours and a couple of thousand dollars invested in his chair.
You can buy a rocking chair at most Cracker Barrels for less than $200.The man teaching the class made the observation that if they actually were interested in selling their chairs … they couldn’t sell a chair.They were selling ART.And when people buy ART … they are buying the STORY that is wrapped around it.What does this have to do with AMAZON?When I went through the article I thought … Amazon is selling the stories in the books with stories about the books.They are providing a satisfying way to find a book that fits amidst the almost limitless number of books you can get.That Bezos’ guy is a clever guy.
Tom Grimes is a clever guy too. He recognized why Amazon will succeed in retail. Amazon’s is showing that curation and presentation remain the primary reasons for retail to exist. They’re just showing the world what happens when bookstores go through a digital transformation of the customer experience.
What retail categories do you think are ripe for digital transformation?
Customer-centricity is like “excellent customer service” — everyone thinks they’re doing it, few actually are.
And one reason for that is that there are right and wrong paths to pursuing customer-centricity. Her’s a quick chart of the three most prominent wrong paths vs. their right path counterparts:
The first “wrong path” towards customer-centricity is taking customers’ (or worse, unqualified prospects’) spoken wishes at face value.
In other words, relying solely on surveys of potential customers as insight into “what the customer wants” is a bad idea. You might expend company resources creating exactly the offer people say they want, only to watch all the actual, paying customers actively choose someone else when it’s time to buy.
Businesses that achieve epic success through customer centricity take great pains to “see their customer real.” We’ll get into depth on techniques for this in my next post, but it involves tracking actual data on customer actions and understanding the context of buying decisions.
The second “wrong path” is to focus on the Peripherals at the expense of the “Hard Stuff.”
Imagine a dentist who focuses on being customer-centric by improving his waiting room with more comfortable furniture, a cappuccino machine, fast & free wi-fi, and plenty of power charging stations. That’s a focus on peripherals.
A focus on the hard stuff would be finding a way to reduce wait time to (nearly) zero.
The difference between peripherals and “hard” items is that
- Peripherals change with the times, hard stuff does not, and
- Hard stuff has the power to make peripherals irrelevant
The factors that make a better waiting room change with the times; for example, better magazines have given way to wi-fi. Whereas reduced wait time is always desirable, and a significantly shorter wait time makes the quality of the waiting room irrelevant.
The third “wrong path” is to over-focus on optimizing existing processes at the expense of re-engineering and innovation.
It’s a good thing to optimize the customer interactions you have in place now. But if you’re not looking at what customers really want — at an ideal interaction, unconstrained by current technology or operations requirements, — you won’t be able to innovate and invent on the customer’s behalf.
You could find ways to optimize the cash register or check-out experience for your store. by speeding up the check-out, keeping more registers open, automatically opening new registers when wait times exceed a certain number of minutes, etc.
Or, you could take advantage of new technology to re-engineer the shopping experience to render the cash register obsolete. Amazon Go‘s new offline store’s payment is handled via tracking and recording what you put in your cart and your card is automatically charged when you walk out the door with your stuff.
So what paths are you taking towards customer-centricity?
This is a post about false accountability and the worship of quantitative idols. Companies looking to be innovative face a dilemma. Policies and procedures that make them efficient at execution also stifle innovation.
On day one a startup is flexible until it discovers its business model and establishes a goal. On day two a mature company organizes around that goal and measures the efforts to reach the goal. Then they strive to find the most efficient ways to reach that goal. They create processes to make execution repeatable and scalable by employees.
These KPIs and processes, which make companies efficient, also impede agility.
In Jeff Bezos’ 2016 Letter To Shareholders he explains why he worries about day two.
“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”
That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”
To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.
I’m interested in the question, how do you fend off Day 2? What are the techniques and tactics? How do you keep the vitality of Day 1, even inside a large organization?
Such a question can’t have a simple answer. There will be many elements, multiple paths, and many traps. I don’t know the whole answer, but I may know bits of it. Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making.
Jeff Bezos is once again describing the Four Pillars of Amazon’s Success:
- Customer Centricity.
- Continuous Optimization.
- Culture of Innovation.
- Corporate Agility.
Every business (B2C, B2B and others) can make Amazon’s Four Pillars work for them. Leaders can use Amazon’s Four Pillars to refocus on what never changes. Amazon’s Four Pillars help you look beyond data about your company’s performance. They help you see the data that reveals your customer’s reality.
Examine whether what you measure is what you most value
In chapter one of Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It, we discuss the four unifying principles of Kodak’s George Eastman.
George Eastman organized the Eastman Dry Plate Company in 1881 under four unifying principles:
- Keep the price of the product low so the customer will and more uses for it.
- Always sell by demonstration.
- Be the first to embrace new technologies.
- Listen to what the customer tells you.
In 1976, Eastman Kodak sold 90% of all the camera film and 85% of all the cameras in America. By 1988 they had more than 145,000 employees worldwide, and in 1996 they had 16 billion dollars in annual revenue and a valuation of $31 billion. In 1975 Kodak’s Steve Sasson invented the digital camera, they patented it. In 2012 Kodak went broke because they decided they were in the camera film business. That was the result of abandoning their unifying principles in favor of the false accountability of their KPI’s.
What if Kodak had pioneered digital photography? What about they listened to their customers? What if they decided that instead of how many units of film they sold their measure of success would be how many magical moments customers captured?
I certainly hope you are measuring and optimizing the right things.
Some managers view customer-centricity as bending to every customer’s’ whim. Customers are not so irrational. They want you to succeed so you can continue to help them. The transactional customers that don’t, likely shouldn’t be your customers.
Customer-centricity means that your actions are centered on customers’ well-being as it promotes your well-being.
“Well-being” is a balance of generosity and discipline. The well-being of a child requires a balance of recreation, learning, and structure. When customers’ well-being is great they make fewer demands on your company and they are eager to engage in mutual value creation.
Recently at Whole Foods they ran out of nutritional yeast in their bulk products section. I was delighted that they gave me a complimentary packaged nutritional yeast instead. It sounds expensive, but I didn’t need to visit another store. They considered my well-being, valued my time and understood that I was a relational long-term customer.
Customer well-being requires a balance between the benefits they receive from your company and the collective costs they incur: money, time, effort and stress.
If you are looking for more examples of being customer-centric, make sure to get your preview copy of our new book Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It.
Looking for an agency can be a dangerous and painful job. Sometimes you find a great partner. Sometimes there’s a large gap between what you’re looking and what the agency can provide.
Everybody should hire some form of agency. The primary reason is that we work on our business every single day. We see the world through our own eyes. That is the curse of knowledge. Having someone from the outside your business is essential. They can either give you recommendations or help you with implementation.
We opened the first CRO agency in 1998. We no longer offer CRO services to clients. We still have a lot of friends in the industry. It’s likely some of them will disagree with the way we approach it. That’s OK! The goal of this post it help you hire a CRO agency that is a great fit.
These are six important questions to ask:
Ray Seggern, of One Man Brand Radio, interviewed us about our soon to be published book.
You can sign up for previews of the chapters as they are released at BrandLikeAmazon.com
Amazon will be offering the Kindle version of our book for free. Please let your friends and colleagues know that they can get their copy of Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide.
Customers are more connected than ever. Software continues to reduce customer friction everywhere, from customer service to fulfillment. Logistics and payment systems continue to expand what’s possible for customers. Customers expect more and better.
Retail customers aren’t delighted with retailers. They feel differently about Amazon and in both cases it’s the CEO’s fault.
All the above is true. It’s why CEOs green light new and growing investments in technology and marketing. So how can I say that retail CEOs don’t care about digital?
Digital is not just a series of new shiny objects, cost cutting tools or new media ads. Digital should be the glue that connects every part of the organization with customers. Digital should allow every part of the organization to analyze data, learn from it, and act on it. The competitive advantage is putting that customer at the center of their universe.
What’s up with Legendary Links? From time-to-time, we’ll post some of the interesting articles that we found interesting and that you may have missed. Please let us know if you find them interesting or if you’d like to share other links that we may have missed.
Which Type of Voice Actor Should You Use for Your Explainer Video? [Original Research]
In this ConversionXL Institute study, we tested four different voices, which differed by gender and whether they were professional voice actors or not. Question is, did it make a different in how people perceived our video content? Yes, and the results were somewhat surprising.
“Amazon is a case study in ceaseless innovation and interminable disruption,” says Artemis Berry, vice president of digital retail for Shop.org and the National Retail Federation. To toast Amazon’s 21st birthday, STORES uncovered 21 times it changed the dynamics of selling, came up with fundamental new ways of doing business and altered how customer satisfaction is measured.
Apple will create an iPhone primarily from ZrO2 – Zirconian Ceramics. The journey Apple has taken to adopt Zirconia Ceramic as their fundamental design material translates like an epic movie plot. We will begin at the end.
Then in 2010, Optimizely launched. By thinking deeply about who needed to do this job rather than just what needed to be done, then designing a tool specifically for that market, Optimizely revolutionized A/B testing on the web. And all they had to do was take out steps.
Bain & Company analysis shows that companies that excel in the customer experience grow revenues 4%–8% above their market. That’s because a superior experience helps to earn stronger loyalty among customers, turning them into promoters who tend to buy more, stay longer and make recommendations to their friends. As a result, promoters have a lifetime value that can reach 6 to 14 times that of detractors, depending on the industry.
eConsultancy writes that Content is king, but for brands, there’s too much of it. “As content volumes increase and third-party distribution platforms become the primary means through which digital content reaches consumers, brands will have to get to grips with the fact that embracing content creation will not be a panacea.” Also, don’t miss out on eConsultancy’s excellent Periodic Table of Content Marketing
Take note of these 9 principles for your next eCommerce site redesign:
- More iterative redesign approach.
- Stronger UX research to validate assumptions and solutions
- Increasingly specific definitions of “success”.
- Clearly defined baselines, targets and time bases for goal & KPI improvement
- More analytics & research resources to identify problems & validate solutions throughout the redesign process.
- Clear definitions of key segments the site needs to serve (and clear hypotheses for serving those specific segments).
- Greater understanding of “mobility” and “omni-channel” behavior and recognition of key use cases for adaptive experiences.
- Increased pressure for measurable improvements immediately at re-launch (as opposed to generous “bake in” periods).
- A desire to reduce the “cost to serve” websites, wherein many manual, time-consuming site sections & activities will be called into question.
This comes from the Ecommerce Site Redesign Survey of over 200 eCommerce leaders by Sam Decker.
Learn What Advertising Can’t Do from the estimable Jeff Sexton
John Hagel offers us this nugget about Return on Attention (“ROA”) in his post The Demise of Advertising Business Models:
“Here’s the thing. As vendors become more adept at increasing return on attention for their customers, their need to advertise is likely to diminish. If they are more and more helpful to their customers, word of mouth will spread among customers and they will flock to the vendors who can improve their return on attention. And, it won’t be just word of mouth among customers. On the product side, curators are likely to emerge to help customers sort through the ever-expanding variety of products and services given deep expertise in certain categories of product and services. On the customer side, I have written about the emergence of trusted advisors who will invest in deeply understanding us as individual customers and become more and more helpful to us in recommending products or services we may not even have asked about.”
If you’re quietly changing the world or you are just trying to you’ll find this post, When You Change the World and No One Notices, encouraging.
“Three points arise from this.
- It takes a brilliance to change the world. It takes something else entirely to wait patiently for people to notice. “Zen-like patience” isn’t a typical trait associated with entrepreneurs. But it’s often required, especially for the most transformative products.
- When innovation is measured generationally, results shouldn’t be measured quarterly. History is the true story of how long, messy, and chaotic change can be. The stock market is the hilarious story of millions of people expecting current companies to perform quickly, orderly, and cleanly. The gap between reality and expectations explains untold frustration.
- Invention is only the first step of innovation.”
Sam Walton said “You can make a lot of mistakes and still recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if you’re too inefficient.” Price, selection, and convenience were good enough to destroy their competitors. Wal-Mart focused on logistics and SKUs, not individual customers.
Sam Walton changed the retail landscape of his time. He expressed a clear narrative about operational excellence and efficiency. Wal-Mart would always offer customers a larger in-stock selection at the best prices. It was the right solution to the challenges he faced. It isn’t now.
Wal-Mart jumps on the e-commerce Jet
According to recent data from eMarketer, Walmart is the second largest U.S. online retailer. While that is about $13 billion in sales last year, it is well below Amazon’s $82.8 billion. Walmart’s digital growth lags behind the economy-wide rate of 15.1% in the first quarter. E-commerce accounts for about 3% of Walmart sales. Compare that to approximately 8% of all retail sales.
Wal-Mart‘s uber-expensive acquihire of Jet.com should improve their e-commerce team. Especially since Marc Lore (Jet.com’s founder) will now be president and chief executive of e-commerce at Walmart.
Wal-Mart misdiagnoses the challenge
Brick and mortar stores everywhere are closing. Many blame it on Amazon and other e-commerce players. The sad truth is that the small percentage of digital sales aren’t the problem. What ails retailers is the lackluster efforts to enhance the customer experience . The connected buyer journey is evolving. Customers expect to buy things where they want it. They expect to buy things how they want it and when they want it. They expect to engage with the brand irrespective of the channel and/ or device. And most of all they expect to have a great experience all along the way. And you can’t do that without stitching it all together with digital.
Wal-Mart, retailers in general, need a cultural change.
Digital is not just a series of new shiny objects, cost cutting tools or new media ads. Digital should be the glue that connects every part of the organization with customers. Digital should allow every part of the organization to analyze data, learn from it, and act on it. They must put the customer, NOT the SKU, at the center of their universe.
Wal-Mart needs to focus the whole organization on the entire customer experience. They need to improve the interactions customers have at every touchpoint. Then they need to convey that change in narrative to everyone from the boardroom to the stockroom.
Improving e-commerce is relatively easy. Cultural change is hard. Marc Lore may do wonders for Wal-Mart’s ecommerce channel. What he won’t do is transform Wal-Mart’s retail culture. Wal-Mart still doesn’t think it has anything but an e-commerce problem.
“When a magician waves his hand and says, “This is where the magic is happening.” The real trick is happening somewhere else. Misdirection.” – Thaddeus Bradley in Now You See Me
What was everyone’s focus on Amazon’s Prime Day? This is from their press release:
The second annual Prime Day was the biggest day ever for Amazon. Amazon today announced customer orders surpassed Prime Day 2015 by more than 60% worldwide and more than 50% in the U.S. It was also the biggest day ever for Amazon devices globally and record Prime Day for each Amazon device category including Fire TV, Fire tablets, Kindle e-readers and Alexa-enabled devices. Prime Day was a great savings day too – members globally saved more than double on deals over Prime Day 2015.
Prime Day was a success. It also revealed where the future of commerce (not just eCommerce) is headed.
Voice is the big reveal
Amazon, as always, is focused on improving customer experience. Prime Day is valuable to Amazon but focusing there is simply misdirection. Pay careful attention to Amazon’s magic, they’re focusing on voice as the primary UI (user interface) and IoT (Internet of Things).
How Amazon creates sales momentum
Voice and IoT improve the customer experience. This is from Amazon’s press release – Prime Day 2016 highlights from the U.S.:
- Amazon devices were up over 3x compared to Prime Day last year.
- Biggest day ever for Amazon Echo – up over 2.5x compared to previous record day.
- The most popular Amazon Dash Button brands purchased on Prime Day were Cascade, Charmin, and Tide.
Amazon’s flywheel, they call it a virtuous cycle, always puts the customer front and center. This is the way they draw it:
Conversion rate (an output) is a result of the many inputs that make up the customer experience. Amazon understands that the experience they provide has the chance to annoy, satisfy or delight their customers. They continuously optimize their inputs. Their superior experience is rewarded with higher conversion rates. It’s this laser focus on the input of customer experience that is responsible for Amazon’s 74% conversion rate from Prime Members.
More than half of all Amazon customers in the US are now also Amazon Prime subscribers.
Where have eCommerce executives been focused?
There is a slight shift of focus in 2016. “The big rise of explicit mentions of the word “customer” was very noticeable in the results of this year’s survey,” said Mark Raskino, Vice President and Gartner Fellow. “CEOs seem to be concerned about improving customer service, relationship, and satisfaction levels.”
Amazon has changed the game. While those CEO’s get around to improving customer service, relationship,and satisfaction levels Amazon is eating their lunch.
Amazon is consistently trying to stay ahead of their customers’ behavior instead of their competitors.
Focus On Your Customers!
Please remember that for you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs.
In order to future proof your optimization efforts, remember the focus should be on the people not the technology. That is the one constant that never changes. Our job is to help people buy no matter where they are, what device they use, if they browse by mouse, touch or voice.
We use a 3-step process as part of our Buyer Legends process.
- Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization
- Scoring Priorities
Of course, you cannot start the 3-step process without first creating actionable personas based on qualitative and quantitative data. Buyer Legends employ storytelling to optimize customer experiences.
Why do we focus on customer experience? We wrote in 2001 that conversion rates are a measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take the action you want them to take. They’re a reflection of your effectiveness at satisfying customers. For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs.
The reality is that most companies lose more sales every day than they make. If you are converting less than 15% you need to evaluate what is broken in your customer experience.
Get to the bottom of what is going wrong, and plan to get it right. That is why, hands down, the pre-mortem step is the most impactful step of our Buyer Legends process. In fact, rarely does this exercise fail to produce at least one a-ha moment for our clients. When you imagine the sale is already dead it frees up all the mental energy that you used to try and get the sale and points it at all the potential pitfalls and problems in your experience.
Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization
After you perform your pre-mortem you will likely end up with a long list of potential proof of Murphy’s law, but not everything on your list is equal. Some thing are worth your effort some are not. In my work with clients we often use Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization to separate the more pressing issues from the tinier ones.
First sort the list of problems into the follow categories:
- Functional. Does this product/service do what the prospect needs? How easy is it for a prospect to determine this?
- Accessible. Can she access it? What are the barriers to her ability to realize the need? Is it affordable, reasonable, and findable?
- Usable. Is it user-friendly? Are there obstacles?
- Intuitive. Does the sales process/Web site feel intuitive and natural based on her buying preferences? Is she forced to endure unnatural buying modalities to realize her need?
- Persuasive. Does she want it? Does she truly understand if it fills her need or solves her problem? Is her expectation reasonable? Will she be delighted?
Once they are sorted simply work your way up the pyramid. Again, remember not every problem is in search of a solution, and you should focus on the problems that are likely to impact the most customers and problems that you can actually fix. Be practical, don’t get caught up in the problems you can’t fix.
Let’s consider another simple system to enable your organization to prioritize more effectively when planning tests. The system is based on prioritizing all your planned efforts by three factors with a score from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best and 1 being the worse:
- Time – How long will it take to execute a project (a change, a test, or full scale roll-out) until its completion? This includes staff hours/days to execute and the number of calendar days until the project’s impact would be recognized. A score of 5 would be given to a project that takes the minimal amount of time to execute and to realize the impact.
- Impact – The amount of revenue potential (or reduced costs) from the execution of your project. Will the project impact all of your customers or only certain segments? Will it increase conversion rates by 1 percent or by 20 percent? A score of 5 is for projects that have the greatest lift or cost reduction potential.
- Resources – The associated costs (people, tools, space, etc.) needed to execute a project. Keep in mind: No matter how good a project is, it will not succeed if you do not have resources to execute an initiative. A score of 5 is given when resources needed are few and are available for the project.
Next, take each factor and multiply them (don’t add them because these factors are orthogonal) for each project. The best possible score is 125 (5x5x5). Tackle and complete the highest-ranking projects first. Meet weekly with a cross-functional group to evaluate the status of each project. Be prepared to re-prioritize regularly; once a month or at least once a quarter.
The top 25% of online retailers convert at 5.31% and the top 10% of online retailers convert at 11.45%.
Amazon Prime members convert 74% of the time on Amazon.com. That is according to a 2015 study from Millward Brown Digital. Compare that to 13% for non-prime members.
Amazon’s user interface isn’t 22x better than average. Amazon’s copy isn’t 22x better than average. Amazon’s design isn’t 22x better than average. Amazon’s prices aren’t 22x better than average. Amazon isn’t average and it doesn’t think about average conversion rates or average customers. Amazon’s stated goal is to be “the most customer-centric company on earth.”
This fits with how we define conversion rate. “Conversion rates are a measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take the action you want them to take. They’re a reflection of your effectiveness at satisfying customers. For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs.” We first wrote that in 2001 and it continues to be true.
The story you need to get right is not the story you tell you customers; that’s just promotion. Fix the story from the point of view of your customers. Because your brand isn’t what you say it is but what your customers say it is.
Amazon’s brand is demonstrably strong with their Prime Members.
You too can convert more. Try creating Buyer Legends for your brand in order to create a better customer experience. If you need help, please let us know.
In our experience hacks often fall short. They rarely deliver meaningful results or deliver insight that leads to the next high impact change. A clever or creative hack that doesn’t improve the customer experience is just a band-aid. Hacks are tactical, not strategic. SunTzu wrote: “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”
Tactics are not relevant to your customers’ needs they are just more noise. If a ‘hack’ fails to increase your conversion rate, it’s not because the hack was bad. It’s likely more strategic; you don’t understand your customers needs well enough.
Hacks can be useful if they fit into a strategy. In order for them to be useful, they need to add value to your customers’ buying experience.
Where do good hacks come from?
Would you like to find a treasure map with high impact conversion optimization ideas for your business? You don’t have to wait for some guru to figure it out for you. You can generate your own hacks based on customers’ needs, problems and buying styles.
