The buyer persona should be the most valuable asset your marketing team and sales force utilize for success. If personas are not of value, then they were not built right. Too often personas were created improperly, and quickly discarded when they fail to provide insights. CMO’s need to ask, “Did we get it right?” As a guide to the discussion, download our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the Buyers phase on pages 168 – 173 of the PDF.
Why is this important to have Personas? Buyers have changed their preferences and continue to do so. They want to engage with your company in new ways and through new channels. Brand preference erodes quickly and loyalty is harder and harder to obtain and retain. Revenue growth depends on your ability to know your buyers better than your competitors, and better than themselves.
Buyer Personas have to be right. Your company is building products, content and campaigns based on the personas. The sales force utilizes them to make sales. If there are inaccuracies, the company’s success in making the number is in jeopardy. Furthermore, the CMO will be held accountable.
How Do CMOs Know They Got it Right?
There are many ways one can make sure they got it right. The surest way is to avoid out dated practices in the first place. Make sure you are using deep qualitative buyer research. Most are in a position where they need to validate what has been created. Also, at the same time, check if buying behaviors is changing.
To do this, you must validate everything in your personas and buying process maps (BPMs). The best way is through customer and prospect interviews. To help you with this, download the Persona Interview Guide. It is an example guide to help you evaluate if you have the existing personas right by conducting a few interviews to see how they validate. These interviews are key to validating the Personas and BPMs you have are right.
First, work with sales to identify buyers to interview. There are 2 categories for this, customers and prospects. For customers, assign your teams to validate specific related BPM stage questions in the field. A mechanism should be supplied to the sales team to provide regular feedback. For prospects, this can be done in the field through observation and good listening. Capture every question the prospect asks.
There is a 4 step interview techniques to maximize engagement:
Step 1 – Pick Topics and Themes to Validate: These represent the context of your interview. Begin with the end in mind. What buying stage and part of the buying process map are you trying to validate?
- What were they doing when they were not in the market for your solution
- What things stimulate them to enter a buying cycle
- How buying decisions were made
- What values were perceived as important
Step 2 – Develop Starter Questions: Don’t lead the witness with breadcrumb questions. Ask questions that prompt net new thinking. The goal is insight into their perceptions on the topics and themes from step 1. Use open-ended questions such as:
- What put you in the market for a solution?
- How did you initially become aware of our solution?
- What approach were you previously using to address this issue?
- What is important to you when it comes to choosing a vendor?
The goal is to gather input that validates the Buyer Persona content. A sure sign that your Personas are strong is a consistency in response. A warning sign is if you start feeling like you need to split up the Personas. That is a sign that the Persona is inaccurate or that you missed something.
Step 3 – Plan Your Interview Technique: The goal is to engage in a free flow conversation. To do so, the interviewer uses certain skills and techniques to probe deeper. Some critical interviewing competencies include:
- Gaining trust between the interviewer and interviewee
- Attentiveness to what buyers are expressing
- Query other purchases they have been involved in to gain insights
- Using follow-up techniques to probe deeper
Step 4 – Record & Validate: The information and data gathered must be captured in a framework. You are looking for consistent patterns and behaviors or you are discovering changes to your buyers. You want insight into your buyer’s goals & objectives, obstacles & fears.
CMOs invest a lot of time and money in creating Personas and Buyer Process Maps. The success of the organization depends on if they got it right. CMOs are held accountable for this. To go deeper, download our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the Buyers phase on pages 168 – 173 of the PDF.