Dishing Out What the Customer Really Wants

The purpose of persuasive online copy is to present information that offers your customers relevant answers to the questions they are asking and motivates them to move forward in your conversion process. I can't shout this loud enough: YOUR ONLINE COPY IS CRITICAL!

We've just been talking about Dish Network, a company that competes with cable for the high definition television audience (among others). Up against cable, Dish is kind of like Avis ... they need to try harder.

So how could Dish do a better job persuading customers to buy into their HD programming lineup?

Can you say "persona"?

It starts with personas. A careful uncovery yields lots of information about the nature of a company's customers. This information is the backbone of the persona creation process.

Personas are archetypes that represent different customer segments based on your business topology, demographics, psychographics, behavioral data (if you have it) and the complexity of your sale. When we create company-specific personas, we ascribe to them detailed motivations and questions. We evaluate their angles of approach. We determine the sort of language they will find appealing. And we map out specific scenarios (online and offline) that are finely tuned to their individual needs.

You can't market persuasively to "averages." You met your average "average" lately?

Persona foundations

One element that goes into persona design comes from scholarly inquiry into dominant personality types and temperament. Failing any other information, you can create profiles of your audience based on these four dominant types: Methodical, Humanistic, Spontaneous and Competitive. Why? Because each type leads with different sorts of questions that reflect their information priorities.

The Methodical focuses on HOW-type questions:

  • What are the details?

  • What's the fine print?

  • How does this work?

  • How can I plan ahead?

  • What proof do you have?

  • Can you guarantee that?

The Humanistic focuses on WHO-type questions:

  • How will your product or service make me feel?

  • Who uses your products/service?

  • Who are you? Tell me who is on your staff, and let me see bios

  • What will it feel like to work with you?

  • What experience have others had with you?

  • Can I trust you?

  • What are your values?

The Spontaneous focuses on WHY- and sometimes WHEN-type questions:

  • How can you get me to what I need quickly?

  • Do you offer superior service?

  • Can I customize your product or service?

  • Can you help me narrow down my choices?

  • How quickly can I take action and achieve my goals?

  • Why will this let me enjoy life more?

The Competitive focuses on WHAT-type questions:

  • What are your competitive advantages?

  • What makes you the superior choice?

  • What makes you a credible company?

  • What can you do to help make me look cutting edge?

  • What are your credentials?

  • What can you do to help me achieve my goals?

Revisiting Dish Network's HDTV programming pitch

With these basic personality types and some of their questions in mind, let's reexamine Dish Network's HDTV presentation. What's the bare minimum Dish needs to accomplish through its copywriting? Remember, the banner ad that lured customers to Dish claimed, "Nearly twice as many national HD channels as anyone."

This scenario is all about programming content. Naturally, that means Dish needs to deliver every potential customer to a landing page (not a generic page) that specifically talks about programming. Then Dish needs to start acknowledging their customers' needs.

Methodical. A Methodical customer is going to want all the facts. Every specification. Solid proof that every one of Dish's claims is accurate. And she'll be willing to scroll or go an extra page deeper to find this information. She'll want charts identifying what channels Dish provides compared to other HDTV providers. She'll want to know how Dish came up with those 1700 hours of programming. She'll want to know the company's plans for including more channels in future. She'll definitely see this little note:

* New DishHD programming packages require ViP211™ or ViP622™ DVR receiver. Additional equipment and costs may apply. Please call 1-888-284-7116 for more information.

When a Methodical sees something like this, she wants a link, not a phone number, to an explanation. She will value a statement of guarantee about the programming lineup. And she will also look at things from the what's-not-included angle - why no local network stations when her cable company lists them in their programming lineup? Dish needs to be prepared for the fact that the Methodical customer does all her homework.

The cool thing about meeting the needs of your relentless Methodicals is that you pretty much cover the corollary questions your other types might ask!

Humanistic. Dish's Humanistic customer will want information about other people's experiences using DishHD. He'll look for testimonials and evidence of satisfied customers who wouldn't dream of looking elsewhere because DishHD meets their every programming need. He wants to know what sort of people you appeal to and information about your committment to service and his experience.  He would like to feel you're in it for more than the big bucks.  He'll value learning how convenient Dish is to use and how Dish's programming lineup enhances his quality of life.

Methodicals and Humanistics are fairly patient; they're usually willing to look for the information that's important to them. They tend to deliberate when making their decisions. Not so for the Spontaneous and Competitive customers. These folks want to get their information and make their decisions quickly.

Spontaneous. Dish's programming is largely about style for the Spontaneous customer. He'll want to know how Dish supports or improves on his lifestyle. Does DishHD carry the specific channels he watches? If not, how long before they do?  He'll look for options that allow him to personalize his Dish experience. He'll want Dish to help him with his choices. And he'll want to accomplish this with a minimum of fuss and bother. Dish cannot waste this customer's time (of course, Dish shouldn't be wasting anybody's time!).

Competitive. The same is true for Dish's Competitive customer. Don't dare waste one precious moment of her time. Not a single click more than absolutely necessary. This customer wants to know the bottom line. If Dish is going to say stuff like best, most and greatest, they'd better back it up on the spot. Quick comparisons with competitors will help. If Dish cannot communicate to the Competitive that the company knows its stuff, is the best in the business and appears in the dictionary as the image of credibility, she's gone before Dish can blink an eye.

It's ultimately about credibility and trust

My little exercise here isn't a fully fleshed out persona review - there's a lot of uncovery information about Dish that I simply don't know. So this is pretty simplistic. But it's a start. And even as a start, it goes a long way to providing Dish with meaningful directions for copy that persuades and motivates actual customers.

The credibility Dish hopes to instill begins by acknowledging and answering the customer's questions. Not with hype, but with relevance and substance. Each dominant personality type bases their feelings of credibility and trust on different factors, but they all must feel Dish is credible and trustworthy.

Without this, they're not going to take the step Dish wants them to take.

Volume 127: 4/1/06


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