Understanding your buyers
Hi, I’m Whitney Slightham and I work as a marketer here in Lynchburg, Virginia. The agency I’m currently working at is 434 Marketing. We do market research, inbound marketing, web development, and outbound sales. I work in marketing in all of those activities, but one that I do a lot of is market research. In particular, something called buyer persona research. Before I moved down here, I actually grew up in Toronto, which is where I did undergrad and grad school in public relations and marketing. Then I built a consulting business. I worked mostly with technical engineering companies, but I’ve been doing research for many years. Today we’re going to be talking about how to understand your buyers and it’s really important to understand what your buyers want whether you are launching a business for the first time in a new place or you’ve been around here in a while because people are constantly changing their influences, the way they feel about things, they’re constantly marketed to in different ways, and the way that we communicate with our customers are constantly changing. So it’s important to do continuous market research with them.
Today we’re going to cover two things. First, we’re going to look at how you get buyer persona data and what that will look like, and secondly, what we’re going to do with all that data and how it actually helps to inform your business and marketing strategies moving forward. You can get buyer persona insights in three ways. First is one on one interviews. Secondly you can do surveys. And thirdly Google consumer surveys. I’m going to talk a little about each of those now.
So first: one on one interviews. You’re going to want to schedule 15 to 30 minute interviews and these are going to be over the phone. You’re going to want to talk to ideally your current customers. Now if you are totally a start up and don’t have any customers just yet, just really trying to get that first push, you’re going to want to talk to maybe prospects. Another thing that you can do that’s really interesting is to talk to people who have chosen an alternative. So they’re kind of familiar with your product or service that you’re offering but have also looked at your competitors and have chosen a competitor instead. That’s very interesting especially if you have no customers just yet. Important things to remember: these interviews are going to be over the phone, so you’re going to have to consider a way to record the interview. Also make sure to ask permission to record the interview before you get started. What are we looking for? Our goal in these interviews is to uncover basically the whys. Who, what, why, when, and the how. A good way to frame these questions is through something called the 5 rings of buying insights. These are as follows: the first one is the priority initiative. What is your customer’s goal? Why are they looking for your product, service, or solution in the first place? Secondly, success factors. How do your customers define success? What does your product or service bring to their organization if they’re B2B or bring to their life in B2C that is really going to help them? What kind of metrics for success do they have? Thirdly, decision criteria. What are the key attributes or features or benefits that your customers are constantly looking for? And it’s important to make sure that your sample is big enough. So you’re going to want to talk to 6-10 customers. Maybe one customer will talk mostly about benefit number one or feature number one. But your six other customers are going to be focused on something totally different. You’ll begin to see trends in the data over time with the more interviews that you do. And especially in terms of prioritizing what decisions what decision criteria you should focus on, you wnat to go with the majority of what people are saying and looking at those trends. Fourthly, we’re going to look at perceived barriers. What challenges did your customers have to overcome, either in teh buying process? Is there anything negative about their experience? Were there any influencers in their decision making process that negatively impacted their buying journey? Those are really interesting to uncover. And lastly, the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is broken up into three things, whether they are making a low consideration – very quick decision, kind of a quick gut reaction sale, or if it’s a longer, more drawn out decision making process. Every buyer is going to go through these three stages. First is the awareness stage. Next, consideration stage, and third, decision stage. In the awareness stage, they are really just becoming aware of their need. They need something and they’re going to evaluate different options to try to find the best course of action from there. For example, let’s say that my car breaks down. Hopefully that doesn’t happen. Car breaks down, I now need transportation in the area. I have a few options, and I’m still in the awareness stage. I’m becoming aware of my scope of options. I could get a bicycle, but that won’t really help me when I’m trying to go far away. I could use public transportation but that’s just localized, or I could try to find a new car, renting or buying it. I’m moving into the consideration stage. This is where I’m going to start looking at different options – what dealerships are in the area, what are my friends and family recommending, what options fit my price range. Then I’m going to move into the decision stage. Typically with long consideration, decisions like buying a car, that buyer’s journey is going to span a longer period of time and it’s going to involve more detailed research. So by the time I get to the decision phase I’ve already picked a dealership and I’ve already considered a lot of different features and benefits I’d be looking for before making that decision to buy a car. It’s really important to note that the average B2B customer is already 60% through the buyer’s journey, so somewhere between consideration and decision, before they even start engaging with the sales rep. So what are you going to do with all this data now that you have it? You’re going to want to organize your data.
A good way to do this is: you know, you have the interview, you’ve recorded the interview, the next step is to transcribe it and read through that interview again. Maybe use different colors of highlighters, or if it’s on your computer, try to highlight the text in different ways. Try to organize them into the five rings of buyer insights.
Priority initiative, success factor, decision criteria, perceived barriers, and buyer’s journey, the story of how they came to be your customer.
So once you have those five sections kind of mapped out with a bunch of quotes all organized, you’re going to reread through those quotes and organize them in terms of different themes. For example, if a bunch of customers are talking about pricing, and you have that organized under decision criteria, you’re going to want to take a closer look at some of the themes that they’re talking about in terms of pricing. Maybe they’re looking for lower fees, or maybe there’s different insights you can tease out there. But at least it’s all well-organized so at a later date when you’re building your market strategy or really just trying to do any kind of market positioning for your lean canvas, for example, it’s just a good starting place. You can always refer to this document at a later date.
