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Creating Buyer Personas: Gathering Your Data

By September 10, 2012April 24th, 2023Uncategorized

I previously writtente about buyer personas and the questions to ask when creating your personas. Today we’re going to take a deeper dive into this topic with the first of a 2-part series on creating buyer personas. You can find part 2 here.

Personas are archetypes that describe the various goals and observed behavior patterns among your potential users, customers, and referral partners. Personas (sometimes called marketing personas, customer personas, or buyer personas) help us better understand our buyer so we can create content, emails, and social media that relates to their specific needs, interests, and desires.

From Wikipedia:

A user persona is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2 page descriptions that include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character.

As I mentioned in my previous article, conducting interviews is the very best way to gather data with which to establish your customer buyer personas.

Who should I interview?

Interview your customers. Start with your existing customer list, because they have already engaged with your company.

When picking out who to interview, be sure to include people who love your product/service, and people who don’t. The “bad customers” who are unhappy with your product or service will provide some other insights and behavioral patterns that will help you understand your personas better. They will almost certainly help you understand more about your customer’s challenges.

Customers like being heard, and interviewing them gives them a chance to tell you about their world, their challenges, their lives. You might even find that providing this interview opportunity to your customer helps to build loyalty to your company.

Interview your prospects. To balance out your interviews, be sure to include some of your prospects. Use the data you have already accumulated about them through your lead generation forms to figure out which prospects might fit into the personas you want to build, and then interview them. Keep in mind that this is NOT a sales call.

Interview potential influencers. Finally, talk to some people who influence others in your target market. Find the gurus, the thought leaders, the bloggers who impact your potential audience. To find these influencers, reach out to co-workers, existing customers, and social media contacts to find people you’d like to interview. You won’t get a high volume of people this way, but you’ll probably get some very high-quality interviews.

How many people do I need to interview?

Well, that depends. If you already know a lot about your personas, start with 3-5 people. That may be enough. Or you may need to do 8-10 interviews in each area (customers. prospects, potential influencers).

When you can successfully predict that your interviewee is going to say in response to your question, it’s time to stop. You now know your persona well enough to recognize the patterns that recur through your interview responses.

3 quick tips to help you get the interviews

As you reach out to folks for interviews, consider these three tips for getting a better response rate:

  1. Use incentives. While you may not need them in all scenarios, incentives give people a reason to participate in an interview, especially if they don’t already have a relationship with you. A simple gift card (like Amazon, Starbucks, or Visa credit) is an easy option.
  2. Be really clear that this isn’t a sales call! Be clear that you’re doing research and you want to learn from them. You want to learn about their jobs, challenges, and lives. Don’t succumb to the temptation to make this a sales call.
  3. Make it easy to say yes. Take care of everything for your interviewees: suggest times (but be flexible), allow them to pick a time right off the bat, send a calendar invite with a reminder to block out the time, be prompt with your phone call at the scheduled time, and have your notes in front of you when you call (and especially the person’s name!).

Watch for Part 2 of this series, “22 Questions to Ask When Creating Buyer Personas,” next week.

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Larry Levenson

Larry is passionate about inbound marketing and is a HubSpot Certified Trainer. He's learned the "secrets" of leveraging HubSpot to make marketing hyper-effective and customizes that information to help our clients meet their goals. Larry lives in Prescott, AZ, and when not at work, he is hiking or hanging out with teenagers as a volunteer with Boys to Men USA.