I recently reviewed twenty-four buyer personas produced by four product marketing teams. While most needed a lot more work, Kristine’s was exceptional.
I didn’t know the story I’m about to share with you when I reviewed Kristine's work. As none of the people assigned to the project had any previous experience developing personas, I imagined that Kristine might have had previous work experience as an IT Architect, the buyer persona she was assigned to develop. Or maybe she was married to someone in this position, or had a close friend or colleague who gave her an advantage over her colleagues.
All these assumptions were wrong. Kristine simply did better work than her colleagues. When we sat down with the team to review Kristine’s persona, here’s what she told us about her approach:
- Her first step was to search online job boards for companies looking to hire IT Architects. This gave her a bit of insight into the experience and other expectations that hiring managers had for this role.
- That led her to a few technical requirements — she learned that hiring companies were focusing on the IT Architect's experience with SOA and ITIL, technologies she had heard of but didn’t know well. So she did web searches to learn more about those technologies. Note that Kristine is not a a very technical person, but that didn't stop her from taking an interest in a topic that was critically important to her buyer persona.
- The web searches led to some interesting papers, plus several conferences that were targeting the IT Architect. So Kristine reviewed the conference agendas to learn about the aspects of those technologies that were most interesting to her buyer persona
Only now did Kristine feel like she was ready to talk to some IT Architects. When I talked to Kristine’s colleagues, they had skipped these preliminary online research steps. Many had also found it difficult to secure interviews. But Kristine easily found people by:
- Using her LinkedIn network to get introduced to a few people
- Sorting through her stack of business cards to find people who could introduce her to someone in that role
- Posting a request on two of the online forums that she participates in
These steps led to interviews with five people who were willing to talk to Kristine about their priorities, goals and frustrations. She asked a lot of probing questions, typing as she listened, capturing quotes and key thoughts. Most people would be better off taping the call or having someone else take notes, but Kristine’s background as a journalist prepared her to simultaneously think about interesting areas to pursue with her questions, listen for the most relevant data, and take good notes.
Finally, Kristine organized her notes from the five interviews by subject, scanning for patterns in the responses. When she wrote up her persona document her findings were communicated through short, pithy, colorful statements, each summarized with a heading that made it easy to identify the focus of that section. She included quotes that turned statements that might otherwise be meaningless — like “leads key business initiatives” — come alive with examples and references to specific issues that frustrate the IT Architect’s attempts to succeed on those initiatives.
Based solely on reading the buyer persona Kristine wrote up, I had already decided to present her with an iPad for the best buyer persona on the team. Now that I know how she produced that result, I’m wondering how to get other people to take the steps that came so naturally to her.