Before we dig in. Let’s talk about what a “Buyer Persona” truly is. HubSpot defines as:

“A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

Too many times, I have sat in the room with executives, lead salespeople, marketing folks, etc that claimed to have personas yet they were defined differently by everyone and not documented. Even worse, to avoid spending more money on the project the leading executive in the room almost always said, “we can tell you who they are, we don’t need to waste time and money on the research.” So, in typical agency fashion, we pushed forward with the project without truly understanding who we were selling to.

3 Problems With Creating Your Own Personas Without Research

  • Too much focus on the decision maker: While the decision maker is the keystone to closing the deal, you need to win their staff over first. For B2B sales, they describe this person as the “gatekeeper” and that word makes me want to throw up. In reality, this person is an entry-level to mid-level person assigned with finding reliable partners that can get the job done. Win her over first. Be her best friend and she will endorse your company when the time comes to pitch to the decision maker. Don’t be fake though, take a genuine interest in her. 
  • Too much emphasis on your product or service: Your brand, services, and products are not special, sorry. As a career Account Management person, I have heard the same spiel countless times. The client rambles about being best at this, number one at this, and better than the competitor at this. It is all BS mostly. As soon as those folks in the room move onto the next job, they say the same about the new company. I’ve literally had clients leave the company “x” for company “y”  and tell me the same exact story. While the agency smiled, nodded, and cashed the check.
  • People buy with their emotions, not logic: Don’t just take it from me, take it from a Harvard professor that claims “95% of Purchasing Decisions Are Subconscious“. You can’t fully understand your persona until you listen to their worries, fears, passions, etc.

[Agency folks. You may be saying “Randall you didn’t do your job as a good Account Director to lead the client down the right path.” I respect that comment and you know as well as I that you can only push the client so hard down the right path, but pushing eventually causes strain in the relationship. I made my recommendations, showed them data and ultimately I gave in to save the account.]

How To Gather Insights You Seek (Yoda voice)

Now you’re probably saying, “I don’t have a lot of budget, so how do you recommend we go about creating buyer personas?” There are countless ways to gather customer insight and a few great firms in town that do it differently from us. We conduct a “Brand Study” which has 4 deliverables:

  • Internal & External Interviews
  • Raw Data
  • Brand Messaging
  • Mood Board

I am currently working on another blog that will be a step-by-step guide for you to conduct yourself. It will be posted here so stay tuned! I will add that hiring a third party to conduct the research, such as Groundwrk, allows for honest and open feedback from your audience. So consider the investment.