3 Practical Steps for Effective Buyer Personas Research [Part 1: How To Nail Down The Product-Market Fit]
Everyone likes to have someone listen to what they are saying. Like, truly listen. Your customers included.
After all, most customers like to engage with companies that value their opinions that validate their stories.
On the other hand, companies also have a lot to gain from listening to their customers.
Actually, using the insights you get from your customers will provide you with enough relevant information to create a profile of your ideal customer – your buyer persona.
Having a buyer persona representation for your audience will help you improve your marketing approach and your sales strategy for successful results. What you must keep in mind is that the most efficient way to create a buyer persona is by gathering authentic stories told by actual buyers in their own words.
What insights are the most valuable for your company’s success and how do you get these stories?
We’ll go into each of these questions one by one and explain everything from the start.
Getting to Know Your Customers’ Story
Many of us dream of having a successful business. But, we all know that this also means a lot of hard work, money and time invested in growing your company.
Additionally, what many business owners should also focus on, is listening to their customers. So, the best advice we can give to entrepreneurs is this: become a good listener.
A good customer listener will hear and see what is there, not what he or she wants to hear. Listening to your customers reveals valuable information regarding your company and your products or services. According to Adele Revella, the author of the book Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into Your Customer’s Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business, there are 5 types of buyer insight that show you what really happens and who is involved during a customers’ journey from looking for a solution to their final purchase:
- Priority Initiative: The main reason buyers decide to purchase a solution similar to what you offer.
- Success Factors: Buyers’ specific expectations for the outcomes that matter most to them when making a purchase; success factors are generally expressed as benefits.
- Perceived Barriers: Things that prevent buyers from considering your solution – this can be either hesitation coming from another decision-maker or a disappointing prior experience with a similar solution, or even a negative opinion of your product, service or company.
- Buyer’s Journey: The story of your buyers, starting from the point where they are considering options, eliminating alternatives and settling on their final choice.
- Decision Criteria: These are the capabilities and attributes of the solution that buyers believe they need in order to achieve their Success Factor. For example, it could represent the features of the software – in short, the what and the how of a product or service.
If you gather the necessary insights regarding your buyers’ expectations, you’ll know which buyers need to be persuaded by your message and what features of your solution are the most important to each buyer’s final decision.
But how do you get all these valuable insights?
Two words: one-to-one interviews.
How to Interview Buyers like a Pro?
First of all, who do you actually interview?
You must interview the decision-maker – the one that evaluates multiple solutions and makes a recommendation to the other people involved in the decision. Also, make sure to interview buyers that have made their buying decision recently, within the last 3 to 6 months.
When it comes to contacting the buyers for an interview, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Let’s just put it this way: if someone you didn’t know sent you an email that ended up in your already cluttered inbox would you open it? Most of you will probably say ‘no’. Right?
That’s why a far more effective strategy would be to give your buyers a phone call first. Most likely that phone call will end up in a voice mailbox, but that doesn’t really matter. Why? Because the main purpose is to leave a message so that the person you want to interview will be more willing to open your follow-up email and read it.
Here are two examples, one for a phone call and one for an email, from Revella’s book:
- Phone call:
“My name is ________, and I’m in the marketing organization with [your organization]. I’m calling because you recently evaluated our [specific product or service], and I’m hoping that I can get a few minutes to talk with you about your experience as you went through that evaluation.
This isn’t a survey; I’m looking for your candid feedback about what worked and what didn’t as you went through that process. I’m hoping I can get about a 20-minute time slot in your calendar within the next week. Here’s my phone number: [phone number]. I realize that it may be easier for you to respond to me via an email, so I’m going to follow up with an email, and I definitely look forward to hearing back from you and hope we can talk soon.”
“Subject: Re: ________ Interview
I left a voicemail a few minutes ago but thought it might be more convenient for you to respond to an email.
This absolutely isn’t a sales call. I’m interviewing people who have recently evaluated our [category of solution], looking for insights into how we’re supporting the market’s buying process. We want to hear your candid thoughts about what worked well for you as well as areas for improvement.
