Do you know that in Great Britain there is a growing number of people who demand the replacement of the original the British national anthem, God Save The Queen, with something more modern and cheerful?

And do you know what they want to replace it? Well, the theme song of the brilliant TV series, Blackadder.

They believe this song better embodies the British culture and character than the current anthem.

I’ve mentioned this ostensibly obscure oddity because by a staggering coincidence marketers too have to change their approach from wide mass marketing to marrow personalized marketing.

As the world is getting more and more complex, both technically and socially, specialization is becoming more and more prevalent. And that applies to marketing as well.

In the past, many companies thought they could market their products/services just about to anyone, but in today’s commercially noisy environment, you have to specialize to rise above the noise level and make your message heard.

On part of this specialization is marketing to a specific buyer persona.

Yes, that dramatically narrows your market, but – exponentially more dramatically – intensifies the specificity, and hence the value, of your offer.

Why is this important?

While many business leaders complain that they need more clients, based on my 18 years in the deep trenches of business development, I can confidently say, what they need is not more clients but fewer and better clients.

We know from McKinsey’s[1] research that every 1% sales increase, a.k.a. more clients, adds only 2.3% to your bottom line.

By contrast, every 1% price increase, a.k.a. better clients, adds as much as 11.7% to your bottom line.

If you deem this difference valuable, then stay with us and discover how you can pull this off by honing in on, and tweaking your clientele.

What Is This Buyer Persons Thing Anyhow?

Different people and institutions use different definitions.

According to the Buyer Persona Institute,

A buyer persona is a buyer model built from the real words of real buyers. A buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves. Much more than a one-dimensional profile of the people you need to influence, or a map of their journey, actionable buyer personas reveal insights about your buyers’ decisions — the specific attitudes, concerns and criteria that drive prospective customers to choose you, your competitor or the status quo.

Hubspot has a similar definition…

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

As per TechTarget

A buyer persona is a composite representation of a customer that aggregates the attributes and demographics of a segment of target customers. Attributes are based on market research and data on the company’s existing customer base.

It’s important to note that only the Buyer Persona Institute is a big proponent of persona interviews, while Hubspot and TechTarget rely on desk research as well as customer interview insights.

This is also the reason why the Buyer Persona Institute is strong on qualitative data.

As a result, only the Buyer Persona Institute really understands its market’s thoughts, feelings, concerns, fears, hopes, afflictions, aspirations, expectations, plans and beliefs. This is vital because these ingredients make up the comprehensive human “recipe” called behaviour.

One rule of thumb is that the more expensive your product /service is, the more you can benefit from a very detailed buyer persona.

By the time you finish reading this article, you too will see its importance.

[1] The Leverage of Price and Profit Source: Michael Marn and Robert Roriello, Harvard Business Review (Sep-Oct 1992)

 

 

Why to Run a Buyer Persona Interview at All?

One of the big questions about buyer persona interviews is why to do it at all. Why can’t we just do it in-house from our desks?

As the saying goes, you can’t read the label if you’re inside the bottle.

You’re inside your company. Your buyers are outside your company. There is a wall between you. A wall that separates two drastically different environments and cultures.

Everything you do inside your company is influenced by the company’s environment and culture.

But your buyers live under different environments and cultures.

The lion may be the King of the jungle but if you toss him into the ocean, he quickly becomes shark bait. Same animal in a different environment and culture. In the culture of the ocean the great white is the King and the Lion is his tasty lunch.

In order to find out some key realities, you have to move out of your corporate comfort zone and take a trip in the very environment where your target market operates.

Any market research you do from inside the company is likely subjective and biased, by nature.

Avant-garde physicist, cosmologist and philosopher John Archibald Wheeler named this phenomenon the Participatory Universe.

Researchers always find what they are looking for.

For instance, an army of American medical researchers, from some of the most prestigious universities, have discovered that it’s not the overconsumption of sugar but animal fat that makes people gain weight.

Mind you, the research was funded by the Sugar Association and The American Sugar Alliance, and the Harvard and other top-tier “scientists” were positively rewarded for finding convenient conclusions.