In our book Buyer Legends – An Executive Storyteller’s Guide Jeffrey Eisenberg wrote:
“We have worked with companies of all shapes and sizes that possessed varying degrees of talent and competence. We have tried it all, training and encouraging our clients to go deep into the marketing disciplines as well as guiding them through adopting a very robust optimization process.
But what we didn’t know early on was how a single piece of that optimization process, what we at the time called scenario narratives, would reveal itself over and over as the ‘one thing’ that has the largest impact on a company’s ability to sell more.”
The ‘one thing’ is a simple process we have developed over almost a decade of our work. The Buyer Legend process provides you a treasure map that any competent marketer can create. They can then use that treasure map to improve their customer experience. That leads to conversion rate increases of multiples instead of increments.
The most powerful hack revealed
It’s not sexy. It’s not hip and edgy. Yet it works every time. Average marketers will often outperform others who are more experienced and talented.
Hack into your customer’s head. Uncover their needs and wants. Exceed their expectations. And then give them what they really want.
- Help you understand what your customers needs to provide persuasive momentum.
- Help you understand what delights your customers.
- Help you to create real-world improvements in your customer experience.
It will take you about 2 hours. Then you’ll have a real treasure map of conversion rate optimization ‘hacks’ for your business.
Make a commitment
You’ll need to commit to providing a better customer experience. Focusing on conversion rate increases is not enough. It’s that commitment that requires true effort. There is no easy way to make a major impact, you always have to do the work. Trust me, it’s more difficult to be on the CRO hamster wheel. The status quo will continue to yield only incremental results.
We have already written and shared every step of this process on our blog. Of course, our book provides better context, it’s $2.99 on Amazon, but you don’t have to buy it to learn something about Buyer Legends.
Changing the narrative, the future of CRO
We want to start a new conversation about the future of CRO. To survive it must evolve. We want to help marketers help their customers buy. We want to help marketers avoid irrelevant hacks. We want you to use this process and then tell the world about the results. It’s the only way to change narrative.
Every marketer struggles with managing resources. Most feel they are under-resourced to make the kind of impact they would like. You don’t have to stretch your resources to test out and prove this process works.
We have also eliminated the “I don’t have the time excuse.” Creating your first Buyer Legend will take you about two hours.
The Buyer Legend process in action
The first step of the process is to create a profile or persona of one segment of your customers. Next you will use the persona to brainstorm a premortem list. The premortem focuses on all the things that go wrong in their customers’ experience. The premortem list alone should provide several new ideas for relevant hacks. You can read more about all five steps of the process here.
For example, we recently wrote about a smart frugal persona (Marcy). This persona was buying a microwave online. In her premortem, we uncovered how Marcy researches prices. If Marcy feels like she can get it cheaper elsewhere then she won’t stop looking. She needs to know that she is paying the lowest price. Bob’s Appliance Outlet (not the real customer) is a high volume low margin business. They sell on price. Now observe in this part of her Buyer Legend how we addressed this specific need:
“…Marcy stumbles upon a website for Bob’s Appliance Outlet. A large banner on the homepage announces that most items qualify for free shipping. Even more impressive is a smaller banner in the top right corner of the page that says: “Want the lowest possible price? “Name your price” make an offer on any item in our store, and we will do our best to match it”. Marcy clicks on it. She reads the next page. She finds that the price offer feature is simple and straightforward. There is no fine print. She still wants to learn a bit more about the company and goes to the About Us page . After she reads this page she feels confident. This is a credible company with a credible offer. She then does a site search for the microwave she is looking for and finds it. She reads through the product description and reviews for due diligence. She is delighted. Her microwave qualifies for free shipping. Elated at the possibility of saving more than she expected, she enters an offer. It is $100 dollars under the lowest price she found elsewhere and hits the Buy button. A page comes back and tells her that her offer was too low but encourages her to try again. She didn’t think they would accept another offer, but felt it was worth a try. She enters a price that is $50 under the lowest price she found before. This time the offer is accepted. Marcy is presented with a page that congratulates her. It lets her know that her item will ship today. It asks her how she would like to be notified about shipping. It also asks if a text message is appropriate.”
This ‘name you own price’ checkout hack will be great for their Marcy-like customers. This is a great way to keep price scavengers from leaving their site without buying. Even with a phone number available, few prospective customers want to call Bob’s to haggle. Allowing Marcy to set her price is powerful. Of course, it’s all within the price parameters Bob’s sets in place.
You can give customer what they want
Going through the process and writing the Buyer Legend is rather simple and easy. Implementing this customer experience was a challenge. It was championed by someone in the C-suite. Fortunately, it was already described in great detail and that helped. It still took some testing to get it right for both the customer and the business.
This is just one of the powerful hacks that came recently from following the Buyer Legends process.
So please, take this ‘hack’ and test it for yourself then please share your results with us good or not so good. We are always happy to entertain your questions and comments.
As always, we encourage you to try Buyer Legends for yourself. If you need help coming up with your own treasure map of hacks, please let us know, we can help.
P.S.The game changers compass image was created by Dave Gray
Buyer Legends are measurable and accountable by design. That is one of the important elements that distinguish Buyer Legends from any other business-storytelling and customer experience methodologies. A Buyer Legend is not a feel good story; it’s about business, and if your story doesn’t improve on your business goals, then what is the point?
Your Buyer Legend should describe in significant detail what actions you expect your customer to take, many of which are measurable. Pages viewed, transactions, subscriptions, store visits, phone calls, conversions to lead, and even social media engagement are all measurable.
Not All Customer Actions Are Created Equal
But they can all be useful to your optimization. In 2011, Bryan Eisenberg wrote:
If you are in retail, you want them to purchase a product.
If you are in lead generation, you want them to become a lead.
Are there no other actions that are valuable and contribute to the bottom line?
In retail, even if they don’t convert now, would it at least be more valuable to know if they added an item to their wish list, or subscribed to your newsletter, or looked up your retail store hours, or added items to their cart versus just bouncing off the site right away? What are you doing to turn that one-time customer into a repeat customer? Do they only need one product you sell or might they need different ones over the course of time?
In lead generation, if they don’t give you all their information and request to be contacted by sales, is it valuable to have them sign up for a whitepaper, or a demo, or your newsletter? Is it better to download specification sheets, engage in calculators, or print/forward pages rather than just bouncing off the website? These are all steps that move people through their buying process.
These are just some of your macro actions. What happens when someone comes from one of your ads and gets to a landing page? Sometimes the action is one of those listed above, but what if that page is only meant to help your visitors to choose the right product or service and they still need to actually click on the right one for them? What do you do to help them take that action and not bounce away? These are the micro actions that need to happen from step to step in the potential customer’s journey.
All of these are actions we need to optimize. You can calculate a conversion rate for each one of these macro and micro actions, and you should.
I wrote in a recent Buyer Legend Recipe Series post about persuasive momentum that whether or not you are aware, your business has created a de facto persuasive system. Buyer Legends is a process for creating a persuasive system that is intentional, measurable, and optimizable. That is why it is important for you to track both the micro and macro actions so that you are not just optimizing the final conversion, but all the steps in between where you can spot breakdowns in the system and fix them. Buyer Legends, done right, allow you to measure and optimize persuasive momentum.
While it is much easier to track and analyze online behavior, technology is making it possible to track and analyze in-store traffic as well as in-store behavior.
Mobile is growing so fast that many companies are seeing more traffic from tablets and smartphones than from desktops and laptops, and this trend is only growing. Google recently announced in that mobile near-me searches are up 3400% in the last three years.
A Legend for Your Customer’s Buying Journey
Your Buyer Legend is a map of your customer’s journey, and to read the map properly you need to have a legend. Here is the legend for your Buyer Legend from our book, Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide:
Your hero is on a journey. You tell his or her story. Every successful customer journey needs a map and every map needs a legend. The journey’s legend is the key to navigating the map. See below the components of a legend.
Hero – This is the protagonist of your legend. All legends are told from the point of view of the hero.
Catalyst – This is the point at which the customer first identifies your company, product and/or service as a potential solution. It can be word-of-mouth, on- or off-line advertising, or PR. A catalyst can be a measurable step in the customer’s path, but often cannot be attributed to just one thing.
First Measurable Step – Here is where your customer enters the measurable portion of the journey. It can be finding a landing page, home page, chat session, phone call, or brick and mortar visit.
Road signs – Some points in the customer’s path that are critical to their completion of the journey. Road signs include information that, if not available, will most likely prevent the customer from completing the journey and/or keep the marketer from persuading the customer to make a decision necessary to continue the journey.
Detours – These are pathways that marketers must construct as solutions to forks in the road. Customers don’t always go straight down a smooth sales path. They often go off the path in search of answers to concerns, alternative solutions, or just plain curiosity. When this happens, the potential exists for that customer to never arrive at the desired destination. They took that “left turn at Albuquerque” and never got where they wanted to be. Detours meet the customer along those wrong turns/paths and guide them back onto the proper path so they can continue the journey to their destination.
Measurable step – Any step along the way that can be measured. Typically, this involves analytics, but it is any step a customer can take that leaves behind evidence of that step. Measurable steps give insight as to where customers are in their journey and how they can be optimized.
Fork in the road – These are decision points in the persona’s path where a specific need or curiosity can take them off the ideal path in search of answers to a specific need, curiosity, question, or concern. Because the marketer should never force a customer down a path, awareness of where a customer could go “off-track” becomes crucial, so that the marketer can plan for these forks in the road and construct detours that will take them from an undesirable direction back onto the desired path.
Destination – This is the final measurable step where the customer converts into a lead/sale, completes an order, a form, or a task.
In the three examples that you’ll find at the end of this post, you’ll notice the legends are in parentheses.
Understanding the Value of Quantitative vs. Qualitative
We recently worked with a large data-driven technology company that had no shortage of quantitative data. In fact, they sent us gigabytes of it. We noticed that for every ten quantitative reports there was only one qualitative report. It was obvious to our team that their bias for hard data left them with a huge blind-spot. Quantitative data tell you WHAT your customers are doing, and qualitative data can provide insight into WHY your customers are doing what they do. They pointed out a problematic metric to us and asked us our opinion. A significant portion of new customers were using their software service once maybe twice and then falling out. We began a simple qualitative research exercise, we visited their sales call center and listened in on a several dozen calls. Soon the quantitative data began to make sense. We found that this company had such a strong brand that most people simply trusted the brand, so they signed up only to find that after using the software it wasn’t exactly the experience they expected. We couldn’t fix the software, so we solved the problem by helping them provide customers with the correct expectations in advance.
As human beings, our actions can be measured. This creates quantitative data. But the thoughts, emotions, and decision-making styles we use are subjective. They do have some degree of predictability, and this is qualitative. A business needs both types of research to see the whole picture. So, do not discount the value of focus groups, surveys, customer interviews, and even customer comments and reviews as you begin to craft your Buyer Legend.
Amazon is a great example of a company that uses both qualitative and quantitative. Never accused of being a warm and fuzzy guy, Jeff Bezos set Amazon on a course to be “the most customer-centric company on earth”. That involves not just knowing what customers are doing, but trying to understand why. Bryan Eisenberg wrote about Amazon’s Performance Secrets:
When Bezos decided to launch Amazon.com in 1994, he realized that the unique advantage of the Internet was the ability to programmatically learn more and more about your customer and personalize their experience. He realized that they could leverage every bit of data correlated with their customers’ personal unique identifiers (their email addresses) from each and every interaction. Amazon could learn from every sale, but also from every click, review, and mouse movement.
I suggest you read the entire article.
Thank you for reading this last post recipe series. Our goal was to supply you with more in-depth information that you can lean on as you proceed with implementing Buyer Legends. If you have questions that arise as you work on your Buyer Legends, please send them our way and we’ll try to answer them.
P.S. This is the sixth and last in a series of six Buyer Legends Recipe posts, please sign up to our newsletter for updates.
Three Examples of How To Measure Buyer Legends
Example #1 – an e-commerce Buyer Legend:
Marcy (hero) is frustrated that her microwave has broken (catalyst), so she moved it up on her to-do list to research and order a replacement today. She visits a handful of consumer sites, reads reviews, chooses the features she wants, lists a few possible models, and then measures the space in her kitchen to ensure that she doesn’t order a microwave that is too big or small. With measurements in hand, she is able to knock a handful of models off her list, leaving her with three choices. She goes to BestBuy.com, Sears.com, and Amazon.com to see more pictures, read more reviews, and compare prices. She notices that Best Buy has a price match guarantee but she will have to jump through too many hoops. Marcy is resourceful and frugal, and believes she can find the absolute lowest price for the microwave she wants. She does several Google searches, and visits a few sites but she is not impressed. The sites look unprofessional and the prices are all about the same.
Then, Marcy stumbles upon a website for Bob’s Appliance Outlet (measurable step). A large banner on the homepage announces to Marcy that most items qualify for free shipping (road sign), but even more impressive is a smaller banner in the top right corner of the page that says, “Want the lowest possible price? Make a price offer on any item in our store, and we will do our best to match it” (road sign). Marcy clicks on it (fork in the road), reads the next page and finds that the price offer feature is simple and straightforward with no fine print. She still wants to learn about a bit more about the company and goes to the About Us page (detour). After she reads this page she feels confident that this is a credible company with a credible offer. She then does a site search for the microwave she is looking for and finds it (measurable step). She reads through the product description and reviews for due diligence. She is pleased that her microwave qualifies for free shipping. Elated at the possibility of saving more than she expected, she enters an offer $100 dollars under the lowest price she found elsewhere and hits the Buy button (measurable step). A page comes back and tells her that her offer was too low but encourages her to try again. She didn’t really think they would accept another offer, but felt it was worth a try. She enters a price that is $50 under her previously lowest price, and this time the offer is accepted (destination). Marcy is presented with a page that congratulates her and tells her that her item will likely ship today and asks her how she would like to be notified about shipping. She chooses text message over email or automated phone call. Marcy goes to the kitchen satisfied, and pours herself a cup of tea, She crosses Find New Microwave off her to-do list, and begins the next item on the list.
Example #2 B2B lead generation Buyer Legend:
Mark (hero) is a savvy entrepreneur who is looking to expand by opening up a 4th location in the greater Phoenix area (catalyst). Mark used some pricey consultants in the past with mixed results. Someone told him about Idealspot.com so he went to the homepage (first measurable step), and when he saw the word algorithm, he immediately lost confidence. Mark simply believed that an automated computer process could not possibly find him a great location, so he leaves and forgets about Idealspot.com (detour).
A week later Mark is on LinkedIn and sees a ‘re-targeted’ ad with the headline, “How Science and Big Data Are Changing the Way Businesses Choose New Locations”. Not recognizing this as a post from the Idealspot.com blog, he is intrigued and clicks through (measurable step). He reads about how big data is able to spot success patterns. It explains that most location analyses hit the wall when people become involved in spending time and money collecting piles of data, but then have no way to relate it to the success or failure of their business. This is where big data and learning algorithms inject science into the process by mining through the data to pick out those patterns of success or failure and the key factors driving those patterns. The algorithms act without human bias; they start from scratch and come up with a model that is unique for each business based purely on results. Mark is starting to understand the value of Idealspot.com; he had assumed that human involvement was superior, but now he began to doubt that premise. Mark clicks through to the Idealspot.com How Does it Work page (measurable step).
Mark reads about the algorithm and how the data is loaded for each location, and how the success-prediction clientele are chosen, based on competitors and his type of business. He sees this is similar, even superior, to the methods used by much more expensive location-research alternatives. Mark starts to feel excited.
Mark wants to get a sense of the Idealspot.com track record, so he clicks on the Success Stories page (fork in the road) and reads a handful of stories by clients who are experiencing early success. He sees that Idealspot.com is a startup and their term track record is not as long or established as it could be, but the low introductory price of $297 removes this barrier from his mind.
Mark wants to try Idealspot.com. Still believing the pricing is too good to be true, Mark reads a section on the Pricing page (detour) that explains how big data and learning algorithms dramatically reduce the cost of research allowing IdealSpot to offer high-value analyses and rock bottom prices (road sign).
He clicks the Get Started button (measurable step). It explains the cost of each report, and that he is setting up an account that will allow him to enter potential locations and request as many or as few reports as needed. He does not need a credit card right now.
Marks appreciates that his privacy will be protected.
Mark fills out a form requesting his name, email and password, and then clicks Join and creates an Idealspot.com account (destination). He is excited to start scouting locations and using Idealspot.com for feedback.
Example #3 B2C multi-channel Buyer Legend:
When Debbie (hero) turned 12, her Aunt Rebecca bought her a charm bracelet with a collection of charms. Debbie loved it, and 29 years later she still wears it. And now her 11 year old daughter Ashley is coming up on a birthday. Ashley loves her mom’s charm bracelet, and is always looking through the charms and asking questions. She even asked to borrow it for a night out with a friend. Debbie of course wants to surprise her daughter on her birthday with an impressive bracelet and nice collection of charms to get started (catalyst).
While out and about running errands she takes a moment to search Google on her Android phone for “Charm Bracelets nearby”. Of course, she sees Pandora at the mall but thinks they are overpriced. She also finds a Charm Boutique and decides to drop by to see what they have. As she walks in (first measurable step) she is is greeting warmly and encouraged to take her time look around and then just ask if she needs help.
Debbie is impressed with the store; their oversized charms hang in the windows and from the ceiling. It is a fun atmosphere, where she can imagine returning with her daughter and buying new charms in the future. As Debbie scans the merchandise under the glass she sees several bracelets, none of which she think would match her daughter’s taste. She asks if they have any more styles and the saleswoman takes her to a computer and shows her several more designs that are available online or by special order (road sign). She zeroes in on a style and asks about it. The sales woman tells her that it is on back order and it may take several weeks to Special Order, but that it may be available online. Debbie asks her to please write the model and style number down for her and then turns her eyes to the charms. They have an impressive collection but she can’t find a couple of essential charms she would need. Ashley and she share a love of folk music and spend a few evenings a month playing guitar and singing, so a guitar charm is a must. Ashley also loves and collects zebras but the store has none of those, either. While there, she picks up a handful of charms that Ashley would love (measurable step) and heads home (detour).
That night after Ashley falls asleep Debbie goes online to visit the Charm Boutique website (measurable step) and quickly gets lost in the selection. She finds the bracelet she liked at the store as well as a guitar charm, a zebra charm, and about a dozen others that she adds to her cart, satisfied she has found the perfect Birthday gift for Ashley. She hits the checkout button and sees the total. It’s a little more than she wanted to spend. So Debbie visits the Pandora website to compare charms and pricing (detour). She finds that many of the charms she wants are there, but not all, and the bracelet choices are not that great. Even more so when she places them in her cart and hits checkout. The price is much more than that of Charm Boutique. So, she goes back to the Charm Boutique site, and finds something she missed before. She sees that her order qualifies for free priority mail shipping and she could have it in a week, giving her plenty of breathing room before Ashley’s birthday. She finishes checking out and is tickled that this worked out so well. She can’t wait to see the look on her daughter’s face when she opens this present.
P.S. This is the sixth and last in a series of six Buyer Legends Recipe posts, please sign up to our newsletter for updates.
As always, we encourage you to try Buyer Legends for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know.
In this fifth, penultimate, post in the Buyer Legends Recipes Series will help you bring it all together. If you’ve created personas, you’ve done a pre-mortem, as well as a reverse chronology, planned the persuasive momentum, now it’s finally time to write the Buyer Legend itself. Your Buyer Legend will be the action plan for your company to execute on delivering and improved customer experience.
For some of you the idea of writing a story, in itself, sounds messy and even scary. While you probably could execute reasonably well based on the reverse chronology alone, it will not deliver the more subjective emotional experience of the customer. A story is a more powerful way to arouse understanding, empathy, and creativity in your team that is required to execute your planned customer experience. The power of story is part of our DNA. In our book Buyer Legends we explain:
Humans have only one tool capable of communicating the subjective experience of relationship through time, and that’s narrative. Ask someone about a favorite possession, and you’ll hear a story. Ask them about a friend or spouse and you’ll hear a story. There simply is no other way to talk about relationship. And that goes for the relationship between customer and company (or brand) as well.
Before we started using Buyer Legends we rarely saw a standard action plan transform the mindset of entire team. Nothing but stories make them more customer-centric in their thinking. Now with Buyer Legends, we regularly witness that transformation. Still, please realize that while the Buyer Legends process is simple and effective, but not necessarily easy. It’s much like exercising or getting healthy, if you put in the work it will yield results.
Creating remarkable and persuasive customer experiences with your Buyer Legend
Your Buyer Legend, by design, will create the persuasive momentum necessary to help your customers buy rather than selling them. This is where the Buyer Legends process begins to pay off. It will illustrate for the team the specifics of what they need to do. In addition they will understand why they are doing it and how their work fits into the overall customer experience, which allows for better team coordination, and fewer execution cycles. But more importantly it will help you create a customer experiences that make your customers happier.
If you want to create a remarkable customer experience with your Buyer Legend instead of just an improved customer experience, you’ll want to add remarkable (worthiness to be remarked upon) to your story. A remarkable customer experience is what creates word-of-mouth. Meeting or slightly exceeding expectations will simply NOT be remarkable. If you haven’t uncovered a remarkable idea or two in the pre-mortem or the reverse chronology, now is a good time to brainstorm them by using your personas and asking them the following question: “What will impress the heck out of the persona in our Buyer Legend?”
