Personas

Personas for innovation

Empathy Propels Marketing Past “Optimization” to Innovation

Personas for innovationAre Personas Dead? According to a recent blog post  on the Convince & Convert blog, they would have you believe they are.

Here’s why that’s wrong:

If I tell you “the king died,” that’s a single-event data point. Information, if you will.
And if I tell you “the king died and then the queen died,” that’s two data points. It’s still information.

But if I tell you that “The king died and then the queen died of a broken heart,” that’s a story.
I’ve taken the two data points and connected them with causality, which makes the data meaningful.

What does this have to do with Personas and Big Data?

All data records events. Little factual tidbits of what happened. At best, sophisticated analytics can record chronological records or patterns of events.

The website visitor did this. Then this. Then that.

Or, patterns: male customers tended to buy this instead of that.

But notice that the reported chronologies and patterns are absent causality and intention. A series of events for a Web or store visit remain nothing more than an itinerary. And a pattern remains nothing but a correlation. There is no visible cause-and-effect relationship. There is no underlying shopper intention, and no meaning recorded by the data itself. That all remains for the marketer to provide via interpretation.

Humans cannot transform data points to insight about causality, intention, and meaning.  To do so they must turn the data into a story.

Stories with the buyer as the protagonist.

And “buyer as protagonist” is another way of saying “persona.”

Formal Vs. Informal Personas

Are we really saying that all marketers use personas and tell stories when interpreting data?

Yes.  

The data might be as straightforward as “the all-inclusive bundle is our most popular product,” combined with “A/B testing proves that a satisfaction guarantee boosted conversions by 30%”

And the story might be as simple as “this category of buyer chooses the satisfaction-guaranteed, all-inclusive bundled option because of its convenience and promise of risk reduction.”

Yet as simple as that interpretation of the data is, it still represents the creation of a story centered around a character in the form of a buyer.  

Unfortunately, because the creation of the buyer’s persona was implicit and ad-hoc, it was also under-developed.

And that’s where the problems come in.

The Downside of Implicit, Informal and /or Ad-Hoc Personas

So what’s wrong with letting one’s personas remain implicit or unconscious? After all, we process intuitively as we make sense of the data?

Short answer: Our Baked-In Cognitive Glitches.

We have two cognitive biases when we rely on ad-hoc implied personas:

1) We assume everyone is like us. They value what we value, they make decisions like we make decisions, and what appeals to us also appeals to them.

2) We work off of stereotypes and then engage in the fundamental attribution error.  When we see someone doing something, we tend to think it relates to their personality rather than the situation the person might be in.

Well-designed Personas help marketers avoid these cognitive biases. They show how a different temperament might engage in a different decision-making process. They look beyond stereotypical attributions to see the context.

The most important reason to use well-designed personas is prediction.

With a well-designed persona like a TV character, you can predict how they’ll behave.  Character explains a scenario better than demographic and even psychographic data.

For example, suppose a white, middle-aged, middle-classed, white-collar New Yorker found a lost wallet, stuffed with cash. What would you predict he’s likely to do?

Well, based on that, you’d have no clue, right?

There’s no way you can confidently predict behavior based on the demographics provided unless you assume that the person in question would do what you think a typical person would do. Which is to say what you’d do.

That’s exactly the situation with implicit personas that are usually drawn from demographics or based on our own intuitions of how we or typical person would behave.  

Now, if instead of giving you demographics, I told you that George Costanza found that wallet…

Now you can picture exactly what Costanza would do, even though it’s probably not anywhere near what you — or even a typical person — would do in the same situation.

That’s the kind of prediction those properly designed personas bring to the table.

And when it comes to crafting and optimizing customer experiences, that’s all the difference in the world.

Increased Data = Increased Need for (Better) Personas

Data and advanced analytics don’t and can’t change our hardwired need for a story as a sense-making tool.  

In fact, the more complex and unstructured our data sets become, the more robust our storytelling chops need to be to help us not only analyze, but make sense of that data.

The disadvantage of structured data is that the structure limits the answers you can pull from it. The advantage of structured data is that the structure suggests the questions the database is capable of answering.

