9 Questions You Need to Ask When Developing Buyer Personas

by Corey Eridon

Date

January 19, 2012 at 12:30 PM

persona development questions1Buyer personas are a crucial component of successful inbound marketing, particularly for the sales and marketing departments. After all, the marketing team needs to know to whom they are marketing, and the sales team needs to know to whom they are selling. But once you sit down to craft your personas, you may find yourself staring blankly at a white screen for some time, wondering where on earth you're supposed to begin.

Before you spend time and money on research to help define your personas, ask yourself these questions about your target audience. You might not know the answer to all of them right away (that's what the research is for!), but if your final personas answer these questions, you'll be armed with thorough guides off of which you can confidently base your sales and marketing decisions.

Questions to Ask When Developing Personas

1.) What is their demographic information?

Collecting demographic information about your personas will help you perform more targeted offline and online marketing, but it also helps paint a picture of who your personas are. Are they married? What's their annual household income? Where do they live? Are they male or female? How old are they? Do they have children? Collecting demographic information is a great place to begin drafting your personas because it's easy to obtain and starts to paint a clearer, more personal picture of your customer.

2.) What is their job and level of seniority?

The importance with which you should regard your persona's job and seniority level certainly depends on the product or service you're selling. If you're a B2C company, you may simply consider this information as another way to better understand nuances of your persona's life. You may uncover some interesting information, too, like large portions of your target audience skewing toward certain industries or seniority levels.

If you're a B2B company, this piece of information becomes more crucial. Is your persona at a managerial or director level, and well versed in the intricacies of your industry? They'll need less education than someone at an introductory level, who may need to loop in other decision makers before making purchasing decisions. Even working with C-level executives presents unique challenges; they might have shorter attention spans, spend less time learning and researching, and have different goals than a lower level employee. Companies that take the time to understand their persona's career aspirations will likely enjoy more effective communications from both the sales and marketing teams.

3.) What does a day in their life look like?

Now that you have an idea of some of your persona's personal characteristics, try to piece together how a typical day in their life runs. Are they spending more time at work, or at home? Where would they rather be? What do they like to do for fun? Who are the people in their life that matter most? What kind of car do they drive? What TV shows do they watch? Heck, what outfit are they wearing?

Once you've gone through this exercise and worked out any lingering questions about what makes your persona tick, browse through some stock imagery and find an actual picture to associate with your persona. Going through this exercise forces you to clarify an image of your target audience in your entire organization's mind that will help keep your messaging consistent.

4.) What are their pain points?

You're in business because you're solving a problem for your target audience. How does that problem affect their day to day life? Go into detail, and focus on the nuances that illustrate how that problem makes them feel. For example, let's say your company sells personal tax software to consumers (tis the season, right?). One of your personas may be a first time tax preparer. What are the pain points of first time tax preparers? They're probably intimidated by the prospect of doing their taxes by themselves for the first time, they're feeling overwhelmed by a tax code they don't understand, and they're not sure where to start. These pain points differ from those of a seasoned tax preparer, whose pain points may be not knowing how to maximize the amount of their return and find creative loopholes for deductions.

5.) What do they value most? What are their goals?

Now that you know their pain points, it's a little easier to understand what they value (and just as important, what they don't care about). Ask yourself what would make your persona get really, really excited about your product or service. For example, that first time tax preparer probably values a product that educates, that is simple, that is user friendly, and helps them achieve their goal of quickly and successfully completing their taxes.

6.) Where do they go for information?

If you're going to market and sell to these personas, you need to understand how they consume information. Do they go online, or do they prefer to learn in-person or by reading newspapers and magazines? If they're online learners, do they visit social networks? To Google? Which sources do they trust the most; friends, family, coworkers, or industry experts? If you know how they prefer to gather information, you can make yourself present in those spots and work on establishing credibility in those communities.

7.) What experience are they looking for when shopping for your products and services?

The experience of purchasing your product should align with your persona's expectation. What kind of features do they expect your product to have? What should their sales experience feel like? Is it consultative? How much time do they expect to spend with a sales person? Do they anticipate an in-person meeting, or would they rather conduct the sales process online or over the phone? The nature of your business and the personality and needs of your persona will dictate their shopping experience.

8.) What are their most common objections to your product or service?

If you can anticipate the objections your persona will have, you can be prepared for them in the sales process and perhaps even educate them in your marketing collateral to help allay fears right away. What might make them reticent to buy from you or any other provider in your industry? Is this their first time purchasing a product or service of your kind? If not, what caused them to switch products or services?

9.) How do I identify this persona?

Now that you have a great understanding of what makes your persona tick, you have to be able to identify them so you can tailor your communications. How will you know when you're talking to this persona? Is it their job title? Something about the way they talk or carry a conversation? Their pain points? How they found your company? Once you've established not only who your persona is, but also how you can identify them when you encounter one or another, your employees will be able to maintain a consistent voice that is still customized to each person they talk to.

Have you developed personas for your company yet? What helpful questions did you ask yourself in the process that weren't included on this list?

Image credit: Horia Varlan

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