Here are the four elements of remarkability that create word of mouth and help you be remarkable:
I. Architectural – Apple’s products, packaging, and retail environment are architecturally remarkable, it is the core of their brand and allows them to charge a premium and reap a larger profit margins than their competitors. The erupting volcano at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and actually most casinos on the strip are architecturally remarkable.
II. Kinetic – Google search results are kinetically remarkable because they are ultra-fast and highly relevant. They typically allow you to find exactly what you are looking on the first few results on the page. This has kept them at the top of the search engine game for years. The flashy cooks at Benihana or any teppan grill are also examples of kinetics. So are the fishmongers at Pike Place in Seattle who toss each other fish and create a fun atmosphere. The flashy lights, music, and satisfying sounds of a slot machine are by design kinetic, and excite people to take another spin. Uber and Lyft are examples of kinetics as well, by making it fast and simple to get a ride.
III. Generous – Being generous with your customer is always more efficient than advertising. It’s about delighting your customers by giving them something of real value for free or cheap. Jeff Bezos introduced Prime Membership which offers free two-day shipping for a relatively small yearly membership free, and every few months it seems that Amazon offers Prime members another real perk. Just last week they added a Spotify-like music streaming service not to mention a generous collection of free movies to stream, a selection of free kindle book rentals, and more. Bezos also opted for paying for Amazon Prime cost with a large proposed advertising budget. That has worked out well for Amazon.
IV. Identity – Many strong brands create followers that identify with the values of the brand and in turn become cult-like in their obsession. To every Harley-Davidson owner every other brand of motorcycle is a poser. Every Apple fan will tell you until you can’t stand it anymore why you should buy an Apple computer rather than a PC. Ikea is like crack for those that like to do things themselves and save a little. If your brand strongly exudes a value your identity will be remarkable. Of the four things that create word of mouth this is the most powerful but also the most difficult to execute, primarily because your entire company must have a passion for the values you emulate in your product or service.
Writing Your Buyer Legend
Following the entire process including your Buyer Legend will take you 1 1/2 to 2 hours total, depending on your writing speed. You will get quicker the more you use the process, we suggest you start with a small campaign first to get your feet wet. Obviously if you choose to write Buyer Legends for your entire range of customer experiences and deepen your research it will take substantially longer.
Budget approximately 90 minutes for a simple campaign:
- Select your perspective ~ 15 minutes
- Pre-Mortem list ~ 10 minutes
- Reverse chronology outline ~ 15 minutes
- Legend draft ~ 50 minutes
Here is the process for writing your Buyer Legend from our book.
- Unlike the outline, you want your story to unfold from the beginning to the end. Don’t be overly concerned with your writing style but rather focus on clearly and simply communicating what is happening to your customer as they journey through their experience with your brand. Be as detailed as possible.
- Here are some additional questions to consider as you write your first draft; what needed to happen to get the customer to complete your goal? What opportunities could you have missed? What loopholes haven’t been closed that would hold them back from buying? What opportunities (upsell/upgrade) can we take advantage of? What could you have done to make it easier for the customer along their journey?
Write your legend from the perspective of third-person omniscient, this will give you a point of view that allows you to describe the journey in your customer’s head and of your campaign in detail.
Ideally, you will include all the following ten elements in your legend:
- A person. Who is your customer? This can be a persona or an ad-hoc persona that includes relevant customer data and insight into how the customer prefers to make decisions.
- The person’s purpose. What are the customer’s larger goals? How does she define herself? What is she trying to accomplish on a larger level, career wise, personally, socially, etc.? In other words, what is the context of her purpose and her motivation? These things will inform her smaller objectives.
- The objective of the interaction. What is she trying to achieve by interacting with your company? What is your conversion goal for this customer at this stage of her buying process?
- The sequence of steps in the person’s plan. Tell the story of what the customer is doing at every step of their progress through the sales/conversion process.
- The person’s rationale behind identifying the problem and executing a solution. Describe how the customer is thinking before, during, and after each step of the sales/ conversion process.
- The key decisions the person will make. Describe the crucial decisions the customer must make to complete the conversion, and describe what she needs (features, benefits, testimonials, reviews) to make that decision.
- The emotional struggles the person might face. However a person rationalizes a decision, every person makes the decision based on an emotional dynamic. What is the emotional dynamic? Is it a strongly-felt need? Pressure from others? Trust in the brand? Time versus money?
- The anti-goals that will put off a person. What kinds of things must you avoid in this experience? Every person pursuing a goal not only has an objective, they have concerns and anxieties around what they don’t want and don’t want to happen. If you don’t address these concerns and anxieties, or allow even a hint of possibility that these things might happen, you will jeopardize the sale.
- The additional constraints and considerations. What else does the customer need to consider? Does she have any limitations that may keep her from converting? Can you do anything to address concerns and remove those limitations?
- The reasonable alternatives available to the person. What other options does the customer have? What kind of experience might she have with a competitor? What if temporary or permanent inaction is a good option?
Additional comments on the instruction for drafting Buyer Legends
Those ten elements do not have to be in order, as long as each is present. The first thing to do after a first draft is to check for all elements, and if you left one or a few out, just add them in. Typically the most ignored and misunderstood element is #7: “The emotional struggles the person might face.” It is one of the most crucial elements. Most businesses believe that their customers make logical buying decision, this is untrue. All people, even the most logical thinkers you know, make an unconscious emotional decision first and use logic to justify their decision. Emotions also add tension and drama to the story, making it more compelling and understandable. Here are a handful examples of emotional struggles:
- He was afraid his wife would be unhappy with him for buying this.
- He was worried that acknowledging a problem might worry his boss
- She was frustrated that she couldn’t find the exact product she was looking for.
- He was afraid failing in this decision would get him fired.
- She was afraid that this product contains allergens that would harm her child.
- He felt guilty about last years birthday present being a dud he is on a mission to get the right gift this year.
You don’t have to be a skilled writer to pull off writing a Buyer Legend. You only need to be clear and detailed. You can always have a writer (on staff or 3rd party) edit your story, but the decision maker should preferably write the first draft. This is especially true if you have to work with two or more departments to execute. A high level executive, the owner or decision maker is the only one with authority to insure execution across different departments. Generally the higher up they are in the food chain the more potentially powerful your Buyer Legend will be. If you are a manager or department head, you can write a Buyer Legend for the area that you are responsible for, but you cannot always transform an entire customer experience just your piece of it. Of course we have seen department heads have success using their Buyer Legend to influence and persuade colleagues across departments to implement Buyer Legends because they make the case for a more holistic experience.
Pro tip: add storyboards and wireframes to your Buyer Legend
It takes a bit more work but when we propose Buyer Legend projects to our clients we often include the following language in our Statement of Work:
The combined Buyer Legend will be represented visually as one integrated experience with storyboard mock-up of new web pages, new content and telephone script content recommendations. This will be accompanied by narrative, commentary and callouts explaining the flow of each scenario for each persona.
How to can use your Buyer Legend
- Executives can use it to better communicate your customer experience strategy from the top down, from the boardroom to the stockroom.
- Marketers can use it to create and optimize campaigns no matter how big or small. It works for both online and offline and for any media platform.
- Companies can use it to create and optimize an entire system, like a website, sales funnel, or a complete customer experience.
- Managers can use it to optimize cycles and improve execution.
- Customer service can use it to optimize customer service channels.
- Analysts can use it to interpret analytics and make the case to optimize specific channels and experiences.
- Product management can use it to create and optimize products and services.
- Content creators and content marketers can use it to plan, optimize and create more relevant content.
We have provided several examples of short Buyer Legends in this series of recipe posts, but if you would like an example of a comprehensive Buyer Legend you can download the story we used to write the Buyer Legends book, you will find it on our resources page.
Buyer Legends are NOT fiction
Your Buyer Legend will always start as a fictional tale using a fictional story and fictional personas, but Buyer Legends are not meant to stay that way. Your Buyer Legend is about creating a new reality than can be experienced by your customers and optimized and measured by your company. Buyer Legends are accountable by design. Next up in our series we will talk about measuring your Buyer Legend once it is live in the real word, I’ll also give you some help in improving them as well.
We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know.
P.S. This is the fifth in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts , please sign up to our newsletter for updates.
Personas are the least understood and most misused tool in marketing today. There are some good ones and we’ve also seen many that are not so good. It is no wonder there are mixed results when it comes to the use of personas in marketing.
This post starts with a basic review of personas and ends with a quick recipe to create ad-hoc personas you can use immediately in a Buyer Legend. There are lots of additional links to other articles about personas; follow all the links and you will gain a thorough foundation in creating personas.
Are your existing personas doing their job?
Do you know how good your personas are? Do you know what to look for?
Personas should inform you about problems or opportunities in your current customers’ experiences and inform the design of fresh customer experiences. They should help you create a content marketing strategy and your overall marketing approach. No tool will serve a marketer better in overcoming the “curse of knowledge” we all suffer from.
A quick way to test personas for their ability to inform decisions is by taking your personas and walking them through your existing customer experiences. Go ahead and try this experiment on your website experience. Act as if you are the persona, then proceed to buy the way you think they would. If you find yourself at a loss trying to imagine what your persona would do in many stages of their buying journey, then you need to have your personas reworked. Be careful. If those personas are making decisions similarly to the way you make decisions, that’s a red flag.
Don’t be surprised by the results of your experiment. Clients have shared personas that represented six-figure investments but were not useful in decision making. We have also used ad-hoc personas constructed in under an hour in order to inform effective and profitable campaigns.
To summarize, from an article “The Stepford Personas: What Lies Beneath?” we wrote:
Personas by themselves can only evoke empathy and understanding, a vital and noble goal, but without an action plan those personas are handicapped. Personas without an action plan are like exercise equipment bought with the best of intentions.
Improving Existing Personas
In an article from 2004 we defined personas this way;
Personas created for a persuasive experience must initially be defined by completely understanding customers’ needs. Their needs lead into character biographies that represent and convey their world view, attitude, personality, and behavior. Personas are constructed from research that describes their demographics, psychographics, and topographics, related to how they approach the buying-decision process for the products or services offered.
Where most personas fail is in their ability to evoke an empathetic response. Personas are presented in lots of interesting ways. Your challenge is to present data-rich deliverables so that they are impressive and attractive. However, the indispensable part of any persona presentation needs to be a narrative that tells the persona’s story. That narrative needs to supply insight to make it easy to imagine how that persona might behave and what his or her needs and preferences are. You can add value with more data and even visuals but be careful not to use them in place of more compelling narrative. The more believable the persona, the more powerful a tool it will be for putting yourself in your customer’s place.
Be specific in your persona; use a real name and provide details, even some that may be unrelated to their buying journey but inform you about their character. These details add to the believability of the persona. I will share more about that later in this article.
How an Effective Ad-Hoc Persona Can Help Create Customer Experiences
Persona for: Mall Sunglass Kiosk
Name: Marshall Thomlinson
Profession: Regional sales manager for a Medical Supply Company in Denver, CO
Buying style: Makes fast, emotional decisions. Impulsive but picky.
Purpose: To keep stylish and trendy to project image of success with clients and everyone else.
Objective: To run errands at the mall; was planning on waiting until late spring to buy new shades.
Goal for Sunglass Kiosk: To sell Marshall a pair of shades.
Challenge: Marshall is supposed to be running errands, not shopping for sunglasses.
Marshall is getting tired of his sunglass collection. He wears his shades a lot, especially when driving around town and meeting with clients. He has a few nice pairs, but thinks he might be due for a new pair before summer hits. As a salesman, it is important for Marshall to keep up appearances and he loves to dress to impress. He never tires of the ladies complimenting his shoes or belt or ties. Marshall thinks of himself as a GQ man. Marshall is smooth and suave and tells himself that he is good with money even though he easily finds justifications for big ticket purchases. Two summers ago, he bought a 4-wheeler on a whim and took it out only a few times since he’s owned it. Fortunately, his income as a commissioned salesman should be $85,000-$110,000 this year, so it allows him some wiggle room.
Here are a few excerpts from the reverse chronology for Marshall’s experience with the Sunglass Kiosk. Notice how these particular events in the outline were informed by his personas and helped us plan a better experience:
- Marshall still thinks the glasses may be a little too pricey for his taste, but the no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee puts him over the edge, and he decides to pull the trigger.
- “Hard to find” appeals to Marshall’s need to be one step ahead of everyone, not to mention that the glasses match his personal style.
- The kiosk associate notices the style that Marshall has fixated on and explains that the brand is taking off in the U.K., and are hard to find.
- The kiosk associate also tells him that particular style is available with brown tint, which is best for driving (kiosk associate is presenting a new value).
- Marshall checks the price but doubles back. The price is more than he has ever spent on just sunglasses.
- The kiosk associate is helping another customer, but the booth has plenty of mirrors, with sunglasses displayed and arranged neatly, a fun sign inviting customers to try on, and even take a selfie to share on social media for a modest discount.
- Marshall notices a new Sunglass Kiosk. He has been itching for a new pair, thinking he would wait until spring, but the styles look interesting so he stops to browse.
Here is another example of how an ad-hoc persona can be used in an e-commerce setting;
Persona for: Bob’s Online Appliance Outlet
Name: Marcy Douglas
Profession: Medical Billing Specialist, works from home in Elko, NV
Buying style: Makes deliberate and logical decisions. She is thorough and detail oriented.
Purpose: To find the best value, getting the most out of every dollar.
Objective: To replace a broken microwave.
Goal for Bob’s Online Appliance Outlet: To sell Marcy a microwave.
Challenge: Marcy will search extensively for the lowest price on the model she wants.
Marcy lives in Elko, NV, an isolated small town in the northeastern part of the state. She shops online for almost everything except for staple groceries. Her microwave stopped working a few days ago, and she put replacing it on her to-do list. Marcy wants to buy a microwave that will last at least ten years and she will be meticulous in her research. She is not afraid to spend up to $500 but her decision will be made on quality, durability, and features that matter to her. Once Marcy decides what model she wants, she will shop for the best possible combination of price and reliable vendor.
Now here is a partial reverse chronology that outlines Marcy’s experience at Bob’s Online Appliance Outlet.
- Marcy smiles and thinks this was a fun experience. She got the exact microwave she wanted, free shipping, and a price $49 dollars lower than she expected.
- The confirmation page congratulates and informs her that her price offer has been accepted. It informs her that her order will ship today and asks her how she would like to be notified when her order ships and provides a form that lets her choose if she wants a text, an email, or both.
- Marcy presses Buy to submit her offer price.
- Marcy knows she was being a little greedy enters a price $49 lower than the Best Buy Price. Marcy believes that this price represents a sizeable discount but she thinks she has a shot at getting accepted.
- A page comes up to inform Marcy that her price offer was too low, but encourages her to try again.
- Marcy decides to go for broke and enters a price that is exactly $100 lower than the Best Buy price.
- Marcy decides she wants to try and order from Bob’s and test the price offer feature.
- Marcy also reads through several of the reviews to see if they are any different or new information that she didn’t get when reading reviews on other sites. She is satisfied with what she reads, nothing new. This confirms that this is the microwave she wants.
- Marcy is impressed that unlike the Best Buy and other sites that offer price match, Bob’s offers her a box below the price to enter a price offer herself and doesn’t require her to call a phone number and hassle with proving a lower price.
- As she arrives on the product page she reads that this item qualifies for free shipping. She also reads the product specs just to be sure it is the right microwave. She also notices that the price is $9 more than the lowest price she has found so far.
- She enters the model number into the search box.
- The site’s homepage has a banner saying that certain items qualify for free shipping, she also notices something in the top right corner of the page that challenges them to make a price offer and Bob’s will try to match it.
- Marcy arrives at Bob’s Online Appliance Outlet site knowing exactly what she wants.
I’ve provided B2C retail and ecommerce examples but, of course, this is exactly what you would do for lead generation, registrations or any other complex or B2B sale. You can read about those in other articles in this series.
You don’t have personas?
Paul Slovic, a researcher for the University of Oregon, recently conducted a study;
In one study, Slovic told volunteers about a young girl suffering from starvation and then measured how much the volunteers were willing to donate to help her. He presented another group of volunteers with the same story of the starving little girl — but this time, also told them about the millions of others suffering from starvation.
On a rational level, the volunteers in this second group should be just as likely to help the little girl, or even more likely, because the statistics clearly established the seriousness of the problem.
“What we found was just the opposite,” Slovic says. “People who were shown the statistics along with the information about the little girl gave about half as much money as those who just saw the little girl.”
Slovic initially thought it was just the difference between heart and head. A story about an individual victim affects us emotionally. But a million people in need speaks to our head, not our heart. “As the numbers grow,” he explains, “we sort of lose the emotional connection to the people who are in need.”
This is why targeting broad stroke customer segments isn’t effective . It is also the reason why stereotyped personas and too-plain vanilla personas don’t work. We encourage large corporations with large customer audiences to take time and create a set of personas (3-7 personas per line of business) that both evoke empathy and truly represent the needs and buying styles representing a majority of their customers’ decision-making styles.
Nevertheless, simple ad-hoc personas can get you more than halfway there if you don’t have the time and/or budget for more robust personas. Your personas need not be precise (the more precise the more time and money is required), but they need to be directionally accurate about how customers behave when engaged in their buying process.
Create ad-hoc personas
In Buyer Legends – The Executive Storyteller’s Guide, we shared how to create ad-hoc personas for your Buyer Legends.
Select your perspective:
- Whose story (or legend) is this? Start with basic demographics, which should be representative of your typical customers, when possible. If you have a broad base of customers, don’t worry about representing everyone for now, simply select a common type or segment to get you started. Begin to list the traits of your customer and be sure to name him or her. It helps to be specific in your list of traits, as you want to end up with something that sounds like a real individual rather than a generalized stand-in. Start with a name and then give them an exact age, a career, a title, even an income if it is relevant to the story. The goal is to make your customer come alive in the reader’s mind. While all this may seem a tad superfluous, names and specifics will help you and your readers imagine the persona as an actual person, which in turn, will inspire empathy. Adding a picture of your persona/customer using an image search is also helpful. You can image search using your selected name or career, for example.
- Next, consider the buying style of your customer. While there are several buying styles people use, your persona will primarily tend towards one style within the context of this one Buyer Legend. When in doubt, we’ve found that selecting a deliberate buying style provides the best results for a first-time use. A customer with a deliberate and detail-oriented buying style will, by design, ask the most questions and, because of their penchant for being thorough, will at some time in their journey reflect many of the other buying styles. This detailed-and-deliberate buying style most fears making the wrong decision, and as a result, will ask the most questions. They want to know how it works, why they would benefit from a specific feature, what it can do for them, and what happens if they aren’t satisfied? It is likely that your company has dealt with these buyers, so get familiar with their needs and questions and integrate them into your legend. Additionally, imagine this customer in the early-buying stage, early enough where they are not even aware of your service and/or product as a possible solution for them.
- Next, define your conversion goal. Think of this as the destination for this customer’s journey. What is the end of the story? Did they buy something? Become a lead? Complete a task? Write it all down.
In section B of the book excerpt we touched on only one buying type, the methodical buyer. And if you don’t have the time or resources to create more than one persona make it a methodical persona. But here are the four types as Bryan described here.
- Competitive. Fast-paced decision-making, logically oriented
- Spontaneous. Fast-paced decision-making, emotionally oriented
- Humanistic. Slow-paced decision-making, emotionally oriented
- Methodical. Slow-paced decision-making, logically oriented
If you have time for only two, we always suggest you have a methodical persona (because they ask the deepest questions), and a spontaneous persona (because they are fast-paced and ask the most relevant questions). The spontaneous persona likes flash and fun, and is generally driven by their need to have quick-paced, emotionally fulfilling, low friction experiences. The humanistic type is focused on the effect their decision will have on others; they are bent towards relationships not only with their loved ones, but also want to have a relationship with the companies they frequent, which means the human touch is important to their experiences, so they will be be more deliberate. The competitive persona is very decisive. It’s your sale to lose. The competitive persona is generally driven by their need to have quick-paced and logical experiences.
Ad-hoc personas are a quick way to get you started. If you already have personas and they are not informing your decision-making, then improve them, make them more real, or create ad-hoc versions using this process. Personas can be powerful tools in bridging the gap between you and your customers.
We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know.
P.S. This is the fourth in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts , please sign up to our newsletter for updates.
Good evening Bryan,Just a quick note to say your episode(s) are live in iTunes and on our website.Why two episodes you ask?There was so much great content that we had to break it into two individual episodes.Studies have shown that once a podcast gets over 30 minutes in length, you start losing listeners very quickly.We didn’t want to pick and choose which part of the content to share with our listeners.The first episode is: ITJT 011: Bryan Eisenberg – “Buyer Legends. “The Executive’s Storytelling Guide” & IdealSpot.comThe link to the show notes page and player: ITJT 011The second episode is: ITJT 012: Bryan Eisenberg “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing”The link to the show notes page and player: ITJT 012Once again, thank you Bryan for sharing so much great content with our listeners!Rod WorleyWebsite: fourgrainer.com
Buying a pricey pair of sunglasses at the mall was not on Marshall’s honey-do list, but a week after the purchase he couldn’t be more satisfied. They look great on him, he’s gotten compliments, and Marshall is telling everyone who will listen about this particular brand of shades.
Marshall’s simple buyer’s journey had a happy ending. Not all journeys end that way, but they should. The Buyer Legends process will guide you through planning buyer journeys like this one. In this third installment of the Buyer Legends recipes series, I want to explain one of the basic ingredients in every customer experience that ends happily. We call it persuasive momentum. If you are not planning persuasive momentum into your customer’s experience, you are leaving way too much to chance. And if you are anything like me, I like to keep chance as far away from my business as possible.