Next, we have surveys. That’s the second way you can get information from your customers. I would honestly recommend using an online survey software. I’ve done research projects where we’ve had to do manual data entry, meaning paper surveys and logging in tons of data points for 800 people. I would definitely recommend using something like Survey Monkey because it will generate all of your ports automatically. You’ll have nice, beautiful charts that depict what your customers are talking about.
When you set up this survey you’re going to want to have a mix of demographic data and psychographic data. Demographic data you’re looking for things like how old are they, are they a boy or a girl, or what’s their gender, or where are they located. And especially in B2B, you want to have a good idea of what their job is and what their job description is. Next we’re going to look at psychographic data. So what kind of beliefs do they have, what do they value most, do they have any particular interests or hobbies. You might be able to find some trends there. I’d also recommend asking one question that is very important. This is the net promoter score. The net promoter score or NPS is a way to really analyze your predictive revenue. It’s just one question. It’s a 10 point scale. You’re going to ask them how likely are you to recommend my organization to a colleague or friend? You can Google it and take a look at net promoter scale. It’s definitely an important number for any organization to keep an eye on because the likelihood to recommend is a great metric that you can use to define the probability of predictive revenue down the road and future growth.
You’re also going to want to remember to ask their communication preferences. Do they use social media? If so, which platforms do they use? Do they prefer email or a phone call or mail? How do they like to be interacted with and what would be the most efficient and effective way to interact with them? Also, leave a section on your online survey where they can put in any recommendations or challenges that they’ve faced. Any suggestions that you can do as an organization. Just another quick note: there’s something called the Likert Scale, and this would be another thing to take a look at when you’re building your survey. The Likert Scale is a great way to phrase your online survey questions. It’s a five point scale, usually you rank them from strongly agree to strongly disagree. You can do a little bit more research on that, but it’s a great way to alleviate bias and make sure that you’re writing survey questions in a way that are really garnering true insights.
Lastly, we have Google consumer surveys. Google consumer surveys have some pros and some cons. The pros are that they allow you to cast a wider net, meaning if you’re trying to get general industry insights about the organization that you’re building, maybe you would want to lean to go to consumer surveys. It’s also a good alternative if you don’t have a big customer population to draw from. It might be a good place to start. This can be location based. So typically Google consumer surveys are by state, but you can also expand that to a bigger network as well. You can ask up to two screener questions. That doesn’t leave a ton of room when you’re trying to get a specific niche industry or for example, talk to somebody in a specific role at a specific organization. That is kind of unlikely with a Google consumer survey. In my opinion and experience, Google consumer surveys are really well suited for B2C research. The cons of Google consumer surveys is that they’re kind of expensive and they’re not suitable for varying niche and specific markets. Simply because the sample is too small for Google.
So what do you do with all of this data? You have your interview data when you build your buyer personas, you have your survey data, and then you have more survey data from Google consumers. What do you do with all that? You can use your data to really make data-driven marketing decisions that will help your business. You can refine your messaging. For example, we have a lot of clients that will take their customer quote and whatever research that we got out of that phone interview and use that right in their website and messaging, right in their direct email campaigns, because you’re using the same phrases and lexicon that your buyers are comfortable with. It’s kind of a no-brainer to speak to them the same way and to tell them exactly what they want to hear. Next, it will help you examine your market position. You can hear about your customers – how they feel about your competitors for example, or alternatives to your product. It will also help you understand any perceived barriers that they had – any challenges that they’re faced with in that buying process. Lastly, once you understand the buyer’s journey – you know how I said that buyers are typically 60% through the buyer’s journey before they even start engaging with your organization. In this case, you can try to find ways by using that data to engage with them early in the buyer process in the awareness and consideration stage.
Thank you so much for listening today. If you have any more questions I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’d be happy to talk to you about your buyer persona research or any questions that you might have. Also the link to the site is down below. Thank you so much and I hope you have an awesome day!
About Whitney Slightham
Whitney Slightham is a well-rounded creative marketer and data geek with more than six years of experience in public relations, digital marketing, journalism, research and graphic design.
While in graduate school, she built a Toronto-based communications consulting agency. Slightham Communications primarily served OEMs, mining companies, litigation firms, non-profits and Canadian municipalities. She also served as the Director of Communications for an antimicrobial coating company, Aereus Technologies, and was the Marketing Coordinator for an industrial process water original equipment manufacturer, Kontek Process Water Management. For both of these clients, Whitney developed and managed all strategic communications, media relations, trade show management, lead generation, regulatory affairs, digital marketing and content creation.
Prior to graduate school, Whitney was a spokesperson for London's Western University and delivered hundreds of presentations to students across Ontario. She also served as Editor-in-Chief of a monthly London magazine for three years while working as a research assistant.
After three years of being an entrepreneur, Whitney was ready for a change. She moved her career from downtown Toronto to Virginia, where she was the Marketing Director at an award-winning digital marketing and web design agency, 434 Marketing, for two years. Today, Whitney is delighted to represent the City of Roanoke's Department of Parks and Recreation as a Marketing and Outreach Coordinator.
|Date Added||June 28, 2016|