When I first saw the title “100 Questions to Ask Yourself When Creating a Buyer Persona,” I figured it was a joke. I mean, c'mon—one hundred questions? But then I clicked over to HubSpot's blog and discovered it was real.
Now, don't get me wrong: I love HubSpot and believe that 90% of the time they’re on target with everything they write. But not this time.
Let's look at what the author wrote in order to better understand my gripe: “To kick off the market research process and help you craft the ultimate buyer persona, I’ve compiled a list of 100 questions that will help you get to know your target buyer. While you don’t have to answer them all, gathering details on as many of them as possible will give you the information needed to write high-converting copy, as well as give you an edge over competitors who haven’t gone to such lengths to understand your shared audience.” (Emphasis mine.)
Questions include—and I'm not making this up—a person's birth order, whether or not his parents are still married, what grades he got in school, what kind of house he lived in growing up, and what he does first thing in the morning. (Oh, the comments I could make about that last one!)
Let me ask you this: how would knowing the answers to ANY of those questions give you a competitive edge? You're right… it wouldn't.
Unfortunately, I encounter this sort of buyer persona overkill every day, which got me thinking. I've been struggling lately with getting clients on the buyer-persona bandwagon. Oh, they understand the basic concept that buyer personas provide discerning narratives on ideal customers and that personas help influence content creation. But then things seem to fall apart from there.
And I think I've finally figured out why.
See, there are too many well-intentioned, but off-base articles about buyer personas floating around on the Interwebs, leading to much confusion and even fear. Which articles should I pay attention to? What do I have to do to create an effective persona? OMG, do I really need to ask 100 questions during a customer interview?!
This post aims to fix that by providing a roundup of carefully vetted articles that will help you understand what personas are, how to create them without losing your sanity, pitfalls to avoid, and alternative viewpoints.
Featured on the Content Marketing Institute website, this article was written by Adele Revella, founder and president of The Buyer Persona Institute. So, yeah—she knows a thing or two about the topic.
- Insightful quote: “Marketers sometimes make the mistake of gathering buyer information that doesn’t really help them deliver more effective content or campaigns. If your marketing team is debating whether your buyer persona is a man or a woman, or if you are bogged down finding just the right stock image of your persona, then you’re focusing on the wrong things. Unless you’re a B2C marketer, the buyer’s gender, marital status and hobbies are rarely relevant.”
I told you I liked HubSpot, despite the 100-questions-from-hell article, and this post is the reason why. It provides a succinct outline regarding persona creation, including a list of 20 (yes, only 20!) reasonable questions to consider asking customers, prospects, and lost prospects.
- Insightful quote: “You just need to ask the right questions to the right people, and present that information in a helpful way so your company can get to know your persona better than the back of their hand.”
Between the two article links above, you have all the information you need to achieve buyer persona nirvana. So now let’s look at the other side, the one that nobody but the folks at The Sales Lion seem to want to talk about: the anti-buyer persona.
- Insightful quote: “The truth is, almost all of us can sense a bad-fit prospect or client very early on in the buying process. Unfortunately though, because of needed cash flow, business will engage with those persons/companies for which they know they should not be, an act that leads to burn-out, stress, and further financial hardship.”
I love Social Media Examiner because it always puts together such detailed, step-by-step articles, complete with screen shots. Once you've mastered “regular” buyer personas, give this a whirl.
- Insightful quote: “With solid buyer personas informing your social media messaging, you can formulate content to better target your audience’s interests and concerns. This will in turn make for a more engaged audience.”
The people at MarketingProfs are wicked smaht, as we like to say here in Boston. Consider sharing this article with anyone who might be overwhelmed with talk of analytics and 100 interview questions. It’s a readable, anyone-can-understand-it primer.
- Insightful quote: “Buyer personas are often met with opposition because they're a lot of work to assemble, and once assembled they are living, evolving things and must be maintained. Like people, buyer personas change over time with the market, the times, the ebbs and flows of products and services. They absolutely require work, but they are entirely worth it.”
Yep, this one is from us, written by the also wicked smaht Maureen Condon. But hear me out on why I included it in this list. At PMG, we work with many small and medium-sized businesses that don’t always have the resources to create the “ultimate” buyer persona. So this down-and-dirty approach gets the job done with an eye on what matters most. Plus, who doesn't like to get a little dirty while doing marketing?
- Insightful quote: “The good news is that creating and using buyer personas does not have to suck the fun out of creating a great marketing campaign. It simply makes the process more strategic and, ultimately, more successful for your company.”
Need help developing your company’s buyer personas? Hit us up! We'd love to get dirty working on yours.