To really know your buyer, you should regularly talk to him. Marketers often confuse talking to buyers with talking to existing customers. Sure, that is important too but it is much more relevant to understand why a potential customer walked away or why a prospect has never heard of you. This article outlines several tips on how best to interview your buyers to ensure your know their profile and their buying cycle.
As I have written before, you should start by profiling your typical customer and use the 5 rings of insight (see also Adele Revella): success factors, barriers, the buying process and the criteria to decide. How do you however retrieve this information from an interview with your buyer?
There are many books about interview techniques and these can be very helpful if you take some time to study them. A buyer persona is vital for the direction of your marketing plans. The interviews you hold are the basis of the profile. Of course you can leave the interviewing to research professionals but if you want to have a go for yourself, what should you look for…
Get to know your respondent before the interview
A step that is often forgotten, is finding out where a person works. Go through the website to find out, because if you don’t, you will look clumsy during the interview. Also check what someone’s career path has been (check LinkedIn), and if they’re active online (a simple online search can help you there). If you’re prepared, you will win the trust of the respondent, which is an important basis for a good conversation.
Questionnaire or open discussion?
A questionnaire can be of great help in conversations, but specifically in buyer persona interviews, you run the risk of a question-answer game and it is not an in-depth interview. We have used different methods in the past and have come to the conclusion that working with an interview grid in an open conversation works best. You’ll need a list of the themes you absolutely want to discuss, but you do not need to stick to the order of this list. Especially when talking about the buying process, you want the respondent to be able to talk as freely as possible. You want him to lead you through every step of the process, who were the key influencers and what content he consulted. You will need to listen by asking questions and occasionally moving the conversation back to a previously discussed topic.
An equal partner who is really interested
If you truly know your respondent and the company he or she works for, you can show you’re equal partners in the conversation. This doesn’t mean you should do all the talking but refer to the latest press release or talk about a hobby you might have found out in your research. Do this the right way and you will become equals. This way, you will get more valuable information to fill your buyer persona profiles. At the very beginning of the interview, try to find out if the respondent wants you to treat him formally or more amicably.
Keep track of the bigger picture
The biggest challenge in drafting buyer personas is to truly understand the world of your buyer to ensure your marketing efforts will better reflect the world of your buyer. When interviewing, constantly ask yourself if the information you are gathering is relevant for your marketing plans or for the content you are planning to create. It’s easy to have a long and pleasant conversation, but bear in mind that you get the right information; otherwise it is a waste of your time.
Want to learn more about buyer personas?
During the B2B Marketing Forum on 14 March, you can join a discussion on this topic during one of the Round Table Discussions.