So while unstructured Big Data presents greater opportunities for marketers, it also increases the burden of coming up with and framing the right questions to ask.

The better designed the persona, the easier it is to interpret the data as narrative. Personas help frame and ask questions about intent, motivation, and cause and effect.  These questions can then be posed to the data sets for not only answers but insights.

This is the only way to move from having data to being able to use that data to increase sales, market share, customer loyalty, etc.

Personas Increase Empathy and Move Marketing Past “Optimization” to Innovation

Without personas, marketers can certainly optimize what already exists to a local maximum. You don’t have to generate deep insight into the customer to run multivariate tests on different alternatives to the established patterns. Different color buttons. Slightly different calls to actions, hero images, page layouts, etc.

But you also can’t move past optimization to true innovation without thinking seriously about customer drives, frustrations, motivations, etc. Great customer experience design requires empathy.

And for empathy to be predictive, it requires fully fleshed out characters with which to work, just like you experienced with the Costanza example.

You can’t do customer design with just data alone and advanced analytical methods alone. In fact, neuroscientists have proven that analytical thinking inhibits empathy.

Your mind can do either one of these things, but it can only do one of them well at any given time. A marketers ability to generate customer insights come to live while in emotional storytelling mode, but fall dead while in number crunching analytics mode. And vice versa of course.

The point is, good marketers need both sets of skills, as well as advanced, rigorous processes for supporting and exercising those skill sets.

No one would ever argue that marketers don’t need or benefit from accurate and advanced customer data. Or sophisticated methods of statistical analysis aimed at sifting and sorting through that data, looking for patterns.

But that same level of rigor and defined tool sets also need to be brought to the storytelling side of the equation. Meaning that implicit and ad hoc personas just aren’t good enough.

And the more context-sensitive the situation, the more important simulation through storytelling and the use of formally developed personas becomes.

In other words, personas aren’t in opposition to data, they are the other half of the coin. Personas are a contextual tool for making data relevant and actionable. They are a bridge to understanding customers at a human level.

Without this, marketers are doomed. Without well-designed personas, it’s difficult to focus on customer experiences, rather than just products, price points, placement, and promotions.

So are personas still relevant in an age of data-driven companies?

Not only are they “relevant,” they’re becoming increasingly necessary for survival.

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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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Recipes For Practical Customer Experience Design & Optimization #CRO #UX #CX

miseenplaceIf 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.

Pre-mortem because it is the antidote to Murphy’s Law 

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...

Reverse chronology because it explains conversions

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.

Persuasive momentum because there’s no such thing as a sales funnel

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 because their motivations become your action plan

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.

Write a Buyer Legend because the only story that matters is your customers’ story

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.

Measurement because if analysts cannot tell the stories and business people cannot measure the stories then the strategy isn’t truly aligned with customers’ needs.

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.

 

 

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How a Social Media Agency Increases Conversions

Dennis YuIt’s 10 o’clock on a Friday night and you are at the bar. George Clooney strolls in and sits down at the bar.  After a long while George retreats, leaving the bar head down and alone.  You look over and see Scarlett Johansson alone despite greeting every man that passes her way.  She leaves the bar looking rejected and pathetic.  And then “the most interesting man in the world’ walks in, takes a seat, orders, and he is unceremoniously delivered a 48 oz can of Bud Light.

Now imagine how you would feel watching that scene.  That is exactly how we felt when our friend Dennis Yu told us he was struggling to convert leads in his new business venture.

Dennis Yu is a social media marketing rock star.  Dennis is a sought after speaker, works with impressive brands, is wicked smart, and is one of the nicest guys we know. Dennis is also a customer data ninja, and is one of the world’s most formidable Facebook marketers.

Dennis offers high end services to his big name clients, but he also co-founded and serves as CMO/CTO for a company called BlitzMetrics making his expertise more affordable and accessible to SMBs.  BlitzMetrics provides a simple solution for smaller scale businesses to manage the complexities of their social media marketing.  In the spirit of full disclosure,we are a BlitzMetrics. client so we have experienced first hand how easy it is to get started. And, of course, we have been thrilled with the results of our campaigns.

