20 Questions to Ask in Persona Interviews

Finance Manager Margie. IT Ian. Landscaper Larry. Do you know who your business’s buyer personas are? And exactly how much do you know about them?

Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all — in marketing, sales, product, and services — internalize the ideal customer we’re trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

“Okay, so personas are really important to my business. But … how do I actually make one?”

Easily organize your audience segments and make your marketing stronger with these free buyer persona templates. 

Ahh … the million dollar question. The good news is, they aren’t that difficult to create. You just need to ask the right questions to the right people, and present that information in a helpful way so the people in your business can get to know your persona(s) better than the backs of their hands.

Now for the even better news: As you may have noticed above, we’ve put together an interview guide and a free template for creating buyer personas, so it’s easy as pie to do your persona research and compile it all into a beautiful, presentable, palatable format. So follow along with this interview guide, and download the persona template so you can start plugging in your research. Before you know it, you’ll have complete, well thought-out buyer personas to show off to your entire company!

Before we dive into the buyer persona-creation process, let’s pause to understand the impact having well-developed buyer personas can have on your business — and specifically your marketing.

Why Exactly Are Buyer Personas So Important to Your Business?

Buyer personas help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, product development, and services to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups. In other words, you may know your target buyers are caregivers, but do you know what their specific needs and interests are? What is the typical background of your ideal buyer? In order to get a full understanding of what makes your best customers tick, it’s critical to develop detailed personas for your business.

The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as insightsyou gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20. But if you’re new to personas, start small! You can always develop more personas later if needed.

What About “Negative” Personas?

Whereas a buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer, a negative — or “exclusionary” — persona is a representation of who you dont want as a customer.

For example, this could include professionals who are too advanced for your product or service, students who are only engaging with your content for research/knowledge, or potential customers who are just too expensive to acquire (because of a low average sale price, their propensity to churn, or their unlikeliness to purchase again from your company).

How Can Personas Be Used in Marketing?

At the most basic level, developing personas allows you to create content and messaging that appeals to your target audience. It also enables you to target or personalize your marketing for different segments of your audience. For example, instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about those different personas.

Furthermore, when combined with lifecycle stage (i.e. how far along someone is in your sales cycle), buyer personas also allow you to map out and create highly targeted content. You can learn more about how to do that by downloading our Content Mapping Template.

And if you take the time to also create negative personas, you’ll have the added advantage of being able to segment out the “bad apples” from the rest of your contacts, which can help you achieve a lower cost-per-lead and cost-per-customer — and see higher sales productivity.

Now, are you ready to start creating your buyer personas?

How to Create Buyer Personas

Buyer personas can be created through research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. That includes a mix of customers, prospects, and those outside your contacts database who might align with your target audience.

Here are some practical methods for gathering the information you need to develop personas:

  • Look through your contacts database to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.
  • When creating forms to use on your website, use form fields that capture important persona information. For example, if all of your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about company size on your forms.
  • Take into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the leads they’re interacting with most. What generalizations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?
  • Interview customers and prospects, either in person or over the phone, to discover what they like about your product or service. This is one of the most important steps, so let’s discuss it in greater detail …

How to Find Interviewees for Researching Buyer Personas

One of the most critical steps to establishing your buyer persona(s) is finding some people to speak with to suss out, well, who your buyer persona is. That means you’ll have to conduct some interviews to get to know what drives your target audience. But how do you find those interviewees? There are a few sources you should tap into:

1) Customers

Your existing customer base is the perfect place to start with your interviews, because they’ve already purchased your product and engaged with your company. At least some of them are likely to exemplify your target persona(s).

Reach out to both “good” and “bad” customers. You don’t just want to talk to people who love your product and want to spend an hour gushing about you (as good as that feels). Customers who are unhappy with your product will show other patterns that will help you form a solid understanding of your personas. For example, you might find that some of these “bad” customers have bigger teams and thus need a collaboration element to the product. Or you may find that “bad” customers find your product too technical and difficult to use. In both cases, you learn something about your product and what your customers’ challenges are.

