How to Create Personas from Data

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How to Create Personas from Data

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Identifying your ideal customer profile(ICP) and buyer personas is the first step in building the foundation for an effective marketing strategy.

Developing these profiles is not solely a marketing responsibility. Mining and interpreting this data should be a group effort with contributions from your company’s leadership, sales, product team, data analysts, and any other team that plays a part in shaping your customers’ experience.

Marketing-strategy_starting-point
A lot of what you learn about your customers becomes elements of account-based marketing (ABM). ABM is a strategic approach to B2B marketing that targets specific company accounts and the individual prospects in the organization that are involved in purchasing decisions.

Having a clear picture of your ideal customers helps you avoid wasting your marketing and sales budget or even building a list of unsuitable target accounts and prospects.

We want to make a clear distinction between ICP and buyer personas here:
Ideal customer profile: Describes firmographic and technographic attributes of the specific companies targeted in an account-based strategy
Buyer personas: Describes the individuals that typically make up the buying committee at target companies for your type of product

Before we get into the details of how to aggregate this data about your ICP and buyer personas, let’s
review the type of information to look for when initially building this ideal customer profile.

For your ICP, you’ll want to know the following about the companies you should target:

Firmographic: Industry, company size, revenue, geographic location
Technographic: Relevant tools in their tech stack
And for your buyer persona, the following attributes should act as a baseline for learning about the individual prospects you should target:
Job titles
Seniority level
Role in the purchase decision
There are two types of approaches you might take to gather this data, which will depend on whether you have existing customers or are starting at zero.
Approach #1:

Working with existing customer data

If you already have an existing customer base for your solution, creating an ideal customer profile starts with a look at past and present customer information in your database and the patterns that can be derived from it.

Common sources for this type of data about existing customers include:
Your existing sales funnel
Website visitors
Your database Sales calls
Look for patterns such as which type of company is the most prevalent in your existing database and which category your best accounts fall under.

Ask yourself:
Who has actually purchased your product?
Which methods of targeting and segmenting have worked in the past?

Take these answers, turn them into a coherent metric, and use the trends in your data to build out your customer profiles.

Approach #2:

Gathering data from scratch

Maybe you’ve yet to build a large enough customer base from which you can pull this data. Your focus should still be on gathering the most reliable information for defining your ideal buyers.

You can use credible third-party data about your industry and solutions like yours as a starting point, then supplement it with primary data about your specific buyers.

There are a few methods for retrieving this primary data when you don’t have a large enough sample size of customer accounts to reference.

Conducting one-on-one or group interviews with customers or your suspected personas
Developing online surveys targeted at possible personas (offering incentives to complete these research surveys works well too)
Using sales development reps for cold outreach to speak directly with leads and validate suspected markets
Requesting feedback from sales teams about conversations they’ve had with prospects and customers
Solicit insight and feedback from the product team about buyers’ needs and common pain points in the market

Notice that there are two main perspectives we’re interested in for this research—your buyers and your internal teams.

Of course, speaking directly with those who are most likely to purchase your product is necessary for understanding your buyers. But you should always seek input from the people who are actually responsible for selling your product too.

Salespeople and SDRs spend their time trying to better understand your buyers in order to sell to them better, so they have a unique big-picture perspective on what an ideal customer looks like.

Marketing-Strategy_buyer-survey

Here’s an example survey created in Google Forms that we use to poll our sales teams and get an idea of the ideal buyers for our outsourced Customer Service offering.

Qualitative Data

Your persona research shouldn’t end at basic insights about industries, job titles, and seniority. Gathering qualitative data about buyers’ goals, challenges, and decision drivers is crucial for fully understanding how you should speak to them through your marketing.

In the example persona survey pictured above, the second question uses stock images to represent possible buyers, and it’s not included thoughtlessly. It actually provides valuable insight into the perception of our buyers, their personality types, and their level of professionalism. Aim to gain this type of insight when performing research directly with customers and prospects also.

Qualitative information that is often most useful for B2B tech companies includes:
How they prefer to communicate (over the phone, through email, via live chat, etc.)
How many people at the company are involved in purchase decisions
Which applications make up their current technology stack (you can use tools like BuiltWith to find this information)
Marketing-Strategy_qualitative-data

Knowing these more personal details about your ideal customers, how they work, and what drives them to purchase is an important piece of the foundation that your entire marketing strategy will be built on.

We wrote at length about the qualitative attributes you should know about your buyers in this blog post about well-defined B2B buyer personas. You’ll need these details when completing the market analysis discussed in the next chapter.

Chapter 2: How to Perform a Market Analysis

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