Friday, October 17, 2008

Let Joe the Plumber Give You Control of Your Site

Joe the Plumber is a Persona. You need to know the Joes in your business. John McCain gave us a powerful tool for making decisions that you can use to create a Web site that converts traffic to customers.

McCain introduced us to "Joe the Plumber" in the presidential debate this week. McCain used Joe to illustrate his debate points more clearly and effectively. So powerful was this device, that Barack Obama couldn't help himself. He began talking about Joe too.

Now everyone is talking about Joe the Plumber, using him to frame discussions and, ultimately, to help them choose how to vote.

In this post, I'm going to tell you why this tool -- called a Persona -- is so powerful, and show you how you can use your own Joes to pick the online strategies that work for your business.

It's Not About Demographics

When McCain introduced us to Joe the Plumber, he told us very little about him.

  • Joe is a plumber. His name is Joe Wurzelbacher.
  • Joe is male.
  • Joe wants to buy the business he's been in for "all these years."
  • Joe works ten to twelve hours a day.
  • Joe had an encounter with Barack Obama.

How can an entire country relate to Joe the Plumber without detailed demographic data on him? We don't know any of the things that marketing consultants tell us we need. We don't know his age, ZIP code, marital status, family size, buying habits, or his boxer/briefs preference. Yet, today he is galvanizing discussions in the media, pundits and voting public.

How could you harness such power in your decision-making process?

Put Joe to Work on Your Web Site

Think about the customers that are most important to your business. Why are they coming to your Web site right now? What problem are they trying to solve?

When you know this, you know what they want from your Web site.

Add some more detail. Are they a man or woman? What do they do for a living? Are they in a hurry or will they take their time on your site?

Suddenly, all of the decisions that your Web site requires become much easier to answer.

Take a moment and picture one of the customers for your business.

What headings and offers would get their attention?

What kind of information would they trade their email address for?

Could your Web site provide a service to help them solve a problem?

Let Joe Give You Control of Your Web Strategy

Joe will help you avoid one of the biggest mistakes businesses make: letting the designer and Web developer create their site. You will be able to make many more decisions when you change the way you ask the questions.

For example, which of the following questions is most likely to result in the right decision?

"Should we do a blog?"


"Would Joe read a blog if we had one? If so, what kind of content would he want to see?"

This puts the power back in your hands and ensures that the people creating your Web site deliver for your customers.

I'll show you how to create and fill out your own personas as this series progresses. Don't miss a post.

Next time we'll talk about why visitors to your Web site don't "get" what you're clearly telling them.

Photo courtesy johnnyberg via stock.xchng.


  1. I couldn't agree more.

    People are always assuming their users have the same knowledge and instinct as them.

    I always liken it to the core issue for many SMBs, which is knowing their product/service, while not fully recognizing their customer's perspective.

  2. Joshua,

    Since you bring up the SMB issue, the real irony is that the Web is the way SMBs can beat their big competitors. It levels they playing field (to coin an overused euphemism). However, they too often simply copy what bigger, more conservative companies are doing.

    News flash, SMBs: those sites were designed by committee. They are not representative of what we want in your Web sites.


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