The pitfalls of personas? They’re no substitute for a clear value proposition

For our recent live optimization clinic on B2C landing pages, an entry from PC.com came with a great question about using personas on the page:

“The audience is supposed to pick a user persona type they identify with. This wasn’t clear and most made no selection. How could personas [have] been presented in a way [the] audience would have better understood?”

We turned the landing page and the question over to senior researcher Boris Grinkot for his thoughts….

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This page indeed does a poor job of engaging the visitor. However, I believe that your assessment that personas should be presented better, or that the action of picking isn’t clearly requested, may lead you in the wrong direction.

The headline “Click on a Personality Below” tells the visitor what to do clearly. The images and names of personas also communicate fairly well what each represents.

The primary problem on this page is lack of expression of its value proposition, which also causes friction due to confusion about how (and to what end?) to use this page.

Right now, the page is not starting a conversation with your visitors, but is instead jumping directly into the functionality of this guide. The headline tells the visitor what to do, but provides no reason why they should do it. Nor is there any copy to explain the benefits of going through this exercise.

Your visitor will always have this question in mind, “What will I get in return for my time on this page?” and you should build your pages to answer that question.

Related:  The Prospect’s Perception Gap

Recommendations for testing

You need to engage the visitor with a powerful headline that succinctly communicates the value proposition of this guide, and support it with brief copy (paragraph and/or bullet points) that provides specific reasons or highlights key benefits of this tool.

Try testing several combinations of headline and introductory copy that clearly communicate the purpose of this shopping guide. Or, test using a (longer) headline with no introductory copy.

In each test, choose one aspect of the value proposition to highlight in the headline. This way, you can find which expression of your value proposition works the best.

PPC ads are another excellent way to “micro-test” your expression of the value proposition, and find a winner which can then be tested in your page headlines.

Another area that is confusing is the copy that follows the persona selection. It creates friction because its purpose is unclear, and it neither supports nor expresses your value proposition.

What appear to be each persona’s primary needs/interests are positioned as a sub-navigation menu below the photos. Nothing in this design explains what these are, and the visitor is still left with only the photo and the one- or two-word name of the persona to decide whether it matches their preferences. You should not expect that it will be obvious to the visitor what this copy represents. Also, the way this text is positioned, it is not clearly tied to the persona (color is the only thing that links them).

  • You may be able to solve both problems by testing several simple segues, like “Tech Newcomer’s key needs: Email, Web …” and turning that copy into a sentence that continues your conversation with the visitor (the conversation that was started in the headline), rather than something that looks like a navigation menu.
  • The sub-headline for the specific persona (e.g., “Shopping for the Tech Newcomer” above) is another missed opportunity to express or support the value proposition of this guide.
  • A more value-focused headline should be tested, such as “What a Tech Newcomer wants:”

To summarize, before presenting the persona-based choices to your audience this way, the page needs to express your value proposition and what visitors can expect if they take the action you’re recommending — and that guidance itself needs further clarification.

Audience: What do you think? Use the comments field to post your suggestions for this landing page, agree/disagree with Boris’ assessment, and let the PC.com folks know what you would do.

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