Buyer personas are fictitious customer representations. They give organizations an opportunity to better understand who their customers are, what they think about, and what influences their buying decisions. Whether your use our free buyer persona template for B2B or B2C or one that you have created yourself, the key is to build an actionable persona that your organization will actually use.
Researching Your Audience
The first step in developing an actionable persona is researching your audience. To help get you started, we are outlining the various tools and sources you can use to research your persona. We’ll then explain how you can strategically use these sources to develop a data-driven buyer persona that will better enable you to see the world through the eyes of your target audience.
Research Tools & Sources
Your CRM contains a vast amount of data on your buyers’ preferences, and is one of the first resources you should turn to when identifying a persona. Start with the customers who are loyal and profitable for your company – what do they have in common? At the very least, you should be able to extract location and spending patterns from your records. This alone is a goldmine of information that can be used to guide the other research methods outlined below. Additional information from your CRM data might include age, gender, product likes and dislikes, and content preferences.
Whether it’s through Google, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn, Google Hangouts or monitoring platforms, analytics can provide a wealth of information for creating a data-driven persona. Information like gender, age, geographical location, language, interests and use of technology can all help to create a holistic impression of your target persona. Go deeper into your own web analytics and you’ll find plenty of insights about how visitors interact with your website.
Departments that directly interact with your customers, like Sales and Customer Service, are invaluable in the development of buyer personas. To make the most of their institutional knowledge and secure their buy-in, schedule a discovery meeting with them early on in the process. Not only will this help you to complete the persona matrix and identify your personas, you may also gain a new or different perspective of how customers feel about your brand, product or services.
A discovery meeting typically runs about two hours, and is the second step in creating an effective buyer persona.
Surveys and Interviews
Surveys and interviews are a great way to get a better understanding of the segment(s) that make up your customer base.
Survey and interview methods include:
- In-Person Interviews
- Phone Interviews
- Online Surveys
- Web & Exit Surveys
Companies with larger marketing budgets may consider hiring a market research firm to collect this information, while smaller companies may choose to do it themselves. For both cases, keep in mind that the sample size will be small and may be prone to customer bias.
The primary research methods outlined above can be expensive. A less expensive alternative is to take advantage of studies that have already been published by other organizations. Known as secondary research, this often includes market research from trade organizations, industry publications, government reports, and press articles.
There are some downsides to be aware of when using secondary research. The study’s data may be out of date, or even skewed to reflect the needs and aims of the commissioning organization. However, the low cost and easy accessibility to these materials make them an ideal information source for creating your persona.
Earlier, we discussed using social media analytics to find basic demographic information. Some social platforms allow you to take our information a step further: to look at the actual content your audience interacts with. That means you can underpin how audiences react to content that your own company produces and content produced by other people or organizations. Many social platforms also offer polling apps that enable you to survey your audiences about their attitudes toward a product or service.
It is always important to be aware of hidden bias. When considering social profiles, be aware that you are only compiling information on the “digitally connected” sub-segment of your audience.
Trade and Business Publications
Some of my favorite research tools are trade and business publications. A focused Google search will bring back a wealth of useful journals that reveal trends, concerns or pain points, aspirations, and even individual profiles or “day in the life” summaries of your target customers.
Trade publications are ideal for B2B customers. Besides relevant articles, many also have online forums where your target persona can discuss trending topics and whatever keeps them up at night. Some trade publications even offer features that provide “day in the life” summaries for specific roles within their industry.
While business publications like Fortune, Harvard Business Review and Inc. are all great for B2B personas, they can also provide useful secondary research for B2C personas. A quick Google search for “buying habits of millennials” came back with over 100,000 results, including Forbes’ “10 New Findings About The Millennial Consumer.”
Download our list of tips for How To Use Google Advanced Search To Maximize Your Persona Research. When the template loads, you’ll be prompted to subscribe for free to IterativeMarketing.net, where you will gain complete access to our premium content.
Social monitoring uses platforms like HootSuite or TweetReach to observe online conversations about a specific word, phrase or brand.
Social listening take this a step further by allowing you to quantify and filter online conversations, giving you the opportunity to find the triggers that started the conversation. This increases your ability to understand the conversations that people have about your brand, product or service.
Though you should keep in mind that you may not know which customer segment each person involved in the conversation represents, social listening is still a great tool for identifying information that may help you round out your persona. Tools like Radian6 and Sysomos can give you instant access to a broad audience.
Industry forums and social communities like Quora and Reddit are great tools to help develop a persona. Once you have an idea of your target persona, industry forums and social communities will give you the opportunity to post targeted questions, allowing you to test your theories out on your target audience. This can include asking specific questions about motivations and interests, or finding out what people really think about a trending industry or social topic.
As always, be aware of potential bias. While online anonymity may allow audiences to speak more freely, we cannot know how accurately they represent our target persona, and any research compiled should be carefully reviewed to determine if it is in line with your other findings.
The methods outlined above will produce a lot of data. The next step is to analyze the information collected, to identify where patterns exist. There are always going to be individual data points that won’t align with the rest of your research. The key is to get rid of these outliers and focus on the behaviors and attitudes that are common to the majority of your target audience. These similarities will form your persona.