In inbound marketing, we throw the term “buyer persona” out a lot. For businesses just starting their inbound journey, it can seem like a jargon term. But, as marketers, we use the term a lot because buyer personas are the heart and soul of any inbound marketing strategy.
An accurate buyer persona that accurately reflects your target customers can significantly increase the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts. It also guides your leadership team as you create new campaigns, products, services, or other business initiatives. Buyer personas help put context and purpose behind data and metrics while leading companies to take guided steps towards growth.
So who should be involved in creating your buyer personas? The short answer is anyone who interacts with your customers. But to gain a better understanding, let’s start by defining what a buyer persona is and the benefit they can have for your company.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data drawn from current customer demographics, behavior, motivations, and goals. The goal of a buyer persona is to help you and your business better understand your customers and prospects instead of just guessing what their next actions might be. Formulating these insights into a concrete and documented example makes it easier to educate your team, departments, and anyone who might be client-facing in your business.
A detailed buyer persona can help align your whole organization - sales, marketing, and customer success around a centralized goal: attract, convert, and delight this ideal customer.
It’s important to note that most businesses don’t have just one buyer persona. But you shouldn’t have too many personas either. Keep in mind that while most companies have at least a couple of personas, targeting too many people can lower the impact of your value proposition. The goal of a buyer persona is to help you market and sell to the people you know are successful customers, not just people willing to buy.
Learn how to use your buyer personas to generate more leads with this comprehensive guide.
Who Should Be Involved in Creating Your Buyer Personas?
The more insight you get into who your ideal customer is, the more likely you’ll create an accurate depiction of this person. So ideally, any client-facing member of your team should be involved in creating your buyer personas. These people have firsthand knowledge of what drives these customers, their pain points, and what first triggers them to seek out your products or services. But don’t stop here. Include customers themselves. You’d be surprised at how much insight you can glean from current and past customers if they’re willing.
So we’d recommend involving as many people as possible when creating your own company’s buyer personas. Think about the following list of people or departments:
- Marketing Teams
- Sales Teams
- Customer Success Teams
- Executive Leadership
- Current Customers
- Focus Groups
Each group of people can give you different insights that together form a comprehensive depiction of your ideal customer. Here’s a list of questions you might consider asking each group.
As a marketer, you already have a solid understanding of your ideal customers’ basic demographics, traits, and motivations. After all, your days are spent crafting messaging to reach the emotional triggers of your ideal customers. You and your team also have important data you can pull from your organization’s CRM.
When starting the buyer persona creation process, use the following questions to help guide the conversation with your marketing team:
- What demographic information do you have in your CRM about current website visitors?
- What are some of the most successful marketing campaigns we’ve seen, and who were these campaigns targeting?
- What type of messaging has resonated most with customers or prospects?
- What are the highest-performing blog posts on the company’s site?
- What website page receives the most traffic?
- What source or platform do most leads come from?
- What is the highest performing social platform used to promote content?
Your sales teams are the people at your organization that probably interact with your customers the most. They probably have the most knowledge regarding customer pain points and any frictions buyers might experience as they’re traveling through the sales journey. When you talk with your sales teams, ask them to describe specific scenarios. Glean insights from stories and real-life interactions that they have with customers. The following questions can be used as a guide as you interview your sales teams:
- How would you describe the customers you deal with every day?
- What are the qualities of your favorite type of customer?
- What are the typical complaints, problems, or issues prospects have on their first point of outreach?
- What are the most common objections you hear?
- Why do customers say they choose your products/services over competitors?
- Describe your best deal.
- Describe your worst deal.
- Are there any negative traits you’ve seen in customers that you try to avoid when prospecting?
Customer Success Teams
Your customer success teams deal with your most loyal customers. They know what keeps customers happy and what makes them repeat buyers. On the same token, they also deal with unhappy customers, who could be considered negative personas or customers you don’t want to attract. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask your customer success teams:
- What are the most common questions and complaints you get from customers?
- Are there any patterns in a particular group of people and the challenges they face?
- Do you have any quotes, or can you collect any quotes, from real customers that might give more depth to your personas?
- What keeps these ideal customers coming back?
- What traits define customers that aren’t satisfied with your organization's products or services?
It’s critical that executive leadership is involved in the creation of buyer personas. These leaders know the goals and vision of the company. This helps inform what types of customers your organization might want and the types of customers to stay away from. They might also have context into the types of customers they might not currently be targeting but might be worthwhile to set sights on for future growth.
Here are some questions to ask your executive leadership when discussing your buyer personas:
- What are the goals of the organization, and how do our current customers fit within those goals?
- In the next one to two years, are we trying to reach a new market, narrow our focus, or change our target demographic?
- Are there any new products or services being developed that might reach this new demographic?
- How do we plan to shift our brand or messaging to reach this new audience group?
Who better to glean insights from when creating your buyer personas than your customers themselves? Granted, it’s not always possible, but when your customers are willing, take advantage of the valuable information only they can offer.
Try and talk with a range of different customer types too. If you have an idea of a few different personas, interview each different customer type. Keep in mind that you're not looking for testimonials. These conversations should be focused on the thoughts and motivations behind why they are doing business with your organization.
So what types of questions should you ask your customers? Talk to them about their demographics, career path, day-to-day schedule, and pain points. Here are some sample questions you can build off of:
- What is your customer’s role and title?
- What are their day to day job responsibilities within their company?
- What department do they work in and work within their organization?
- Where do they get their information from?
- What’s their sales cycle look like? Do they have a busy season in their industry?
- What does their current market look like within their industry? Have there been any major disruptions?
- Why did they seek out your product or service?
- What are their major pain points, and how does your product or service help solve them?
Sometimes it can be helpful to get a few different customers together in one room. In these instances, you might ask the same questions as listed above, but note how their answers differ. If you think you’ll have multiple buyer personas, consider including a sample customer from each different persona. Again, this will be a helpful way to see how these personas differ and how to market and sell to them in different ways.
Collaboration Helps Create Accurate Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are constantly evolving. As you create more and more customer relationships, you’ll want to continue to improve these personas. Involving every member of your team who has insights into these relationships will help you create a more accurate and representative persona.
It’s really up to you how much time and resources you choose to dedicate when creating your buyer personas. But keep in mind, that the better you understand your buyer’s thoughts, motivations, and pain points, the more likely you’ll create deep customer relationships that drive business success.