BlitzMetrics’s Conversion Challenge

After talking to Dennis we were surprised to learn how many well qualified leads never got started. We knew that the price couldn’t be the issue, their credibility is high and we found the process of onboarding painless and simple. There was absolutely some conversion challenge none of us understood.

We offered to take Dennis and his team through the Buyer Legend process.  Dennis had read our book and was starting to do some preliminary work. Anybody can do this process alone but we wanted to make sure it happened quickly and correctly. When we got Dennis and his team on a conference call and began by polishing up his ad-hoc persona. The persona of a potential client was unlike us, and that’s the point. The persona was the CMO of a click and mortar SMB with less digital experience who pressed for resources and time. That perspective was truly unlike Dennis’ or our own.

We performed a pre-mortem for the Persona, a step many are tempted to skip but is mission critical. In a pre-mortem we list all the things that can go wrong during the customer’s buyers journey.  We think of it as inoculation against Murphy’s law, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” It is essential to figure out what could go wrong. How else can plan for everything to go right?

We followed the pre-mortem with a reverse chronological outline. That is where we detail every step of the Persona’s ideal customer experience by starting at the conversion point and working our way backwards.  Part of the exercise is to both think of the actual action steps the customer must complete as well as outline their thought process as they approach each step. It’s a bit like programming, miss a step and your result will vary.

We then wrote a Buyer Legend together, you’ll be able to read it below. We’ll also point out what innovations and process optimizations came out of it.

Dennis Yu’s A-Ha Moment

It wasn’t that long into our two-hour call Dennis had a powerful a-ha moment.  There was an awkwardly long silence and Dennis blurted out “Oh I see!”

He shared what he saw with us after the call:

“We’ve been so focused on mining data, generating reports galore and micro campaign optimizations, that we’ve lost sight of the fundamentals.

We neglected why people come to us and what the experience looks like wearing their shoes. Our inward myopia created barriers to customers who want to buy from us.”

This simple business process is designed to help the marketer get inside a customer’s head triggered a paradigm shift for one of the smartest marketers we know.  Dennis is a naturally intuitive and empathetic marketer.  He only needed a few simple exercises to realign his conversion efforts.  He began to see the gaps and the roadblocks in his current customer experience to understand how he can patch them up.

Dennis had found his conversion mojo.

How The Process Delivered Insight

To give you a little more insight into the process let us share just a few of the bullets from the pre-mortem.

  • She gets confused and walks away because it is too much of a hassle to figure it out
  • She doesn’t understand exactly what BlitzMetrics does.
  • She is unclear about her package options
  • She has sticker shock

It was during the reverse chronology when Dennis began to reconcile “What could go wrong” with “What is going wrong” that he had his a-ha moment.  The fog cleared, the scales fell away and he was able to see and think through how to prevent these things from occurring.  The final Buyer Legend reflects, in narrative form, exactly how BlitzMetrics is building an optimized customer experience for Diana and other potential customers with similar buying styles.

A BlitzMetrics Buyer Legend

Here is an abridged version of the Buyer Legend that we wrote together. It tells part of the story of the persona named Diana, a 43 year old CMO for a small Gourmet Pie chain. Diana comes from traditional marketing and is trying to get a handle on the digital aspects of her job.

Diana is hoping that when she contacts BlitzMetrics they will be part of her solution, not just another problem. She was impressed with Dennis’ presentation and knows he is really smart guy, but she isn’t sure what BlitzMetrics does. For that matter, she’s not really sure what Facebook marketing is either. It helps that Dennis took her card he told her “we’ll take care of you.” He wouldn’t be the first vendor who disappointed her, but she is hopeful.

BlitzMetrics follows up within 24 hours of Diana meeting Dennis and invites her to find out how they can help her.  They offer either a quick call to answer her questions or to do some due diligence with her so that they can produce a proposal. She doesn’t want a call, she’s too busy, and asks for some more information. She gets it immediately.

She is thrilled to see it contains not just the clearest explanation of what BlitzMetrics does but it includes some thumbnail pictures of what the deliverables look like and a wide range of pricing. The wide range of prices lets her feel at ease that pricing is not being hidden and hopeful that there is Goldilocks service for her situation. At the end of the presentation, it has a prominent call to action that tells her to request a detailed checklist of what needs to be prepared for her to receive a customized proposal from BlitzMetrics.

