Increase conversion through personas

By Howard Kaplan
CEO Future Now

Contrary to what you may assume, Persuasion Architecture personas are not about identifying the “type” of each individual who visits your website so you can control exactly what you show them (ie – the goal is not to enable dynamically loaded content). Personas are about focusing your attention on the proper planning of scenarios (click-by-click pathways) specifically designed for each persona.  Doing this removes the need to identify a visitor’s type in advance, and the pressure of showing them just the right info- the web takes care of this for us!  As long as persona-driven content- content that is “just right” for each type of visitor, *or visitors behaving in each mode*, self-selection handles the rest.

For those new to PA Personas, a brief summary:

  • Persuasion Architecture personas are rooted in behavior in the sense that they describe both a pace for gathering information/making decisions (quick vs. slow), and information bias (logical vs. emotional).
  • Your sales process needs to account for and align with four different and identifiable ways of buying your products or services.
  • It’s possible to cater to all four types of personas on one website, and even within one page of that site.

(Editor’s note: If you want more details, and to see what tools are out there to help you with your personas, please read our earlier piece, How to Practice Persuasion Architecture with Personas. )

Usually I like to have all the facts, and I spend lots of time weighing my options before I make my final decision. But at work I don’t have time for that, and I have to decide much more quickly.  What persona am I?

Answer: It’s irrelevant. 

Personas don’t represent groups of people as much as they represent groups of behaviors. I know this is hard to digest, but it actually makes things easier. If you let go of the false assumption that each of us has a type, and fits into one of these groups, things start to make a lot more sense. That’s because even though each of us has a preferred way of acting, and a preferred information focus, certain situations can make us act differently. This is one reason we here at FutureNow prefer to think of the personas as describing a mode of behavior rather than describing a particular kind of person.

I’ll use myself as an example to illuastrate

purchasing patterns to get a better understanding of how mode really works. I’m an admitted Competitive (I feel most comfortable with, and naturally gravitate toward, a quick decision-making pace and a logical information focus). But I don’t always act like a Competitive buyer.  Certain products or kinds of purchases cause my behaviors to skew toward other modes of behavior and decision-making. This is not uncommon, and explains why you might be able to see parts of yourself in each of the four personas for your company, or imagine different situations where you’ve exhibited distinctly different behavior from how you would act under “normal” circumstances.

Hmmmm… if personas are more about “mode” than they are “type,” I can see how that accounts for differences in my behavior patters. But what factors do I need to be aware of when it comes to figuring out how my customer’s modes might skew?

Great question!  One to keep in mind, while I introduce a tool that can help you develop your personas.

This is a tool we use that displays the questions you hear from your customers, the motivations, and topology of your personas within the context of the four mode quadrants. You can see evidence of the factors that influence your personas in the diagram we’ve been using in these posts. Here are some of the things you’ll want to think about as you take a stab at doing a Schizographic Diagram for your business:

1) Products, brands and companies frequently have a “type” or “mode” associated with them too, and that can be part of what causes a person’s preferred mode to skew toward another mode of behavior and decision-making when purchasing a particular item. Technical products with lots of details, like computer hardware, for example, tend to fall into the Methodical quadrant. This can cause even the spontaneous types to act more methodically when purchasing them. But that’s not to say you won’t have competitive or emotional buyers purchasing computer hardware.

2) The circumstances in which a person is making a purchase can also influence their mode. Think of someone who makes those kinds of purchases for their department at work. They purchased a secondary hard drive for a colleague’s computer last month, and now another colleague has come to them with a similar request.  They know just what they want, and where to go to get it. They are unlikely to need all the facts and details this time, because they already did that the last time they made a purchase. This situation is very different from the man looking for more storage for his home computer because he and his wife are about to have their first baby, and want to make sure they have enough storage for all the videos they plan to take in the next year or two.

3) Believe it or not, we may even shift modes several times while attempting to complete one purchase. Our stage in the buying process can influence our mode too. We may be much more methodical at earlier stages of the buying process, collecting lots of details, and comparing the stats for one product to those for another. But by the time we’ve narrowed down our options, it’s possible we’ve reverted to our naturally preferred mode of decision-making, and just want to read some testimonials to see what other people thought of the products, before we make our final decision.

The variety of reasons why people might have need of your product or service, the image your company presents, the nature of your product, and other factors that can skew persona behavior all will be evidenced in your Schizographic diagram. That’s where you’ll be able to see how those factors play out in your personas.


About the Author

Howard Kaplan, CEO Future NowHoward is a veteran in the Digital Marketing & Technology space, combining over a decade of experience both on the technology & engineering side with the customer-facing sides of the businesses he’s led. In addition to helping over 100 startups in his professional career increase their online conversion, he’s also consulted to major enterprise technology firms like HP, Webex, VMware and Intel. He currently serves as CEO of FutureNow, a pioneering Digital Marketing SaaS, helping clients generate more sales, leads & customer engagement through improved conversion.

Howard is known for his expertise in helping clients plan integrated sales & marketing campaigns, tightly measured and improved over time for optimal performance. Mr. Kaplan is a frequent speaker on the topics of marketing optimization, web analytics, and SaaS development at Internet Retailer, MarketingSherpa, Ad:tech,, among others. He’s been recognized as an Expert Instructor by Search Engine Strategies, and serves on the Ad:tech judges panel.

Howard is a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology, holding a bachelors of Science degree in the field of Software Engineering.

See Howard Live!

Howard will be speaking with Brian Lewis, from SiteTuners in a session titled, “Persona-Driven Conversions – Walk A Mile In Your Visitors’ Shoes ” at Conversion Conference East 2011 in New York City. See the full agenda and read more about this session.

Want to save on your Conversion Conference Registration? Check out Howard’s blog, and follow him on Twitter and request a discount code!

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