Whenever your business needs to make a decision, your first question should be, ‘How will this impact our clients and our sales?’.
To answer this question you first need to know your audience as well as you do your friends. When we talk to our friends we’re more likely to choose topics of conversation that we know appeals to their interests. But often when we’re thinking of our buyer, we’re concentrating on their business, rather than the people we do business with.
What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of our ideal customers. They help us better understand our customers (and prospects), and make it easier for us to tailor content to their specific needs, behaviors, and concerns.
The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as on insights we gather from our actual customer base through surveys and interviews. Our personas includes a mix of customers, prospects and external people who we consider to be our “ideal target customer”.
How do we create buyer personas?
- Search our contacts database to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume our content.
- Website forms that capture important persona info.
- Sales team feedback & notes from interactions with leads and opportunities.
- Interviews with current customers, past customers or other contacts.
This article will explain how to conduct your interviews to get valuable insights that can be applied to all areas of your business.
How To Conduct Buyer Persona Interviews That Reap Actionable Insights
1. Understand why you’re conducting the interview
Before setting up your interviews, make sure that you’re conducting them for the right reasons. Collecting information on your clients is important but without goals the data is meaningless.
Here’s some good reasons:
- Refine who your buyer personas are and what attracts them to your business
- Identify shared pain points, and common behavior patterns
- Better understand the buyer’s motivations and values
- Learn how to improve their experience with your company
2. Introduce yourself before the interview
Your organization might have account managers, and client services people who rightly protect the relationship they have with the clients. Have them introduce you, or ask to introduce yourself, and be responsible for organizing the interview. You will learn more information if the client knows you a little bit before they share personal information like their goals, and challenges, when you meet.
Here’s an email template you might consider to request an interview:
My name is Josephine Hardy, I recently joined InboundMate as the Marketing Manager. I’m doing some research on our clients, and want to learn more about you, and your role at *company*.
Would you be interested in grabbing a coffee with me next week?
To be clear, this is not a sales meeting; this is a confidential conversation about your life, job, and the challenges you have in your role as *job title* at *company*.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
2. Carefully create questions relevant to your organization
If your questions are too broad you won’t get the answers you need. Be sure to ask for specifics and avoid questions that result in a “yes” or “no” answer. The more details you get from a question, the more targeted your buyer personas.
Start with these demographic buyer persona questions from Husbpot, and curate them until you’ve got questions relevant to your organization. Questions you need to ask may not be included in the Hubspot deck. Make sure the answers you collect will help you reach your goal.
Here’s some examples of questions that will get you detailed information:
- What are some of your day-to-day tasks?
- What kind of resources do you use to learn how to do your job better?
- Do you attend conferences?
- If you hadn’t heard about our company how do you think you would have found someone to help you build your product?
- How do validate recommendation?
- What are your biggest short term & long term challenges?
- What does it mean to be successful in your role?
- What does it mean for your company to be successful?
- What’s your preferred method for communication?
3. Don’t ask redundant questions. Do some research before the interview.
Before you head into an interview make sure you’re not asking questions you can find the answer to with prior research.
Name, Job Title, Education are usually facts you can collects from your internal client database, or on LinkedIn. If you’re not 100% sure whether you have the facts, be sure to clarify in the interview. Your client will appreciate you making the most of their time with relevant questions.
4. Plan how to document the interview
Documenting your interview is essential to building actionable buyer personas. Ideally you should record the information in two forms so that you can ensure the quality of your note-taking.
Audio recording can be difficult because most clients are wary of legal repercussions. If you do have permission to record the conversation, plan for your interview to be conducted in a place with minimal background noise.
Creating a document or spreadsheet with pre-filled questions will help you take unobtrusive notes. Use short hand to keep up with the natural flow of conversation.
Remember to be courteous to the individuals you are interviewing, and ask for their permission to record your conversation. Buyer persona interviews often collect private information about the individual, and shouldn’t be published externally. Before the interview starts, make sure your interviewee is aware of why you’re collecting this information, and how it will be used.
5. Create a comfortable environment for your interviewee
The best interviews happen when everybody is comfortable with each other. Meet in an accommodating place with low noise levels, like the office, or a coffee shop. Arrive on time. Be welcoming, and friendly. Keep the conversation flowing naturally, and ask unplanned followup questions if there’s something interesting to explore.
6. Conduct an interview postmortem
Don’t feel pressured to get answers for every question. If a client isn’t forthcoming the interview isn’t a total loss. Sometimes silence in itself speaks volumes. Do an interview postmortem with a coworker to understand what you might change, and why some questions didn’t reap the answers you were expecting.
7. Collect the data into a living spreadsheet
Good news! Buyer persona research is an ongoing project. The more data you collect, the more targeted and accurate your personas will be. The bad news is you need to be meticulous in your data collection, and ensure that the information you collect will live on even if you move onto another company.
8. Present your findings to the team
It’s a time consuming process to dig into the data you’ve collected from every interview, and make a decision on what personas have been revealed to you. There’s no minimum or maximum number of buyer personas.
Create a template for your persona and input the information you think is most relevant for the team.