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.
“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.
The simple process we developed to deliver on this promise is Buyer Legends. Buyer Legends will:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We can speak at your event. Our fees are $20,000 in North America, and that includes travel. International fees are $20,000 plus business class travel, from Austin, and lodging. Contact us to discuss your event
We kick-off the workshop with a two-day onsite visit. We help you create the Four Pillar foundation for your organization. The entire process takes between 4-8 weeks and the typical investment is $30,000 – $100,000.