What is Persuasive Momentum?
In “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?“, we defined persuasive momentum as “the progressive decision-making process that aligns the customers’ goals with our own business goals”. Whether intentional or not, your business is operating a persuasive system. Even earlier, in 2002, we defined a persuasive system like this:
Persuasive systems are complex. Their success depends on their ability to address the varying levels of need a user brings to the online experience. To be effective, a website must address these user needs at every point in the process.
While in the past we were often referring to websites, this applies to the entire customer experience which includes social media, traditional media, call centers, signage, product placement, packaging, customer service, sales collateral, direct mail, billboards, PPC, SEM, PR, websites, micro-sites, video, demos, sales training, employee training, and of course, one-on-one customer interaction. Each of these components (and some I likely missed) together form your persuasive system. The better you optimize your persuasive system the more efficient you will be at converting and reconverting customers. It is our experience that the companies that plan and optimize persuasive momentum usually convert 2-4 times better than their industry average.
Too often, we see marketers that are stuck on the sales/conversion funnel metaphor. They insist on believing that pouring more customers into the top of the funnel means more come out at the end. This is working too hard for too little return. Your sales/conversion funnel likely has some elements of persuasive momentum, but are they planned and designed to be optimized? It also has some leaks. Do you know what in your customer experience is working and isn’t working to move (or not move) customer forward toward your set conversion goal.
Micro-actions vs. Macro-actions
Because persuasive momentum is about enticing customers to take action, you must understand the two types of actions you want customers to take. Typically your conversion/sales goals are the macro-actions: capturing a lead, closing a sale, becoming a member. These are usually the actions that take up the most time and effort in terms of optimization and planning. Still, it is dangerous to ignore the micro-actions. Micro-actions are all the required smaller actions customers need to take to before they can take a macro-action. Micro-actions can be as simple as clicking a link, watching a video, reading content, clicking an ad, taking a note, and more. Without persuasive momentum, customers do not move forward in their buying journey.
The 3 elements of Persuasive Momentum
No matter if the action is micro or macro, there is a simple formula that will help you identify persuasive momentum or the lack thereof.
- Relevance. Are you relevant to my wants/needs/desires (search query)?
- Value. Do I know why you are the right solution for me? Have you explained your value proposition/offer well?
- Call to action. Is it obvious what I need to do next? Have you given me the confidence to take that action?
Ask these questions of every touchpoint, and you will quickly find if your touch points are missing one, two, or all three of these components. Longtime readers may recognize that this is what we also call The Conversion Trinity.
Example #1 – Retail
Now I want to expand and dissect the sunglass-purchase happy ending at the beginning of this article to show you where each action was propelled forward by this force called persuasive momentum.
Here is the reverse chronological outline of that customer experience, with comments pointing out how persuasive momentum was planned and built into the experience. You can assume the kiosk employee was trained on how to present sunglasses and assist customers in buying the right pair for them.
- Marshall likes the brand on Facebook and shares the page with a few friends he thinks would appreciate knowing about these shades.
- Over the week, his wife and 17 year old daughter and a few of his female co-workers told him they love his sunglasses.
- Marshall is wearing his new shades every chance he gets, even on a fairly overcast day.
- Marshall walks out of the mall, puts on his new shades, holding his head a little higher.
- Marshall runs his errands, anxious to get outside with his new shades.
- The kiosk associate thanks him, hands him his bag.
- Marshall uses Apple Pay to pony up for the sunglasses he selected, his preferred form of paying. (The presence of the pay terminal is the call to action, but offering Apple pay reduces friction in the buying process).
- The kiosk associate wraps his old sunglasses in the pristine new case, polishes the new shades carefully, packs up the cleaning cloth, and hand the new shades to Marshall.
- The kiosk associate asks him if he wants to wear them out of the store and offers to pack up his old sunglasses.
- Marshall announces he will take the sunglasses (notice how each micro-action was needed for Marshall to have the momentum to just go ahead and purchase the shades, our macro-conversion).
- Marshall still thinks the glasses may be little too pricey for his taste, but the no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee puts him over the edge, and he decides to pull the trigger.
- The kiosk associate tell him that he has a 14-day, no-questions-asked full refund or exchange warranty. (Again, the kiosk associate is presenting a new value).
- Marshall asks to see them, tries them on, and decides the brown tint is better, but mentions to the kiosk associate that he loves them but faintly protests they are a little too expensive.
- The kiosk associate also tells him that particular style is available with brown tint, which is best for driving (kiosk associate is presenting a new value).
- “Hard to find” appeals to Marshall’s need to be one step ahead of everyone, not to mention that the glasses match his personal style.
- The kiosk associate notices the style that Marshall has fixated on and explains that the brand is taking off in the U.K., and are hard to find (the associate is now presenting a new value in Marshall’s buying journey).
- Marshall checks the price but doubles back. The price is more than he has ever spent on just sunglasses (Marshall is losing persuasive momentum).
- Marshall spends time trying on a handful of different pairs, but keeps coming back to one particular style, he thinks it frames his face very well. They are not too big and not too flashy. (The selection offers Marshall more relevance, and he is taking a micro-action with every pair of shades he tries on).
- The kiosk associate is helping another customer, but the booth itself has plenty of mirrors, with sunglasses displayed and arranged neatly, a fun sign invites customers to try on, and even take a selfie to share on social media for a modest discount. (the sign is a call to action, but specifically a micro-action).
- Marshall notices a new sunglass kiosk. He has been itching for a new pair, thinking he would wait until spring, but the styles look interesting so he stops to browse. (new sunglasses are relevant to Marshall, #1 of the conversion trinity).
- Marshall is shopping at the mall, picking up some tools at Sears, and a book for his daughter at Barnes & Noble.
Example #2 – B2B Lead Generation
This is a totally different company with a completely different customer. You might recognize this reverse chronology outline from my last article. Here I added comments to point out the elements of persuasive momentum.
- Mark is excited to start scouting locations and using IdealSpot.com.
- Mark fills out a form that asks for his name, email and password. He clicks Join and creates an IdealSpot account.
- Marks sees that his privacy will be protected (reduces buying friction).
- He clicks on the Get Started button. It explains the cost, that he is setting up an account, and that account will allow him to enter potential locations and request reports as needed. This is a call to action for the macro-action. Notice how many ways Mark was introduced to the value of IdealSpot and how it propelled him forward through the buying journey.
- Mark is sold and wants to try IdealSpot. Still believing the pricing is too good to be true, Mark reads a section on the pricing page that explains how big data and learning algorithms dramatically reduce the cost of research allowing ideal spot to offer high value analysis and rock bottom prices. This page solidifies Mark’s belief that IdealSpot has even greater value to him.
- Mark wants to get a sense of their track record, so he goes to the Success Stories page and reads a handful of stories from IdealSpot clients who are having early success. He realizes that IdealSpot is a startup, and their long-term track record is not as established as it could be, but the low price point introductory price of $197 removes this barrier in his mind. (Mark gets more value here and this continues his persuasive momentum).
- Mark reads about the algorithm, how the data is loaded for each location, and how the the clientele used to predict success are chosen based on competitors’ and his type of business. He sees this is similar, even superior, to the methods used by much more expensive location research alternatives. (This page provides more value and increases persuasive momentum).
- Mark clicks through to the the IdealSpot “How Does it Work” page. (The promise of an answer behind the How Does it Work is another call to action for a micro-action).
- He reads about how big data is able to spot success patterns. It explains that most location analyses “hit the wall” when people become involved (and consultants like Buxton), and spend time and money collecting piles of data, but then have no way to relate it to the success or failure of their business. This is where big data and learning algorithms inject science into the process by mining through the data to pick out patterns of success or failure and the key factors driving those patterns. The algorithms act without human bias. They start from scratch and construct a model that is unique for each business based purely on results. (Mark is starting to understand IdealSpot’s value to him).
- Mark clicks on a link to a re-targeted blog post while he is on LinkedIn, the subject line “How Science and Big Data Are Changing the Ways Businesses Choose New Locations. (Call to action for a micro-action).
- Mark, who is familiar with similar services and has spend tens of thousands on this type of research, had looked into IdealSpot. He went to the website, but didn’t get past the first page. His concern was that it would be just a whole bunch of computer-collated data with very little holistic insight into his needs as a business. In other words, it sounds too automated to be of real-world use. (This service is relevant to Mark).
The reverse chronology outline is the step in the process that allows you to address customer needs and plan persuasive momentum, while the pre-mortem will help you identify the relevant needs of the customer, as well ways to address the value of your product/service offerings.
Persuasive momentum is not an abstract concept, it needs to be planned concretely so that it can be implemented and optimized. Persuasive momentum lets you align the customers’ goals with your own goals. That is the only way both customer and company get to have the happy endings that you both desire.
We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help , please let us know.
P.S. This is the third in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts, please sign up to our newsletter for updates.
April 9, 2015 will be the first annual International Conversion Rate Optimization Day. April 9 is also my 45th birthday. I’ve invested almost half my life evangelizing for conversion rate optimization (CRO). I should be thrilled but instead I find myself asking: is CRO, as it is practiced today, a dead end?
The good news is that there is a greater awareness that increasing sales conversion rates offers a greater ROI than what you can get from optimizing your traffic; either from paid or earned media. There is also a greater awareness of the tactics necessary to increase conversion rates.
Considering the Current State of CRO
CRO has been good for us. We studied hard, experimented, and then trained and encouraged clients to become experts in the many varied aspects of the CRO disciplines.
Yet not one of these siloed disciplines was a decisive factor in consistently achieving better results.
Upon reflection of our nearly 20 years of CRO work we observed that some companies effortlessly adopted a culture of optimization. Others achieved wins but failed to absorb the lessons learned. Their CRO was all about after-the-fact fixes; the dead end of many of today’s traditional tactic-based CRO efforts.
Conversion Rates Are Only a Leading Indicator of Success
Every customer wants a happy ending. For them that happy ending looks like a delightful buying experience followed by a purchase that meets their needs and exceeds their expectations. As a business you want happy endings too. And if you’re smart, you want the exact same happy endings your customers do. However, many smart marketers at good companies have reason enough to question this premise.
The Buyer Legends process will ensure that you can plan, execute, and optimize as many happy endings as possible.
When planning a customer experience it seems the logical place to start is at the beginning of the experience. But when you start there you are presented with unlimited opportunities to get you to the end, that is unwieldy. The beginning is also the point where you and the customer are the most disconnected. The most effective way to plan your customer experience is by starting at the happy ending and working your way backwards. It is reverse engineering a successful customer experience.
In my last article I gave you the ins and out of the pre-mortem, now we move on to the next step, the reverse chronology outline. In this part of the process you will be required to list every detailed step of your customers buying journey as well as their decision making processes along the way.
Most customer experiences are not planned, and to the extent that they are, they are typically some sort of conversion or sales funnel with the steps the customer must take plotted out in linear fashion. Rarely do real sales scenarios occur in this neat progression. In addition, the sales/conversion funnel metaphor is broken, it seems to assume that some sort of natural force like gravity is pulling your customers from the top to the bottom. Instead of gravity, what your customer needs is persuasive momentum to move her forward in the buying process. Persuasive momentum unlike gravity, is not a given or a constant. That’s why, when done properly, your reverse chronology will infuse persuasive momentum into every step of your customers journey. It will also take into account any friction in the buying process and help engineer ways to reduce and smooth it out.
What is a Reverse Chronology Outline
From the Buyer Legends book…
Outline the story using reverse chronology; start from the end of the story and work backwards. This reverse chronology process will:
- Ensure your legend ends in success.
- Emphasize cause-and-effect more effectively than forward chronology, as it will be harder to “fake” or rely upon momentum. Simply by thinking backwards you will naturally be more thorough in defining the actions and reasoning why your customer has taken each step on their journey.
- Allow you to see and consider alternate, branching paths from your Pre-Mortem list and build in whatever interventions and detours might be needed.
You will want to reverse chronologies for each persona you have. I’ll be writing about personas in more depth in a future article.
As You Begin Writing Your Reverse Chronology
The first questions you must answer to get started is, what do you want the end of the story to be? I encourage you, if possible, to go a bit further than the mere act of the customer completing the transaction. Start with the customer being delighted with the product they just bought and work backwards from there.
To begin you simply list the steps the customer is taking, and why they are taking those steps. And of course, start at that happy ending, and work backwards.
The mere fact that you are writing this backwards will stimulate a different perspective as you begin to imagine the event/thoughts/feeling that must occur to propel the customer to step you previously outlined. Often times you may list some of the major events and realize that you missed something in between, in that case just go back in and fill in the details
Details matter here. In fiction, you can selectively skip some of the mundane details and in an instant your main character who was on Riverboat on the Mississippi is now in Cleveland wearing a sombrero with no details on how he got there. You can’t skip how he got there in your reverse chronology, every detail must be accounted for. Without those details you’ll lose your ability to measure and optimize your Buyer Legends.
Often times we’ve seen clients neglect listing the reasons why customers are taking action and only list the actions themselves. This is a gigantic mistake. Transferring the understanding of the customer’s mindset and intent to the entire team is critical to the Buyer Legends process, and if you don’t list it in the reverse chronology, that intent won’t make it into the Buyer Legend itself. That will cripple your execution.
Every step of the outline is either a cause or effect in the story. To get a better idea of how to think about how your outline reads watch a video Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park fame explain the difference between a bad and good story. What you’ll learn is why “and then” vs “therefore” and/or “But” make the difference between a good and bad reverse chronology. Buyer journeys are rarely a linear progression.
Your pre-mortem plays a key role in informing steps in your outline. Imagine how to overcome these problems and then weave them into your outline. As you work backwards you will find natural and common sense places where these items will seem to fit. Before you know it you are creating relevant and exciting steps that will enhance your customer’s experience.
Two Reverse Chronology Examples
We crafted two reverse chronologies one is e commerce and the other lead gen, notice how the above elements are present and how we used them.
Example #1 eCommerce
- Feeling proud Jenny takes a picture of her new bag and posts it on Facebook and Pinterest (Notice how she shares her happy ending with friends?)
- Jenny removes the backpack from the box, she thinks is it’s even more impressive than the website picture showed.
- Jenny opens the shipping box with relative ease
- As Jenny arrives home she sees the package on her front door, It must have arrived a few days before the website estimated, she hadn’t been tracking the shipment. (The company likes to beat estimated shipping times as much as possible)
- A few hours later, Jenny receives the shipping notification
- Jenny receives the order confirmation, she checks it and flags the email for easy reference
- She feels comfortable everything is correct, Jenny places the order. She can’t wait for her bag to arrive.
- As Jenny arrives on the final screen of the checkout, she double checks the product and all her information, she is thankful there is a zoomable thumbnail
- Jenny enters her billing and shipping information, taking note of point of action assurances and secure checkout(The Pre-mortem suggested that Jenny is nervous about identity theft)
- Jenny clicks around on the site a bit more but decides there is nothing else she needs or wants and clicks the checkout button
- Jenny adds the backpack to her cart
- Jenny watches a video of someone demonstrating the bag and all it’s features and benefits. (Notice how we are creating opportunities for creative to produce relevant content that will directly impact sales)
- Jenny looks at all the gallery of photos for the back, and gets a sense of all the compartments. There are also several models that are wearing the backpack and this gives her
- She also notices free shipping for items of $100, the backpack she is purchasing qualifies
- Jenny sees that this particular bag comes in the exact color/design she likes
- She reads the description thoroughly, and notices the price while still a little pricier than her last backpack, but it still seems like a value.
- She clicks on a link in the article that takes her to the product page of that backpack
- As she reads the article she becomes intrigued by one style backpack in particular
- Jenny finds an article from a major tech magazine “Reader’s Choice, Best Laptop Backpacks”
- Jenny does a Google search, “best laptop backpacks 2015”
Example #1 B2B SaaS
- He is excited to start scouting locations and using IdealSpot.com
- Mark fills out a form that asks for his name and email and password, he clicks Join and creates an IdealSpot account. (This is a conversion point that will be measured)
- Marks sees that his privacy will be protected.
- He clicks on the Get Started button, it explains to him the cost of each report, that he is setting up an account that will allow him to enter potential locations and request as many or as few reports as needed. He does not need a credit card right now.
- Mark is sold and wants to try IdealSpot. Still believing the pricing is too good to be true Mark reads a section on the pricing page that explains how big data and learning algorithms dramatically reduce the cost of research allowing them to offer high value analysis and disruptive prices.
- Mark wants to get a sense of a track record and he goes to the Success Stories page and reads a handful of stories from Ideal Spot clients who are having early success, he realizes that IdealSpot is a startup and their long term track record is not as established as it could be, but the low introductory price of $197 removes this barrier in his mind. (As a start-up their lack of undocumented long term success with their service is non-existent, and the pre-mortem identified this as a potential problem)
- Mark reads about the algorithm and how the data is loaded for each location, and how the the clientele used to predict success are chosen based on competitors and his type of business. He see this is similar, even superior to the methods used by much more expensive location research alternatives. This information is exactly what Mark needed to hear about IdealSpot. (Notice how we are explaining his mind set as he moves through the outline)
- Mark clicks through to the the IdealSpot.com “How Does it Work” page.
- He reads about how big data is able to spot success patterns. It explains that most location analyses “hits the wall” when people become involved (and consultants like Buxton) and spend time and money collecting piles of data, but then have no way to relate it to success or failure of their business, and this is where big data and learning algorithms inject science into the process by mining through the data to pick out those patterns of success or failure and the key factors driving those patterns. The algorithms act without human bias; they start from scratch and come up with a model that is unique for each business and based purely on results.
- Mark clicks on a link to a re-targeted blog post while he is on Linked in, the subject line “How Science and Big Data Are Changing the Ways Businesses Choose New Locations.
- Mark, who is familiar with similar services and has spend tens of thousands on this type of research had looked into IdealSpot, he went to the website but didn’t get past the first page. His concern is that it will be just a whole bunch of computer collated data with very little holistic insight into his needs as a business. In other words it sounds too automated to be of real world use. (Mark is solution aware, see below)
What else you learn from a reverse chronology
You can see in these reverse chronologies also provide a list of content that needs to be created. Even more the reverse chronology also reflects items from the pre-mortem and that often identifies a need for powerful content that most companies haven’t even considered. This is a powerful Content Marketing planning technique.
Your reverse chronology is the girder and frame of your Buyer Legend. The more time you spend on details here, the less time you will spend on execution cycles. This is also the step that takes major decisions about the customer experience out of the hands of low level employees and places them on stakeholders themselves. It also helps to keep it out of the HIPPOs hands as well.
The Reverse Chronology also begins to document the actions you anticipate your customers to take, so we are beginning to build-in an accountability structure that can be measured and optimized.
Other things to consider in your Reverse Chronology
Not to make things more complex, but it is helpful to keep in mind both buying stage and the complexity of the sale you are trying to make.
Five Buying Stages
You have to realize that every customer is different and his level of awareness will also be different. The amount of persuasion your customers need will depend on their level of awareness. According to famous direct response copywriter, Gene Schwartz, there are five levels of awareness (as described in his book Breakthrough Advertising) –
- The Most Aware: Customer is fully aware on the product, only wants to know the ‘deal’.
- Product-Aware: Customer knows what you sell but unsure if it’s right for him.
- Solution-Aware: Customer knows what results he wants, not sure if your product can provide him that.
- Problem-Aware: Customer realizes his problem area but doesn’t have the solution.
- Completely Unaware: Customer has no knowledge but has his own opinion and identity.
Four Elements of Sales Complexity
Understanding the complexity of your sale is critical to your understanding of what the customer needs along their buying journey.
I. Knowledge- How difficult is it for folks to understand the nature of your product or service, or the procedures for buying?
What do they need to know? Your persuasive process must eliminate the friction generated by confusion or lack of knowledge. Knowledge dimensions for the buying decision can differ based on who is doing the buying: is the customer buying for herself (she will be the end user) or is she buying on behalf of another (as in the case of a purchasing agent)? The knowledge assumptions and language – especially jargon – that work for one may be totally inappropriate for the other.
II. Need- How urgent is the need for your product or service?
How fast are folks likely to make their decisions to buy? Will the need be satisfied by a one-time purchase (either impulsive or momentous) or is the need on-going? Folks might be willing to compromise their thoroughness for a casual one-time deal. But if that one-time deal is something like a house, or if they are choosing a long-term relationship to satisfy an on-going need, things get significantly more complicated.
III. Risk. How risky, especially with respect to issues of finance or self esteem, is the sale?
While price may not be an ultimate decision factor in a purchase (for many, safety and trust trump price), increasing financial risk necessitates a more intricate persuasive structure. Risk may also be associated with compromises to health, as when individuals or medical professionals have to make treatment choices. Or even, for that matter, when someone simply evaluates the safety of an herbal remedy.
IV. Consensus. Just how many people do you have to persuade?
An individual? An individual and her significant other? Several end-users and heads-of-department? Your ability to understand who is involved in the decision-making process allows you to provide copy and content that appropriately informs, reassures and persuades.
How many reverse chronologies do I need to write?
Finally, as you use Buyer Legends to plan customer experiences you will quickly find that you can envision so many more reverse chronologies especially when you consider all the ways and places a customer can touch your brand. As a good rule of thumb start with your major channels, optimize them, and then get to smaller ones.
We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help , please let us know.
P.S. This is the second in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts, please sign up to our newsletter for updates.