And this is the danger of doing persona research only in-house.

Who Should Conduct It?

To make certain that interviewees give their honest opinions, it’s always a good idea to engage a third party to conduct persona interviews.

Yes, it costs a bit of extra money, but by the time your business reaches the level of sophistication when it needs a very narrowly defined buyer persona, hiring a third-party shouldn’t be an financial issue.

More often than not it’s an ego issue when business owners, especially males, mistakenly believe they know everything, including conducting persona interviews, better than everyone else.

It takes certain skills and tact to interview people such that they open up to their interviewers. This is why certain TV personalities, like Larry King and Oprah are virtually impossible to replace.

So, look at the long-term benefits of having a persona and choose wisely.

As Tom Philips of Philips Publishing put it at a Jay Abraham seminar, “Hire the best and cry only once.”

Some other tips

  • Try to align the interviewer’s and the interviewees’ personalities, backgrounds, ethnicity, etc.
  • Try to match dialects. If your interviewees are in Texas, don’t hire an interviewer from Boston.
  • Prepare the interviewer based on your market knowledge.

Doing Pre-Persona Research and Development

But before you do the persona interviews, you need to do some desk research to create a persona skeleton.

This is the usual demographic and geographic information that is often freely available either online or in your local library in some shape or form.

Try to discover as much about your person as you can through desk research because obtaining the same information through interviews can be perceived as wasting interviewees’ time. They don’t want to get bogged down with trivia that’s easily available on the net.

Your interviewees want to answer deep and meaningful questions that would be virtually impossible to answer on a questionnaire.

Persona interviews highly depend on the interviewees. They can turn the process either into an exhilarating experience or a disaster.

Try to select those mainly extroverted interviewees who enjoy talking about themselves. Some people communicate in grunts and single-syllable words, and you want to stay away from them. Yes, you have a lot to learn from them to, but they are not the best at sharing.

Don’t blame them. It’s not their fault. This is their genetic make-up and there is not a sausage you can do about it.

Developing Interview Questions

Here we have some questions grouped in nine categories.

Each category digs deeper into specific aspects of your buyer person’s life.

1.      General Questions

These general questions set the stage for the rest of the interview. But note that these questions only build a framework on which you have to build the hole persona using the questions in the other seven categories.

In many companies, since inbound marketing and the buying persona are flavours of the month fads, everything stops at the general questions. It’s partly because the notion is that it’s good enough and the company can save a small fortune by stopping at this point.

When their marketing initiatives belly-flop and land on their backsides, they are often surprised.

So, make sure the general questions are only your starting questions and then dig deeper.

Sample Questions

  • Age
  • City and country of birth
  • City and country of growing up – City, suburb, rural area
  • Ethnicity
  • Current city and country of residence

2.      Childhood Questions

These questions partially revolve around two major studies[2]. Emphasizing that…

“The emotional support that a child receives during the first three and a half years has an effect on education, social life and romantic relationships even 20 or 30 years later.

Babies and toddlers raised in supportive and caring home environments tended to do better on standardized tests later on, and they were more likely to attain higher degrees as adults. They were also more likely to get along with their peers and feel satisfied in their romantic relationships.”

This also means that it is decided at an early age what becomes of your persona. People with problematic childhoods are likely to become problematic adults.

Childhood questions gently dig for these red flags, trying to predict how problematic people can become later on.

Sample Questions

  • Raised by mother and father, single mother, single father, grandparents, other relatives or the state
  • Parents’ or caregiver’s professions
  • Parenting style (between draconian an super laid-back)
  • Religion in family. Type of religion
  • Siblings (Age, gender, etc.)
  • Birth order (The first-born privilege is well known and documented)
  • Place in social pecking order
  • Type of home (apartment, town house, single family house)
  • Childhood dream profession

3.      Questions Schooling/Education

Our attitude towards education has a big impact on the type of adults we become later on.

Slacker students usually become slacker adults. It can often be coupled with an entitlement mentality.

But also understand the difference between students who push for grades and students who push for knowledge. They are in different groups.

