The development of personae is particularly useful in areas such as marketing, sales or product development to get an accurate picture of your target group. For example, personae can be part of a social media marketing strategy and serve as a basis for creating target group-specific content. However, there are differences between a simple persona profile and a more complex buyer persona. There are also various methods and procedures for developing them. But back to the beginning:
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What is a persona anyway?
At crowdmedia, we define a persona as “a fictional person who is representative of a specific target group and who combines characteristics of the target group”.
We use the concept, which originally came from web development, to think our way into the target person as a planner. Here, the question and situation of prototypical users are modeled. As a rule, we develop personas with our customers in a workshop in which we fill out a persona profile with various categories and questions for each persona. Example questions may include: How does the persona see themselves and how are they seen by others? What are her interests and hobbies? Where does it already have touchpoints with your company or brand? Which devices and sources of information does she use? What requirements does it have for products or services?
It also makes sense to give the persona a name and a face, so that you can have them in mind as an actual user when developing content, for example.
The result is then rather simple persona profiles, such as Meli, for example, in her article on the 4 pillars of a social media strategy roughly presented:
The Persona Development Process
Recently we have often received feedback that the personas described above are “but very subjective and not valid”. This criticism is not entirely unjustified. We, too, often find it difficult to really put ourselves in the position of our customers’ target group and to describe them in the form of personas.
Fortunately, sometimes there is concrete data from customer databases, surveys or internal studies, which makes persona creation more well-founded. It also makes sense to talk to support or sales staff about the questions customers have. Other useful sources can be Google Ads, Google Analytics or the Facebook Insights of your own Facebook page. This at least gives you a more accurate picture of the existing customers.
But what if I want to target a new audience that is different from my existing customers? Google Trends, MaFo studies and the observation and analysis of competitors can help here.
If such above-mentioned sources are missing completely, it can actually quickly happen that the persona development process degenerates into a pure brainstorming and creative session, in which personas are really thought up and are strongly oriented towards real people from one’s own environment. The latter can help, but it often becomes apparent in the later implementation that the actual target group is quite different. Therefore, such fictitious personae can only offer limited benefits for companies.
From a simple persona profile to a concrete buyer persona
This persona profile approach from the website design described above focuses primarily on the usage situation, demographics and living situation.
However, there are also methods that supplement these perspectives, for example to provide deeper insights into the drivers and influencers of the decision-making process – such as the buyer persona approach according to Adele Revella. Here the contents of the personae are generated through interviews with customers. This approach is about finding out the individual questions a potential customer has on their way to making a purchase decision. Such questions include: “What added value does the product offer?” or “Why should I buy here and not from the competition?”.
The use of such personae is particularly recommended for complex products and long decision-making phases. The starting point is always the time when the solution is being researched. The aim here is to find out five areas of knowledge in the decision-making process by communicating with your own customers.
Put on user glasses: The 5 areas of knowledge according to Revella
In the following graphic we have clearly presented the five areas of knowledge according to Revella for you:
If these five areas of your customers are analyzed, everything is known about their decision-making process, according to Revella. If you want to know more about the individual areas of insight, I can warmly recommend Anna’s article on the subject of unmasking purchasing decisions with the 5 Rings of Buying Insight.
To identify these areas of knowledge, Revella suggests conducting telephone interviews with potential customers. But how do these potential customers find each other?
Interview partners – identification and selection
This is where sales employees and your own CRM can be very useful. Find out who has engaged with your solutions in the last three to six months and:
- became a customer
- did not become a customer and bought from the competition
- stayed with the old solution or
- opted for a different solution
Caution: The interviewer should not be someone who has anything to do with sales or who has already had contact with the interviewee in the acquisition process, but someone from the marketing area, for example.
Interview – the implementation
Of course, you should always do a background check of the interviewee via XING, LinkedIn, CRM, etc., and all topics related to the job should be clarified in advance. The following question always serves as the starting question in the interview:
“Remember the day you first thought about finding a solution to your problem? What happened? Tell me about it.”
So it’s not about the structured query of the five areas defined above, but about letting the interviewee talk, to let him talk and, first and foremost, to do one thing: Listen! The interviewee should tell about his decision, the findings will be derived afterwards. Try to figure out the HOW, not the WHY, with simple follow-up questions.
The interviews should be recorded (attention: obtain permission for recording at the beginning) and then transcribed. The latter can also be done by external service providers.
Processing and result: the final buyer persona
Read the transcribed interviews carefully and mark passages that relate to the five areas of knowledge. You can sort and collect the findings in an Excel spreadsheet. Important key insights can be filtered out and derived from the statements of the interviewees and assigned to the five areas of knowledge (e.g. in five different spreadsheets). This then results in the drivers of your buyer persona.
In the last step, these drivers should be compared with your existing products and services, as well as their advantages: What are your product features? What are the customer’s criteria? the intersection of these two areas serves as the basis for further communication. The whole thing can be carried out on the basis of lists, for example.
A sentence is then formulated for each commonality (intersection) and this gradually creates a buyer persona, which is described via the five areas of knowledge (you can see a tab for each area of knowledge here at Revella).
We also tested the Revella approach for ourselves in May 2020 to distance ourselves from the fictitious personae. The result was five different, quite heterogeneous personae. We continued to present them in a kind of profile, but left out details that were irrelevant to us, such as age, gender, etc., since they do not significantly influence the purchase decision. However, as you can see from our Karla Conference Persona, the individual blocks and content of the complex buyer persona profile have changed significantly compared to the simple profile:
Benefit: Why work with buyer personas?
The core benefit of buyer personas is to get a consistent and concrete understanding of the target group. As a content creator, for example, you can better put yourself in their shoes, get to know their needs, respond specifically to them and provide users with valuable content. But why fish longer in troubled waters? We have started to question target groups specifically in order to obtain real knowledge about the perception of the brand and products. We presented this personae survey 2.0 as part of our digital theme evening in the form of a webinar in May 2020. We asked the participants what the greatest benefit was from using buyer personas. You can see the results below. If you have any questions on the topic, specifically on the project of data collection “real” buyer personae, please contact Anna or leave us a comment.