Best Practices for Manufacturers when Conducting Buyer Persona Interviews

Challenges: Growth

Posted by Meaghan Ziemba

Follow these simple instructions for a more strategic approach to interviewing your target buyers and maximizing the valuable insight you gather.

Once you have identified the individuals who have agreed to be interviewed for buyer personas, the next step is to conduct a killer interview that gets to the heart of how your buyers think, feel, and take action in your market. Following these best practices will assure the best results from your interviews:

  • Prepare before conducting the interview
  • Conduct the interview in a timely fashion
  • Reflect on the information gathered from the interview

 

Prepare before Conducting the Interview

In the preparation phase of the interview process, record the company name, interviewee name and title, and the date of sale they purchased from you or decided to purchase from a competitor (won vs. lost opportunity/sale). If it is a lost sale, make note of why they decided to go with another option.

Finally, what product(s) or alternative solutions was the buyer considering? Remember, the interview is about how the buyer came to a decision (buyer experience) and not about the product itself (user experience). Remain focused on the details that swayed the buyer’s decision and not the details of what they like or do not like about the product.

 

Conduct the Interview in a Timely Fashion

Before you begin the interview, request permission to record the conversation. If the interviewee is uncomfortable being recorded, invite a colleague into the room with you to take notes. If someone else is taking notes, you will be free to focus solely on the interview.

Focus your interview questions around:

  • The business drivers/triggers that initiated the search for a solution.
  • The steps the buyer took and what worked well for them versus what did not work for them.
  • What the buyer did at each step to narrow the field of options/vendors.

In order to prompt the interviewee to tell their story, direct the interviews by:

  • Allowing the buyer to talk.
  • Listening for revealing threads and pulling on them.
  • Probing vague responses and details, and asking any follow-up questions that gets them to share more specifics of their buying experience.
  • Asking what steps they took in their search:
    • How many vendors were identified?
    • Were any vendors unknown prior to your search?
    • Were any vendors considered at this stage identified in another way?
    • How many vendors were selected for ongoing evaluation?

Make sure to dial in on the information they were looking for and if they found everything they needed. If not, what was missing? Avoid directly asking what companies they were considering because this can come across as intrusive. Instead, ask what site they found particularly helpful and keep note of how the information collected impacted their choice of vendors.

 

Reflect on the Information Gathered from the Interview

Transcribe each interview so you can easily review all of the information. There are transcription services available for this step, but using one depends on your budget and availability.

You can also create spreadsheets that track similarities across various interviews. For example, buyers that searched similar key phrases and were led to the same sites may be one type of buyer persona to consider. The groups created from the similarities will help you determine how many personas you should create for your content marketing strategy.

Once you’ve reviewed all of your notes, highlighted similarities, and determined the number of personas you need, the next step is to create your buyer personas from your interview findings.