The process of locating and recruiting people to interview for your buyer personas needs to be a team effort across all company departments.
We’ve already defined what a buyer persona is and why it is important for manufacturers to know and implement them into their inbound and content marketing strategies.
Now let’s discuss how to locate and recruit buyers to interview so you can start building out your buyer personas.
Where to Find Buyers to Interview
The process of recruiting people to interview is a team effort. There are three groups to analyze for potential interviews:
- Those who chose you
- Those who chose another
- Those who stopped considering you
Those Who Chose You
Start by looking through your closed-sale reports and customer-relationship management (CRM) platform, or consulting with your internal subject matter experts (SMEs) to compile a current customer list.
These names should be readily available because they are active clients, and most will be open to scheduling an interview; however, their information can be biased. Customers who selected your products and services chose you because they like what you’re doing and the product you offer. While these customers are good sources for feedback regarding the benefits you provide, it may be difficult to learn what weaknesses exist or what improvements your products and services need.
Those Who Chose Another
Next, look at the list of individuals who selected your competition over you during the decision stage of the buyer’s journey. This list of names may be harder to obtain directly from your sales management team because once a sale is lost, the contact typically gets deleted.
If the sales team is unable to provide information on former prospects, try searching your CRM for names that have unsubscribed to your content offerings.
Buyers who invested time researching various solutions are more likely to provide you with specific feedback including reasons why they didn’t select you and insight into areas that may need improvement.
Those Who Stopped Considering You
Customers who crossed your company off the list before the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey are the hardest to talk to because they are unlikely to invest any more time on a product or solution they’ve already decided not to pursue. However, this group, if accessed, can provide invaluable information targeting the early stages of the buyer’s journey.
According to Adele Revella, CEO of the Buyer Persona Institute, the trick with this group is to find an incentive for them to do an interview, such as a gift card to a local store or a product discount. The other two groups -- those that chose you and those that chose your competition -- are more willing to provide feedback without an incentive due to the amount of time and research they spent looking for a specific solution for their problem.
If you do schedule an interview, only talk about the top part of the buying process, or awareness stage, where people are researching a variety of solutions for their problem. Not all of the 5 Rings of Buying Insight should be covered.
Beating Sales Resistance
If you’re struggling to get contact information from the sales team, make sure the head of marketing talks to the head of sales about the benefits of a marketing team with buyer expertise.
Marketers can use the feedback from each contact to focus the content (videos, press releases, blogs, etc.) to attract the right audience at the right time and help move your qualified leads along the buying journey.
Content Manager Ashley Daniels suggests in her article from the Inbound Marketing Blog that testimonials, product demos, free trials, coupons, case studies, and product pricing sheets are the best materials to help sales teams close.
The sales department is the primary beneficiary from this process, so it should be easy to enlist their help.
Persuading Buyers to Meet with You
Keep in mind, you do not need to interview all buyers to build your personas. You want to target the people who, whether they are your customers or your competitor’s, are closest to the products and services you offer, and are using them to successfully reach their goals. These individuals can provide information for personas involved in the buying process.
Landing the Interview
Revella states there are three simple steps for landing an interview with potential buyers:
- Call first and immediately follow up with an email--this increases the open rate of the email you send because you already mentioned it to them during your phone call.
- Assure them you are not selling anything--people are more inclined to return calls and messages when they know they aren’t being baited for a sale,
- Be appreciative and not apologetic for their time--express interest in the challenges preventing customers from reaching their goals. Explain how their feedback helps improve products and services to better serve their needs.
Try to schedule an interview as soon as a buyer makes a purchasing decision so the information is still fresh in their mind and is relevant. This means you need to be aware of your CRM, or consistently collaborating with your sales team.
Align the amount of time you request for the interview with the degree of “consideration” the buyer devoted to making a decision.
For example, a person buying office supplies or a candy bar while waiting in line would be classified as “low consideration”.. They would be difficult to interview because they likely made an impulse buy and did not invest much thought into their buying decision.
A buyer who spends a few days or weeks making a decision on a new training program for new employees would be classified as “medium consideration”. The wrong program could produce inefficient employees and effect overall productivity. However, this mistake can be corrected by selecting an alternative program as soon as an issue occurs. For medium consideration buyers, a 20 minute interview is sufficient.
Buyers who spend months or years evaluating options to make a choice such as investing in new CRM technology are classified as “high consideration”. If they are wrong, they could lose their job or dramatically impact their company’s success, so they spend the extra time weighing their options. For high consideration buyers, interviews can last 30 minutes or more.
Remember: You are focused on the buyer personas, so you want to tailor your interviews to the process and steps a buyer takes in selecting a solution or product (buying experience) and not the overall experience of a person using a specific product or service (user experience).
Once you find the buyers you want to speak to and schedule the interviews, the next step is to conduct the interviews to obtain the information that will frame the foundation of your buyer personas.