When I first heard about buyer personas, I was sitting in my marketing class as a college sophomore. I thought that these buyer personas were for "crazy, hipster, business people."
I mean, keeping a picture of a person (that is fictional) and referring to them as a real person, sounded just plain wacky to me!
However, at school, I was taught what a buyer persona was, what they were made up of, and how they could help a business with their sales and marketing goals. But, we were never told that we would be making these personas based off of REAL people.
They’re more than fictional.
When I started working at ROI Online, I learned that building a buyer persona was far more than making up the semi-fictional client of your dreams. Building a buyer persona was about getting to know your past, present, potential, and lost clients so you can create a TRUE representation of your ACTUAL customers!
However, by getting to know them, you really have to KNOW them! (Go figure!) You need to know their story, what caused them to seek a solution, and the WHYs of their decision to either say yes or look somewhere else.
It's more than an "interview."
What I have observed in these interviews is if you try to question people like they are an official interviewee, they will not be as open, and they will not provide you with detailed information. If you keep a conversational tone and let them tell their story, they will usually share even more valuable information than you thought.
You should have a list of information you need to gather — like the Five Rings of Insight — but give the person you are speaking to the opportunity to tell their story and walk you through their buyer’s journey! If they mention one of the things that is on your list or something new that is interesting, be sure you jot it down (but let them keep talking!) and revisit that topic if they didn’t expand on it.
Often, if you let someone keep telling their story, they will answer your questions without you even having to ask them! The only question you should have written out to ask verbatim is the first question. This question is where you can set the point of where the interviewee will begin their story.
An example of the way you can do this is by asking them to, "Take me back to the time that you sought out X solution to help you solve X problem. What happened?”
Who Should You Interview For Buyer Personas?
Knowing who I needed to interview is another thing I learned when I started doing this research. You will want to interview four different types of people to get the best results.
- Current clients or customers
- Past clients or customers
- People that decided not to go with your product or service
- People that are currently on the fence in choosing your product or service
The reasons you want to interview all of these different segments is so you can know what you did right, what you did wrong, what you need to clarify and how you can do better in the future. If you were only to interview your past clients, you would be missing out on so much data that is vital to building your perfect buyer personas.
Talk to the interviewee like a friend.
Just remember, these interviews are meant to help you get to know and understand your target audience. How do you get to know a friend? You do this by listening to their stories!
The advantage of interviewing REAL people instead of making someone up is you will have real data to work with! You won’t have to make assumptions and take the risk of being utterly wrong about what your customers truly want.
Your buyer personas (we recommend creating two to three) will be your company's most valuable friends! That is why it is so important to take the time to get to know the people behind the persona.
Need help getting started on your own buyer personas? Download our FREE Buyer Persona Templates!