Another benefit to interviewing customers is that you may not need to offer them an incentive like a gift card (a typical incentive for participating in surveys or interviews). Customers usually like being heard, and interviewing them gives them a chance to tell you about their world, their challenges, and what they think of your product. Customers also like to have an impact on the products they use, so you may find that, as you involve them in interviews like this, they become even more loyal to your company. When you reach out to customers, be clear that your goal is to get their feedback and that it’s highly valued by your team.

2) Prospects

Be sure to balance out your interviews with people who have not purchased your product or know much about your company. Your current prospects and leads are a great option here because you already have their contact information. Use the data you do have about them (i.e. anything you’ve collected through lead generation forms or website analytics) to figure out who might fit into your target personas.

3) Referrals

You’ll probably also need to rely on some referrals to talk to people who may fit into your target personas, particularly if you’re heading into new markets or don’t have any leads or customers yet. Reach out to your network — co-workers, existing customers, social media contacts — to find people you’d like to interview and get introduced to. It may be tough to get a large volume of people this way, but you’ll likely get some very high-quality interviews out of it. If you don’t know where to start, try searching on LinkedIn for people who may fit into your target personas and see which results have any connections in common with you. Then reach out to your common connections for introductions.

4) Third-Party Networks

For interviewees who are completely removed from your company, there are a few third-party networks you can recruit from. Craigslist allows you to post ads for people interested in any kind of job, and UserTesting.com allows you to run remote user testing (with some follow-up questions). You’ll have less control over sessions run through UserTesting.com, but it’s a great resource for quick user testing recruiting.

Tips for Recruiting Interviewees

As you reach out to potential interviewees, here are a few tips for getting a better response rate:

1) Use incentives. While you may not need them in all scenarios (e.g. customers who already want to talk to you), incentives give people a reason to participate in an interview if they don’t have a relationship with you. A simple gift card (like an Amazon or Visa credit card) is an easy option.

2) Be clear this isn’t a sales call. This is especially important when dealing with non-customers. Be clear that you’re doing research and that you just want to learn from them. You are not getting them to commit to a one-hour sales call; you’re getting them to commit to telling you about their lives, jobs, and challenges.

3) Make it easy to say yes. Take care of everything for your potential interviewee. Suggest times, but be flexible; allow them to pick a time right off the bat; and send a calendar invitation with a reminder to block off their time.

How Many People Do You Need to Interview?

Unfortunately the answer is, it depends. Start with at least 3-5 interviews for each persona you’re creating. If you already know a lot about your persona, then that may be enough. You may need to do 3-5 interviews in each category of interviewees (customers, prospects, people who don’t know your company).

The rule of thumb is, when you start accurately predicting what your interviewee is going to say, it’s probably time to stop. Through these interviews, you’ll naturally start to notice patterns. Once you start expecting and predicting what your interviewee is going to say, that means you’ve interviewed enough people to find and internalize these patterns.

Role

1) What is your job role? Your title?

2) How is your job measured?

3) What does a typical day look like?

4) What skills are required to do your job?

5) What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?

6) Who do you report to? Who reports to you?

Company

7) In which industry or industries does your company work?

8) What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?

Goals

9) What are you responsible for?

10) What does it mean to be successful in your role?

Challenges

11) What are your biggest challenges?

Watering Holes

12) How do you learn about new information for your job?

13) What publications or blogs do you read?

14) What associations and social networks do you participate in?

Personal Background

15) Describe your personal demographics (if appropriate, ask their age, whether they’re married, if they have children).

16) Describe your educational background. What level of education did you complete, which schools did you attend, and what did you study?

17) Describe your career path. How did you end up where you are today?

Shopping Preferences

18) How do you prefer to interact with vendors (e.g. email, phone, in person)?

19) Do you use the internet to research vendors or products? If yes, how do you search for information?

20) Describe a recent purchase. Why did you consider a purchase, what was the evaluation process, and how did you decide to purchase that product or service?

read full article on Hubspot https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/buyer-persona-research

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