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Choosing to Buy or Build Your Buyer Persona Insights? 4 Trade-offs, 3 Myths, 1 Ideal Option

Are you wondering whether you should build your own buyer personas or turn to third-party researchers for these insights? Since we have considerable experience in both roles — conducting buyer research and leading workshops for marketers who want to do their own research — we have a unique perspective about the short and long-term results that each approach delivers.

I thought you might find it useful, therefore, to see an unbiased overview of the considerations that factor into the buy vs. build decision. First, the four trade-offs:

There are also three myths associated with the “buy or build buyer personas” decision that I want to debunk :

Myth #1. Buyers won’t talk to or disclose the complete truth to the company’s marketers or their consultants.  This is a falsehood that is perpetuated when people attempt to conduct interviews without the benefit of training or a properly structured methodology.

If you don’t ask the questions correctly, it is true that buyers will either withhold information or deliver misleading answers. But buyers will readily share the unvarnished truth with anyone who uses the right approach and was not involved in the sales process. (I’ve also heard people say that buyers will only talk to someone from within the company and won’t reveal anything to third parties. This is equally false, and I find it interesting that opposite versions of this myth co-exist).

Myth #2. Extensive training is needed before you can conduct this type of research. While some research objectives require professionals with significant experience, marketers of high consideration solutions need only a few hours of training to learn how conduct the interviews that reveal buyer persona insights.

We have seen hundreds of marketers learn how to gain surprising insights and eliminate bias through an unscripted conversation about how, when and why recent buyers have compared their options to make the decision the marketer wants to influence. They just needed a structure and training that focuses on in-depth probing to uncover insights that buyers have not yet shared with anyone.

When marketers need buyer persona insights for very low consideration solutions, or for the rare situation where nothing similar exists in the market, we always recommend our professional researchers.

Myth #3. You need to interview a lot of people and marketers don’t have the bandwidth. Buyer persona insights are usually discovered through a relatively small number of one-on-one interviews that average 30 minutes each.

Revealing buying insights generally emerge from as few as six interviews, given that the focus is on the buyers’ decision to choose a particular category of solution. We typically recommend eight interviews before compiling any results, and have occasionally seen the need for ten if the solution category is not well defined. But more than ten is rarely needed or even helpful. If the buyer persona insights will guide a highly strategic decision, we recommend a follow-on quantitative survey with a larger sample to confirm results and solidify the persona’s credibility with key stakeholders.

Are you ready to hear about the One Ideal Option?

Clients sometimes ask us to research an urgently needed buyer persona, with concurrent training for their marketers through our live team workshops or our online masterclass so they can conduct their own buyer interviews.  We then welcome these newly trained marketers to listen in and follow along as we develop and deliver the first buyer persona. This builds the marketing team’s confidence in their new skills while addressing the need for answers to urgent or especially strategic questions.

Since many companies do not have the circumstances or budget to justify a blended approach, I hope that this post has helped you to determine the best option for your needs. I look forward to hearing your comments and questions.

Comments

  1. Jeff Ogden says:

    I cannot begin to tell you how many marketing leaders tell me “We have personas covered.” They clearly do not. However, your post does a great job of explaining the pros and cons of each approach.

    I know some marketing leaders who should read it.

    Jeff Ogden

  2. Adele Revella says:

    Thanks for the comment, Jeff. I hope some of those people do find this post and that it is helpful. I know that you fully understand the need for truly insightful buyer personas.

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