Red Light/Green Light: Designing for Skeptics

When developing personas for a website, more often than not the first step is to think about the users that your product will want to target positively. That is the people going to the site to purchase, get information, or contact sales for a demo. And it’s obvious why: these are the users that we’re most focused on because they’re the primary user group and are most likely to complete a transaction or engage with content that we’ve designed for them. However, in the process of constructing personas, there are other secondary users who may not be a client’s primary focus but who may be involved in the sales or decision-making process and need to be addressed.

These users likely aren’t seeking out for this product their own needs, but are often asked by a sales lead or company champion to “give it a look” or to vet it. Their role in this equation is often to poke holes or find reasons not to implement this product. This could be an IT person who, having had to vet products like this in the past, is quite reluctant to add a new product to their technology stack. It could be a security officer who’s wary of adding new tech for security reasons. To address these secondary users, we’ve created what we call “red light” personas: users who are more likely to squash a deal rather than champion it.

Designing for those who want what you’ve got…and those that don’t

We recently completed a site for a B2B tech services company and put the redlight to use in a big way. While talking with stakeholders and sales, we established a number of personas that would be coming to the site in need of a solution. They came from support, CX, and sales all looking for a way to increase efficiency and boost revenues. They are interested in getting their company signed up and using the product to benefit their teams’ objectives. They are talking with sales and acting as champions throughout the sales process. We refer to these as the “green lights”: they are the folks that want what you’re selling and will be the ones engaging with you through the entire sales process.

But at some point, these champions need to ensure the service will integrate with the company’s current stack and that’s when Information Technology and Information Security steps into the picture. They want to know what’s involved in the integration, how secure it is, if it has the necessary certifications, etc. They’re naturally skeptical and maybe even a bit overzealous, doing everything they can to poke holes in the service to find reasons not to adopt out of an abundance of caution. 

We’ve created what we call “red light” personas: users who are more likely to squash a deal rather than champion it.

These are our “red lights.” They aren’t actively looking for this product, they’re simply brought into the sales conversation when the time is right to vet the product from another perspective. While the red lights on this project were from IT and Security, they vary wildly from company to company and product to product. It may be a stingy CFO, a skeptical marketing team, or a CEO that doesn’t want to rock the boat. In the end, they are all people who need to see the value for them and the company before they can give the product a green light.

So why build a persona for someone who’s secondary or tertiary to a sale? Simply put, they can make or break a sale or conversion and at some point, they actually become the primary person the sales team needs to win over. This is why it’s important to find out what they’re looking for. What concerns are they bringing to the table that we can address directly? By thinking about the needs and concerns of these users, we can anticipate and get in front of any potential roadblocks that they might put up.  Defining these personas will help us determine what information can we give them, who can you put them in touch with, and the types of resources that will help turn a skeptic into a believer and maybe even an advocate for the product.

In the end, they are all people who need to see the value for them and the company before they can give the product a green light.

We built out content that was created directly for these users, anticipating their needs and creating a sense of trust. It gives them the feeling that this company understands their concerns and has solutions to address them, providing reassurance and resources they’d need to give a product the go-ahead.

A better experience…for all of those involved

By giving these users attention and creating an experience that is tailored for them, we can diffuse any potential friction that they may bring to the table and make them feel heard, understood, and valued.

The next time you plan a new site or updates to your existing, don’t just focus on the users that want what you’re selling, think about those users on the periphery and how you can create an experience that includes them in the process. Your site will be a much more complete experience for a wider (and more realistic) set of users and you’ll help to grease the wheels of the buying journey.

You might even make some new fans along the way.