If I gave you a recipe some of you would be thrilled and others not so much. You can cook a gourmet meal that will have your taste buds fox trotting. I know that to be true. When it comes to food there are alternative ways to acquire a great meal. However, when cooking up great customer experiences there are no alternatives. If you want customers to to tell the only story that matters, why they love your company, you’ll have to learn how.
Have you ever followed a recipe only to find that you aren’t ready for the third step? I have. The results? Frustration and a poor meal. A few years ago it was takeout or starve, but now, I love to cook. I credit mise en place, that’s French for having having everything in its place as you cook, for my conversion from takeout king to aspiring chef. Mise en place is a small amount of effort expended up front that actually saves me tons of time and guarantees tasty dishes.
The Buyer Legend process is like a recipe for designing great customer experiences. You can use Buyer Legends to define and improve your content marketing, social marketing, search marketing, conversion rate optimization and thereby improve your communications, execution and revenues. You just need to follow the recipe. We’ve published a basic Buyer Legend recipe but I’ll be adding more detail in this series.
I’ve been training clients and staff in the Eisenbergs’ processes’ for over a decade, Let me show you how to prepare mise en place for the Buyer Legends process. This is the first in a series of articles that will address each major step of the Buyer Legends process.
First we’ll explore the most impactful step of the process, the pre-mortem. Some of our largest conversion wins over the last two decades ever were the result of our clients going through the pre-mortem exercise. Murphy’s law states that everything that can go wrong usually will and a pre-mortem will help you spot previously invisible problems in your current customer experience as well as plan against future problems. But the pre-mortem step is not for the faint hearted as it may show you things about your precious baby that are not as attractive as you wanted to believe. The only thing that makes a pre-mortem more powerful is by doing a pre-mortem on a persona by persona and then scenario/ campaign by scenario basis. Read the first Buyer Legend Recipe Post here...
Assuming you have a product or service worth buying then you and your customers have the same goal. You want to sell and they want to buy. That’s why when you are planning a customer experience it is always best to start at the end point and work your way backwards to the beginning. This step requires you to get very specific about how and why every decision and action needs to be taken in the buying journey. It’s specificity also makes this step important to measuring and optimizing your customer experience when you finally implement it. Your Buyer Legend isn’t fiction so every detail must be accounted for, not only that but you must create persuasive momentum at every step. Read it here.
Your customer isn’t truly in a funnel. There’s no gravity compelling them through your experience like there is in a real funnel. There is only the customer’s motivation and your understanding of that motivation to create persuasive momentum. Persuasive momentum is the progressive decision making process that aligns the customer’s goals with our own business goals. I’ll show you the three step test that will insure your customers’ experiences are always relevant, valuable and compelling. Read it here.
Personas are a common marketing tool, but their value is often misunderstood. Simply put, personas should inform you about exactly what you need to be doing. Personas can be elaborate constructs based on reams of research and data, or they can be constructed quickly with data and information at hand, but as long as they are directionally accurate reflections of a segment of your customer they can be powerful tools that will guide your Buyer Legends processes. I will be discussing how to construct ad-hoc personas as well as help you evaluate and if needed fix your current personas if you have them. Read it here.
This is the step when you actually pull out your pots, grab a spatula and fire up your burners. I will tell you all the ingredients to include so you can have them at the ready. This is the step where all your previous work begins to pay off and when you’re done you will have an action plan that can be distributed, implemented, tested, and optimized. A Buyer Legend is where the rubber meets the road. Read it here.
Your Buyer Legend isn’t fiction, it’s not for fun or for entertainment, or even for creative fulfillment. This is business, and anything important to a businesses success should be measurable and accountable. Buyer Legends are both and I will give you a primer on measuring, optimizing, rinsing, and repeating. Read it here.
The Buyer Legend process orchestrates your best efforts and reconciles them to the needs of your customers so you can create profitable customer experiences. If you want to become even more legendary at using this process I challenge you to follow this recipe series. I look forward to your feedback, questions, and hearing your success stories.
This series is now complete. Please visit all six posts.
As always, we encourage you to try Buyer Legends for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know.
Things go wrong. Murphy of Murphy’s law fame says so. In fact Murphy goes further by stating that whatever can go wrong will. It’s my experience that Murphy is usually right. So I am not taking a faith leap to tell you that right now things are going wrong with your customer experience.
And some of those things are costing you, costing you dearly.
Some of those things are obvious, and you are likely trying to fix them. Other things, not so much. And that is where your biggest opportunities for improvement exist. As well as opportunities to plan against them in the future.
Let me introduce you to the pre-mortem, the antidote to Murphy’s Law.
Gary Klein of the Harvard Business Review writes
A premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem. A postmortem in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits except, of course, the patient. A premortem in a business setting comes at the beginning of a project rather than the end, so that the project can be improved rather than autopsied. Unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the “patient” has died, and so asks what did go wrong. The team members’ task is to generate plausible reasons for the project’s failure.
In our book, Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide, we describe the pre-mortem process as it relates to the Buyer Legends process.
Begin by having your Team imagine that the customer has completed her (or his) buying journey and either didn’t buy at all, didn’t buy what you sell (in favor of an alternative solution), or bought from a competitor. Now ask yourselves:
- What went wrong that led to these outcomes?Your intuitions about the most likely bad outcomes and most likely causes will be more insightful than you may think.
- This process will give your team permission to voice doubts or fears about your brand’s interaction with customers that they might not otherwise feel safe in doing.
For every wrong turn, missed opportunity, or bump that could derail the customer’s successful journey, take time to imagine how that process would most likely play out. For instance, how would this detail-oriented customer react if a major detail about your product is left out of their journey or if that detail was hard to find? What would that look and feel like, and at what point would that frustration or anxiety actually derail the sale?
Now think up fixes, resolutions, and workarounds for each failure point. The point to the pre-mortem exercise is to give you insight into problems that exist in your current buying paths, so that you can then use it to immunize your conversion funnel from common (and not so common) mistakes that will keep your customer from closing the deal. Understanding these will help you write a more realistic and helpful Buyer Legend when you move onto the next step of Reverse Chronology.
The reality is that most companies lose more sales every day than they make, and we have stated in the past that if you are converting less than 15% you need to evaluate what is broken in your customer experience, get to the bottom of what is going wrong, and plan to get it right. That is why, hands down, the pre-mortem step is the most impactful step of the entire Buyer Legends process. In fact, rarely does this exercise fail to produce at least one a-ha moment for our clients. When you imagine the sale is already dead it frees up all the mental energy that you used to try and get the sale and points it at all the potential pitfalls and problems in your experience. A pre-mortem is powerful optimization technique but also imagine how powerful it is when you are designing a new customer experience from scratch.
After you perform your pre-mortem you will likely end up with a long list of potential proof of Murphy’s law, but not everything on your list is equal. Some thing are worth your effort some are not. In my work with clients we often use Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization to separate the more pressing issues from the tinier ones. First sort the list of problems into the follow categories.
Functional. Does this product/service do what the prospect needs? How easy is it for a prospect to determine this?
Accessible. Can she access it? What are the barriers to her ability to realize the need? Is it affordable, reasonable, and findable?
Usable. Is it user-friendly? Are there obstacles?
Intuitive. Does the sales process/Web site feel intuitive and natural based on her buying preferences? Is she forced to endure unnatural buying modalities to realize her need?
Persuasive. Does she want it? Does she truly understand if it fills her need or solves her problem? Is her expectation reasonable? Will she be delighted?
Once they are sorted simply work your way up the pyramid. Again, remember not every problem is in search of a solution, and you should focus on the problems that are likely to impact the most customers, and problems that you can actually fix. Analytics can also confirm some of the problems you identified exist and give you an indication of which ones are causing you the most grief.
Performing a simple pre-mortem should be a common business practice, but the Buyer Legends process turns it up a notch. A pre-mortem when used in conjunction with personas (I’ll cover these in more detail soon) will uncover more specific problems and allow you to address the unique problems that exist in more than one customer segment.
Be warned, the pre-mortem is not for those that like to play peek-a-boo. If you like to pretend that the only problems that exist are the ones that you can see then skip over the pre-mortem. This is not an exercise for anyone that wants to hear the that their not so attractive baby is a supermodel.
We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help , please let us know.
P.S. This is the first in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts, please sign up to our newsletter for updates.
Does an About Us page really matter? You might think it matters more for B2C than B2B or vice versa. Carly insists that it does matter. We met Carly almost seven years ago when she was a Marketing Manager at a company we were consulting. We want to tell you the story she told us, after reaching out to thank us, about how a valuable relationship might never have started but for the content of a single page. Her company’s revised About Us page was launched despite concerns of the very private and exceedingly practical founder of her company.
Carly’s About Us story retold as a Buyer Legend
Carly is a wicked-smart, tenacious VP of Lead Generation for a mid-sized B2B SaaS provider. Carly’s no-nonsense approach to lead-gen has increased leads by ~30% since she took over in October 2013. Apart from the About Us page, Carly has redesigned the lead form, rewritten the product description, and worked with her ad agency on optimizing traffic. Carly also pushed through significant changes to the Home page, with copy targeted to entrepreneurs like Will.
Will is a diligent and savvy entrepreneur, shopping for the exact solution that Carly’s company sells. There were several strong competitors and Will collected all the data he needs. He narrowed down his choices to Carly’s company and the larger, more-established market leader.
Will likes both options. The market leader’s pricing is comparable, but has a slightly more robust feature set. Yet, he knows from user reviews and his co-founder’s experience, that the workflow is hard to master. Carly’s company solution has what everyone agrees is a more intuitive user interface and a magically simple workflow. It is also easier to deploy. However, it has fewer features, some of which might be useful in the future. Will is more-or-less comfortable that those are features he doesn’t need. From a cost-benefit perspective, Will thinks it’s a wash.
Will’s technical co-founder agrees that for their needs both solutions will do the job. However, he is more comfortable with the more established competitor’s technology. He implemented that solution at his last two companies and even though it seems to be a lot more work, it’s the devil he knows.
Carly’s company has a radically different approach to everything. If what they claim is true, not only will there be less work setting it up, but his team will use it. Will knows that hard-to-use tool sets require more training and are hardly used.
Will visits the market leader’s About Us page. It looks like most About Us pages. There is a generic-sounding mission statement, some stiff head shots of the executive team, Board members, and investors, along with all their credentials. It has a timeline and a list of awards. It was, as About Us pages usually are, perfunctory.
When Carly instructed her copywriter to tell the company’s story, it was to tell it through the eyes of the founder. The founder bootstrapped the company, putting every penny he had at risk. He had no investors because he wanted to build a special kind of company that led with its values without interference. The founder is disturbingly passionate, almost possessed by details. In fact, Carly chose to join this company over a higher-paying offer because, after interviewing with him, she recognized how rabidly committed he was to customers and how that commitment permeated the company culture.
How Will made his decision
When Will visited Carly’s About Us page he found information about the entire customer-facing staff. There weren’t just lists of professional credentials, but fun bios reflecting their personalities and style. There were pictures and videos that captured the mood and feel of the company. It made this company, selling a highly-technical B2B solution, sound fun and likeable.
That page tipped the balance for Will. The market leader’s page was stiff and corporate, exactly what made him leave his previous job. Carly’s company was inviting and human, and seemed a lot like his own company. Will felt sure that the company’s values would insure that they delivered. All other things being equal, Will finally had enough confidence to make the decision. The only company he called was Carly’s.
Carly won another lead, and then a sale, and Will has become an outspoken advocate for them. Will was so impressed with the About Us page that he contacted the CEO and shared his experience and asked if Carly would offer him advice about how to build a better About US page. She asked us to update our most popular ClickZ column about how to best create one, and you’re reading the update.
Not everyone will care. But for those who do …
Of course, not every prospective customer will visit your About Us page, but if it was the only thing standing between you and a lead or a sale, would it keep them in your funnel? Could it even win you the sale?
The About Us page is the most undervalued page on most websites. While it rarely closes a sale, it can provide a valuable assist. It is the one place where you are allowed to talk about yourself. Every click on the About Us page is someone asking you to tell them about you. Make the most of it.
Even if you sell something boring, maybe especially if you sell something boring, it doesn’t mean your About Us page should be boring. More than anything, your About Us page is the place to show customers who you are and what your company values.
Seven tips to create an About Us page that makes a difference
You might not use all of the seven tips but don’t skip the seventh tip. We encourage you to start with a Buyer Legend.
- Let customers see a more human side of your company. Become more likable by including individual information and personal interest. Include fun blurbs and pictures of life around the office. Dropbox created a montage of its employees. While hovering over the pics, you are presented with fun personal facts about the employees.
- Choose the voice of your About Us page. Here are some ideas that can help:
- What is the overall emotional stance that your company has towards its industry/market?
- If your company were an actual person, who would it be?
- Is there a favorite quote you or the people in your company have?
- Is there one particular moment in the life of your company that would capture its essence in a nutshell?
- Do certain words or phrases keep popping up in your daily conversations, your salespeople’s sales calls, your blog posts, etc.
- Use the verbiage your customers use. Mine your live chat logs, emails, customer service calls, in-site search, and especially customer product reviews, if you have them.
- As an exercise, do a “25 Random Things About Our Company”. Then, pull out the nuggets and insert them into your About Us page. Or leave the whole list as a link or tab from your About Us page.
- Make sure your voice on the About Us page is consistent with the rest of the site. Yes, you can afford to be a little more conversational and personal/passionate, but the overall writing style should be consistent.
- Choose the voice of your About Us page. Here are some ideas that can help:
- Tell your company’s story. The story of why it exists and about the people behind it. Include links to the social profiles of team members.
- Connect people to your leadership.
- Humans are attracted to humans, so why do so few sites include photos of company employees? Mail Chimp does an exceptional job at this.
- Reflect your company’s passion. Cranberry shares their passion for News and PR Marketing.
- Take it easy on the sales pitch and instead give your, and your company’s, story. Miles & Co, a SMB marketing agency, uses their About Us page to highlight their values and demonstrate how those values will benefit their clients.
- Reflect your company’s personality. If you’re a fun company, your “About Us” page should be fun. Please don’t try to be fun if you’re not. Just be yourselves. Reiterate your company’s competence and desire to serve customers. Notice how New Relic embraces their inner geek.
- Many About Us pages seem like a copy-and-paste job from AboutUs.com. Thinking any old creative will do, will not do. The vast majority of About Us pages are simply boring, stiff, and tightly-clenched pages. Put some thought into how yours is uniquely yours. Marketo’s About Us page is professional but not full of corporate drivel. Instead, Marketo makes a powerful statement about who they are and what they do.
- Let the customer inside your company.
- I highly recommend the use of video to show off your human side. Of course, it’s important to tell us what you do, but put that content on another page. When visitors click on About Us, they want to know about you.
- Reiterate your company’s competence to serve the customers by using all the above tools. Zappos does a masterful job of explaining their company values and their dedication to customers. Google’s About Us page is just plain inspirational.
- How to start: Writing a great About Us page is an exercise in empathy, and a Buyer Legend is a great place to start. You’ll need to put yourself in your customers’ place, take their perspective, and reflect back to them what matters most to them about you. Here is a recipe for creating a Buyer Legend.
When you write a Buyer Legend, remember that it is not the story you tell your customers; that’s just promotion. Buyer Legends are stories told from the point of view of your customers; because your brand isn’t what you say it is, but what your customers say it is. A Buyer Legend is designed to create and improve the interactions your customers have with every touch point of your brand, from the boardroom to the stockroom.
Buyer Legends are stories about your customers and their buying journey, and your About Us page gives you a chance to tell your story to the customer more powerfully from their perspective.
Would you like your customers to tell better stories about you than you do about yourself? Start planning your About us page with this Buyer Legends recipe. Buyer Legends a simple business process that helps you create a customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.
We encourage you to try this for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know. .
Marie, the VP of Marketing, predicts that she can increase conversions to sales by at least 40 percent. She wants to conduct a series of disruptive experiments that make everyone nervous. Scott, the VP of Sales, is especially on edge. The lead-to-contract rate is already a respectable 7.1 percent for this not-so-new marketing technology B2B SaaS. If Marie is right, it’s a homerun. But if she’s wrong, Scott is predicting a debacle on an epic scale.
You’re in charge. Would you give her the green light? Please continue reading this post on the Salesforce blog
What is the difference between foolhardy and courageous? It’s like the difference between arrogance and confidence; it’s all in the results. Stewart Whitney, Brand President of Timberland, is both courageous and confident. After all, who dares to cut products, eliminate a discount pricing strategy and raise prices across an entire product line when growth is the goal?
Timberland announces a change
Timberland’s management shakeup didn’t seem extraordinary or even unusual. When Patrik Frisk, the new Coalition President of Outdoor Americas for VF (NYSE: VFC), said “To empower the significant growth ahead for the Timberland® brand, we need to connect with our end consumer from head to toe,” it sounded an awful lot like the same old same old. Appointing Stewart Whitney Brand President was part of the plan to grow revenues by $1.4 billion during the next five years. Timberland’s management expected total revenues to reach $3.1 billion by the end of 2019, representing growth of 13% per year.
The Timberland® brand, a wholly owned subsidiary of VF Corporation, is best known for it’s rugged and fashionable high top yellow leather boots. It was a successful and long established footwear and apparel company whose sales were spectacularly flat. When Whitney took the helm he might have tried to lift sales by deploying as many non-boat rocking tactics as possible. Instead, Whitney decided to blow up the brand, to cut products, eliminate a discount pricing strategy and raise prices across an entire product line.
Things are going to change around here
No department was untouched. Timberland’s product designers were ejected from their comfort zone and asked to create new ambitious product lines and styles. Marketing was tasked with revamping the company’s entire global marketing and messaging. The wholesale division had to sell jittery retailers on a leaner product line with dramatically less SKUs. Retail and ecommerce eliminated their discount pricing strategy essentially raising prices across the entire product line. Whitney was tilting full speed ahead, at the risk of becoming either a business legend or becoming an exemplary failure.
In our work we often see how difficult the smallest change can be to execute, but Whitney was making deep foundational changes to a brand that didn’t seem broken to most observers inside and outside the company.
Whitney, no doubt, had to contend with the guardians of the company’s status quo. Surely they came out in full force challenging every move, trumpeting the company’s past successes and provoking insomnia and hand wringing amongst their colleagues. He communicated with the board of directors, the executive team, employees, partners, distributors and retailers about his vision. You may imagine some calling him a maverick, while others called him nuts.
Courage and confidence are fueled by data
It wasn’t just Whitney’s courage that fueled the brand makeover, it was data. While you could point to any of the changes he was driving as radical, the most significant change Whitney made was to steer Timberland away from being a product-driven company and towards becoming a data-driven company.
Whitney bet the company on it’s customer data and with Timberland posting a 15% increase in year over year sales in 2014, the bet seems to be paying off. In the Washington Post Sarah Halzack writes about the origin of this success:
“…the cornerstone of the comeback has been a two-year customer study in which it collected data from 18,000 people across eight countries. In analyzing the trove of responses, Timberland was able to diagnose its problems and to zero in on its ideal customer — an urban dweller with a casual interest in the outdoors.”
What is just as remarkable as Whitney’s courage to lead foundational change in an already good organization was his commitment to understanding customer data rather than simply collecting and referencing it. Far too often execs and marketers cherry pick the data that reinforces their own self-inflicted perspective. Other companies collect data, yet as we wrote about in Tesco’s case , a myopic reading of the data leads to disastrous corporate decisions. Whitney and his team read the customer’s story in the data. And armed with that narrative he is transforming Timberland from a good brand to more exciting and relevant one.
Armed with a customer-centric narrative
The narrative started with their ideal customer. They named her the “outdoor lifestyler’:
“They’re definitely connected to the outdoors, but in a more casual, everyday way,” Davey said. “They care about the outdoors, but they also care about style. It was really important to them to look right for the occasion.”
The outdoor lifestyler, in other words, is a city dweller who goes for a casual afternoon hike or someone who leaves her house in the morning not knowing if she’s going to spend her afternoon at the park or at the movies. It’s someone who wants versatile clothes that blend in rather than stand out.”
Speaking to outdoor lifestylers would be a sizable departure from their current brand image. In the U.S. Timberland had developed hip-hop cred with rappers by naming the yellow boot “Timbs”. While in other countries Timberland’s reputation was focused mostly on durability. Abandoning these messages probably looked like a tremendous risk. I’m sure the marketers pointed that out. It was that messaging that kept the lights on yet maintained their current, albeit flat, sales.
Raising prices to save the brand?
Timberland killed their discount pricing model:
Ryan Shadrin, vice president of retail and digital commerce for North America, said it was a scary decision to make but one that has ultimately helped profit margins. At first, Shadrin said, “It’s almost like dead tide. There’s just a point of this eerie quiet where you’re like, ‘Where did everybody go?’ It’s because they’re sort of waiting,” he said, to pounce on a promotion.
Eventually though, shoppers came off the wall when they realized the old promotional cadence was not coming back.
All the changes at Timberland, Shadrin said, “lifted the brand to where we can command those higher prices. The consumer is willing to pay it.”
The result is that profit margin is up 13%.
Results determine the difference between foolhardy and courageous
In business there is a big difference between knowing the right thing to do, and doing the right thing. Doing the right thing always takes courage but knowing the right thing to do requires that you understand your customers. And the more committed you become to understanding your customer and focusing your company on delighting them the less actual courage you will need. That is the point where confidence replaces arrogance.
A legendary company must be customer-centered, practice data-driven customer experience design, and manage by narrative. That is exactly what the Buyer Legends process is designed to do.
