Does Your Website Make This Mistake?

Most failing websites make the same exact mistake – they treat everyone the same in an attempt to be all things to all people.  The result is that a very important connection is lost.  Instead of the site actually engaging everyone who visits, few, if any, are engaged by it.  Visitors to the site perceive it to be bland and generic.  Marketing experts have a tool that you can use to ensure that your website does a better job of connecting with its visitors.  Improving how well your site connects with visitors will increase sales.

Your Customers

How much do you know about the people in your target audience?

What Personas Are

Personas are fictional characters that are often used by marketing experts and user-centered design professionals to represent the different types of people within a target audience.  These fictional characters usually have a 1-2 page description and are given a name.  The description covers things like behavior patterns, attitudes, skills, environment, goals, computer equipment/ mobile device & browser software, as well as a few fictional details to make the persona more like a real person.

Why You Should Care About Personas

Most websites are created and maintained without the aid of personas.  Perhaps this is part of the reason why 90% of the websites that are online right now aren’t making any money and would only be missed by their owner if they were pulled off-line tomorrow.

Personas make it fairly easy to tailor your website to really engage with the people visiting it.  This is because the process of creating and using personas provides some real insights into your target audience and how they will be best served on your website.

Creating Personas for Your Website

Website personas are only as helpful as the amount of work that goes into developing them.  For best results, you’ll want to spend some time really getting to know your target audience.  This means talking to people and asking them questions.  Really getting to know your customers is essential for growing your business.  As you reflect on the customers that you’ve gotten to know, notice how they can be grouped together by similarities.  Personas should then be created to describe your most important customer groupings.

When you know what makes your customers tick, you’re able to address the conversation that is going on inside their head.  Think of it as talking to them and with them rather than at them.  Focus on engaging with them, not preaching at them.

W-I-I-F-M and Your Website

Your customers are tuned into W-I-I-F-M.  (What’s in it for ME?)  Unless your website is developed with this in mind, it’ll never work like an ATM.  This is done by building your site around what is going on in your customer’s head.  Personas make this job a whole lot easier.  Marketers developed personas about two decades ago as a way of better understanding the people represented in a target audience.

One of the deepest of all human psychological needs is the need to be understood.  We all want to be understood.  We prefer being with people who really “get” us to those who don’t.  This holds true in business as well.  We enjoy doing business with companies that understand us and tend to avoid those that don’t.

How to Create a Persona for Your Website

You may be asking yourself, “Where do I start?”  The answer is pretty straight forward – we’ll turn to the Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) for guidance.  You’ll want to begin by creating a list of your different customer groups.  Once you have a list of customer groups, review the list to identify the top two or three groups that are responsible for 80% of your sales.  These are your most important personas.  This is where you want to start.

Next, you’ll create a 1-2 page document that describes your most important personas.  You’ll bring each of these characters to life by giving them a name and perhaps a few fictional details to make them seem like real people.  The most important part is the description of their behavior patterns, attitudes, skills, environment, goals, as well as their computer equipment/ mobile device & Internet browser software.

Questions Your Persona Description Should Answer About Attitudes and Behaviors

How do your Personas like to buy the goods or services that you provide?  Do they tend to rely on recommendations and referrals?  Do they prefer to communicate by phone or email?  The answer to these questions has a huge impact on the degree to which social proof and authority figures are emphasized on your site as well as the way your calls to actions are structured.

What attitudes or biases do they have that may impact the way they perceive your business?  Do they prefer to do business with companies that are local, Christian, family owned, supportive of a particular charity, value-centered, etc.?  Insights in this area have an impact on the information that you share about your business and how it is run.  Zappos, for example, shares a great deal about their family core values.  The result is that people who have similar values really connect with this retailer on a much deeper level.  This in turn inspires great loyalty among their customers.

Technology and Your Personas

How do they browse the web?  Are they checking out your website from an office during work hours?  Do they typically use mobile devices (think iPads, smart phones, etc.) to visit your website?  Are they using an old computer or an old monitor?  Are they comfortable with technology, or do they tend to be frustrated by it?  Why do they really come to your website?  The answer to these questions has a huge impact on your website use cases and, in turn, the way your website should be designed and the software it should be built on in order to meet their needs.

What Makes Them Tick?

What are your customers’ goals?  Think beyond simply their goal of purchasing your product or service.  What are their big motivators?  What inspires them?  A broader understanding of your customer’s goals provides you with a much deeper insight into how you may better serve the needs of your audience and provide them with value.

First, seek to understand, and then be understood.  This was Stephen Covey’s habit # 5 in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and it certainly holds true on-line.  If you want your website to effectively connect with your audience, you must begin by seeking to understand them.  Then, and only then, are you in a good position to help them understand how you can help and provide value to them.

Get Clear about Who Your Customers Are

In the end, personas are another tool that you can use to gain clarity and insight into your customers and how your website can add value to them.  A properly constructed persona can provide you with a great deal of clarity about who your customers are and why they come to your website.  An investment of time, energy, and money in a better understanding of your customers is a great investment indeed – one that will reward you with loyal customers who will not only buy more, but will send you more word-of-mouth referral business.

  • Martin Sarna February 28, 2013, 10:59 am

    Great article Charles – right on point. It inspires me to get on MY personas sooner rather than later.

    • Charles Ogwyn February 28, 2013, 11:03 am

      Glad to hear that Martin. Doing this sooner rather than later will pay HUGE dividends.

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