Improve Personas and Optimization With Four Questions

There’s been a stir of controversy in the blogosphere. Personas’ usefulness has been brought into question. Adele Revella of Buyer Persona Blog reports on chatter:

    Now this week’s post from Kristin Zhivago says that personas can create trouble. Her concern — that sales people might use personas to forget everything they were ever taught about consultative selling. It appears that she’s also seen websites with misguided persona practices, since she references web copy that describes a persona rather than answering her questions. From those two vantage points, it’s no wonder that Kristin’s raising a red flag.

Personas can fail, and they often do. When they fail, it’s usually because they don’t represent your buyers’ deep motivations. I wrote about this last year; here’s a snippet:

    The purpose of persuasion architecture personas is to plan and predict a dialogue that allows buyers to naturally navigate your content so they feel confident as they persuade themselves that yours is the solution to their problem.

The problem isn’t the usage or even the concept of personas in general. It’s typically their substance. Many personas don’t pass the smell test. The reason for this is most companies lack customer data about why customers do what they do.

That’s when a survey can be helpful. When handled correctly, customer surveys can provide a good starting point for gathering qualitative data about the customer experience.

The 4Q Survey

It used to cost a bucket of money to do this type of customer research. Now, with the help of a new technology, marketers have a new arrow in their quiver. The 4Q survey, the brainchild of Occam’s Razor blogger Avanish Kaushik and Iperceptions (disclosure: I’m on Iperceptions’s advisory board), can assist in providing you the necessary data to create meaty and profitable personas.

Kaushik writes:

    [4Q is] a true permission based on-exit survey that provides an easy to deploy, easy to use and easier still to analyze framework to answer 4 questions that no website owner can live without.

    It is the antidote for the most pressing of web analytics challenges: the yearning and struggle to understanding the “Why”.

    And it’s free!

The survey asks four high-powered questions designed to extract the most data from your customers with the least amount of effort. Here are the questions:

  • What is the purpose of your visit to our website today?

  • Were you able to complete your task today?
  • If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?
  • If you did complete your task, what did you enjoy most about the site?

Build a Foundation for Your Personas

With your 4Q data in hand, you can start crafting more effective personas.

Most personas are built by first sorting out customer data by demographics. A more effective way is to let this “why” data be the foundation for your personas. Instead of sorting by age and income, try sorting by the different motivations and tasks your customers have as they buy your product or service. Sort them into logical and emotional motivations, as well as slow-paced and fast-paced buying preferences.

Combine this data with other persona building techniques and you’re off to the races.

4Q and Optimization

We can also use this data to uncover different optimization opportunities. If significant percentages of your visitors weren’t able to complete tasks, that gives your optimization crew some specific action items to work on. Kaushik continues:

    If you have read my book or my blog you are quite aware of the What and the Why issue. All the quantitative data you and I have from our web analytics tools is really good at helping us understanding the What happened.

    Visits and Visitors, pages viewed, referrers, keywords, bounces, paths (!), campaigns, and so on and so forth. All critical data that helps you step up your game — improve your campaigns, fix pages, fire someone.

    It cannot, no matter how much you torture the data, tell you Why something happened.

    Why do these visitors see sixteen pages on our site? Is it because they are “engaged”? Or is it because we have the worst navigation in the universe on our site? Why is it that we only have one percent conversion rate? Why does only 20% of the site traffic looking at our product pages? Why this and why that and why if and why no and why why…

The 4Q is designed to give you insight into the why.

Couple this hard-hitting common sense with the power of personas and you have some serious weapons in your battle to increase conversion.

Meet Bryan at SES New York March 17-20.

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