Remember that past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour, but people are more willing to talk about the distant past than their current behaviour. So, you have to read between the lines to patch together the seemingly irrelevant details.

Sample Questions

  • Type of school attended – public school private school homeschooled, etc. Good school or bad school. Resource-poor or resource-rich? Large or small?
  • Paid work as a student – newspaper round, McDonald’s, etc.
  • Popular or outcast among other students. Loner/social
  • Affinity to STEM or humanities
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Grades
  • Any trouble in school?
  • Most loved and most hated subject?
  • Which university/college
  • Subjects, grades
  • Sorority or fraternity

4.      Career Questions

Everything comes to an end. Even the carefree college years.

But a few variables change here. While in college, many students are financed by their parents, so they can be picky about their choices.

But when they start working, sometimes they have to whatever it takes to put food on the table and feed their families.

So, Joe the accountant and Joe the father can be two different personalities dictated by two different circumstances.

Sample Questions

  • First full-time job out of college
  • Size of company, how established is the company
  • Current job, what industry, job duration
  • Current position – Junior/senior manager, executive, etc.), salary, satisfied with salary
  • Responsibilities, methods of evaluation
  • Relations hips with peers/superiors/subordinate
  • Actual dream job and plans to pursue dream job
  • Sources of purchasing information for new products/services
  • Potential objections
  • Methods of finding vendors/suppliers/consultants/etc.
  • Forms of evaluation

5.      Personal and Lifestyle Questions

No matter what your person’s profession is, on the ground scale of things, he is a human being with a more or less consistent day-to-day lifestyle, habits, virtues and vices.

The following questions allow you to learn a lot about the types of products and services he has a history of buying.

Sample Questions

  • Marital status. Happy with current status
  • Sexual, political (let/right), economic (capitalism/socialism) orientation
  • Involvement in politics
  • Interest level in environment
  • Children – age, sex, names, etc.
  • Any pets. Dog, cat, parrot, elephant, etc.
  • Type of home. Rent or own.
  • Religion
  • Hobbies
  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Smoking
  • Favourite TV shows
  • Music preferences
  • Vacations – Where, when, how long, in what style
  • Reading – How much, what, when
  • Special treats to improve relationship
  • Drinking

6.      Questions Around Money Matters

Money can tell a loud and clear story, but be careful here not to be misled.

When it comes to money, you can evaluate people based on earned income and net worth. And people focusing on high income think quite differently from people focusing on high net worth.

Some people are cheap, some a spendthrift and some are frugal.

But there is still lots of room for speculation, and you want to avoid that because you can be led badly astray.

What you get from these answers is whether this person has a habit of investing in opportunities that can better her life in the future or they are just plain cheap and refuse to pay for anything of higher value.

Sample Questions

  • Any debt? How much?
  • Type of debt – necessary debt like student loan or bad debt like fancy cars
  • Total net worth
  • Considered buyer or impulse buyer
  • Family’s main breadwinner or not
  • Main decision-maker in family or not

7.      Questions Around Personality

This section deals with personality regardless of the circumstances. Personality is fairly consistent regardless of the external factors.

If you are bad with numbers, you’re bad with numbers al across the board in every aspect of your life.

So, these questions dive into the innate talents and character traits of your buyer persona.

You get answer to the great question whether your persona is a “moving towards” (goals, achievements) or “moving away” (problems, dangers).

“Moving towards” people need constant reassuring that they’re making the right choice.

“Moving away” people need constant emphasis of the benefits they expect to get out of their purchases.

Sample Questions

  • Introvert, extrovert or omnivert
  • Spontaneous or hesitant
  • Risk averse or risk taker
  • Rule breaker or follower
  • Optimistic or pessimistic? Optimistic realist or pessimistic realist?
  • Left or right brain-dominant
  • Run with or against the crowd
  • Worries about what others think of her
  • His friends’ description of him.
  • His own description of himself

8.      Questions Around Tech Savviness

In today’s highly technical economy, technical savviness is important.

So, in this section you discover whether your person is an Excel wizard or an abacus junkie.

