Key takeaways on how to build great customer personas
- A buyer persona tells us who your buyer is; but more crucially, it tells you how, when, and why they decide to invest in a solution with you.
- Too many marketers are building too many buyer personas. Home in on who you need to impress, the resources they trust, and their expectations on your ability to deliver.
- The benefits and promises you make are not sufficiently unique to drive customers to buy from you. What matters more and what they need to know about is your ability to deliver those benefits.
Step 1: Understand your customer’s needs – the five-step thought process every buyer goes through
- Initiate: Is it a priority to invest in this now?
- Research: What do we need to think about?
- Explore: Which companies have what we need?
- Assess: Which of these is the best match?
- Justify: Can we justify this investment?
Step 2: Know who you need to impress
- The decision to make a purchase typically starts with an “economic buyer” who assesses the priority of the investment.
- From there, a “buying committee” or “lead evaluator” considers all the options and whittles them down to their top choices.
- Finally, the economic buyer makes a decision based on the buying committee’s recommendations.
Step 3: Know which resources your buyers trust
- Economic buyer
- Peer interactions
- Thought leadership
- Business cases
- ROI tools
- Buying committee/lead evaluator
- Peer-sourced use cases
- Success stories
- Capabilities details
- Analyst reports
- Customer reviews
- Sales interactions
- Trial periods
Step 4: Know their expectations on your ability to deliver
- The place to be is where your buyer’s needs and your capabilities intersect.
- Your buyers don’t care about the benefits as much as they do your ability to deliver those benefits.
Step 5: Get on the phone and interview your buyer
- Open the conversation with…
- “Take me back to the day when you first decided you might need x and tell me what happened.”
Step 6: Use the 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ into your persona’s job to make a buying decision
- Priority initiatives
- Why we initiate this search
- Success factors
- Outcomes we need to achieve
- Perceived barriers
- Reasons we don’t buy
- Decision criteria
- Our questions about your capabilities
- Buyer’s journey
- Steps we take, resources we trust, personas involved
Q and A on how to build great customer personas
Q: Do personas change over a period of time? If yes, do we need to go through the entire process again and again?
A: Personas change but they don’t change as rapidly as we think. It takes something phenomenal (like a pandemic) to move them to change. Besides, COVID didn’t cause them to change but accelerated the change. And you’ll notice when they do, and that will prompt you to re-interview your buyers.
Q: When does one persona start and another start?
A: Segmentation is probably the hardest topic to talk about. It’s really crucial to understand: Where is the sweet spot in your demographics? The persona tells you how to influence the decision, but you then need to do a correlation to say, “In what size companies, in what industries, in what geographies is this persona present?” You do need to know who to interview.
Q: How do you do interviews if you’re a new company with no buyers or you want to change who’s buying from you?
A: Find people who did purchase, but didn’t purchase from you or even consider you. Get a hold not just of your wins, but also of your losses. In fact, it’s much more valuable to learn from your losses. The ideal scenario, however, is to work with a third-party (Google “qualitative research recruiters) to find buyers who were in the market in the last year but never considered you. They will give you tons of insight into the truth.
Q: Is it only the marketer’s job to define their personas, or is it the whole company’s?
A: The whole company doesn’t need to own the building of the persona; but the whole needs to own solving the needs of the persona.
Q: Do you approach building personas differently if your organization provides a service rather than a product?
A: No, you don’t approach it differently. We are so caught up in products and services. It’s like B2B versus B2C only a little worse. Whether you’re selling a service or a product, you’re solving the buyer’s needs. In fact, if you’re selling a service, it’s even more unlikely that you’re providing a benefit that your competitors don’t already promise.
Q: Can we get an example of the five steps in action?
A: You can go to buyerpersona.com/resources for an example of a buyer persona.
Q: Is a “buyer persona” the same as a “customer persona”?
A: I make the distinction between “buyer persona” and “user persona”. A buyer persona is about understanding your buyer’s needs when they are buying. A user persona is about understanding their needs as a customer who is using the product. They are completely different phases of your buyer’s journey even if they are the same person.
Q: How many customer interviews do you need to conduct to create an accurate customer persona?
A: If you have a really targeted segment, ten interviews is going to tell you everything you need to know. This is qualitative research that can be done by spending 20 to 30 minutes on the phone with people. The only time we recommend more than ten is if clients are convinced or need to be convinced that there are differences. In that case, we do eight in each segment.