As a marketer in the digital age, you know how difficult it is to ensure you’re sending the right messages to the right people. Poor audience targeting means every dollar you spend is less effective than it could be, and that wasted potential multiplies over time.
Buyer personas are a good way to define your audience and identify key segments to tailor specific messaging for. You’ll need to conduct thorough research in order to identify various personas, whether through social media, direct interviews and surveys, or a review of other metrics.
So how do you conduct buyer persona research effectively to maximize your marketing ROI? Let’s walk through a few of the primary methods for building your audience profiles.
Buyer Persona Interviews and Surveys
The best source to find subjects for persona interviews is your own audience. Since they’ve already demonstrated interest and engagement with your brand, they’re effectively pre-screened as likely prospects.
To guide your efforts, focus on interacting with three main categories: Your current customers, your past customers, and leads that should have been promising but went cold for one reason or another.
This ensures you’re getting a good overview of your active audience, while also identifying factors that might have sent lost prospects to your competitors, so you can improve those areas going forward.
Key Questions to Ask
The key to maximizing the utility of your interviews and surveys is asking the right questions to begin with. Here are some of the best questions for getting insight into your buyers’ lifestyles and interests.
Basic Demographic Questions
Demographic information can often be discovered by researching metrics, but you should also craft specific questions to fill any information gaps.
This category focuses on the broadest persona-defining lifestyle factors. Information gathered about one household is probably also applicable to many of their neighbors in the local region.
Focus on questions like:
- What is their occupation?
- What is their home and family situation?
- What is their household income range?
- What is their age?
This category covers questions that reveal how your personas typically find and interact with product information, particularly the ways they identify products they’re interested in.
Use questions like:
- How did they hear about your company or product?
- What habits do they normally use to find information online?
- Are they more likely to trust information from friends and peers, or do they prefer third-party sources?
- What are their most frequently used social media platforms, and how often do they use them?
Across populations, a buyer’s lifestyle is a great indicator for the types of products and messaging they’re most responsive to.
Typical lifestyle questions include:
- What are their hobbies and interests?
- What does a typical day in their life look like?
- What do they like to do in their spare time, including location-specific details?
- What is their local culture like, especially in the ways they interact with word-of-mouth generators like friends and family?
Purchasing Habits Questions
Purchasing habits are a primary category because they help you narrowly target the precise factors that trigger a decision to buy.
For example, some buyers prefer to wait for the perception of a good deal before taking out their wallet, while others want to be given thorough information about the product first. Targeting the wrong message means you’re simply wasting money.
Typical questions include:
- What concerns are likely to turn them off from buying, including company-specific indicators?
- Did they have any concerns about buying from your company specifically, and if so, what were they?
- What key factors influence their purchasing decisions, whether price, perception of quality, or a sense that their friends and neighbors already enjoy the product?
- On average, how long does it take them to move from product awareness to the decision to buy?
How to Get the Most Value out of Your Buyer Persona Interview
While surveys are beneficial, you have a bit of an advantage when you conduct an interview since you are speaking directly to your interviewee.
That being said, nobody wants to be contacted twice for the same interview, so it’s important to ensure each session yields the maximum value for your efforts.
Here are a couple of tips to make sure you do that:
Let Your Interview Subjects Do the Talking
The key to a successful buyer persona interview is making your interviewees feel comfortable and heard. Remember that your goal is to learn as much about them as you can in a short period, so don’t waste much time explaining your product or company.
Craft your questions in a way that discourages simple “yes” and “no” responses, and instead encourages the subject to tell a story about themselves. Let them know that there’s no right or wrong answer and that you’re genuinely interested in learning more about their everyday lifestyle.
Establishing a level of comfort spurs your subjects to answer honestly and include the key narrative details that you’ll use to build persona profiles.
Finally, let each subject set their own tempo for the interview. Don’t cut their answers off, and don’t interrupt them unless absolutely necessary.
Take Small Talk Into Consideration
Small talk may seem like a waste of time, but it’s actually one of your most important tools for establishing rapport and learning important details about a subject’s buyer persona.
Always take the time at the start of an interview to chat a bit, whether it’s about their current day, what’s going on in their life generally, or even what they think about the weather lately.
Keep detailed notes about everything they say, since you can use that information to flesh out their profile. Chances are they’ll mention places they’ve been to shop, events they’re looking forward to, or even just the fact that they need to pick up the kids from school soon.
Chat again at the end of the interview to give your subjects another chance to provide revealing details about themselves.
Social Media Insights
Social media marketing often requires navigating an overwhelming amount of data. Each of the primary social platforms collects a sea of information about specific users and their online activity, so your primary task is figuring out which nuggets are actually applicable to your audience and its various buyer personas.
Tools like Facebook Audience Insights, Twitter Analytics, and Instagram Insights provide important information about the users already interacting with your social media accounts. They also furnish a wealth of profiling details that you can use to strengthen your buyer personas, such as age, income level, education, interests, and much more!
If there seems to be a mismatch between your social media audience and your “real world” audience, it’s a good sign that you’re missing a key indicator about your buyers and should try to reconcile the gap with interviews and other research.
Once you’ve explored the metrics and interviewed your audience, you’re one step closer to nailing down your buyer personas and maximizing your marketing ROI. Use the resulting data to refine your marketing and improve your targeting.
Good buyer personas help maximize the return on your marketing investments by letting you stick to one key rule: Send the right messages, to the right people, at the right time.
Do you want to create a buyer persona for your business, but don't have the time to do thorough research? Schedule a time to talk with us about how we can help you create a smarter content strategy using buyer personas!