Sample Questions

  • Overall attitude towards new technology
  • Internet user savviness – on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 is hopeless, 10 is master)
  • Operating system.
  • Which web browser.
  • Favourite search engine
  • Visited social media channels
  • Favourite communication channel
  • Online buying habits
  • Cell phone use habits – mainly for what? Hardly ever for what?
  • Web work on phone
  • Web purchases from phone

9.      Product- And Service Related Questions

This section can help you to link your persona’s problems to your product/services.

It may also happen that you don’t have a ready-to-go product/service for a given problem, which can spur you into developing one.

If the problem really exists, your offer is worth developing.

Try to find expensive problems with equally expensive long-term consequences if the problem is not addressed.

Sample Questions

  • What makes it necessary for your persona to have your product/service?
  • Approximately, when is your product/service needed?
  • What alternatives are available for your persona?
  • What makes your product/service better than the alternatives? (need for strong USP)
  • Your person’s main concerns about your product/service? (Affordability, support, trust, guarantee, possible return, etc.)
  • The top deciding concerns – price, quality, brand, support, etc.
  • Purchase method – Online in web shop, in person in brick and mortar shop, phone, etc.
  • Payment method: cash, Debit card, credit card, PayPal, etc.
[2] The Enduring Predictive Significance of Early Maternal Sensitivity: Social and Academic Competence Through Age 32 Years (K. Lee Raby University of Delaware; Glenn I. Roisman University of Minnesota; R. Chris Fraley University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Jeffry A. Simpson University of Minnesota) and Infant Attachment Security and Early Childhood Behavioral Inhibition Interact to Predict Adolescent Social Anxiety Symptoms (Erin Lewis-Morrarty, Kathryn A. Degnan, and Andrea Chronis-Tuscano University of Maryland; Daniel S. Pine, National Institute of Mental Health; Heather A. Henderson University of Waterloo Nathan A. Fox University of Maryland)

A Few Words About Negative Personas

Since we live in the world of duality, just as we set perfect buyer persona profiles, I believe we have to define clients from hell.

They have the attributes that we absolutely don’t tolerate and no matter how much dough those buyers offer us in exchange for our expertise, we just say no and move on.

For questions, you can use the above questions slightly rephrased.

For instance, for Payment method…

Clients from heaven: cash, Debit card, credit card, PayPal, etc.

Clients from hell: Nothing, barter, future exposure, more future work,

Considered buyer or impulse buyer

Clients from heaven: Considered buyer

Clients from hell: Impulse buyer and impulse returner

Expectations

Clients from heaven: Clearly communicating expectations

Clients from hell: Constant demands of results or threat of lawsuits

Remember negative personas can add significant burden to your operation both financially and psychologically, and if you tolerate bad clients, the best people will quickly quit your company. A-players hate working at companies that operate as doormats for their lunatic clients just because they give them money.

A-players know they can easily move on and find work pretty quickly. They understand what Peter Drucker wrote in Post-Capitalist Society in 1993s…

“Knowledge workers (as opposed to task workers and manual labourers) are volunteers who own the means of their performance, and whether or not they remain with any one company is totally volitional. Just like most investors, they will go where they can earn a fair economic return-measured in wages, fringe benefits, and other pecuniary rewards-as well as where they are well treated and respected, the psychological return. In the knowledge society, the most probable assumption for organizations – and certainly the assumption on which they have to conduct their affairs – is that they need knowledge workers far more than knowledge workers need them.”

So, the key is to polarize your market. You want to magnetically attract good personas and magnetically repel bad personas.

Setting Buyer Persona Interview Appointments

Since these interviews are very important, you have to treat them as such. You have to treat them as a sequence of independent events. You can’t treat it as one single interview chain. It’s several independent interviews.

Especially because the structure can be slightly different depending on the interviewee’s personalities.

  • Leave plenty of space between interviews. Don’t do them back-to-back.
  • Set interviews 2-3 weeks in advance, so you don’t have to interrupt your short-term commitments.
  • If you use Calendly, Acuity Scheduling or similar scheduling software, send the link to your candidate, so she can schedule herself within the given time frames.

