Your persona is the role you play in life.
It’s the way you act, what you believe in, what you say, what you like/don’t like, how you go about things … I could go on, but you get the idea. As a brand marketer, you need to know as much as you can about these attributes among your target customers. Creating buyer personas will help you gain a thorough understanding of your audience’s roles and help you frame your brand engagement strategy.
The image below from Altimeter Group shows the steps your customers take during and following their decision-making process, as well as the many factors that impact each step. Your job is to improve their journey so much that they become customers and evangelists for your products. Buyer personas take a deep dive into what motivates them and the problems they’re trying to solve, enabling you understand how to add value to their lives and convince them to buy from you.
noun pər-ˈsō-nə, -ˌnä: the way you behave, talk, etc., with other people that causes them to see you as a particular kind of person : the image or personality that a person presents to other people
Good personas get behind demographics
Buyer personas are examples of real buyers who make or influence decisions about your products and services — avatars you create based on direct interviews with as many of them as possible. Personas aren’t people, but they should feel like people with desires, challenges, goals, and personal lives, because all of these factor into decision making.
You must put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and empathize with their goals so you have a clear understanding of their intent. When crafted well, the people who emerge from this exercise should feel real and three-dimensional to you to the extent that you know what they look like and how they view the world. This knowledge will enable you to evaluate your content with an eye toward engaging with them and help you identify the gaps in your content marketing strategy.
Elements of a buyer persona profile
Developing buyer personas: Who to interview
This first step in the process of building comprehensive buyer profiles is to interview people who have recently bought your products, those who bought from competitors, and those who elected to not make a purchase at all. These users have just gone through the buying process and can offer specifics about how they evaluated your product and others in the space. You’ll also learn about their attitudes — positive and negative — about your products and those of your competitors. They can tell you about the means they used to make their decision and the resources they tapped for research.
Talk with your sales team about interviewing people they’ve recently moved through the sales funnel and those who ended up not buying from you. Although they may be reticent about putting you in touch with these folks, win/loss dialoguing is the fastest and easiest way to uncover the essential aspects of your audience.
Interviews should take 30 minutes to an hour — this should provide ample time to gather the data you need. Another approach is to create surveys that can be administered online, which enables your targets to answer your questions at their leisure. Although practical, the information you receive from surveys won’t be as robust as that which you glean from face-to-face conversation.
Be sure to incent/motivate people to take part in your research. Small gifts or discounts are great for this. Set their expectations by describing how long it will take and what you’re trying to accomplish, and affirm that all of the information they provide will be confidential.
Researching buyer personas: Questions to ask
Now that you’ve selected people to interview, choose the most relevant questions below —and add some of your own — to gather buyer persona data. Remember to ask “why” a lot to get as much clarification as possible. It’s also important to ask questions that are specific to your products/services and brands: What do you think of [my product]? Is it your responsibility to research and evaluate solutions like this?
- Please describe yourself (age, marital status, children)
- What’s your educational background?
- Tell me about your career path — how did you get to where you are today?
- What are some of your favorite products and brands?
- Do you prefer to communicate in person, by phone, or via email?
- What is your job title/role?
- How did you get where you are?
- What does a typical day look like for you?
- Who do you report to?
- What skills do you use on the job?
- What are your responsibilities?
- What are your goals?
- What does success look like to you?
- How do you measure your success/progress toward your goals?
- What are your biggest challenges in life and work?
- What do you need to be happy and successful?
- How much time do you spend online?
- Do you use a tablet or smartphone to access the Internet?
- Which blogs, websites, and publications do you regularly read?
- Do you use social media? What is your favorite network?
- Do you use a smartphone and/or tablet to access the Internet?
- Do you prefer learning via webinars and videos or is longer-form content, e.g. ebooks, better?
- How do you get news about products and services?
- How do you research products and services online?
- Do you trust online reviews?
- Tell me about a recent purchase — what was your evaluation process?
- What provoked you to look for a solution like this?
- What process or criteria did you use to narrow your options?
- How did our product stack up against the competition?
Now that you’ve researched buyer personas by conducting interviews, it’s time to put the data you’ve gathered to work and turn it into actionable insights. In my next post on this topic, I’ll discuss how to assemble the who, what, where, how, and why into a useful format that will inform your content marketing gap analysis.
How to Develop Buyer Personas (Part 1)