So basic that it seems radical
So why don’t more companies actually put their customers first? We all know why. However, lets applaud the ones who do. We encourage you to read the entire Washington Post story to appreciate just how comprehensive the Timberland makeover was. Nevertheless, this strikes to the heart of why Whitney has been successful:
Timberland “could’ve followed the many brands that floundered in this changing retail environment, but if you look at all of their strategies holistically, they’re all developed with a steadfast focus on the consumer and innovation,” said Shilpa Rosenberry, senior director of consumer strategy and innovation at Daymon, a retail consultancy.
Timberland’s switch to a consumer-data-driven approach reflects a broader change in an industry where the power dynamics between retailer and customer have shifted to favor the shopper. Unprecedented access to pricing information and product reviews on the Web has made for smarter, more-informed buyers, and retailers are more focused than ever on catering to their high expectations. By letting consumers lead the way, Timberland has rebooted its brand.
Become the hero by turning your customer into the hero of your Buyer Legend
Stewart Whitney is a real-life business hero and not just because he virtually put his vital parts on a chopping block. Whitney is a hero because of his radical fairy-godfather-like commitment to delivering what his customers really want. That’s a winning combo, and one that makes for a happy ending to this story.
Do you have the courage and confidence to be this committed to your customers?
We hope you do.
We will be cheering for you.
And if you want assistance we, the Buyer Legends team, are ready to help you design and optimize a customer-centered, data-driven customer experience that is supported by narrative.
Welcome to episode #446 of Six Pixels Of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast. I have known Bryan Eisenberg forever. Back when I first started publishing music magazines on the Internet (in the mid-nineties), there were few people writing about the power of the Internet from a business and marketing perspective. There were message boards and email lists… and that’s where I first started reading the work of Bryan. Now, Bryan Eisenberg is the co-author (along with his brother, Jeffrey Eisenberg) of the bestselling books, Call to Action, Waiting For Your Cat to Bark? and Always Be Testing. We have also shared the stage on numerous occasions, because Bryan is a professional marketing keynote speaker as well. He’s done much than that. He is also the co-founder of the Web Analytics Association (now the Digital Analytics Association), serves as an advisory board member of Search Engine Strategies, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summitand several venture capital backed startup companies (like Bazaarvoice, Monetate,Nomi, TagMan, and more). Most recently, he launched a new startup called,IdealSpot, and a fascinating new book called, Buyer Legends – The Executive Storyteller’s Guide. Enjoy the conversation…
- Running time: 46:59.
He pushy pushed his way up towards the stage. I had just finished presenting the keynote at Driving Sales, an automotive dealers conference. He thrust out his hand and eagerly shook mine; saying “thanks … blah blah blah…. “ And then I heard him clearly “…too often I am obsessed with pushing customers through sales and I’m not helping them buy!” Really!?! That forced me to pay attention. I hope that he didn’t notice me picking my jaw up from the floor. It isn’t everyday that a car salesman genuinely expresses deep concern for a customer. Most of us would rather have a no anesthesia root canal than be escorted to the manager’s office in a car dealership. … Please read the rest of this post at BryanEisenberg.com
Gerald never imagined his 71 year old grandpa would be the one championing a shopping cart and checkout development initiative to both the CIO and the CFO. Gerald’s grandfather, Isaac, doesn’t carry a smartphone and handwrites notes on printed-for-him emails that he returns to his assistant. Isaac is the founder and CEO of a popular apparel catalog merchant that has been thriving for over forty years.
[Names have been changed to protect our friend’s privacy. The images you’ll see are to illustrate the points]
When Gerald was hired by Matt, the CMO who is a veteran catalog merchandiser, as the Director of Ecommerce at the company he knew that he would be under scrutiny. Matt demanded that any family members at the company be at least twice as good as anyone else at their job.
Gerald was indeed doing a great job but he was frustrated. His team had spent almost a year optimizing the shopping cart. Due to Matt’s catalog company pedigree placement and copy were seen as THE critical variables. They tested and retested the placement, color, shapes and sizes of buttons. Gerald fought hard to eliminate a step and two required form fields in the checkout. The shopping cart and checkout were streamlined. Yet they only realized minimal success with conversion improving 17% from 2.89% to 3.38%.
Matt urged Gerald to turn it up a notch and run even more tests. With little confidence that more testing would improve results and a shortage of new actionable testing ideas Gerald could feel himself between a rock on one side and a hard place on the other. Gerald knew their shopping cart was lacking features that many apparel sites had but knew any changes that involved significant development time and resources so the investment would be difficult or even impossible to push through. He obviously couldn’t play the grandson card either and he was sure his Luddite grandfather would side with Matt who after all was responsible for all that web stuff.
Yet a few weeks later here he was, watching grandpa convince his C-suite colleagues. The best part? Grandpa, the Luddite, was making a passionate case for a technology change he couldn’t have cared less about before.
Understanding Gerald’s dilemma
Neil Patel wrote about “7 A/B Testing Blunders That Even Experts Make”, and explained in Blunder #3, “Expecting big wins from small changes”;
“If small changes are providing huge gains, something else is wrong with your design or copy. The conversion wins that small changes provide typically don’t hold.
The biggest conversion boosts are going to come from drastic changes. So, if you really want to move your conversion rates, don’t focus on small changes. Instead, focus on drastic changes, as they are the ones that boost your revenue.
When you are starting out, you could try small tweaks to your design and copy to see if your conversion rates increase, but eventually you’ll need to focus on the big wins.
What I like doing is to focus on the drastic changes. Once I feel I’ve maximized their potential, I then focus on the small changes.”
What Patel is describing is the inclination that most companies like Gerald’s have. They test variations of individual elements instead of trying to identify variables that might move the needle. Perhaps this happens because of how testing software is designed to work. Yet, 90% of their tests yield little to no results and it is discouraging.
Gerald knew that continuing to do what he was doing would give him the same result . He knew they should be making changes but didn’t know exactly where to start.
Then Gerald met with me at a conference and we spoke a few minutes. He was intrigued by the idea of the book we were working on. I sent him an early draft on the promise that he wouldn’t share it but that he would provide feedback after he went through the Buyer Legends process.
Below is the portion of one of Gerald’s Buyer Legends that start at the Add to Cart phase of the story. The legend describes the current experience, the possible variation tests, and then a variable test. Please take note of how the likelihood of impact is described in the Legend itself.
Testing Legend – Add to Cart –> Checkout –> Confirm Purchase → Confirmation email
The current experience:
“… Pat clicks the Add to Cart button and is taken to the Checkout page. She looks over to the right and sees the Checkout Now button, and clicks on it. Pat notices that that prominently to the right of the form fields, the company addresses her privacy rights next to her billing and shipping information. Her security is addressed right next to the billing information. Pat feels reassured and comfortable filling out those fields, so she does. Finally, she sees her order and the prominent Complete Your Purchase button. Underneath the Complete Your Purchase button, she sees in a contrasting color one last reassurance; a 100% money back, no-questions-asked guarantee. Pat clicks and confidently completes the purchase. Pat notices when she receives her confirmation email..”
This is a reasonably good customer experience.
Here are some potential variation tests that might improve results:
“… Pat clicks the Add to Cart button and is taken to the Checkout page. She looks over to the right and sees the Checkout Now button and clicks on it. Pat notices that prominently [test copy] to the right of the form fields, the company addresses her privacy right next to her billing and shipping information [test copy]. Her security is addressed right next to the billing information [test copy]. Pat feels reassured and comfortable filling out those fields, so she does. Finally, she sees her order and the Complete Your Purchase button [test copy, button size, color etc.]. Underneath the Complete Your Purchase button, she sees in a contrasting color one last reassurance; a 100% money back, no-questions-asked guarantee. [test copy] Pat clicks and confidently completes the purchase. Pat notices when she receives her confirmation email..”
There are likely small but valuable wins in improving copy and perhaps even a button test. However, do any of these changes fundamentally improve the experience?
Here you’ll see a potentially important variable to test instead:
“… Pat clicks the Add to Cart button and is taken to the Checkout page. On the Checkout page, she confirms that it’s the right item (there is a thumbnail image), the right size, and the right quantity.She looks over to the right and sees the Checkout Now button and clicks on it. Pat notices that prominently to the right of the form fields, the company addresses her privacy right next to her billing and shipping information. Her security is addressed right next to the billing information. Pat feels reassured and comfortable filling out those fields, so she does. Finally, she sees her order details, exactly as she saw them in her shopping cart, and the Complete Your Purchase button. Underneath the Complete Your Purchase button, she sees in a contrasting color one last reassurance; a 100% money back, no-questions-asked guarantee. Pat clicks and confidently completes the purchase. Pat is thrilled when all the information,including the product detail with thumbnail image and reassurances show up in her confirmation email exactly as the appeared on the Checkout page.”
Did you notice the hypothesis embedded in Gerald’s last legend?
The hypothesis is that when at the point of greatest cognitive dissonance, placing the order, we should reassure the buyer in every way that they are getting the right thing. Because of the large abandonment rate at this step Gerald was confident that testing it would impact conversions significantly.
Gerald was a bit surprised when Matt told him he shared the Buyer Legends with Isaac. It seems Matt found Buyer Legends a useful way to communicate with Isaac. His grandfather was committed to testing this and anything on the site that would “help make things clearer and less confusing for our customers”.
Gerald shouldn’t have been surprised. Isaac had kept the company viable in up and down times driven by his relentless commitment to the customer.
Before reading Gerald’s Buyer Legend Isaac had always considered the online business as simply an evolved function of operations and cost control; much less intimate than his baby the call center. The Buyer Legend helped him empathize with his customers and he was able to begin examining the web site as an opportunity to better deliver on the company’s promise to the customers.
The ecommerce business went up 29.4% over budget this holiday season. Gerald tells us that a significant part of this is due to using the Buyer Legend process.
The takeaway – are you testing too much for too little reward?
If 90% of your tests yield little to no results and you’re discouraged there is hope.
You may not sell apparel but I hope you can see how using the Buyer Legends process helps to provide the customer’s perspective. It delivers an empathetic jolt of context and relevance to your entire team. Use Buyer Legends to identify the most important variables; then you can make incremental improvements by testing variations.
We want to hear about your success with Buyer Legends. If you’d like to learn more, please read Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide, look into our trainings or if you don’t care to go it alone we’re always here to help you.
It’s 10 o’clock on a Friday night and you are at the bar. George Clooney strolls in and sits down at the bar. After a long while George retreats, leaving the bar head down and alone. You look over and see Scarlett Johansson alone despite greeting every man that passes her way. She leaves the bar looking rejected and pathetic. And then “the most interesting man in the world’ walks in, takes a seat, orders, and he is unceremoniously delivered a 48 oz can of Bud Light.
Now imagine how you would feel watching that scene. That is exactly how we felt when our friend Dennis Yu told us he was struggling to convert leads in his new business venture.
Dennis Yu is a social media marketing rock star. Dennis is a sought after speaker, works with impressive brands, is wicked smart, and is one of the nicest guys we know. Dennis is also a customer data ninja, and is one of the world’s most formidable Facebook marketers.
Dennis offers high end services to his big name clients, but he also co-founded and serves as CMO/CTO for a company called BlitzMetrics making his expertise more affordable and accessible to SMBs. BlitzMetrics provides a simple solution for smaller scale businesses to manage the complexities of their social media marketing. In the spirit of full disclosure,we are a BlitzMetrics. client so we have experienced first hand how easy it is to get started. And, of course, we have been thrilled with the results of our campaigns.
BlitzMetrics’s Conversion Challenge
After talking to Dennis we were surprised to learn how many well qualified leads never got started. We knew that the price couldn’t be the issue, their credibility is high and we found the process of onboarding painless and simple. There was absolutely some conversion challenge none of us understood.
We offered to take Dennis and his team through the Buyer Legend process. Dennis had read our book and was starting to do some preliminary work. Anybody can do this process alone but we wanted to make sure it happened quickly and correctly. When we got Dennis and his team on a conference call and began by polishing up his ad-hoc persona. The persona of a potential client was unlike us, and that’s the point. The persona was the CMO of a click and mortar SMB with less digital experience who pressed for resources and time. That perspective was truly unlike Dennis’ or our own.
We performed a pre-mortem for the Persona, a step many are tempted to skip but is mission critical. In a pre-mortem we list all the things that can go wrong during the customer’s buyers journey. We think of it as inoculation against Murphy’s law, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” It is essential to figure out what could go wrong. How else can plan for everything to go right?
We followed the pre-mortem with a reverse chronological outline. That is where we detail every step of the Persona’s ideal customer experience by starting at the conversion point and working our way backwards. Part of the exercise is to both think of the actual action steps the customer must complete as well as outline their thought process as they approach each step. It’s a bit like programming, miss a step and your result will vary.
We then wrote a Buyer Legend together, you’ll be able to read it below. We’ll also point out what innovations and process optimizations came out of it.
Dennis Yu’s A-Ha Moment
It wasn’t that long into our two-hour call Dennis had a powerful a-ha moment. There was an awkwardly long silence and Dennis blurted out “Oh I see!”
He shared what he saw with us after the call:
“We’ve been so focused on mining data, generating reports galore and micro campaign optimizations, that we’ve lost sight of the fundamentals.
We neglected why people come to us and what the experience looks like wearing their shoes. Our inward myopia created barriers to customers who want to buy from us.”
This simple business process is designed to help the marketer get inside a customer’s head triggered a paradigm shift for one of the smartest marketers we know. Dennis is a naturally intuitive and empathetic marketer. He only needed a few simple exercises to realign his conversion efforts. He began to see the gaps and the roadblocks in his current customer experience to understand how he can patch them up.
Dennis had found his conversion mojo.
How The Process Delivered Insight
To give you a little more insight into the process let us share just a few of the bullets from the pre-mortem.
- She gets confused and walks away because it is too much of a hassle to figure it out
- She doesn’t understand exactly what BlitzMetrics does.
- She is unclear about her package options
- She has sticker shock
It was during the reverse chronology when Dennis began to reconcile “What could go wrong” with “What is going wrong” that he had his a-ha moment. The fog cleared, the scales fell away and he was able to see and think through how to prevent these things from occurring. The final Buyer Legend reflects, in narrative form, exactly how BlitzMetrics is building an optimized customer experience for Diana and other potential customers with similar buying styles.
A BlitzMetrics Buyer Legend
Here is an abridged version of the Buyer Legend that we wrote together. It tells part of the story of the persona named Diana, a 43 year old CMO for a small Gourmet Pie chain. Diana comes from traditional marketing and is trying to get a handle on the digital aspects of her job.
Diana is hoping that when she contacts BlitzMetrics they will be part of her solution, not just another problem. She was impressed with Dennis’ presentation and knows he is really smart guy, but she isn’t sure what BlitzMetrics does. For that matter, she’s not really sure what Facebook marketing is either. It helps that Dennis took her card he told her “we’ll take care of you.” He wouldn’t be the first vendor who disappointed her, but she is hopeful.
BlitzMetrics follows up within 24 hours of Diana meeting Dennis and invites her to find out how they can help her. They offer either a quick call to answer her questions or to do some due diligence with her so that they can produce a proposal. She doesn’t want a call, she’s too busy, and asks for some more information. She gets it immediately.
She is thrilled to see it contains not just the clearest explanation of what BlitzMetrics does but it includes some thumbnail pictures of what the deliverables look like and a wide range of pricing. The wide range of prices lets her feel at ease that pricing is not being hidden and hopeful that there is Goldilocks service for her situation. At the end of the presentation, it has a prominent call to action that tells her to request a detailed checklist of what needs to be prepared for her to receive a customized proposal from BlitzMetrics.
Diana loves how helpful the checklist is, so she shares it with the team that needs to implement it and requests another call to go through it. BlitzMetrics organizes that and doesn’t assume anybody has seen the original presentation so they go over it briefly. She appreciates how easy BlitzMetrics is making her life and how they’re making her look good.
Once Diana receives the proposal, amazed at how quickly it came and how thoroughly clear it is, she has a final meeting with Steve and Rob, the CFO, to explain that the service costs are fixed but the media costs will be variable. She shows them how BlitzMetrics helps contain costs and can demonstrate accountability. They’re impressed with the professionalism, understand what they are buying and are ready to proceed. Steve sends the contract for legal review but is prepared to proceed.
Did you notice that the idea of sending her information (as opposed to pushing her into a call), detailed checklist, and transparent pricing are a direct result of what we did in the pre-mortem and reverse chronological outline?
What Came First, the Process or the Rock Star?
The Buyer Legends process while simple, is also powerful in it’s ability to force the marketer into the minds and hearts of the customer. It’s only in their minds and hearts that he can resolve their conversion challenges and then communicate what needs to be done to the execution team.
And it doesn’t matter if you are the George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson of marketing the Buyer Legends process can up your game, or get you unstuck. If you are still looking to become a rock star, try writing your first Buyer Legend and see what it does for you.
Not so long ago Jason Demers listed what he thinks are the 7 Top Marketing Trends Of 2015 in his Forbes.com column.
Here is his list…
- Mobile-optimization will become more important than ever
- Social media ad spend will sharply increase as brands realize the importance of social media marketing
- Content marketing will be (even) bigger than ever
- Email marketing will receive a renewed focus
- The lines between SEO, content marketing & social media will become more blurred
- Brands will scramble to humanize
- Marketers will find new ways of making native advertising less promotional and more relevant
It’s a reasonable list and these are the trends. You can’t really ignore them. However, can you spot what’s missing?
Apparently the customer got lost in the shuffle. There is remarkably little emphasis on delivering delight to customers despite all the new technologies available for gathering data about what the customer wants. Every one of these seven trends is about the changing nature of message delivery.
The one overwhelming marketing trend of the past decade is the ever increasing control the customer has over a company’s marketing story. Have you noticed?
Brands are no longer what the marketers say they are, they truly are what customers say they are. Marketers can no longer rely on telling a powerful story alone no matter what medium they use. Their brands have become transparent, open for the world to see, and technology is the medium not so much for shouting a message but for listening for one.
I’d like to believe that all marketers are focused on the customer, but it is demonstrably untrue.
I wish that 2015 would be the year of legendary marketing but I’m not holding my breath.
I hope that 2015 is the year when your customer becomes the hero of your Buyer Legend; you’ll be a legend in my mind.
You’ve designed the checkout or registration.
You’ve invested time and energy.
Now your customers come along and enter your funnel.
Let’s get real, your customer isn’t truly in a funnel. There’s no gravity compelling them through your experience like there is in a real funnel. There is only the customer’s motivation and your understanding of that motivation to create persuasive momentum.
Your customers’ journeys are their stories, NOT funnels. They could tell you the stories, just try asking them. And those stories don’t always have happy endings.
Your customers’ stories end happily when they are delighted. And for them that may mean buying from you or from a competitor. It’s simply a matter of perspective.
Now you come along and interrogate your analytics to find out what your customers did.
Is this process so very different from what you do?
The most successful companies start with the story from the customer’s perspective. Their business people make that story accountable through analytics. They anticipate what needs to be measured in order for the analysts to understand the actual customers’ experience – did their stories end happily? These stories are then shared with the business people and they learn what needs to be optimized.
Here’s what we know for certain: if analysts cannot tell the stories and business people cannot measure the stories then the strategy isn’t truly aligned with customers’ needs.
It’s time to perfect your concept of a funnel.
Buyer Legends can help you create customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.
H/T to Tom Fishburne for inspiring this post with his marketing funnel
There’s a story currently being told to business people where storytelling is the hero, the dragon slayer. It’s a sappy little story with a cliched happy ending. You know it, after slaying the dragon the business lives happily ever. Lots of stories end that way.
Just like Santa Claus won’t make your holiday magical storytelling alone will not guarantee your success.
Storytelling is the most powerful communications tool ever and it’s worth mastering.
There are three ways to leverage storytelling to create a happy ending for your business:
ONE: Tell stories to make emotional connections with customers
This is what most marketers think of when they think about storytelling. Of course we suggest you always make the customer the hero of your story, pay attention to Michael Hinshaw over at CMO.com who tells us that customer experience is emotional. In a post over at Medium.com Jamie Carracher offers a nice primer on how to make your storytelling efforts accountable.
TWO: Tell stories to rally the troops.
All great leaders are great communicators, and great leaders understand how to use the power of a story to motivate, encourage, teach, and inspire their team. Carol Goman at Forbes does a good job explaining why leaders should leverage the power of story.
THREE: Tell Buyer Legend stories to delight customers and convert more sales
Once a leader inspires her team, and a marketer makes an emotional connection with customers can they deliver on the promises made? Buyer Legends are a brand new type of story, told from the perspective of customers, that help companies become customer focused, data-driven and managed by a common narrative to deliver on those promises made to customers. Businesses use them to improve the entire experience from attraction to conversion funnels, sales funnels, and to delight the customer when they interact with the brand. A decent Buyer Legend story documents what that experience is currently. A great Buyer Legend story tells you exactly to optimize that experience. Buyer Legends are created in story form in order to bridge the empathy gap between company and customer; what Bain & Co calls the Delivery Gap. Tell a great Buyer Legend and a team will know how to design, execute, and test new and improved customer experiences.
We wish your business a happy ending and encourage you to use storytelling.
If I promised to give you $10,000 as a gift and then only gave you $5,000 you’d be disappointed. Don’t bother to deny it. Once an expectation has been set anything that falls short of that expectation is disappointing.
Good marketers are paid to attract prospective customers. When attracting those prospective customers, promises are made both implicitly and explicitly. The stories marketers tell prospective customers set their expectations.
