By Kim Gusta
It will Transform Your Team into Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset
Adele Revella is the queen of buyer personas. I was fortunate, early in my career, to attend Adele’s “Effective Product Marketing” class. It’s where I first heard of buyer personas and their positive effect on your organization, your revenue, and your professional reputation.
Adele defines personas as “a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like theones you sell.” Done well, they can “transform marketing from a passive, outward-facing function to a key source of strategic insight closely watched – and respected – by top management.”
I’ve seen this work first-hand – it isn’t a bunch of hooey. Buyer research is one of the most important ongoing activities any marketing team can do. The payoff is immense and the time commitment small in comparison.
Adele has trained many companies on how to do buyer research and has learned a lot about best practices and potential hiccups. She recently released an e-book I highly recommend, “The Buyer Persona Manifesto” which captures why this research is so important, how to do it correctly, and how to apply your newfound insights.
I interviewed Adele about her e-book and what she’s learned lately about buyer research.
Kim: Adele, why did you write this e-book?
Adele: I find many marketers think they know their buyers well, but in reality, they don’t have deep insights into buyers’ concerns or priorities. This is a problem, because marketers spend money on campaigns and marketing materials that aren’t producing the results they could. And being recognized as buyer experts gives your team a unique competency and earns your organization’s respect.
I want this e-book to help marketers be strategic players. Because until Marketing becomes strategic, they can’t differentiate their products and services, they annoy buyers, and they’re always chasing the next popular marketing tactic.
Kim: How does an organization get started doing buyer research and building personas?
Adele: First, you can’t get competitive information about personas by trolling the Web for information. You have to talk with your buyers to get the deep insights you need. Win/Loss interviews, where you interview recent customers who bought your product and those who didn’t, yield the best results.
I find most marketers don’t dig deep enough in their questioning when they interview buyers so they’re missing out on really useful information. For instance, maybe a prospect says they bought your product because it’s easy-to-use. You need to dig deeper to find out what they really mean. Why is “easy-to-use” important to the prospect? What about your product is “easy-to-use”? Is it easier to use than competitors’ products and why? How important was “easy-to-use” in their final buying decision?
For some marketers, this questioning process is intuitive and comes naturally. Others need coaching and practice before they’re comfortable digging deeper during interviews.
Kim: How many buyer interviews should one do?
Adele: This is an often-asked question. Even one deeply insightful interview is far better than no interviews or poorly done ones. For most marketing decisions, if you’ve done five insightful interviews and the results are similar then you’re ready to rely on your persona insights. But Win/Loss research should be an ongoing project of 1-2 interviews per month forever. Don’t stop after five interviews and say you’re done.
Kim: What roadblocks should we look for when starting the buyer research process?
Adele: Here are the top roadblocks I often see:
- Sales is not happy about Marketing talking to their prospects. Get the Vice President of Sales on-board by telling them how ongoing buyer research will help Marketing create content that resonates with your buyers. That ultimately makes Sales’ job easier, of course. Then the VP can convince his or her team to support Marketing’s efforts. I wrote “The Buyer Persona Manifesto” to help explain the benefits of buyer research to your VP of Sales, too.
- Marketers are spending too much time searching for buyers to interview.You can hire companies to setup appointments with your target buyers, and then Marketing just needs to conduct the interview. It’s a good method for keeping your team focused on the most important part of the process – conducting skilled interviews and building their buyer knowledge.
- Keeping your new buyer insights to yourselves. Once you start gathering buyer knowledge, you need to share it with others. Capture key buyer insights and put them on an intranet anyone can access.
Be sure to give your personas’ names, like “Frank” and invoke that name in meetings. For instance, if a key product decision is discussed, get your Marketers in the habit of asking “What would Frank think about that?” If everyone in the room is familiar with Frank’s persona, it will refocus them on what’s important to your buyers.
My advice? Read Adele’s e-book, “The Buyer Persona Manifesto.” The value you’ll gain from implementing personas can’t be overstated. It really is the most important activity your Marketing team can do.
Using buyer research is a cornerstone to successful content marketing. My new report shows you how:“How to Engage Technology Buyers with Remarkable Content: 7 Steps to Developing a Content Marketing Process.”
Does your marketing team conduct buyer research and create personas? If yes, how does it work for you? If not, tell us why.
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