02 July 2007 ~ 30 Comments

2 Ways to Get Started With Personas (Part 2)

persona non grata/gratisRegular readers of GrokDotCom, or any of our best-selling books, heartily agree: people do things according to their own motivations. And in this unprecedented day of empowered consumers,selling” to customers is 100% about facilitating their buying process. Any attempts to pitch (or push) products in ways that aren’t transparent, genuine, relevant or salient will be immediately blocked and discarded by our hyper-sensitive BS meters. Should you happen to try a high-pressure sales “trick” from yesteryear and succeed at fooling one of us, we’ll take our licks, then promptly tell ten friends, who’ll tell ten friends, who’ll tell ten other friends–all before lunch.

In Part 1 of this post, I alluded to a process to plan the customer experience around facilitating their buying process rather than your sales process. Those who’ve studied Jungian psychology or Myers-Briggs typology know how to model different decision making styles (or preferences) that make up individual buying processes. But the advent of advanced web analytics allows us to go a step further to prove these models as being more scientifically valid than ever.

Previously, I discussed the question many seem to ask once they embrace the concept of people operating according to their own motivations and preferences: “How do you research WHO makes up my audience, so you can then ASK them about their motivations?” I offered that the question was an understandable one to ask, but far from a productive use of the wise marketer’s time to go find an answer.

I was watching Morning Joe on MSNBC last week, and they illustrated my point wonderfully. Erin Burnett, a correspondent from CNBC, reporting from Wall St. (on, you guessed it, the iPhone) had an exchange with the host, former congressman Joe Scarborough. Joe was remarking at how he always looks at consumer confidence reports as an indicator of what trends are emerging, where gas prices will go, the real estate market, the economy in general, etc. Erin surprised Joe with her response, namely that history shows since the Great Depression–shortly after which consumer confidence began being scientifically measured–public opinion of what would be spent wasn’t exactly a consistent predictor what actually got spent as time went on. I’ll say it again, for the record, believe what they do, not what they say they do.

OK, ok, ok… I can see you nodding your heads in agreement. I can see you waving your hands, saying, “We agree knowing what type they ARE is not worth focusing on, but rather what type THEY WILL BE when they engage with us (and how to do we give them what they want) is where we spend our resources.” The question is, HOW do we get started?

2) Do some “work” yourself (and if need be hire a firm to come in and help wrap up)
Level of difficulty: medium (there’s a process that can be followed, you just need to allocate the resources: time or money)
Likelihood of success: great

Here’s the first exercise to kickoff your internal persona project:

  1. Assemble a small team (2 – 4 members) with diverse backgrounds. Make sure to include people who have close contact with end customers, and have a strong understanding of the value proposition (benefits) for the customers. Don’t worry about explicitly including experts in your business for now (if they’re there, great, but if not, the exercise will still work). Remember, the goal is to better understanding the buying process, not redoing the sales process.
  2. Give everyone on the team 15 minutes to brainstorm as many attributes as they can about the product, why someone would buy it, or what makes it unique. Collect these attributes, and combine them on a central whiteboard for all to see and discuss to ensure clarity.
  3. Next to each attribute, gain consensus on whether it’s more likely to be appealing to logic, or to emotion. Resist the urge to say “both” for each attribute, the exercise is designed to make sure you make some hard decisions. Re-sort the list into logical attributes on one sheet, and emotional on the other.
  4. Now repeat the process, this time gaining consensus on how hard it is to understand the attribute, and to which pace it’s likely to appeal. Is the attribute something concrete and crystal clear to anyone after 3 seconds of reading it? Rather, does it require a bit more education or a finer subtle experience level to reach it’s full value? Resort each list according to “faster” or “slower” pace.
  5. You know have 4 sorted lists into fast/logical, fast/emotional, slow/logical, and slow/emotional attributes. Here’s where the fun part comes in 😉 These lists of attributes are probably too abstract for people to relate to, so make them more concrete. Use your demographic data (you know, the research you bought that didn’t answer the question of why people buy) and your market “segments” to layer a profile; a story which sets the context for the attributes on your lists to be appealing.

Did you just create fancy Personas you can put up on your walls? Are you now in line for that promotion? Sorry, probably not, but if you’re a shareholder, what you’ve done is likely far more valuable. You’ve taken the first step toward building a system to plan different experiences for different types of people, all easily executed on the same website, within the same copy, that provides feedback to prove or disprove the motivations and attributes you assumed. You’ve begun to answer question 1 of the 3 questions for designing persuasive systems.

Yes, learning to crawl can seem frustrating when all you want to do is walk. But remember, given the state of affairs online, our collective track record dictates we’re very good at persuading our visitors to take an action (97.5% of ’em, anyway). Unfortunately, that action is pounding on the back button until they find someone who seems to understand them better! Set aside 60 minutes to go through the exercise above, and put it into place in whatever capacity you easily can.

I’d love to hear what happens from all who try, and I’ll gladly offer any advice or feedback if you just reach out and share. (If you’d prefer not to comment publicly, please do email me: howardk [at] futurenowinc [dot] com.)

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