Satellite Radio and Listening to Personas, Part 1

Would you like to lose $863 million in 365 short days? Too much? How about $667 million? Is that a bit more palatable?

In her article “Satellite radio runs into static,” Sarah McBride of “The Wall Street Journal” writes those numbers represent what satellite radio providers Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio lost respectively in 2005.

It’s proof positive that piles of money don’t buy business or marketing effectiveness.

Are You Sirius?

In his article, “Satellite Radio: Seriously, Folks, Are XM and Sirius Serious?” Denny Hatch of Target Marketing Group lays out more effective direct marketing tactics for these providers. About their Web sites, he writes, “Go to the Sirius or XM Web site, and you’ll find a lot of ‘it’ copy — radios, discounts, accessories, how to order, schedules and personalities, but not one single benefit of subscribing.”

Hatch doesn’t claim to be an expert in online persuasion, but he’s absolutely correct.

Satellite Radio Personas

As an experiment, I had one of my persuasion architects write up two very simple profiles (not quite full personas as neither Sirius nor XM is a client). These entry-level profiles may represent a couple of typical market segments for satellite radio:

  • Profile 1: “Cindy Williams.” Cindy is a 40-something sales professional who spends a lot of time driving up and down the East Coast to meet with clients. She’s smart, tech savvy, and extremely competitive. She suffers from extreme time poverty, but dissatisfaction with local radio and a lack of time to build her own music collection have left her with a iPod full songs she’s tired of. She has very diverse tastes, everything from classical to Broadway to classic rock. She’s actively seeking better entertainment.
  • Profile 2: “Mark McCoy.” Mark is a 50-something good ol’ boy who lives in Tulsa, OK. He’s spontaneous and extremely impatient. He runs his own construction firm and does a decent amount of driving. He’s in the market for a new truck, and one of his buddies has been telling him about satellite radio. Mark is a diehard Oklahoma University Sooners fan and overall sports junkie. He listens to a lot of sports shows. His wife, Debbie, is a serious music aficionado. He also has a 17-year-old son, who listens to a lot of rap.

A few of my staffers clicked through to the Web sites as these profiles and shared what they experienced.

Cindy’s Experience on

Cindy was immediately frustrated upon arriving on the XM Radio home page. There’s simply nothing that shows her the breadth of music genres she’ll be able to listen to. She has no relevant action to take here. Further, XM doesn’t answer Cindy’s biggest question: what’s in it for me?

The overall design is dark and uninviting. Yellow text on a maroon background is hard to read.

The “Explore XM Programming” section may provide the information she’s looking for, but it’s buried below the fold, where she’s unlikely to see it. A frustrated and hurried Cindy hits the “Learn About XM” button in the top nav.

When the “Learn About XM” page loads, things go downhill, pronto. Cindy still sees no benefit, nor does she get an idea of what types of artists and music she’ll be able to listen to. Yet she’s presented with a sell and a call to action she’s not ready for. She clicked “learn more,” but she’s just being sold more.

Cindy skims a few irrelevant sentences of copy, but seeking immediate gratification she’s unwilling (and too busy) to read more about what XM has to sell and completely ignores the second header. Customers don’t want to be pushed, they want to be pulled. Why else would they visit your Web site? Instead, she makes a leap and decides she’d just like to hear what XM has to offer. She clicks “Listen Online.”

When she arrives on the “Listen Live” page, Cindy feels as if she’s on a different site. She isn’t sure what to do next. Where’s the “play” button? She just wants to listen to some of the music! There’s a form to fill out, but she’s unwilling to share any personal information, so she gives up. Even if she did want to sign up, would she be able to listen live? (Also note: the yellow “Listen Now” icon in the top right corner simply reloads the same page. Why?)

Cindy bails. Sirius, here she comes.

Mark’s Experience on

When Mark arrives on the home page, he’s presented with nothing relevant. He scrolls down, but finds no mention of professional or college sports. Sure, there’s a Major League Baseball banner, but this isn’t the resolve Mark needs. Frustrated, he figures he can shop around, maybe sports is an add-on, like his NFL Sunday package. He clicks on “Shop XM Radio” in the top nav.

The shopping page is completely useless for Mark. What are these iPods for? What do they do? The banner’s distracting and keeps bringing up a pink player; he saw the same thing on the home page. Mark’s getting the impression this is a “girly” radio service. He sees nothing about sports here.

He does, however, manage to find the “Car Stereo” button on the left. He clicks.

On the “car stereo” page, he’s presented with a list of car stereos, with no indication why he should choose any of them. Additionally, Mark’s confused by the dramatic increase in price from the second to third listing: $99 to $1,700. What?

Mark is gone. This is too much effort for an impatient, spontaneous type. Even if he were a bit methodical, there isn’t enough information to justify buying.


I wonder what percentage of those hundred of millions of dollars were sunk into marketing to drive people to XM’s Web site investments last year. Did it get its money’s worth? Where’s the ROI (define) in this marketing?

With 20 minutes and a very shallow set of simplistic personas, we revealed fatal leaks in how this satellite radio behemoth sells to two typical segments.

The above flaws was exposed by my two newest employees. They aren’t trained in persuasion architecture, usability, or Web design. They’re support staff who don’t even work with clients on their sites. I forbade any of my experienced staff from helping them in any way.

Next: I’ll share some of the great suggestions my staff made, along with Cindy’s and Mark’s experiences on the Sirius site. Won’t you share some of your observations with me as well?

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