Marketing

Six Questions To Help You Hire a Conversion Rate Optimization (#CRO) Agency

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:

Read the rest of this post on Bryan Eisenberg’s LinkedIn blog 

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Legendary Links: worthwhile reading 9/18/16

Important List On Blackboard

 

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.

21 ways Amazon changed the face of retail

“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.

What will the iPhone 8 be made of? [Quora]

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.

How Optimizely Shrunk Google’s Market Share by 92%

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.

The Five Disciplines of Customer Experience Leaders

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.

When your boss is an algorithm

In the gig economy, companies such as Uber and Deliveroo manage workers via their phones. But is this liberating or exploitative?

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Legendary Links: worthwhile reading

 

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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

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Take note of these 9 principles for your next eCommerce site redesign:

  1. More iterative redesign approach.
  2. Stronger UX research to validate assumptions and solutions
  3. Increasingly specific definitions of “success”.
  4. Clearly defined baselines, targets and time bases for goal & KPI improvement
  5. More analytics & research resources to identify problems & validate solutions throughout the redesign process.
  6. Clear definitions of key segments the site needs to serve (and clear hypotheses for serving those specific segments).
  7. Greater understanding of “mobility” and “omni-channel” behavior and recognition of key use cases for adaptive experiences.
  8. Increased pressure for measurable improvements immediately at re-launch (as opposed to generous “bake in” periods).
  9. 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.

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Learn What Advertising Can’t Do from the estimable Jeff Sexton

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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.”

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Invention is only the first step of innovation.”
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What To Test First #CX #UX #CRO

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We use a 3-step process as part of our Buyer Legends process.

  1. Pre-mortem
  2. Eisenberg’s Hierarchy of Optimization
  3. 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.

Pre-mortem

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?

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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.

Scoring Priorities

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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A Powerful Conversion Rate Hack – #CRO #CX #UX

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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.

empathyThe simple process we developed to deliver on this promise is Buyer Legends. Buyer Legends will:

  1. Help you understand what your customers needs to provide persuasive momentum.
  2. Help you understand what delights your customers.
  3. 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

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Personas: The Key Ingredient In Design For Conversion

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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

In the last installment of the Buyer Legends Recipe Series, on Persuasive Momentum, I introduced you to Marshall. Here is Marshall’s ad-hoc persona and a simple narrative:

Persona for: Mall Sunglass Kiosk

Name: Marshall Thomlinson

Profession: Regional sales manager for a Medical Supply Company in Denver, CO

Age: 36

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

Age: 29

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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P.S. This is the fourth in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts , please sign up to our newsletter for updates.

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An Interview With Bryan Eisenberg – Two Episode Podcast – Buyer Legends & More

Bryan was recently interviewed by Rod Worley the host of “Inside the Jewelry Trade Radio Show” to let us know that his interview was now online.
Here is what Rod had to say:
Inside-the-Jewelry-Trade-430x430
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.com
The link to the show notes page and player:    ITJT 011
The 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 012
Once again, thank you Bryan for sharing so much great content with our listeners!
Rod Worley
Website:  fourgrainer.com
We would love to know what you think of the interview. Please let us know. Thanks!

 

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Reverse Chronology: Planning Customer Experiences That Convert

time-machineEvery 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:

  1. Ensure your legend ends in success.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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?)
  2. Jenny removes the backpack from the box, she thinks is it’s even more impressive than the website picture showed.
  3. Jenny opens the shipping box with relative ease
  4. 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)
  5. A few hours later, Jenny receives the shipping notification
  6. Jenny receives the order confirmation, she checks it and flags the email for easy reference
  7. She feels comfortable everything is correct, Jenny places the order. She can’t wait for her bag to arrive.
  8. 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
  9. 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)
  10. Jenny clicks around on the site a bit more but decides there is nothing else she needs or wants and clicks the checkout button
  11. Jenny adds the backpack to her cart
  12. 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)
  13. 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
  14. She also notices free shipping for items of $100, the backpack she is purchasing qualifies
  15. Jenny sees that this particular bag comes in the exact color/design she likes
  16. 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.
  17. She clicks on a link in the article that takes her to the product page of that backpack
  18. As she reads the article she becomes intrigued by one style backpack in particular
  19. Jenny finds an article from a major tech magazine “Reader’s Choice, Best Laptop Backpacks”
  20. Jenny does a Google search, “best laptop backpacks 2015”

Example #1 B2B SaaS

  1. He is excited to start scouting locations and using IdealSpot.com
  2. 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)
  3. Marks sees that his privacy will be protected.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. Mark clicks through to the the IdealSpot.com “How Does it Work” page.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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) –

  1. The Most Aware: Customer is fully aware on the product, only wants to know the ‘deal’.
  2. Product-Aware: Customer knows what you sell but unsure if it’s right for him.
  3. Solution-Aware: Customer knows what results he wants, not sure if your product can provide him that.
  4. Problem-Aware: Customer realizes his problem area but doesn’t have the solution.
  5. 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.

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P.S. This is the second in a series of Buyer Legends Recipe Posts, please sign up to our newsletter for updates.

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