Buyer personas give you a snapshot of your ideal customer and allow you to better understand their challenges that your product or service may solve. Interviewing customers directly is the most effective way to develop these personas, but, of course, this isn’t always feasible. In lieu of customer interviews, you can create buyer personas by:

  • Role-playing with your sales team
  • Conducting surveys
  • Analyzing your CRM data for insights

Creating buyer personas for your business can enable your marketing team to create content and messaging that appeals to your target audience, personalize the web experience, and even guide product and service development. In short, they’re an absolute must for a modern inbound marketing team.

The best and most effective way to develop your buyer personas is to actually speak with your buyers.  Ideally, you’ll have an opportunity to interview several customers, as well as a few prospects who had evaluated but ultimately decided against your solution.  This will enable you to hear your customer’s major priorities, challenges, and reasons for choosing, or not choosing your product in their own words.

But what should you do when that’s not an option?  Whether it’s due to lack of buy-in, concerns about privacy or government regulations – sometimes it’s just not possible to conduct these interviews.  Fortunately, there are a few things you can try to keep you moving forward.

Role Play With Your Sales Team

The sales team is typically on the front lines alongside your buyers, and are often the best at the organization at uncovering their most common questions, challenges, and objections.  This makes them the next best source of data if direct feedback from customers isn’t an option.

Schedule 1-1 meetings with several of the most knowledgeable and experiences people on your sales team.  Explain that your goal is to learn as much about your buyers as possible, and that you’ll be conducting a mock interview in which they will be playing the role of the buyer.

As with any interview, you’ll want to have a script and list of questions handy that you can reference and take notes on as you begin.  Ask them the same types of questions you would ask your buyer.  Be careful that they do not slip out of character and begin to show bias towards your company. If necessary, pause to remind them that they need to stay in the mindset of your buyer.

[RESOURCE]: Buyer Persona Guide & Template

After conducting several of these interviews, you should begin to notice some common themes emerge.  If there are significant differences, share them with the full team.  These differences of opinion might be the ammo you need to speak directly with customers.

Conduct A Survey

Surveys are one of the most popular forms of market research – so why not use one to develop your personas Generally, you should wait to conduct a survey until you’ve identified the right questions through other means of research, such as the sales team role play mentioned above.  Use the survey to gather a quantitative statistical reading of the trends and assumptions you’ve already identified.

Surveys can also be a great tool for identifying some of the differences in goals and challenges by demographic. For example – you may discover that one challenge is significantly greater for your larger customers than your smaller customers.

If you’re using a marketing automation tool like HubSpot, try using a tool that integrates with your customer and prospect database like SurveyMonkey.  This will allow you to see survey responses right within your contact database and segment contacts based on their survey responses.

Mine Your CRM Data For Insights

If you have an extended or complex sales cycle, hopefully your sales team is using a CRM to manage the sales process, and logging all of their calls and emails to prospective buyers.  These records can be a gold mine of insights for your persona development efforts.  (Tip: If this data is missing from your CRM, consider tools like HubSpot Sales that eliminate manual logging and capture this data automatically.)

Start by looking at Closed-Won opportunities, and review the types of roles associated with the account. What are the most common job titles you see?  Does a VP seem to play a different role in the deal than a more technical contact?  Which person did the rep most frequently communicate with?  Answering these questions will help you identify the job titles and roles you should be focused on.

Next, dig into the email and phone activities that have been logged.  This is where you’ll start to see the actual questions prospective buyers ask during the sales process, as well as their most common objections.  Pay attention to the language they use. When developing content in the future to attract prospective buyers to your site, you’ll want to use their language, not your own company’s lingo or buzz words.

Create Your Personas, Validate and Revise

By following the steps above, you should be able to glean enough insights to take a first pass at creating your buyer personas. When sharing with others in your organization, you’ll want to preface the fact that these are simply assumptions, and that they’ll need to be validated over time.

With your personas defined, you can now start to create content and build up your inbound marketing efforts, which will give you real data that will either validate, or disprove some of your assumptions.  The results of these efforts should get you the buy-in you need to go back and interview your customers and prospective customers directly, enabling you to create a much more polished, precise persona down the road.

Free Toolkit - Create Student Personas For Your School