Ask These Five Questions to Create Killer Buyer Personas

To effectively market your company, you have to start by understanding your audience. So how do we go about doing that? Marketers start by creating a Buyer Persona, or an archetype, of your typical customer. Most companies have several different audiences that they market to, and creating a Buyer Persona for each type of audience member helps tailor your message, so it reaches and interests the people who purchase your product most. 

There are a million ways to create Buyer Personas for your company ranging from overly broad to extremely detailed. Ultimately, the crucial information needed to build an effective Buyer Persona is a clear understanding of their challenges, goals, and how you help solve a problem, achieve a goal - or both! Knowing this information gives you an empathetic understanding of your buyer, and the opportunity to demonstrate that you identify and appreciate the struggles that have led to them seeking out information on your product or service.

The following questions will help you develop these essential elements of your Buyer Personas. It's always best to ask your customers these questions directly, but if you don't have direct access reach out to members of your staff that do  - and ask everyone from your sales and customer service teams to your administrative staff. Each will offer unique insight.

We purposely decided not to suggest asking about demographics. While nearly every Buyer Persona template you download focuses on gathering this data, we have found that while demographic information may help refine a message, it rarely defines one.

1. What does your typical day look like?

The goal of this question is to get an idea of everything your customer faces on a regular basis; no detail is too small. While your product or service probably doesn't address every item on your buyer's to-do list, knowing the full picture helps you understand tasks that factor into their success. Note that a "typical day" likely doesn't exist, so consider expanding this to a week or a month.

2. What are the biggest challenges you face?

You should have a sense of the breadth of responsibilities at this point, but now we want to focus on the largest pain points. These are the tasks/responsibilities/deliverables that keep them up at night. Whether they are related to your product/service is irrelevant. These challenges influence their decision-making process on everything in their daily lives.

3. How is success measured in your role?

At first glance, this may seem redundant. It makes intuitive sense to assume that success gets measured by how well challenges get resolved. Except, you know better than that. Likely your customer reports to someone and how that person defines success is what counts.  Positioning your product or service as a tool to keep your client looking good in front of the manager and you will create a customer for life.

4. Where do you get your industry information?

Understanding what your buyer considers a trusted resource provides several levels of insight. Not only will you learn what type of information they seek out, but you get an understanding of what channels to use to reach them.

At Top Floor, a digital marketing firm, the temptation to ask questions related to our expertise is high, yet asking the wrong question can lead to inaccurate results. Consider if we asked you this: "What online resources do you use to get information?" Instead of getting the full picture, we have now created an artificial limit by boxing you into "online resources." If we keep the question general, we may discover that you most value networking events. As you can imagine, this information would significantly impact our strategy in reaching you. As a rule, you learn more by starting with general questions and using more specific questions as follow up.

5. How does my company/product/service fit in?

We saved this for last, and we suggest you do as well. If you go into a Buyer Persona project with a predetermined value proposition, you risk confirmation bias - leading you to ask questions or engage in some selective hearing that affirms what you already think you bring to the market. From our experience doing Buyer Persona projects with our clients, this project, done right, always leads to new insights about your customer base.

One final thing worth mentioning:

Creating accurate and compelling Buyer Personas can be an intimidating task, and this may be one area where it is best to ask for help. Working with an outside agency or consultant can ensure that you keep the project moving while eliminating biases and assumptions. However you decide to approach it, these questions will get you closer to a marketing message that speaks to your audience than the typical "best practices" or free template download will.

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