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Why You Should Stop Faking Your Buyer Personas

Olin Hyde

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Episode 8: Buyer Personas and the Buyer's Journey with special guest Adele Revella. Have you ever wondered why some people spend so much time on buyer personas, and perhaps why you should care enough about it to do the same? Today we're going to take a deep dive into those topics with our special guest. LeadCrunch[ai] uses artificial intelligence to drastically improve the performance of B2B demand generation campaigns through account-based "lookalike" modeling. Click the link for more information. https://leadcrunch.com/solutions/

Posted by LeadCrunch on Monday, December 10, 2018

Hosts: J. David Green and Jonathan Greene

Guest(s): Adele Revella, CEO and Founder, Buyer Persona Institute



[0:00:00.0] ANNOUNCER:Live, from deep in the heart of Galveston, Texas all the way to the gleaming shores of Jacksonville, Florida, it’s the Green & Greene show. Here are your hosts, Dave Greenand Jonathan Greene, ready to unlock the mysteries of scaling demand gen. The Green & Greene show is brought to you by LeadCrunch, which has reimagined how to find B2B customers at scale.


[0:00:22.0] JG:Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to episode eight of the Green & Greene show. Today, we are going to have the opportunity to talk about buyer personas or customer personas, which is like a mystical unicorn.

People think they understand it, but they don’t. My guest today is Adele Revella who wrote a really great book. It is called Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into Your Customer’s Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business.  That sounds like the entire job to me. I also have J David Green with me, my colleague and mentor. Thank you, sir, for always being with us.

What is buyer persona and why should we care about it?

Adele, treat me like I am one of the special kids here and tell me: What is buyer persona and why should I care about it?

[0:01:12.4] AR:As you suggested, there is a lot of confusion about buyer persona. It is a big topic. People think that buyer personas are some kind of fictional, made-up sort of thing you do in a room with your sales people or maybe a few customers, but they are none of that. Buyer persona should represent your real buyers, thought processes, mindsets, attitude, concerns as they are going through a real buying decision to choose you or your competitors. That’s pretty different than what most people are thinking about buyer personas. We call what people typically describe as a buyer persona a buyer profile. It describes the buyer, but what we need to understand as marketers, particularly as B2B marketers, is their buying decision. 

[0:02:20.2] JG:Okay. Help me understand in context. I am a demand generation marketer by trade. I am in the B2B space. Why does this matter to me? Why is it worth the amount of effort and intensity that it will take on the front end to arrive at a working model of a buyer persona?

[0:02:36.0] AR:We’re frankly making stuff up. We are sitting around in rooms with all the best intentions, and my book is dedicated to every marketer who questions the wisdom of making stuff up. That’s what we do. We’re sitting in a room where we’re saying, “Oh, okay, what’s a really good way to go get more people to respond to this email or to download something or interact with us in some kind of campaign?” We’re brainstorming this without any knowledge of what the buyer thinks.

[0:03:14.0] JG:My favorite thing is, “Hey, you know what so and so is doing? We should do that.”

[0:03:22.1] AR:Or, “Somebody just got an award for doing something,” or, “I just had this thought in the car, or in the shower,” because you know all my best thoughts come in the shower. Of course, what drives me crazy about the marketing profession, and I have been in B2B marketing for more than three decades, is that everybody in the company has thoughts and ideas and make stuff up, and then they all come running into that room and say, “Hey, we’re going to generate more leads if you guys try…” You know? Everybody goes running off in the direction of whatever dot-dot-dot is, and it is insanity. Now what if we just stop before?

Creativity is a great thing. We need all of that. We need all of those good ideas, but what if, before we did that, we had a clear understanding of what the buyers want. We all sit around, and we think about what we want. Well, that is great, but what does the buyer want from this buying experience?

Listen to the podcast, “How to Use the Jobs-to-Be-Done Theory to Reach an Executive Audience.”

[0:04:29.4] JG:Great, I had a drill sergeant back when I first joined the military who made a very memorable comment to me at work one time. He said, “The reason we don’t do things by committee,” and he had a picture of a platypus, and he goes, “Does anybody know what this is?” I said, “It’s a platypus.” He goes, “Wrong. It is a duck designed by committee.” I go, “Well okay.” It was by the committee. You know everybody has to sneak in their little functionality or their little thought without regard, typically, to whether or not it would be effective as a marketing exercise at all.

[0:05:01.5] AR:Or even with the best of intentions. This is really important stuff. Driving demand is it. It’s like if we don’t do that, the ship is going down. People are putting all their energy into making stuff up.

[0:05:21.1] DG:I liken it to trying to have a conversation where the other party doesn’t actually get to say anything and you don’t have to listen. If you have those kinds of conversations, they are usually not that fun, so you might just put yourself into that position with your buyer persona. I read your book, which I thought was absolutely fantastic, and one of the things I liked a lot about it,Adele, was while you had an overarching theory as you are talking about now, you also had some really grounded, practical, simple tips.

For example, if I am getting ready to interview someone, see if I can record it. Otherwise, I won’t be able to capture the verbatim quote that I might like to capture. Sometimes people are uncomfortable with that. “I don’t know if I want you to record this because…,” you know, whatever. They don’t know you that well. You give practical tips on how to do that. Maybe you could share a few things for the people out there who are going to undertake this task. Give them some takeaways about how to do it really well and at a high level.