Diana loves how helpful the checklist is, so she shares it with the team that needs to implement it and requests another call to go through it. BlitzMetrics organizes that and doesn’t assume anybody has seen the original presentation so they go over it briefly. She appreciates how easy BlitzMetrics is making her life and how they’re making her look good.

Once Diana receives the proposal, amazed at how quickly it came and how thoroughly clear it is, she has a final meeting with Steve and Rob, the CFO, to explain that the service costs are fixed but the media costs will be variable. She shows them how BlitzMetrics helps contain costs and can demonstrate accountability. They’re impressed with the professionalism, understand what they are buying and are ready to proceed. Steve sends the contract for legal review but is prepared to proceed.

Did you notice that the idea of sending her information (as opposed to pushing her into a call), detailed checklist, and transparent pricing are a direct result of what we did in the pre-mortem and reverse chronological outline?

What Came First, the Process or the Rock Star?

The Buyer Legends process while simple, is also powerful in it’s ability to force the marketer into the minds and hearts of the customer. It’s only in their minds and hearts that he can resolve their conversion challenges and then communicate what needs to be done to the execution team.

And it doesn’t matter if you are the George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson of marketing the Buyer Legends process can up your game, or get you unstuck.  If you are still looking to become a rock star, try writing your first Buyer Legend and see what it does for you.

Go ahead read the book, or let us know and we will be happy to help you.  

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Why Target Audiences So Often Miss The Mark

 

 

You can always identify someone as an amateur broadcaster. I was in broadcasting for 15 years but I can tell you how to spot one too. All you have to do is listen for, “you guys”, “Hello everyone”, or “You all out there”. The best broadcasters are the ones who make you feel like you are the only one they are talking to.

Stephen King writes all of his novels to one person, his wife. He calls her his ‘ideal reader’, and encourages every writer to have one of their own. King is well aware that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people will read his latest book, but he also knows he can’t think about impressing all of them at the same time, so instead he focuses exclusively on his ideal reader. He knows her well, knows her tastes, her preferences, he adores her and ceaselessly wants to impress her with his writing prowess. It is very sweet, even romantic, but it is also a wicked smart recipe for powerful writing.

Seems that human beings can truly empathize with only one person at a time.

NPR’s Shankar Vedantam writes about Paul Slovic, a researcher for the University of Oregon, and his recent findings;

In one study, Slovic told volunteers about a young girl suffering from starvation and then measured how much the volunteers were willing to donate to help her. He presented another group of volunteers with the same story of the starving little girl — but this time, also told them about the millions of others suffering from starvation. 

On a rational level, the volunteers in this second group should be just as likely to help the little girl, or even more likely, because the statistics clearly established the seriousness of the problem. 

“What we found was just the opposite,” Slovic says. “People who were shown the statistics along with the information about the little girl gave about half as much money as those who just saw the little girl.” 

Slovic initially thought it was just the difference between heart and head. A story about an individual victim affects us emotionally. But a million people in need speaks to our head, not our heart. “As the numbers grow,” he explains, “we sort of lose the emotional connection to the people who are in need.”

This is why broad appeal messages targeted at general ‘audience segments’ yield such sub par results, or why staring at research decks and spreadsheets of data alone cannot bring a marketer the deeper emotional understanding needed to truly touch a nerve in the hearts of customers.

The most powerful marketing hones in and focuses on an audience of one.

This is also why personas, coupled with Buyer Legends, are explosive in the hands of a good marketer. Personas and Buyer Legends give companies the tools to focus on the needs, wants, preferences, and motivations of ONE single person(a) at a time, and then tell the story of how they are currently experiencing and should be experiencing your brand. This allows marketers to design the ultimate customer experience.

Are you using Personas?

If you don’t have personas, our new book Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide walks you through creating some Ad hoc personas as well as writing your first Buyer Legend in about 90 minutes.

If you are already have personas, but aren’t so impressed with them, you might like to read Bryan Eisenberg’s post – The Stepford Personas: What Lies Beneath 

Please let me know how things turn out.

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