User Personas in CRO| Digital Marketing Skills in Review

Besides helping us understand how to effectively organize and use important tools like Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager and important psychological concepts like cognitive biases, neuromarketing, and emotional content strategies, one of the most exciting things to me about Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is how practical this field of marketing can be.

All of these tools and psychological tactics, in fact, underlie a very practical user-centric approach to marketing that begins with observing potential customer’s actions, listening to their viewpoints, and empathizing with them, so that we can have a greater impact.

Understanding Our Own Cognitive Biases

An important thing to realize when we’re assessing marketing strategies is that we as marketers have all kinds of biases that come along with our creative ideas and opinions.

We think we know so much, when in reality, until we can give validity to these ideas through ample testing, we need to come to the position that we really know so very little.

That’s the reason why we test. That’s why we do our research. Because opinions don’t matter much when it comes to gathering insights for marketing.

What matters more than our own ideas, and what is our utmost responsibility as conversion optimizers, is to understand what is actually true, not what we think is true. So how do we do that effectively?

Best Methods to Find and provide ultimate value

One of the things to realize is that some methods are better than others to help us understand what is actually the case when it comes to what will effectively communicate both explicit (conscious) and implicit (subconscious) value to our customers.

  • Implicit value has to do with emotions and values that may be expressed through a purchase or subscription. For example, someone might buy a car as a symbol of status. Marketers can embody this status through image and text to express to the user that this is included in their purchase.
  • Explicit value has to do with the characteristics of the product itself. What are the uniques characteristics that the product has the competitor product do not?

Two methods that can give us a good starting point in validating whether or not we have a good understanding of what our users want and what will move them forward through our sales funnel (implicitly and explicitly) is looking at our digital marketing programs through the lens of properly constructed user personas and also through heuristic analysis.

This week, we’ll attempt to tackle user personas and next week we’ll address heuristic analysis.

Developing user personas

Some businesses create their user personas with very little research. Their personas are just a best guess of who they want to market to or who they think their product will best serve. Many times these user personas end up in a file somewhere never really serving any purpose.

According to Stefania Mereu, PhD, and Eric Taylor in their Fast and Rigorous User Personas Module at CXL, there are three steps to building an effective and actionable user persona. When we follow these steps appropriately, then we have a user persona that we know is truly aligned to those users our product and services best fit.

Collect Data

The first step of creating a good user persona is to collect data. Surveys are a great way to go with this. When surveying our users, we need to make sure questions are relevant, actionable, and unbiased.

Numerous software exists to create surveys. Some of the software Mereu suggests:

  • Qualtrics (a paid platform with lots of functionality)
  • Survey Monkey (both paid and free)
  • Lime Survey (free)
  • Google Forms (free)

When creating these questions, it’s good to ask what we’re going to do with the information from each question once we get it back. This ensures that the answers are actionable. Relevant questions should be focused on the goals of the business and the product and service they offer and they should not be set up to lead a customer to answer one way or another.

There should be a good mix of quantitative questions (ie on a scale of 1-5) and also open-ended questions that can later be used for social proof or to match the customer language on the site. It’s best to get 300 to 1000 responders before moving on, to ensure that we have a large enough sample.

ID Groups

After we collect all the answers to the survey, we need a way to simplify the data. One of the ways Mereu suggests doing this is through a process called Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA). Looking at all the answers the respondents gave, we can generalize these responses into general themes or factors. After we identify the factors, then we can score each respondent according to how each of their answers fit into each of these factors. After doing this, we can then see patterns in respondents and group those respondents that answered higher in one factor or another.

Build Archetypes

Once we have our groups appropriately id’d, its much easier to pull out other similarities in our archetypes (age, gender, marital status, etc.). Our Archetypes then become a visualization of the data that we collected. A few dimensions Mereu suggests we include:

  • Describe the persona
  • Include emotional and psychological touchpoints with user / user empathy
  • Include the behaviors or tasks the user might be engaged in
  • Include problems and anxieties the user might have and how the product/service aims to solve or address those problems
  • Imagery — graphs, word clouds, also pictures of the imaginary archetypal user
  • Anything else of importance

Taylor mentions that user personas should be good for several months up to a year, and they usually take a couple of weeks to create from start to finish, so well worth the time and energy put in.

Another point made by user research expert Megan Kierstead is to use these personas, don’t shove them into a file somewhere, but use them to enact your goals as if these were actually the customers you are attempting to woo.

Hanging a one-page graphic that includes all the above information in an office is a good way to view these archetypal characters on a daily basis and remind the organization that priorities and goals should revolve around serving the general audience that fits similar characteristics.

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