And great marketers tell great stories.
There is so much excellent content about storytelling, it’s no wonder that marketers are now telling better stories.
Since you’ll ask, here are two examples:
- This is an awesome post by Jeff Sexton about storytelling in advertising: 20 Moments Of Greatness.
- This is another excellent blog post on How To Tell A Great Story by Carolyn O’Hara in Harvard Business Review.
No doubt, marketers are telling better stories.
But will businesses keep the promises marketers are making?
Virtually all of the senior marketers I know are uncomfortable with this situation. Of course, many of them are not in charge of the entire experience but all of them have influence over the customer experience. At the very least they are responsible for the portion of the customer journey that they control.
Flipping the perspective helps marketing strategy become more integral to the business strategy.
So what happens when a marketer takes the perspective of the customer and describes the actual customer journey as a story the entire team can share? I cannot predict how it will work at every company but I do have years of experience watching marketers do just that with Buyer Legends.
I’ve seen three outcomes from writing the customer journey narrative:
- Expected Case – The narrative starts to influence the details marketers can control and optimize. Subsequently, the results gain attention for the technique and it begins to influence other areas of the company.
- Best Case – The effort originates in the C-Suite or, as part of the expected case, the narrative makes it way into strategic planning and permeates how the business thinks about customers and their experience.
- Worst Case – The marketer realizes that the gap between the brand promise and what the business delivers is too wide and looks for another job where she can maintain her integrity.
In every case it’s a thoroughly worthwhile investment of just a few hours. That is why we wrote Buyer Legends, so that any marketer can get started with storytelling in under two hours. Yes – two hours – which includes reading the book.
Would a Buyer Legend help your company sell more and delight more customers?
You won’t know unless you try.
Please keep in mind that Buyer Legends are not the stories your business tells your customers; that’s promotion. Buyer Legends are stories told from the point of view of your customers; because your brand isn’t what you say it is but what your customers say it is. Buyer Legends are designed to create and improve the interactions your customers have with every touchpoint of your brand.
Try it out, because a great brand today is customer-centric, data-driven and managed by narrative.
When most people talk about Storytelling in business, they usually mean telling the businesses story.
And while your business undoubtedly has a story and should tell it, that’s not the story you need to focus on in order to improve sales, optimization efforts, or your content marketing strategies.
The story you need to focus on is the customer’s
And the thing about the customers story is this: you’re not the hero of it.
The customer is the hero of the customer’s story. Unsurprisingly.
But not only are you not the hero (or heroine) of the customer’s story, you’re also not Prince Charming, either.
Because as a service provider or product, you’re simply not at the center of anyone’s life. That center-of-my-life role is reserved for spouses and kids and family. Not for commercials, products, or services.
So if you’re not the heroine nor prince charming, what role do you play?
Ideally, you’re the Fairy Godmother.
Again, you’re not the hero and you’re not at the center of people’s lives. In fact, most people aren’t interested in you at all until they need you to save the day. And then you’re really, really important. For like five minutes.
But if you do your job right, you can bippity boppety boo your way into saving the day and winning the customers business, loyalty, and recommendations.
You help the customer be the hero and fulfill her purpose / destiny / task for the moment. That’s your role.
But you can’t play that role properly until you understand the customer’s story. You need to know where she runs into life’s snafus. And what she needs during her moments of distress. What her real motivations are. And how she’s making decisions during the moment when you’re cue is called to enter stage left.
If you don’t know these things, you can:
- Miss the magic moment
- Arrive with the wrong solution
- Arrive with the right solution but be unable to explain WHY it’s right
- Watch as your Cinderella gets help from the wrong godmother!
- And generally lose or blow the sale
So while Buyer Legends is a powerful storytelling tool for business. It’s not really about your story. It’s about the customer’s story and how that customer experiences your company and brand during that story.
Because your real story isn’t the one you tell. It’s the one your customer tells about you — to herself and her friends.
And she won’t get YOUR story right, until you get hers right first.
Luca Leone on Starting UI Design with Story
Leone writes in Smashing Magazine about the process he uses, specifically how before he even begins to sketch an interface he writes out a conversation between human and computer to get a feel for the interaction.
I realized that imagining the conversation was much easier than drawing on a white canvas. I’m not sure, but I suppose that is true for most people. Conversation is an intrinsic part of human nature. We have evolved as a talking species.
Also, when I imagine a conversation, I draw from my real life experience, which is good for design — less abstraction. If a user’s interaction with a computer resembled a real life experience, then the interface would probably be considered easy to use, wouldn’t it?
It would, or rather, it could. Any UI designer who follows this process is bound to create better interactions.
Starting with a written conversation to help plan UI is simply another form of storytelling. And storytelling is the most powerful way to transfer an experience to someone who hasn’t had that experience. Leone has taken this bull by the horns. However, the utilization of a storytelling process alone does not guarantee success or even prevent possible failure in the overall customer experience. Here is why, and what you can do about it.
Great UI Does Not Equal Great Customer Experience
First, the UI designer runs the risk of having a conversation only with themselves and basing the interaction on their own preferences and ideas of what is easy and pleasurable to use. What about the needs of different types of users? It is likely that the UI designer is representative of one type of user, his or herself. Using well-researched and properly empathetic personas in conjunction with storytelling allows the designer to account for different types of people with different needs, context, and expectations.
Second, storytelling alone doesn’t guarantee the interaction being designed is itself valuable to the overall customer experience or that it even serves the business goals of the company. This is an especially touchy point when providing requirement documentation to UI designers. When stories incorporate the company’s goals in terms of how the customer wants to take the action to achieves those goals, you move from company-centric to customer-centric. Planning with stories that present the customer experience more holistically ensures that each interaction designed serves both the customer and company. Customers are volunteers and as long as they feel that they are achieving their goals they will happily help the company achieve its goals.
Third, and most importantly, Leone’s process doesn’t account for opportunities that might be missed because the UI designer may be unaware of the overall context of the customer experience and why the customer is using this interface in the first place. By telling a story of the entire customer journey to your UI designer, they can look for additional opportunities to move a user towards their goal faster, or find opportunities to up-sell, cross-sell, or encourage other profitable actions the user can take, like social media sharing.
Lastly, it doesn’t seem to account for existing customer data, assuming customer data is available. Just writing out a story (or an interaction) doesn’t mean that story reflects actions that are already happening in the real world. By combining data and storytelling, you eliminate the possibility that your story contains only someone’s best guess (which may be fiction) and instead grounds your stories in reality. In addition, a proper Buyer Legend establishes data points for the story’s hypothesis that you can measure and optimize against.
Add Two Steps Forward and a Look Backwards
There are two other techniques we use in Buyer Legends that would make Leone’s process even more effective.
The first is writing a pre-mortem. In our book, Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide, we write about the customer completing the sale, but if you are a UI designer, you might want to read what we write below by simply replacing ‘sale’ with ‘completed task’.
…begin making a pre-mortem list, detailing the most likely things that could derail this customer’s successful journey to your desired destination:
A. Begin by having your Team imagine that the customer has completed her (or his) buying journey and either didn’t buy at all, didn’t buy what you sell (in favor of an alternative solution), or bought from a competitor. Now ask yourselves, “What went wrong that led to these outcomes?”
i. Your intuitions about the most likely bad outcomes and most likely causes will be more insightful than you may think.
ii. This process will give your team permission to voice doubts or fears about your brand’s interaction with customers that they might not otherwise feel safe in doing.
B. For every wrong turn, missed opportunity, or bump that could derail the customer’s successful journey, take time to imagine how that process would most likely play out. For instance, how would this detail-oriented customer react if a major detail about your product is left out of their journey or if that detail was hard to find? What would that look and feel like, and at what point would that frustration or anxiety actually derail the sale?
Next we would recommend creating a reverse chronological outline.
Outline the story using reverse chronology; start from the end of the story and work backwards. This reverse chronology process will:
A. Ensure your legend ends in success.
B. Emphasize cause-and-effect more effectively than forward chronology, as it will be harder to “fake” or rely upon momentum. Simply by thinking backwards you will naturally be more thorough in defining the actions and reasoning why your customer has taken each step on their journey.
Buyer Legends Are What to do Before UI Design
When we need a UI Designer, Leone would be among to be the first people we would reach out to. Nevertheless, before we send him off to write out a conversation and design for us a brilliant interaction, we would equip him with a Buyer Legend. In the Buyer Legend, he would read the story (or stories) of the persona(s) and why they are interacting with us in the first place, and why it matters to both the customer and the company. The Buyer Legend would tell about their goals, motivations, needs, preferences, tech savviness, and previous experience. And all of it would be based on real-world customer data. After reading it, Leone would understand how his UI design fits into the bigger picture of the customer experience. He would be empowered to find new and better ways to enhance or improve it, instead of just following rigid product requirements or straightforward use cases. In other words, it would unleash and focus Leone’s creativity in the most profitable context.
If you have a business that needs UI Design, you need Buyer Legends to better communicate with and leverage the skills of your talented designer. If you are a talented designer, you can ask customers for Buyer Legends to bring added value to your clients and garner stronger buy-in for your design work.
The use of storytelling in UI design and in business is powerful, but so is nitroglycerin. You must know how to contain it, control it, and ensure its power does exactly what you need it to do.
Oh, and please do read Leone’s article in total. Wicked good stuff.
- Does she feel like a criminal when she returns something because she has to jump through half-a-dozen hoops?
- How long does she have to wait as she wrestles with a hungry, screaming child?
- Is there a safe space where she can take a break from shopping for a few moments to tend to herself or her child?
- Is there anything more you can do to help her entertain her child as she waits in line?
Can you see how powerful it can be to just understand the story of a modern-day mom when you place her in the context of your customer experience? That is exactly what Buyer Legends is all about.
Do you think you can use this story as the basis for creating a different story/legend that improves your own customer experience for moms?
We would love for you to share your legends, thoughts, and ideas.
2015 looms large on the horizon. For marketers, a new year means new opportunities, planning, strategizing, and a general lining of ducks in rows. And now with so many channels for marketers to manage and the increasingly empowered customer, the landscape screams of complexity.
Earlier this year the CMO Club Summit in New York shared what marketing executives said are their biggest marketing challenges, here are a few.
Delivering a positive customer experience throughout the research, discovery, and purchase journey.
Creating client or customer-centric content
Keeping content flow constant
Measuring the effectiveness of content
Managing data and identifying how to leverage it effectively
Maximizing omni-channel marketing with limited talent and training resources
Reinvigorating an already well-known brand
How to Overcome Modern Marketing Challenges and Become a Rock Star
Entire books can be written about each and every one of these challenges. A career can be built on getting one of those things handled, and finding a way to make decent headway addressing all or a handful of these challenges might just make you some sort of marketing deity. It can be done. But how?
When you examine these challenges you see that at the heart of all of them is customer experience. Marketing disciplines such as content marketing, CX, UX, UI, SEO, PPC, digital marketing, traditional marketing, analytics, conversion optimization, etc are all just tools that are used to build one thing; a customer experience. The wise marketer knows that everything they do is about optimizing the customer experience. Also, when approached from this angle the challenge seems more manageable. The next questions are how should the marketer leverage these tools to optimize the customer experience and realize better marketing performance. The answer is simple.
Be customer-centric, data-driven, and manage by narrative.
By always being customer-centric the marketer never loses focus on the customer’s preferences, needs, desires, and motivations.
By being data-driven the customer is truly given the final vote. Great data analysis allows marketers to predict, model, and test new customer experiences.
By using the power of narrative (storytelling) marketers can manage internal and external teams (and their seemingly disparate disciplines) by effectively communicating the essence of customer experiences so that they are executed more efficiently and accurately.
I said the answer was simple, but not always easy.
The Buyer Legends Process Addresses Each Challenge Head On
After years of learning to master most of these marketing disciplines, working with some of the most experienced and talented marketers on the planet, experimenting, failing, and succeeding. Some companies saw significant improvements but weren’t able to duplicate that success repeatedly. But the companies that embraced a process of customer centricity, data-analysis, and usage of narrative to manage execution were able repeat their success in multiple channels. They were rock stars at execution , and continuously make significant and meaningful long term impact on marketing goals. We call this process Buyer Legends.
Let’s see how Buyer Legends can impact each of the above stated challenges.
Delivering a positive customer experience throughout the research, discovery, and purchase journey. By using storytelling(narrative) combined with customer data Buyer Legends allows marketers to map out in detail each phase of the customer experience from research to post-sale.
Creating client or customer-centric content. Because Buyer Legends is a customer-centric/persona-based process it keeps content focused on the customer and what they need in order to convert.
Keeping content flow constant. Buyer Legends stimulate creativity that is first and foremost focused on the needs and preferences of the customer.
Measuring the effectiveness of content. Buyer Legends are measurable and tied to data and business goals.
Managing data and identifying how to leverage it effectively. The Buyer Legend process helps to interpret and communicate data in story form making data understandable and actionable.
Maximizing omni-channel marketing with limited talent and training resources. Buyer Legends allow marketers to communicate to internal and external teams the context and goals of creative and marketing/sales collateral, making for better and faster execution, even when working with less talented team members.
Reinvigorating an already well-known brand. By giving the marketer a deeper understanding of the customer and their journey Buyer Legends will allow you to build the ideal customer experience rather than simply patching a less than ideal experience.
In 2015 your customers will be more empowered than ever, by making a commitment to build a better customer experience you can put all the complexities and challenges of the modern day marketer into proper perspective and plan for a kick booty year. Good luck!
Interested in knowing more about the Buyer Legends process?
Customers arrive at your business with a bigger picture than view we have from the seat at our desk.
They don’t always want us to “solve” their problem or save them money; although these may be their stated goals. Truly, not every problem is in search of a solution and cheap certainly doesn’t guarantee success.
From where we sit, inside a business, it looks different. Yet, when we are customers we know that the intrinsic value of a brand interaction is the delight we feel from the interaction, and not merely satisfaction. Delight is defined as extreme satisfaction, it thrills us.
So the view from our desk or conference room isn’t the customer’s perspective! The customer doesn’t care what department we’re in, what channel we’re responsible for or even sadly how hard we try.
Customers simply don’t care where you sit! They only care about their experience with your brand.
Maybe your company’s perspective is different.
The Delivery Gap
Please consider the following:
When Bain & Company surveyed 362 firms, they found that 80% believe they deliver a “superior experience” to customers. But when they asked customers, they say only 8% are really delivering.
This “delivery gap” doesn’t exist because businesses fail to recognize the importance of their customers. More than 95% of surveyed management teams say they’re customer focused.
Bain found two reasons for the gap.
Paradoxically, many growth strategies damage customer loyalty. For example, efforts to pursue new customers can distract from serving the core.
Building relationships with customers is difficult. Understanding what customers really want and keeping our promises while maintaining a dialogue to evolve with customers’ changing needs is challenging.
Bain says the 8% do something differently:
We call them the “Three D’s”: They design the right propositions for the right customers. They deliver those propositions at the lowest system cost. And they develop the institutional capabilities to do it again and again. Each of these Three D’s reinforces the others. Together, they ensure the company is continually led by the voices of its customers.
What We Have Here Is a Failure To Communicate
Buyer Legends Can Help Close The Delivery Gap
We’ve developed a simple-to-learn business process that can help you see your customer’s perspective from where you sit; we call it Buyer Legends.
Buyer Legends are not the stories you tell your customers; that’s just promotion. Buyer Legends are stories told from the point of view of your customers; because your brand isn’t what you say it is but what your customers say about it. Buyer Legends are designed to create and improve the interactions customers have with your brand; and that’s the rest of the marketing mix.
Buyer Legends combine the emotional power of storytelling with hard data to open new opportunities, spot gaps and optimize your sales and marketing. You can use them to communicate your brand’s intent and describe the responsibility of each critical touchpoint within every level of an organization — from the boardroom to the stockroom.
Many have found (in the month since publication there over 60 reviews on Amazon and we’ve linked to many others from this blog) and we hope that you too will find that Buyer Legends improve execution, communications, testing, and provide a big boost to the bottom line.
Please feel free to get “Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide”, it should take less than an hour to read, 90 minutes to implement and then you’ll be able start closing the delivery gap immediately.
Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy: Smartphones will continue to lead in mobile browsing over the five-day shopping period, accounting for 29 percent of all online traffic versus 15 percent for tablets. However, IBM predicts tablets will account for twice as many mobile purchases than smartphones thanks to the larger screen size.
Those people have a vast array of thoughts, opinions, preferences, feelings, needs and motivations. The actions those people take are measurable, as evidence of that vast array of thoughts, opinions, preferences, feelings, needs and motivations. An analysis based entirely on the numbers can only take you so far.
II. On this blog we talked about Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, a trendsetting data-driven superstar whose recent fall from grace reveals more about the misuse of data than about the state of data driven business practices.
III. A research study about charitable giving prompted this post where we discuss the power of targeting your marketing at one person(a) at a time.
IV. Storytelling is such a powerful communications device that some are using it to increase their personal productivity, it is no wonder that it is so effective at improving communications, conversion, and execution in your marketing.
V. Roger Dooley at Forbes read our book Buyer Legends – The Executive Storyteller’s Guide and had some great insight into the book’s strengths and what makes the Buyer Legends process both unique and relevant. He also left us this nice review on Amazon
Data-Driven Poster Child Tesco Loses Its Halo
Tesco had been recognized as a data-driven company that wowed investors. Now not so much, with its market value at an 11 year low. Investors are understandably disappointed. Should that give us pause about the value of customer data? Harvard Business Review might be making that case but we aren’t so sure. Tesco simply didn’t use data to support the customer experience. It seems to have used data to support the decisions it was already determined to make.
Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain, got that way by pioneering the use of data specifically by mining data from their customer loyalty cards. Michael Schrage at Harvard Business Review writes:
With the notable exception of, say, an Amazon, no global store chain was thought to have demonstrably keener data-driven insight into customer loyalty and behavior.
Observers and those in the UK may already know that Tesco is on a downward spiral with it’s market value plummeting to an 11 year low. A big part of the problem seems to be a major gaffe the company made in estimating it’s profits. But there are other problems. Schrage continues
But the harsh numbers suggest that all this data, all this analytics, all the assiduous segmentation, customization and promotion have done little for Tesco’s domestic competitiveness since Leahy’s celebrated departure. As the Telegraph story further observed, “…judging by correspondence from Telegraph readers and disillusioned shoppers, one of the reasons that consumers are turning to [discounters] Aldi and Lidl is that they feel they are simple and free of gimmicks. Shoppers are questioning whether loyalty cards, such as Clubcard, are more helpful to the supermarket than they are to the shopper.”
Making The Anti-Data Case
That makes sense. But then Schrage begins to speculate.
How damning; how daunting; how disturbing for any and every serious data-driven enterprise and marketer. If true, Tesco’s decline present a clear and unambiguous warning that even rich and data-rich loyalty programs and analytics capabilities can’t stave off the competitive advantage of slightly lower prices and a simpler shopping experience. Better insights, loyalty and promotion may not be worthless, but they are demonstrably worth less in this retail environment.
A harsher alternative interpretation is that, despite its depth of data and experience, today’s Tesco simply lacks the innovation and insight chops to craft promotions, campaigns and offers that allow it to even preserve share, let alone grow it. What an indictment of Tesco’s people, processes and customer programs that would be. In less than a decade, the driver and determinant of Tesco’s success has devolved into an analytic albatross. Knowledge goes from power to impotence.
Schrage seems to want to give data driven business practices a blanket indictment. But what if the actual problem wasn’t Tescos inability to innovate or create new promotions? What if the problem wasn’t the fact that Tesco is a data-driven company? What if data-driven marketing isn’t doomed?
Data vs. The Value Of Correct Data Analysis & Execution
Assuming that data really does drive Tesco’s marketing, it is our guess that they made one or both of the following errors.
First, they may have been driven by the wrong data and were working to increase the wrong metrics. Many companies use only the data that supports their current intuition. Bryan Eisenberg explains how Amazon’s four pillars of success revolve around data. If you read it you will learn how Amazon avoids this pitfall.
Second, they may have gotten so buried in data analysis that they lost sight of the simple fact that all that data always tells a story about people. Data simply measure the actions people take based on their feelings, motivations and situations. May I recommend that you check out, on IBM’s SmarterCommerce blog, Bryan’s demonstration of how using Buyer Legends avoids this pitfall this by turning data into story and then story into action.
Does your company use data to support the customer experience or does it use data to support decisions it’s already determined to make?
You can always identify someone as an amateur broadcaster. I was in broadcasting for 15 years but I can tell you how to spot one too. All you have to do is listen for, “you guys”, “Hello everyone”, or “You all out there”. The best broadcasters are the ones who make you feel like you are the only one they are talking to.
Stephen King writes all of his novels to one person, his wife. He calls her his ‘ideal reader’, and encourages every writer to have one of their own. King is well aware that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people will read his latest book, but he also knows he can’t think about impressing all of them at the same time, so instead he focuses exclusively on his ideal reader. He knows her well, knows her tastes, her preferences, he adores her and ceaselessly wants to impress her with his writing prowess. It is very sweet, even romantic, but it is also a wicked smart recipe for powerful writing.
Seems that human beings can truly empathize with only one person at a time.
NPR’s Shankar Vedantam writes about Paul Slovic, a researcher for the University of Oregon, and his recent findings;
In one study, Slovic told volunteers about a young girl suffering from starvation and then measured how much the volunteers were willing to donate to help her. He presented another group of volunteers with the same story of the starving little girl — but this time, also told them about the millions of others suffering from starvation.