Some Important Takeaways

[0:06:35.0] AR:My number one tip is don’t interview your best customers. Those people all love you, and I think that is fantastic. Maybe if you are having a really bad day, you ought to go interview a good customer so you feel better. Buyer personas aren’t about feeling better. Forget this idea of ideal buyers and all that stuff. We want to interview real buyers and preferably people who didn’t choose us.

The demand gen’s working with the people who bought from us, but what if we went in and interviewed buyers who didn’t choose us and listen to what they had to say and really started to address the objections, the concerns, whatever we did wrong? I mean I don’t know about you guys, but I learn way more from my failures than from my successes. That is tip number one, and then number two is don’t let your sales people get involved in this.

Frankly, the sales people have a very different job than we have. They want to sell stuff and we pay them to sell stuff. I am not trying to change the sales people. I just want to keep them out of the marketing function, which is to hear, objectively, without selling, what real buyers have experienced in this excruciating decision that they had to make, upon which, if they make the wrong decision, they could lose their jobs, their careers.

They could cost their company all this money, and if the sales person is there, then these people aren’t going to be candid with you. This is a big secret. The buyers don’t tell the sales people the truth. You know all that stuff about how you lost on price and all of that? That’s all made up. The buyers told the sales reps that. It’s not true.

I say those are the two most important tips: go talk to real buyers, not just people who love you, and don’t let the sales people get involved. They are not the person you want.

Read the blog, “The Truth about Intent Data.”

Don’t Work from a Script

[0:08:40.0] JG:I am drafting a memo. Going forth, the sales people are disinvited from all our initiatives.

[0:08:48.9] DG:That will be music to a lot of the ears in the audience because there is often quite a bit of conflict with sales. I think we have all been there, where sometimes you can just tell that the sales rep is ready to pounce and guide the conversation away from anything that would actually be useful in order to keep it all cheerful and positive.

[0:09:13.0] AR:Any time the buyer brings up an objection, they are going to pounce and try to fix it like, “Oh no.” Whereas we want to say, “Oh really? Say more about that.” Don’t work from a script, you guys. That is the other thing, and the book tells you and we have an online course about this, too. It tells you how to do these interviews without a script. I mean we love Survey Monkey. We love multiple choice questions, and you can put those in charts and graphs, but we want to act more like journalists than researchers. We want to get people on the phone who have just been through this experience and just get them to go in-depth into that story of all those painful moments.

We’re all shopping for Christmas. Do you guys like to shop? Are you excited about shopping for Christmas? No. Neither is your buyer. This is a job-to-be-done, and we want to understand that buyer’s job about the buying decision so we can make it easier. Guess what? Whoever makes it easier, wins.

[0:10:24.8] JG:I actually have a cigar bar that’s about a quarter mile from the mall, and that’s where my wife deposits me when she goes shopping.

[0:10:34.2] AR:Does your wife like to shop?

[0:10:36.8] JG:Well, whose wife doesn’t like shop?

[0:10:39.9] AR:Some women don’t like to shop, but the point is, for your buyers, this is hard. As marketers, we’re not in the right mindset. I mean, we’re talking demand gen, right? Look at what we call ourselves. Demand gen. That’s all about us. It ought to be about the buyer.

The Buyer’s Journey

[0:11:03.4] DG:The other part of this is the buyer’s journey. I wondered if you could just outline for people what that is and why that matters and how it ties in to these buyer persona interviews that you develop.

[0:11:20.8] AR:We have these buyer personas that are really buyer profiles, you know? Then we have these journeys, which are we sit around talking about all the things we’re doing to drive the journey. Out of these single interviews, we get the real buyer’s journey and we get what they actually did to go from that day when they had the lightbulb moment, “I’ve got to change. I can’t deal with this anymore. I’ve got to go look for a solution like yours,” all the way through until they made a real decision. That’s their journey, and that’s what we need to understand.

It’s not a separate activity by our personas and buyers’ journeys. The buyer persona is about the journey, and it’s about all the frustration and pain and agony that buyer goes through in that journey.

Listen to Brian Carroll: “How to Become a More Empathetic Marketer”

[0:12:15.0] JG:That sounds like one leads to the other. We’re going to have to have you back, I think, to unpack this a little bit more on another episode. I think we’re pretty close to bumping up against our time. We wanted to thank you very sincerely. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, the book’s called Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into Your Customer’s Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business.Frankly, if you can do that, you’re going to be okay as a marketer. I would check that out, might want to pick it up.

Any parting thoughts, Adele, before we call it a day?

[0:12:48.4] AR:Our website also has a lot of free resources, buyerpersona.com. Go there and there’s a lot of free stuff there, and we’re on facebook at Buyer Persona Institute, too. That way you don’t have to buy the book to get all the info.

[0:13:05.8] JG:You should check that out folks. Dave, what do you have?

[0:13:08.8] DG:I was going to say that I would buy the book. I like reading, myself, and unfortunately, some of the books I read aren’t really all that worth reading, but this one really is. It has really practical, grounded insights and rationale for how you do this and do it well. It’s a great primer for anybody who has to do it yourself. Those of you who have the budget dollars available probably can’t go wrong by getting Adele involved. Thanks so much, folks.

[0:13:38.0] JG:You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen. That’s episode eight. We’re wrapping it up. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll look forward to seeing you guys again next time.


[0:13:38.0] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning into the Green & Greene show by LeadCrunch. Green & Greene think differently about B2B and want to start a movement to transform demand gen. If you have ideas for topics or would like to be a guest, send an email to David.Green@leadcrunch.ai. If you’d like to find more customers, visit our website to talk to one of our demand gen guides. www.leadcrunch.com