What to Do and Don’t Do at Persona Interviews?

These are some rules of thumb for interviewing for your interviews.

Before the very first booking, put together a “buyer persona interviewee guidelines” documents.

Before the interview

  • Send Guidelines document to interviewee well in advance
  • Book the location for the interview in advance
  • Hold interviews in quiet areas
  • Make sure there are no distractions
  • Get permission to use a voice recorder
  • Explain the purpose of the interview and the approximate process
  • Explain how you want to use the newly obtained information

During interview

  • Make sure there are no distractions
  • Yes, have prepared questions but use them only as a flexible guideline not as a rigid rule. This structure gives you opportunity to improvise
  • Considering the accuracy of transcription, don’t cut into each other ‘s sentences and speak clearly
  • Make sure you lead the conversation and set its flow

Questioning

  • Start with the persona’s recognition of the need for your product/service
  • Description of the path from unawareness => awareness => recognition => purchase
  • Ask deeper “into” the answers. Client “Our system was inefficient”. You: “What made the system inefficient?”
  • When you feel the answer is too short, stay quiet. The silence triggers the interviewee to elaborate.
  • Use linking words, like “I see”, “really?”. Create your own linking words. I use “holy sausage, man!” and “what the cricket!” with great surprise and success, and manage to be more than just a pretty face. Actually, I couldn’t even be a pretty face no matter how hard I would try.
  • Stay with the areas your interviewee naturally goes. Don’t force her into your groove.

After the interview

  • Send a thank you note the old-fashioned way. Hand-written card in the mail with real stamp and hand-addressed envelope.
  • Reassure your interviewee that he will receive the audio recording and the transcript within 48 hours.

How Many Persona Interviews to Conduct?

This is an interesting question.

Many people believe in conducting lots of superficial interviews. Some others believe in fewer but deeper interviews.

Doing lots of superficial interviews give you lots of superficial data points. That’s good for getting a sense of the average, but you don’t get far with averages.

You can conduct as few as 15 interviews with deep questions and you get a better understanding of the industry and your buyers.

What you will also discover that after about the 6th or 8th interview, many themes repeat and what you learn merely reaffirms what you discovered in the first 6-8 interviews.

Yes, it’s worth conducting all 15 interviews in case there are some anomalies. There always are some.

Now, some people say 15 interviews are not enough.

Well, they weren’t enough if you were after factual information that can be pretty broad.

But since you’re after character and psychological information that’s not that broad. People of certain character wouldn’t even sit down with you for such an interview.

While factual answers address the “what?”, persona interview questions address the “why?” and “how?” people do certain things.

But the caveat is that if you want to have an accurate “what?”, you have to have a very specific target market.

“Men” is far too broad. So is “Men between 40 and 65 years old”.

But “Male coffin makers between the ages of 40 and 65 who have shaved heads and big bushy beard, in South East Tajikistan who are 6 feet or taller with size 15 or larger feet and regularly visit the local pub, the Six Sexy Embalmers.”

Now, this is a very specific market, although rather small. Mind you, they have big feet.

These people share lots of factual characteristics, but on the character level they still can be pretty diverse. And that’s what you’re after in these interviews.

Maintaining Consistency from One Interviewee to The Next

To make sure that your collected information is worth analyzing down the road, you have to keep certain conditions permanent.

It means you have to have a master question list and you have to ask those questions. Yes, there is room for improvisation, but the more you improvise, the more inconsistent your process becomes and your analysis and end conclusion can be pretty meaningless.

So, the best bet is to minimise improvisation and going only with the present questions.

 

Tabulating and Analyzing the Collected Data

As for tabulating your collected information, your best bet is Microsoft Excel. You can also use Survey Monkey’s advanced text analysis initially, but after that you may still need Excel for better data massaging.

In Excel, put your data into a pivot table and then you can massage the table in any way. It can be a tad complex because you have to organise several sentences not just a neat short answer or a number.

