Story Time: The Importance of Buyer Personas

To give my audience a break from marketing guides, I am starting “Story Time” posts. “Story Time” posts are real examples from my life where I learned a lesson in business or marketing. The goal of these posts are to show the importance of good marketing in real life, everyday situations.

For my first Story Time, I want to talk about the importance of Buyer Personas. The point of a Buyer Persona is to get to know your ideal customer. When creating marketing material or doing sales, you should know some general information about you ideal customer and create content that speaks to that persona.

A Good Buyer Persona includes the following:

  • Job Title/ Job Description
  • Location
  • Preferences (related to the product/service your selling)
  • Pain Points with their current product/service
  • Overall Problems (regarding their work and personal life)

A thorough buyer persona is not easy to acquire. Most of the useful information can not be found on the internet. So how do you get this information?

There are multiple ways to fill out your buyer personas, here is one real life example from my first job working in a B2B software company.

First Month on the Job

During my senior year of college, I took an internship with a small-medium sized software company. To be honest, when I took the internship I didn’t quite know what the company did and I was just happy to be getting paid while still in school.

During my first month on the job, my CEO sent me to a tradeshow in Florida with 4 of my other coworkers. At this point I not only barely understood what our company did, but I also didn’t know how to use the software or how to talk to customers.

Prior to the tradeshow we had many long meetings discussing “The Survey”. The company’s tradeshow strategy was to hold a raffle, and to enter the raffle, attendees had to fill out a one-page survey. The survey asked for detailed information about their current software, how the software was being used, pain points, and general information about their day-to-day work schedule. (Also name, job, email, obviously)

At first, this seemed like too much information to learn from someone during our first encounter. However, almost all of our leads for the next 6 months supposedly came from this conference so I knew it was important to get as many surveys filled out as possible.

Tradeshow Day

Nothing really could have prepared me for this tradeshow. I was generally a shy person not interested in talking to strangers, but my manager needed me to get those surveys filled out. I started walking up to people in the vicinity of our corner booth, telling them about our raffle and asking them to fill out the survey.

Turns out that people love to talk about themselves, and the more questions you ask the more information they provide. As time went on I found talking to total strangers surprisingly easy and even interesting.

While at the tradeshow, we did come across some attendees who had come to the tradeshow to scout new software systems. For these people my coworker who’d been with the company longer than I, gave them a short demonstration. However, the majority of people didn’t have time for a sales pitch, but they did have time to fill out the survey and talk about their pain points (both activities took roughly the same amount of time). We were not selling at this tradeshow, we were getting to know our customers.

In addition to the survey, we would jot notes about the person on their survey based on the conversation we had. Notes like, “have had old software for many years”, “would like a mobile app”, “looking for a more flexible solution”. These notes would later help us recall the conversation when reaching out to that person to make a sale down the line.

In the two days that the tradeshow took place, my coworkers and I had around 400 filled out surveys. Each with a name, job title, current software information, software pain points, and “ideal” software capabilities. These would be our leads for the next 6 months.

Back in the Office

Back in the office we compiled all our survey data into an excel sheet. Doing this allowed us to see patterns and the top pain points for competing software programs.

Like the years before, we published our findings in a blog post with a clear call to action to give us a call.

Next it was time to do outreach. For myself and the other interns, the next few weeks after the tradeshow were all about touching base with the people who filled out the survey. We would call and email, referring to their pain points or anything else noteworthy that was said during our conversation. This helped to build trust with prospect customers because they were talking to a person who understood their specific problems, not just another salesman.

The goal of these meetings were to schedule a short phone call where we would discuss software needs and pain points in depth. Next was to give a demo of our software, which took about two hours. My company had a year-plus sales cycle, so there were many meetings that needed to be had before a purchase would be made. But with every point of contact, we made a note in our CRM so we could stay on top of all prospects over the next few years. We filed their survey information in our CRM as well.

The Creation of the Buyer Persona

All the surveys we generated acted as a buyer persona for the person who filled it out. By combining all the surveys, we were able to make generalizations about certain competing software systems, as well as prospect clients’ pain points based on job title, area of living, size of company, etc.

Being able to make these generalizations made it possible to do cold outreach and make the customer feel like they knew us because we could predict their problems and give them a solution. This is the goal of the buyer persona.

One of the best ways to create your buyer personas is through surveys. Another option is to conduct informational interviews with prospect customers and/or past customers. If you’re utilizing automated marketing software, I’d also suggest figuring out how to do data collection which could also help you build buyer personas.

No matter how you’re creating your buyer personas, you should constantly be updating them as you learn more about your customers, and always check your content and/or sales pitches against them.

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