On a rational level, the volunteers in this second group should be just as likely to help the little girl, or even more likely, because the statistics clearly established the seriousness of the problem.
“What we found was just the opposite,” Slovic says. “People who were shown the statistics along with the information about the little girl gave about half as much money as those who just saw the little girl.”
Slovic initially thought it was just the difference between heart and head. A story about an individual victim affects us emotionally. But a million people in need speaks to our head, not our heart. “As the numbers grow,” he explains, “we sort of lose the emotional connection to the people who are in need.”
This is why broad appeal messages targeted at general ‘audience segments’ yield such sub par results, or why staring at research decks and spreadsheets of data alone cannot bring a marketer the deeper emotional understanding needed to truly touch a nerve in the hearts of customers.
The most powerful marketing hones in and focuses on an audience of one.
This is also why personas, coupled with Buyer Legends, are explosive in the hands of a good marketer. Personas and Buyer Legends give companies the tools to focus on the needs, wants, preferences, and motivations of ONE single person(a) at a time, and then tell the story of how they are currently experiencing and should be experiencing your brand. This allows marketers to design the ultimate customer experience.
Are you using Personas?
If you don’t have personas, our new book Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide walks you through creating some Ad hoc personas as well as writing your first Buyer Legend in about 90 minutes.
If you are already have personas, but aren’t so impressed with them, you might like to read Bryan Eisenberg’s post – The Stepford Personas: What Lies Beneath
Please let me know how things turn out.
“Humans have only one tool capable of communicating the subjective experience of relationship through time, and that’s narrative. Ask someone about a favorite possession, and you’ll hear a story. Ask them about a friend or spouse, and you’ll hear a story. There simply is no other way to talk about relationship. And that goes for the relationship between customer and company (or brand) as well. “
You and I are wired for story. Period.
This is not just a powerful insight into our nature. It is profound and fundamental to our ability to communicate our experiences with one another, and as it turns out, ourselves. Thorin Klosowski over at Lifehacker writes
“A story is a tool to help us make sense of the world. But what about the future? What would happen if you turned your to-do list into a story as a rehearsal for the next day? Personally, it’s helped me not just Get Things Done, but also boosted my memory so that I’ve been able to ditch complicated to-do lists and schedules for good.”
Klosowski then dives into the storytelling process he uses to increase his productivity. Pretty cool, and pretty powerful.
What is good for productivity is even more powerful for improving the communications, conversions, and execution of your marketing.
Grab your copy of Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide and in the half hour you’ll invest to read it you’ll learn how to create customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.
This week over on the Salesforce blog Bryan Eisenberg explained how Buyer Legends improved collaboration within an entire marketing organization and brought clarity, focus, and better results to all their efforts.
John Jantsch interviewed Bryan and they discussed how to create a Buyer Legend, listen to the podcast over at the Duct Tape Marketing blog.
Late last week Amazon introduced a new cloud device called the Echo, and knowing what we know about Amazon Anthony speculated that this device may be part of Amazon’s larger story to make shopping Amazon a more seamless part of our everyday life.
We interviewed Melissa Burdon Cameron from Extra Space Storage in the first of an ongoing series of posts featuring Buyer Legends in real life. Melissa tells her story about how she was able to quickly integrate the Buyer Legends process into their current conversion optimization efforts.
Bryan’s article at ClickZ outlines the reason why so many rock star marketers are unhappy with the results they are getting from their personas and what they can do about that.
Have an awesome weekend!
P.S. Jeffrey Eisenberg also lead a webinar at Balihoo called Buyer Legends – Combining Data with Storytelling to Boost the Bottom Line.
Who Are the Storytellers Behind Buyer Legends: the Executive Storyteller’s Guide?
This is the first in a series of interviews with marketing executives who have read the book and are putting the ideas to work for their businesses.
Today, we chat with Melissa Burdon, Director of Marketing Optimization for Extra Space Storage (NYSE: EXR) and winner of the Direct Marketing Network 2014 40 Under 40 Award.
Good day, Melissa. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. First of all, can you tell us a bit about what you do as Director of Marketing Optimization at Extra Space Storage?
I’m responsible for reaching established goals within a testing-centric culture for the customer acquisition process across all platforms and channels including desktop website, mobile website, email, click-to-chat, call center sales, and various social media and customer-facing apps.
What are your short-term marketing goals?
Our primary goal at Extra Space Storage is to increase rentals of storage units. We drive reservations of storage units through the web and call center and then follow up with these reservations via phone, email, and SMS to improve move-in rates.
In 2014, we’ve focused more heavily on optimizing the buying experience through the entire customer-buying funnel based on who the customer is and what they are looking to accomplish. Data has given us some tremendous insights into who our customers are and how to give them the experience that effectively drives them to converting. But we know there is so much more to learn about our customers and so much more we could be doing to create a better buying experience for them.
What did you think of the ideas presented in Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide?
The ebook was very enlightening. It’s based on a simple concept. We really just need to put ourselves in the shoes of our visitors and actually walk through the buying experience they go through in order to identify the holes and opportunities that exist. The difficulty has always been how to come up with a process to achieve this. The Buyer Legends ebook is this missing piece. It outlines the steps you need to take to effectively put yourself in the shoes of the potential customer and actually walk through their buying experience to look at your marketing efforts through their lens. Once you’re able to identify the opportunities that exist, then you can take these pieces and begin optimizing the experience.
Do you plan to use the process at Extra Space Storage?
We’re applying the process to four projects at this point within the marketing department. We’re applying Buyer Legends for a social branding video, a few on-site content pages, one of our main buying funnel pages, and an acquisition email campaign.
How do you believe the Buyer Legends process will help you reach your goals?
We know the Buyer Legends process will help our department approach our optimization efforts based on what matters to our customers, first and foremost, rather than what matters to our sales process. The Buyer Legends approach allows our employees to put themselves in the customers’ shoes and see the experience from their perspective. This will help us achieve a higher number of rentals at the end of the day because we’ll be answering the questions our customers have at the most critical points of their buying process.
Have you shared it with your team/staff? What was their reaction?
I shared what I learned with our CMO and he completely sees the vision and even thinks that once we prove this out in Marketing, that this is something we need to train other departments on because this affects Operations, Learning and Development, as well as many other departments.
Once I got the thumbs up from our CMO, I put together a small group of 4 employees; our Email Manager, the Brand Manager, the Content and Social Manager, as well as our Optimization Manager and did a half-day Buyer Legends training for them. They were all expected to take on their assigned project and use the Buyer Legends approach to create or improve the campaign.
Do you see things any differently after reading the book?
I always knew it was important to see things from our customers’ perspective and focus on them rather than our sales process but it has always been difficult to actually approach making changes to specific campaigns based on what we know about our customers. The Buyer Legends ebook gives you a step by step guide on how to achieve this.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to improve their results through every channel the customer is exposed to.
As more readers share their success stories with us, we’ll tell you about them here. Have a story you would like to tell, contact us. To get started creating your own Buyer Legends, grab a copy of of the book Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide.
The most powerful stories are usually the most revealing. They reveal our innermost secrets, dreams, hopes, fears, and the struggles we overcome. They often lay the hero completely bare.
So how does a marketer tap into these vulnerable stories without seeming like an opportunistic shameless wares hocker or without seeming like you are capitalizing on the pain and gain of others?
Ashley B. Coombe at Affiliate Blogging Coach outlines how Airbnb successfully makes a customer the epicenter and hero of it’s brand story.
Get the whole story over at Ashley’s Blog.
While it may be true that Amazon is attempting to become a profitable consumer electronics manufacturer with a new smartphone venture, make no mistake that what matters most to Amazon is its ability to leverage those devices to improve the customer experience by reducing friction, and creating more buying/selling opportunities.
Turns out it was an epic flop and now Amazon is sitting on $170 million in unsold phones. But if you think that is going to deter Amazon, you would be wrong.
Blair Hanley Frank at Geekwire writes
Jorrit Van der Meulen, the head of Amazon’s device division in Europe, told The Guardian in an interview that the company is “undeterred” by the Fire’s poor consumer reception, and is taking feedback from the device’s introduction under consideration for future forays into the same space. “We certainly read everything that’s written from customers to journalists and take note, so might the second step be slightly different than our first step, sure. I suspect that it will be,” he said.
With their goal of being the most customer centric company in the world, Amazon most certainly will release an improved Fire phone that will sell better. But keep in mind, Amazon’s eye is on a bigger prize than just selling more phones, they want to sell more of everything. Fire phone is likely only one piece of a comprehensive strategy that Amazon is hatching to create their own shopping ecosystem in the story of our daily lives.
So almost on cue, Amazon introduces the Echo.
Echo is a tube shaped cloud device that recognizes your voice, answers questions and basically acts like an always-on Siri on steroids. At a glance it looks like it has the potential to be a supremely useful device to have in the home.
Of course, we think the Echo is Trojan horse, and Greg Kumparak of TechCrunch agrees.
Amazon is in the business of selling you things — and that is why Echo exists.
For now, Echo’s shopping-centric functionality is limited to helping you add things to your shopping list.
Need some pickles? Cool. Just say “Alexa, add pickles to my shopping list.” (Note: Echo listens for the word “Alexa” by default. You can pick a different name, it seems.) It won’t order them for you yet. It’ll just add them to a list for you to look at later.
But if Echo sees any sort of success, just watch how fast that will change.
You’ll be able to say “Alexa, order me a copy of Kung Fu Panda 2,” and it’ll be done.
“Alexa, order me some dope-ass high thread count egyptian cotton sheets.” Bam. Done. Sheets are on the way.
One-click purchase becomes no-click purchase. Your entire house (or at least, anything within earshot of Alexa) becomes the impulse-buy candy shelf from the grocery store’s checkout lane.
While other online retailers scramble to optimize their shopping carts, Amazon continues to do that too. Amazon is also innovating methods to take their shopping cart offline and embed it seamlessly in our day-to-day lives.
So while Amazon weaves themselves into the fabric of their customers’ life stories, will other retailers be able to keep up?
Probably not without working just as hard as Amazon does to understand its customer.
This week over at LinkedIn, we shared some data from a Kapost study about the critical role content is playing in marketing strategy and how Buyer Legends can pull all your disparate content efforts into a cohesive and accountable customer experience.
Murray Newlands over at Inc. explained how the Buyer Legends process can be used to hack your growth.
How your organization prices products and services tells your customers a story about your brand, in this post you can read how J.C. Penney learned this lesson the hard way.
Anthony shared an example of how simply telling a story using a series of banner ads can have a nice impact on conversion. And we also wrote about how Steve Jobs built a legendary brand story and how after 30 years, that brand story is still exactly the same.
Bryan Eisenberg wrote about the future of CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) for eConsultancy.
Today is also the last day to grab a free copy of Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide. Currently the book has 52 5 star reviews, for a overall 4.9 star rating and it hit #1 in Marketing.
Your support means everything to us, thank you!
You don’t have to be an Apple fan-boy to understand or appreciate the mojo of Apple’s brand story. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 it’s brand story was tribal, but anemic and small. Jobs needed to take that tribalism in his small base of customers and expand it beyond the PC vs. Mac war , a war that Apple was losing. As a result the “Think Different” campaign was born.
So instead of telling a story about the company, a product, or even a philosophy, Jobs decided to tell a story about Mac users by placing them in the same category as some of the worlds movers and shakers like Einstein, Dylan, Lennon, Earhart, etc…
Steve jobs created a Brand Legend where the hero of the story were his customers.
In an internal meeting introducing this campaign to Apple Jobs describes the ad:
“It honors those people who have changed the world. Some of them are alive, some of them are not. But the ones that aren’t, as you’ll see, we know that if they ever used a computer it would have been a Mac.”
Fast forward 17 years, and a market valuation that now exceeds Microsoft, we can see that the Apple brand story is still the same. Here is the video they featured at their introduction of the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch.
The most powerful brand stories are not about the brand, they are about the customers. What is your brand story about?
To some, the idea of using story and storytelling in a business setting feels like some airy fairy pixie dusted exercise in touchy feely-ness. It’s understandable. For some STORY equals FICTION, and what use is fiction in business? In our practice the stories, or Buyer Legends we write and use are based on market research, real customer interactions and use cases. And the stories are not fictional, but rather speculative. In addition they serve as predictive models of customer behavior that can be tested and optimized. Don’t think of storytelling as some romantic notion, instead view it as an established construct for more effective communications both with customers and with your team.
There is no shortage of evidence that storytelling works either. A joint research study by Facebook and Adaptly found that a series of sequenced ads that tell the customer a story about the product/service far outperform those ads that sought to get people to take action immediately. Chad Brooks of Business News Daily writes…
“The researchers found that among those who saw the sequenced ads compared with those who saw the non-sequenced ads, there was an 87 percent increase in people visiting the landing page. Additionally, there was a 56 percent increase in email subscription rates among people who saw the sequenced ads.”
You, I, and your customers are wired for story. That is not a fairy tale, that is a reality. Ignore it at your own risk.
Want to know more about unleashing the power of story in your business? Get your copy of Buyer Legend – The Executive Storyteller’s Guide.
Bernadette Jiwa over at The Story of Telling writes.
“Price, like design, location or quality is part of your brand story—one you are asking customers to believe in. You get to choose the story you want to tell and who you want to tell it to. It pays to understand what story the people you choose to serve want to believe.”
Jiwa explains how Ron Johnson, the retail guru behind the first iterations of the hyper successful Apple Store, took the CEO helm at J.C. Penney and sought to save the struggling retailer by creating a better shopping experience. One of his first orders of business was to change the stores longtime discount pricing strategy. Things didn’t turn out that well.
“This change in the story that J.C. Penney’s core customers believed about price (one that the company had trained them to believe) stopped loyal customers coming and ultimately led to a 37% drop in the company’s market value. The financial results also lost Johnson his position as CEO after only 17 months.”
Ouch. Wanting to tell a new brand story is a noble business goal, just make sure you know how your customers will interpret it. Start by having a comprehensive understanding of how they understand your current brand story. Buyer Legends should help.
Marketers are busy getting their plans together for 2015. If the study, that came out of the CMO Club Summit in New York last March, is any indication of what marketers are considering as challenges to their business campaigns, then they need to add a new strategy document to their 2015 planning.
A few of the key challenges they listed were:
- Delivering a positive customer experience throughout the research, discovery, and purchase journey.
- Creating client or customer-centric content
- Keeping content flow constant
- Measuring the effectiveness of content
- Managing data and identifying how to leverage it effectively
- Maximizing omni-channel marketing with limited talent and training resources
- Reinvigorated an already well-known brand
A Harris Interactive study finds that as many as 86% of customers leave due to bad customer service.
A RightNow Technologies study finds that as many as 73% of customers leave due to bad customer service.
The Rockefeller Corporation study finds that 68% of customers leave because they believe that companies don’t care about them.
When Bain & Company recently surveyed 362 firms, they found that 80% believe that they deliver a “superior experience” to customers. But when they asked customers, they report that only 8% are really delivering.
Now take a look at this:
Customer experience clearly matters!
Now, let’s be generous and give those 80% of executives the benefit of the doubt. They probably sincerely believe that their companies are customer-centric.
So here’s my question; do you think that if those executives read a Buyer Legend that narrated the customer experience for them anything would change?
Please stay positive and let me know what you think.
“NatureBox delivers a world of carefully sourced and nutritionist-approved foods right to your door. Each snack contains wholesome ingredients – with no artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors. Snacking has never been so deliciously fun and naturally easy.”
For a monthly subscription fee of $19.95 on up to $49.95 NatureBox will send you a selection of healthy snacks for you or your whole family. I just joined at the $29.99 level, but I almost didn’t.
Recently I was going through my email subscriptions when in a Daily Digg email I read a headline that caught my attention.
“How to Snack without Eating Crap”
I quickly clicked the link and landed on this page
Now I am fascinated, but on this entire page the only option I have is the “Start Now” button. When I click on that, I am taken to this page.
My obvious first question is “OK, but what snacks will you send? Can I select the snacks?”. I’m about ready to bail out, but still intrigued I click on “select this box” because it is the only choice I have. My thought is that I might find those answers in the next step.
This next page is even worse. It clearly is the checkout process. Pigs might go airborne before I complete a checkout process without knowing exactly what I am purchasing, and I am surely speaking for most mentally stable adults as well.
Now I can go on and on about how horrible this conversion funnel is, and I can nit pick several tactical things wrong with these pages, but instead I will point out this ‘landing page experience’ follows several commonly used marketing techniques. It attempts to ‘squeeze’ out a conversion, by locking me into a single landing page and forcing me through a checkout. This is not uncommon, and in some cases might be the most effective practice. In fact, it might have even worked here had these marketers understood one thing, the context of a health conscious customer.
So let me whip up a quick Buyer Legend (buyer narrative) based on myself.
Over the past few years Anthony has tackled some severe health issues, and recently has become much more aggressive about his health. He has adopted a rigorous workout schedule, and has made several major adjustments to his diet mostly cutting refined flour and sugars. While Anthony has no problems making his meals interesting he has struggled finding snacks that he both enjoys and are healthy for him. He is simply bored with nuts and berries. He has spent hours in Whole Foods and other health food stores searching for a few more snacks to add to his diet to no avail. He reads nutrition labels meticulously and watches his carbs and tries to eat organic as much as possible. As he arrives at NatureBox.com his first order of business is to see what the snack line up is. He finds several snacks and reads the nutrition facts for each. Anthony must find it easy to save the snacks he wants to a shopping cart or wishlist before he checks out.
I am pretty sure when it comes to reading food labels, I am no different than most health conscious eaters. When I went directly to the NatureBox.com homepage (as opposed to staying on the landing page I was linked to), I was able to peruse all the yummy looking snacks AND their nutrition facts. The biggest problem I had was narrowing down my choices for my first monthly snack box.
So here is a word to the marketers at NatureBox.com that paid for my click by placing a sponsored ad in one of my emails. Gals and Guys, I understand why you did what you did, Your headline about not eating crap for snacks was brilliant. If you were building a classic squeeze page campaign you did a great job. However, the one thing you failed to do was understand my needs, and every other healthy eater’s as well. I wonder if after you read the above Buyer Legend would you do the same thing? How many people can you expect to sidestep your landing page urls? And wouldn’t you like the credit for my conversion?
Dear reader, do you have your copy of Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide yet? Your customers would love you to read it.
It was May 1, 2003 and from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, with a banner that read “Mission Accomplished” looming behind him, George W. Bush declared an end to ‘major combat operations’ in Iraq. It wasn’t until seven long years later, after counter insurgencies, countless car bombings, and dozens of setbacks that the U.S. was able to officially end combat operations in Iraq when the last remaining combat brigade left for Kuwait.
There is no shortage of Iraq war critics, but most experts agree that the Iraq war was both bravely fought by our soldiers, and that it was also a poorly planned operation.
In his book Fiasco:The American Military Adventure in Iraq author Thomas E. Ricks cites senior military brass revealing an unexpected culprit hindering the war’s execution.
[Army Lt. General David] McKiernan had another, smaller but nagging issue: He couldn’t get Franks to issue clear orders that stated explicitly what he wanted done, how he wanted to do it, and why. Rather, Franks passed along PowerPoint briefing slides that he had shown to Rumsfeld.
The issue turned out not to be so small. Retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a former military commander went on to contrast the conventional means of detailed war planning with it’s de facto replacement.
“To imagine that PowerPoint slides can substitute for such means is really the height of recklessness.” It was like telling an automobile mechanic to use a manufacturer’s glossy sales brochure to figure out how to repair an engine.
The problem is not just bullet points and PPT presentations, it’s any communication that lacks context. Business culture is notorious for condensing complexities into bite sized chunks, but clearly this practice does not serve an organization well, especially an organization with boots on the ground. In business, those boots on the ground are your customer facing employees, those marketers and content creators that must have a rich and context sensitive knowledge of your customers, or those are creating and designing products and services.
The U.S. military is arguably the most effective war machine mankind has ever known and if Powerpoint is degrading it’s ability to plan and execute, could it be doing the same to your marketing?
All of us here at Buyer Legends are obsessed with Amazon, specifically, we love their obsession with the customer and watch with fascination and admiration how Amazon ruthlessly leverages everything at it’s disposal to improve the customer experience.
Bryan has often discussed his belief that in the not too distant future we can own an Amazon branded refrigerator. This high tech appliance would determine if you were low on milk, eggs, or anything in your fridge and would automatically place an order for said items. It’s also easy to imagine Amazon them dropping of a package at your door step a few hours later using Amazon Prime Air. This type of product fits perfectly into the Amazon ethos of doing business, and I, for one, would be first in line to purchase one.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Amazon introduced the Fire Phone , an android based smartphone that features Firefly, a technology that allows Fire phone users to point their phone at almost any product, movie, song, media and find useful information about it. You can price compare, and easily buy those products on Amazon. Fast Company calls it the ultimate busy Mom phone.
While it may be true that Amazon is attempting to become a profitable consumer electronics manufacturer with a new smartphone venture, make no mistake that what matters most to Amazon is its ability to leverage those devices to improve the customer experience by reducing friction, and creating more buying/selling opportunities.
In fact, if the numbers from their Kindle line hold true for the Fire phone, Fire phone owners will spend 55% more on Amazon than non Fire phone owners. With Firefly technology that number might be even higher.
If you are trying to build a legendary brand, you would be wise to study Amazon. Amazon’s business model has made them online customer experience pioneers. While your company maybe just trying to figure out how to get the initial sale Amazon is already finding ways to get me to happily spend more than that 55%.