Meet Sally: a twenty-eight-year-old woman in sales who struggles to find qualified leads and finds quotas frustrating. Can you name her pain points or her greatest struggles at work? Do you know what tools she uses? How about her goals or her customer journey for your product?
Without making assumptions, you don’t have enough information about this customer to answer any of those questions. And yet, many B2B companies have determined that assumptions are enough to build a marketing strategy, features and products. It’s simply not enough to grow a business.
The best buyer personas are not one-and-done documents that hide in Google docs, they are the reference manuals for business decisions. ProfitWell, a tool that helps subscription-based companies, has found that, “Without data-driven buyer personas, companies cannot succeed in the subscription market. The 1% of companies that have drilled down their buyer personas using data are… crazy efficient and crazy profitable.”
“The best buyer personas are not one-and-done documents that hide in Google docs, they are the reference manuals for business decisions”.
Let’s break down the three-step approach we use to create our data-driven buyer personas at Demio, a webinar platform for SaaS companies, so you can create the best buyer personas for your business!
Step One: Get To Know Your Customers
A data-driven buyer persona is not something that can be assumed or based on another company with a similar product or audience. The best buyer personas help you learn as much as you can about your customers.
Who Should You Speak to?
Before you pick up the phone, you need to decide who you are reaching out to. Your first choice should be your very best customers. These are the customers who converted quickly without much convincing — they knew right away your product was exactly what they needed. These customers have been using your product for a while without much support needed and may even be singing your praises on social media.
If you can’t find these customers, or if you’re just starting out and they don’t exist for you yet, don’t worry! You can reach out to people who meet your ideal customer profile instead.
How to approach your customers
A to-the-point email or social media message can work wonders when asking to chat to your customers. Just remember they’re doing you a favor by saying yes, so it’s a good idea to consider the following:
Assure them this isn’t a sales call.
State the time commitment of the call early on and don’t run over.
Allow them to schedule the call time at their convenience.
Consider offering an incentive to entice more responses!
The most important question you can ask your customers
There’s one question that really helps to uncover the core triggers around any statement your customer has just answered: Why?
“Why” is so powerful for customer conversations because it encourages your customers to share the reasoning behind their beliefs, the motivation behind their actions, and the emotions behind their thoughts.
Your questions will vary depending on what you want to learn about your customer, but some good ones to ask are:
What was the last thing you did with/on our product?
What other tools/apps have you tried?
Why do you strive to [solve a specific problem they’ve previously mentioned]?
When creating questions for a conversation, try our ‘4S Method’:
Strategic - Only ask questions you know you need the answer to. Before you ask the question, know why you want the answer.
Short - Only asking one question at a time and keep it snappy.
Simple - Ask clear questions without giving your own opinion (no leading questions, please!) and keep your vocabulary simple.
Slow - Give your customers time to respond. If they ask for time to think, give it to them. Their answers will be worth it.
Consider Surveying Your Audience
A survey is a great way to gather information from a larger section of your audience, or to get relevant feedback during a specific action your audience takes. At Demio, we used a simple survey to help gather information about our audience during the onboarding process. This approach helped us to restructure our onboarding and learn more about how to segment our audience and serve them better.
We asked only two questions to begin our onboarding survey:
What’s your primary goal with Demio?
Is your company currently running webinars? (If they answered, “Yes,” we asked how often.)
These two questions helped us realize that we’d made some inaccurate initial assumptions about our customers and enabled us to refine our personas.
Step Two: Organize Your Data
You’ve got tons of useful data to put to work - but how do you make sense of all the responses you receive?
Find the patterns
You’re looking for commonly repeated phrases, words and remarks. Examine the patterns in your responses and group them together in categories.
A great way to categorize data is by buyer awareness. Grouping comments and phrases made at different points in the buyer journey helps to map their experiences and organize the responses in a way that is easy to reference in the future.
“Getting the data organized is the difference between creating a generic buyer persona and a data-driven buyer persona”.
Use the right tools to get the job done
Organizing all the data can be as simple as using Excel or Google sheets. If you have a budget, a tool like EnjoyHQ is a great option to help you find themes and organize data efficiently. If you’re using Google sheets or Excel, the steps are simple — read, highlight, copy and paste. You’re looking for words that show emotion and motivation.
This will likely be the most time consuming part of the overall project, but don’t lose hope! Being able to find patterns and repetition in responses usually requires going through the data a few times to grasp how people responded and what ways the responses need to be categorized. Getting the data organized is the difference between creating a generic buyer persona and a data-driven buyer persona.
Step Three: Segment Your Audience
This is the point in the buyer persona process when everything starts coming together. All the conversations and surveys you received and all the categories you created will start to become data-driven buyer personas, with pain points, a customer journey, goals, frustrations and aspirations - a full story.
Once your data is organized and your categories are filled with common terms and patterns, you can begin to create audience segments - these will be the basis for your buyer personas. After we completed our research and organized the data at Demio, we noticed our customers could be placed into three different segments based on team or business size:
Our greatest discovery was that our customer’s main struggle was their experience with webinars and the size of their company. Using these segments, we were able to change our onboarding to serve these segments better. We learned that if a new customer from a large organization signs up and has never used webinars in their marketing before, they would need access to educational content to teach them how to use webinars in marketing and how to create complete webinar marketing campaigns.
How To Segment Your Audience
Segmenting your audience is essentially breaking up a large group of people into smaller groups with similar characteristics and commonalities.
There are multiple ways to segment your audience. You could choose to segment by:
Experience with your product
Behavior with your product
How you segment your audience is very personal to your brand and your customers. Look for commonalities among the data. Were there multiple people who mentioned the exact same pain points? If so, that could be a great way to segment. Maybe your audience is largely divided into two different states? Then a geographical segment might make sense. Or you noticed a variety of different customers using your product in the same way. In this instance, a segment for each use case could be a good option.
Create a document for the relevant quantitative data. Once all of this information is compiled, you’ll begin to see the buyer personas - and you’re already lightyears ahead of the standard buyer personas, because your personas are built from the real words, perspectives, issues, and behaviors of your ideal customers.
Name them and use them
Now that you have data-backed information to support your personas, you can give your persona a name to make it easy to remember and reference them. You could call the aforementioned Sally ‘Sally the SaaS Saleswoman’, for example, because now you know who she is, how she buys, and how she uses your product.
It’s extremely important that you make customer conversations an integral part of your growth strategy for your business. Receiving constant feedback from your customers and then applying it to your product or strategy is known as a feedback loop and will help you refine these customer personas as you grow and evolve as a company.