Please note that no salesperson will be on the call and this isn’t a survey. Your thoughts will be used to improve the buying experience for you and others in your role.
If you’re willing to help me out with a 20- to 30-minute conversation, please suggest a time between Friday, October 16, and Friday, October 30. I’m in the time zone and am available starting at 7:30 a.m.
Best regards, ________ (Phone number)”
After you have a few interviews scheduled you also need to decide who is going to conduct the interview. You have to choose someone with whom buyers will be completely open about what worked and what didn’t in their buyer journey. This means that anyone can do it, except for those people who are involved in sales calls or demonstrations.
Before the interview takes place you have to make sure that you are prepared in advance. It helps to be familiar with facts regarding the evaluation process and its outcome, meaning the final decision of the buyer.
Moreover, your main aim is to discover details about the buyer’s decision-making process. So, have a good recording device at hand that is going to record the conversation, leaving you to concentrate on what the buyer is saying. In short, you’ll have to sharpen your active listening skills.
Now, the next question is this:
How Will the Interview Be Structured?
Just 1 question in this interview is going to be scripted, and that’s the opening question that takes buyers back to the first moment of their story. More exactly, it’s about the day they first decided to look for a solution to their problem.
Why? Because it’s important to get the story of a buyer in their own words. Remember: buyers don’t think of their story in terms such as “research”, “evaluate”, “negotiate” and so on.
You should open the discussion with the following question: “Take me back to the day when you first decided to evaluate a new [category of solution your product/service fits in] and tell me what happened.” This way you get the buyer to focus specifically on the moment when they first realized there was a problem that needed solving.
During the interview, it’s essential to use the buyer’s words to gather more insights. For example, you could say something like this: “I want to go back to what you said about X … What changed or occurred to make it a priority to start looking?” One thing that is going to help to get the important details of the story is to write down keywords and verbatim notes and come up with relevant questions later.
Other questions that will ensure the conversation is flowing are:
- “Once you and [other people involved in the decision] decided that this was the time to look for a new [category of solution], what did you do to first evaluate your options?”
- “Once you guys decided you needed [category of solution], what was the first action you took to figure out which possible solutions might meet these criteria?”
- “You said you started with X solutions, but you mentioned only [number of solutions still considered] came in for a demo. How did you decide to eliminate that third [one] from consideration?”
- “We have heard from buyers that [the workaround solution] is important to them because they can do [the intended outcome when using the missing feature]. What are your thoughts about that?”
If the client refused your service or product because of price, you can ask the following questions: “We are hearing from buyers that they are willing to pay more for our solution because of it [state the aspect of the product that is perceived to be a competitive advantage]. What are your thoughts on this?” This illustrates how the buyer views your competitive advantage and if they are familiar with it at all.
Also, when looking for insights regarding which features affect the buyer’s decision you can frame it this way: your product has feature X which is important and other products may not have it. Thus, you can ask your buyer:
- “What are the consequences of selecting a solution that does not have X?”
- “Our buyers tell us that X is unimportant because we have feature Y. What are your thoughts?”
Finally, whatever you ask during the interview, keep the focus on the buyer and their story.
Conclusion – Putting Everything Together
After the interviews take place, you’ll have to combine all the stories to create a single narrative representing the mindset of a group of buyers who think alike. In short, your buyer persona.
Additionally, you can use the 5 types of buying insights to present your interview findings to your marketing and sales team.
Furthermore, make sure that you conduct buyer interviews on a regular basis, at least once each month. These interviews may not prove their full value in the short-term, however, once you have completed a couple of interviews, you’ll have a story that illustrates the expectations, way of thinking and the decision-making process for the target audience you want to engage with.
We hope this article eliminated any confusion existing around the buyer persona and gave you an overview of the best strategy to approach when gathering customer insights.
As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help launching your business in the online world. Stay tuned for part 2! 😉
This article has been originally been published on Cloudways hosting blog.
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