  • Shorten the sentences but make sure the meaning remains
  • Set up conditional formatting for specific important words – it makes your life easier during analysis
  • Organize your interviewees in rows and your answers in columns
  • Take one answer from the top and move down in the same column. Read all the answers and try to make heads and tails of all the answers.
  • After reading all the answers in that column, write a summary for that answer in a new row, under the last name, but in the same column where the answers to that question are. For instance, the last name is in A15 and the first question is in column B, then write your summary in box B16.
  • Write your summary for each answer.
  • Note differences. E.g.: eight introverts and three extroverts and four omniverts.

By the time you finish analyzing, you have a comprehensive tabulated description for each of the 15 interviewees.

Building Buyer Persona

This is the moment when you have to combine all the ingredients that you’ve dug up on your buyer persona. But unlike Frank Zappa’s Lumpy Gravy, your persona “gravy” must be a rather lump-free concoction.

There is one problem though. Just as water and oil don’t mix well, it takes a bit of proverbial magic wand weaving to combine qualitative and quantitative information.

As humans, we all have our biases, so, no matter how balanced we try to make it, the end result will be either qualitative- or quantitative-dominant.

Well, don’t lose sleep over it. It’s not worth risking the loss of a good dream. Just know whether you’re qualitative- or quantitative-dominant.

So, whatever dominant you are, start with the quantitative data. They will create a framework, a sort of skeleton on which then you can hang some skin, muscle and other bits and bobs, that is, the qualitative data.

But note that t’s the qualitative data that makes your persona a persona.

Since your quantitative data is much more consistent than your qualitative data, it’s the qualitative data that determines how many personas you create from your data.

If some of your interviewees love the Starz TV series, Spartacus, they are quite different from people who love the Canadian sitcom series, Schitt’s Creek.

Once you’ve established a quantitative skeleton, start adding the qualitative pieces. First add data from your qualitative desk research and, finally, add the most refined bit, those that you’ve got from your interviews.

If you see a class between qualitative desk research interview data, go with the interview data. Let’s assume that your desk research has gone haywire, so here you’re better off with interview data.

When it’s all done, go back to square zero and start trimming your sentences to short and succinct statements.

Quotes should go under qualitative information.

Note that you can use the quotes directly for your information, but for public use, you need to get the interviewee’s permission.

At the end of each persona profile write a clear statement how you see the connection of this persona’s expensive problem and your products/services.

Also, remember that two personas may represent perfect buyers for you, but they can be drastically different.

But for one business and one target market, try to stay with maximum three personas. More than three can cause internal confusion.

With three personas, you still can write a pretty tight message, but if you have more than three, the message’s intensity and effectiveness can lose quite a lot.

Using Your Buyer Persona

One you have you buyer persona cleared up, you have to integrate it into your marketing process. One of the main purposes of using persona is to predict some financials.

Marginal Net Worth – Client Lifetime Value (CLTV)

Every buyer persona has its own monetary value.

If you sell SEO services, some clients some clients hire you on a “do it FOR me” basis, some on a” do it WITH me” basis and some on a “teach me and I do it” basis. And they represent different lifetime values.

Of course, “do it FOR me” is the most expensive “teach me and I do it” is the least expensive offer.

CLTV is made up by…

  • How much the client spends on your product/service
  • How many times per year
  • How many years she stays your client

You can also factor in whether people buy things in full or on payment plans. If you sell cars, you have to deliver the full car even if you receive only a 10% down payment.

And if your client declares bankruptcy, you lose the car.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

Of course, it takes money to make money. So, it takes money to acquire clients on whom you make money down the road.

To determine how much it costs you to convert each lead, you have to know lifetime value.

Since “Do it FOR me” clients have the highest lifetime value, they can have the highest cost per acquisition.

But also consider that while client acquisition means revenue to you, that revenue has to cover both the cost of acquisition and the general costs of running the business. In a formula…

Revenue = CPA + Other both fixed and variable costs

As a rule of thumb, LTV has to be about 5-times higher than your CPA. When this number dips under 4, you have to double-check your marketing.

But let’s not confuse cost per acquisition vs cost per conversion.

What is the difference?

Cost per conversion: “What does it cost to get one seminar attendee into a seat?” Or one Facebook like or one LinkedIn invite.

