If you have a question about buyer personas that isn’t answered here or in the Buyer Persona Blog, please let us know. We will update this page in response to the most popular and universally interesting questions.
How can we find people to interview?
The best buyers to interview for buyer personas are those who have just chosen to buy your solution, plus those who chose not to buy anything at all or those who bought from competitors. Because these buyers have just been through the buying process, they can be very specific about how they evaluated your solution and the others available to them. They will give you rich insights into their attitudes, both positive and negative, towards your solution and your competitors. Plus they can detail each step in the buying process and the resources they consulted to make a purchase decision.
Our sales people won't allow us to interview customers, what can we do?
Sales people will frequently resist marketing's plan to conduct these interviews, but it's worth it to persevere. Win/loss interviewing is by far and away the easiest, fastest way to discover the 5 Rings of Buying Insight that are the most essential aspect of buyer personas.
Don't ask the sales people individually, get the senior executive in marketing to talk to the senior sales executive about the importance of buyer personas and your plan to use these insights to perfect your messaging, campaign and sales enablement strategies. Focus on your ability to deliver higher quality leads and marketing materials once you know what the buyers want to hear. If this still doesn't work, contact us as we are willing to speak to your sales management on your behalf.
We have a customer council, can't we get buyer persona information from them?
For buyer persona insights, you should try to interview buyers who have very recently purchased your solution. Once a customer has started to use your product, their focus will be on using criteria – the capabilities that impact their satisfaction with the use of the product. For buyer personas, we are interested in buying criteria – whatever impacted their decision to buy the product. The buyer's ability to recall all of this information in detail, and their interest in telling that part of their story, fades quickly as they begin to use the product.
We absolutely cannot interview customers – is there another option?
When you have exhausted all attempts to get buyer contact information from sales, the next step is to interview buyers who responded to marketing campaigns but abandoned the buying process. Marketing should never interview buyers who are currently in the sales pipeline, however. We might influence the outcome of the deal or be perceived by sales to impact the result. But if sales is not pursuing the lead or the buyer opted out of the buying process, these are viable interview candidates.
If you have a pre-sales consultant organization, or technical pre-sales group, you may also gain some insights by interviwing a few of your more experienced, open-minded people to interview.
You can also interview non-customers whose names you acquire from a marketing database, from conference participation, or through social media networking. Expect to pay an incentive to these people to give them a reason to meet with you. We can help you recruit these people if you need assistance.
Can both B2B and B2C marketers benefit from your training for buyer interviews?
We can teach you to confidently interview both B2B and B2C buyers of medium-to-high consideration products, services or solutions. This is because buyers of relatively high-consideration products can and will tell you exactly how and why they made a recent decision. Non-professional researchers can learn how to ask probing questions that cause buyers to tell their story. However, buyers of low-consideration products cannot reliably explain their own choices. So we recommend that marketers of low consideration solutions turn to professional researchers for buyer insights. If you need to build buyer personas for a low consideration solution, feel free to contact us for a recommendation.
Levels of consideration are measured on two dimensions --
How much time should we expect a customer to spend with me on an interview?
Your goal should be between 30 minutes and an hour for a phone interview, which is typical for these interviews. We usually schedule the call for 30 minutes for very high consideration products and 20 minutes for medium consideration solutions, but we frequently find that it would be necessary to rudely interrupt people to end the call that soon – the buyer really wanted to share details about what worked and what didn't once they realize what an engaging conversation you are leading.
For discovery of buyer persona insights, it is ineffective to work with a structured interview. A survey -like approach, whether administered over the phone or online, limits our potential to uncover surprising or unexpected information.
Even more critically, buyers will disclose minimal information in response to direct questions. We recommend an approach that engages the buyer in telling their own story about the buying process, with the interviewer formatting questions to drill into responses of greatest interest. This approach builds rapport with the buyer, resulting in longer interviews and far more compelling revelations.
Should we compensate buyers who agree to be interviewed?
When the interview is not with a recent buyer we won or lost, we often compensate the buyer for their time. The compensation ranges from as little at $25 for a very junior person to $250 or more for senior executives. However, we rarely compensate people for win/loss interviews, as most are quite willing to share their experiences.
Will senior-level people agree to interviews?
You'll find it easiest to interview whichever role invests the most time in the evaluation process. If your solution attracts a lot of the C-level buyer's attention, you should be able to conduct that interview at that level. But for most products, most stages of the buying process are delegated to mid-level managers and that's where the interviews will be conducted. However, you can get a lot of insight about the C-level buyer persona through these mid-level managers.
Should sales people participate in the interview?
We strongly recommend that interviews with buyer personas occur when a sales representative is not present. We know that this is a big cultural change for your company, but buyers are reluctant to fully express themselves when a sales person is present.
Can you provide a completed example of a buyer persona?
Yes, you'll find an example here. None of our clients would agree to allow their persona work to be published as it is a strategic asset that would have enormous value for their competitors, so we decided to build one without a client. We hope you find this helpful.
How can we communicate the value of buyer personas to our colleagues, especially sales people?
Sales people are one of the primary beneficiaries of the insights you will gain about your buyers through your interviews. We recommend that you share those insights through a customized presentation that tells sales which types of buyers will want to meet with them, which will not, and why. You will want to tell your reps which buyers will get involved in the decision at different stages of the buying decision, what information they seek, and what objections they will encounter from each of them. You will also have highly useful information about how buyers evaluate your solutions and compare their options, plus insights about buyer's attitudes towards your competitors.
However, we do not recommend that you send your completed persona templates to your sales people. We've seen too many marketers caught in a debate about the merits of building an example buyer, when they could have focused on delivering the highly valuable information they had discovered.
For the most part, the only people who need to see your buyer personas in a template format are the people who will use those personas to build message and program strategies, plus those who will be responsible for the tactical implementation of those strategies. Sales people and other stakeholders should see the persona insights that are most relevant to their needs, including the highly targeted, useful tools that marketing created to help them influence those buyers.