Tips for Creating Better Buyer Personas

If you’re using an inbound marketing strategy for your business, chances are you also use—or have at least heard of—buyer personas.

However, these can be tricky to create, especially if you’ve never made one before. Where do you start? Who should you to talk to? How do you actually use the personas once you’ve created them?

In order to learn more about the best ways to build buyer personas, we interviewed Kipp Bodnar, the chief marketing officer at Hubspot, which helps small businesses create strong marketing campaigns.

“Buyer personas are tremendously important for businesses because they provide structure and insight to marketing strategies. A detailed buyer persona will help you understand your customers, determine where to focus your time, guide product development and allow for alignment across the organization. As a result, you will be able to attract the most valuable visitors, leads and customers to your business.”

Kipp Bodnar, chief marketing officer at Hubspot

What follows is a Q&A session we held with Bodnar to find out how to make the best buyer persona possible.

Q: What is a buyer persona?

A: “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

As an example, one of the personas we’ve used through the years here at HubSpot is ‘Marketing Mary.’ We account for every detail with Mary: She’s a senior marketing professional at a midsize company, in charge of a team of one to five marketers.

Mary’s goals include:

  • Supporting sales with collateral and leads
  • Managing company communications
  • Building awareness

She even has a BA in Communications, and is married with two kids.”

Q: How do I create a buyer persona?

A: “To start, businesses should look through their contacts database and try to identify trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume content.

  • If you don’t have many existing contacts or readily available information, create forms for your website that will gather these things. For instance, when building a form, include fields with relevant information [such as] role, company size, biggest business challenge or anything else that will help you identify important trends among customers.
  • One of the most valuable sources of information on leads is your sales team. As the front lines of customer interaction, they know the most about who makes a good fit and why. Ask them what sort of generalizations they might be able to make about the different personas you serve.
  • Finally, you can always ask your customers and prospects themselves for information—interviews, whether in person, over the phone or online, can yield some of the most valuable first-hand data when building out personas.”

An example of a blank buyer persona

 

Q: Who should I interview?

A:First, customers. They’ve already purchased your product, so on some level you know they’re the right fit. Figure out who really loves your product and why, and start to define qualities of similar businesses that might be a good fit.

Don’t just go for the easy answer, though—reach out to customers that had a negative experience with your product or service, and figure out what exactly made them such a bad fit. They’ll become what’s called ‘negative personas’—people who are not a good fit for your product or service.

Next, consider prospects. You already have their contact info (and if you’ve been utilizing forms, maybe some additional insights as well)—reach out to them to figure out who might be the best fits for your product, and why. Add this information to your buyer personas.

There are also benefits to asking for referrals. Whether you’re moving into a new market, or you’re just getting started and don’t have any leads or customers, your network can be a powerful thing.

Leverage your existing connections to reach people you think might be a good fit—it will be hard to get a large number of interviewees, but you will get some high-quality insights.”

Q: What questions should I ask them?

A: “Here are some of the key attributes you should focus on:

  • Role: Job role, title, responsibilities, necessary skills, level of seniority, knowledge requirements and any tools they may use in their job.
    • Company: Industry(s), company size, revenue and number of employees.
      • Goals: What is that person responsible for? What makes success in that role?
        • Challenges: What are some common challenges that interviewees face?
          • Information sources: Where do they get new information from? What do they read (publications, blogs etc.)? What associations and networks are they a part of?
            • Personal information: Demographics (where appropriate), education level and area of study.
              • Purchasing preferences: Where do they shop (online, in person)? How do they research products when making decisions? Ask them to describe a recent purchase. Why did they consider it, how did they evaluate and what made them ultimately choose that product?”

              An example of a completed buyer persona

               

              Q: How do I put the completed persona into action?

              A: “Implementation of buyer personas starts with knowledge. From top to bottom, folks in your organization should know what the most common problems are amongst your target customers, and how your product or service can solve those problems.

              • Prepare your sales team by identifying common objections to the sales pitch, and provide ways for reps to address them.
              • Give your personas their own identity, starting with a name. As I mentioned, here at HubSpot we have Marketing Mary (and several others). A picture goes a long way as well—even though it might sound silly, a headshot lets folks in your organization see prospects as human beings who have real, tangible and addressable needs.”

              Q: How can software help me do this?

              A: “HubSpot’s buyer persona template empowers your organization with everything to get started creating and implementing personas. There are fields for persona identity, goals and challenges, as well as real quotes and common objections.

              There are even fields for suggested messaging and a recommended pitch—this aligns your sales and marketing teams and equips them with the tools they need to attract, convert, close and delight the ideal customers.”

              Buyer personas allow you to tailor your blog posts, which Hubspot can also help with
               

              Here are three more marketing automation tools that can help you create buyer personas:

               

              Marketo provides a full suite of marketing automation applications, and offers their own buyer persona template.
              Pardot, a Salesforce company, focuses mostly on B2B sales and marketing, but can also help you with developing an ideal buyer persona.
              Hatchbuck intertwines salesforce and marketing automation, and provide a whole workbook on how to build buyer personas.

               

              Next Steps

              Clearly buyer personas are important for your business, but they’re not the only thing you need to keep in mind for your marketing needs. Here are some other steps you can take to build up your marketing strategy:

              • Email me at andrewfriedenthal@softwareadvice.com for more information. I’m happy to help you figure out what your own MA software needs might be, and connect you to one of our expert software advisors for a free, no-obligation consultation!

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