Cost per Acquisition: “How many attendees, Facebook likes or one LinkedIn invites do I need to make one sale?”

This is an important distinction.

Buyer Density

In every industry, there is a finite number of people who can become clients.

No matter how profitable your persona looks on paper, you have to validate that there is a reasonable number of them with the kind of problems that your products/services address.

If you sell financial planning services to 5-star US generals, you’re in hot water. There have been only 10, and the last one, General Bradley died in 1981.

If you sell to 4- and 5-star generals, you’re a tad better off. There are a few dozens of them.

But If you sell to US generals and admirals (any number of stars), you can have a pretty good market. There are thousands of them.

Tabulating Results

Then in an Excel table’s column A, you write your personas (rows 2, 3 and 4), column B is lifetime value, column C is cost per acquisition, column D is the number of potential sales, column E is total sales and column F is total cost of acquisition.

Now you can see which persona is profitable and which is a dud.

Based on this, you can start planning the other details of your marketing.

And Now It’s Time to Run Personas Against Your Sales Process

While the typical B2B buying process is can be plotted on the “awareness => consideration => purchase” continuum, interim steps change from business to business depending on the company’s approach to sales and marketing.

Businesses with primitive heavy-handed (sales-heavy) methods, like car dealerships or real state agencies, focus on almost instant sales. They are not really keen on courting buyers.

Businesses with sophisticated (marketing-heavy) methods want to make sure they properly court buyers before they ask for the sale.

Here at Riverbed Marketing, we use an 8-step sales process with 46 sub-steps. Yes, it may seem to be a bit excessive, but what we’ve learnt over the years is that the more refined our marketing is, the less resistance we face in the sales process.

By the time, our prospects go through our process, they are ready to ask for the purchase, so saving us from asking for the sale.

For instance, we conduct persona interviews as part of Step #1 (Research and Discovery), so in step #2 (Strategy), we can build very detailed personas.

It means we can make our messages very accurate for those personas.

Then in Step #3 (Build and Integrate), we set up out marketing automation tools and in Step 4 (Attract) we’re ready to start the new marketing campaign.

Look, this is neither brain science or rocket surgery. Sun Tzu taught us in The Art of War…

“Every battle is won or lost before it’s ever fought.”

Client acquisition is the same. If all you have is an army of heavy-handed salespeople with thousands of rapport-building and closing tricks, then you could be in trouble in today’s world of skeptical and suspicious buyers.

Then in Step #5, we do conversion and in Step #6 nurturing.

By the end of the nurturing stage, buyers are ready to make their decisions (Step #7: Enable). There is no forcing, no manipulation. During the marketing process, prospects do everything on their own volition and we patiently wait for them to request a meeting with one of our marketing specialists.

What’s vital here is that the more client-facing people in your company can conduct sales conversations with prospects, the more you will sell.

And by selling, I don’t mean used car salesmanship.

What I mean is selling like a doctor. Ask meaningful questions and let buyers come to their own conclusions. Don’t try to convince them.

Remember Samuel Butler’s words…

“He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still.”

And then comes a process often overlooked, the feedback (Step #8).

In this step, you assess your achievement against your projections, analyze your analytics, make the necessary adjustments and saddle up and get ready for the next ride.

Summary

I know this interview thing can be a dry activity in the midst of all the other exciting thing that you can do.

But it’s vital to emphasize that without this persona thingy, your whole marketing can, in the best case, misfire and, in the worst case, backfire, giving your face a jovial soot-coloured complexion.

Yes, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s pretty close.

But, borrowing the motto from the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, don’t panic. Have a stiff drink, have a good sleep and tomorrow is another day.

You can always continue with the next experiment.

Yes, I know it’s a fiddly process, but if you understand how much it can help your to better define your target market and your messages to your market, you see the importance of all this seeming futile but realistically vital work.

So, as the saying goes, riches are in niches. And since this statement seems to be correct, we can also say that super riches are in persona-calibre niches.

So, work on your buyer persons and pretty soon you can start collecting the resulting riches.