How to create buyer persona on a budget? Marketing conversation with Adele Revella

Mar 03, 2023


Who is Adelle Revella 

Adele: Thank you, Kareen, and thank you to everyone for being interested in my favorite topic. So I worked in the technology industry sales and marketing for close to four decades. That's hard to admit. I don't know why I say that and then still color my hair. But anyway, I find, yeah, and I have because I have a background in real sales and marketing. I and I know that salespeople are effective with persuading one buyer at a time because they have this ability and that moment or moments or months, or however long it takes to win a business, to listen to what the buyers want and then use what the buyers want to be able to craft a messaging on the spot or proposal or presentation that buyers will say, Oh, that's the perfect match with my needs in marketing where we don't have that privilege and we don't get to listen to buyers. And this is a real handicap. And so we make stuff up, frankly, you know how that's going to translate French. But then we use that too, yeah, we you know, I'll even just, you know, we make shit up we go. Around just having to come up with a message strategy and a marketing strategy without that precious advantage of knowing how that matches what the buyers want. And so I built this methodology after reading, I used to lead a workshop for pragmatic marketing that was a two-day class on product marketing. And in it, I had an hour of fire performance, and at the end of the class, people would say, Oh, that was the best part of we want more. And so that was really the incentive for starting this company and writing a book and just helping people really understand how can we, as marketers understand what a market full of buyers wants so that we have that same advantage of salespeople could understand one buyer to Typekit? That's really the difference. Sales are persuading one buyer at a time. Marketing is persuading a market for buyers, which is harder. I'm going to say the reason marketing Carter is because we don't get to listen first, so I'm like. Let's create a way for marketers to listen first.


What is a buyer persona? A mix of science and art…

Adele: Good question. So yeah, because there is this I take the science part first since you asked the question in that order. So the science is that there are just a few things that we specifically want to know about bias, and there's a lot of confusion around this. People think we should know whether they are married and have children and whether they have a dog or a cat or go to yoga afterward. You know, that's not the sort, the good science, because what we need to know is what the buyer expects from our company before they choose would choose to do business with us. And so the science part is understanding five things. First of all, what triggers the buyer's investment in this category in a solution like ours, in a product like ours, and in a service like ours? The second is understanding how the buyer is defined, success, whatever they're buying, and what they have to believe will be better once they buy this. Essentially, these are the benefits, but it's from the buyer's perspective. The third part of the science is understanding what their objections are, what keeps them from making a buying decision, or what keeps them from choosing us. Why do they sometimes choose another approach or a competitor rather than us? The fourth part of the science is understanding their decision criteria. These are all the questions buyers ask as they make this decision. What are they? These are the things that we need to be talking about in our marketing content, and our salespeople need to know how to talk about them in sufficient detail that the buyer says, Oh yeah, I trust this company. They can say, answer my questions and then what I need. And then the fifth part knowing the buyer persona is the buyer's journey. So for this buying decision, for this decision that we want them to make to buy from us, what is their journey here? Who do they trust? What are the steps like? Who's involved in that decision? All of that needs to be factored into the buyer's journey, and it's specific to the decision we want them to make. So that's the science part.

The art part is that is really how we capture that information and how we analyze that information so that we can see patterns because, you know, in order to have a persona, we have to understand. I just said a few minutes ago a market full of buyers. So there's some art involved in discovering the answers to those five questions and also in then analyzing it and saying, OK, this is the part that is consistent across buyers because it's easy to see what's different between different buyers. It's maybe something that we're not as used to doing, and that's what salespeople do because salespeople are dealing with one customer design. And if you ask yourselves, people, they'll often talk about what's unique if they're not patterns, people, that's not what they're paid to do. They're paid to treat. Each fire is unique. What we have to do and it's it is art is finding a way to create a pattern around that so that we can apply that to the market.

  Now, so we could ask, are they for industry, we could ask. Are they for the role? And in the buying decision, we could ask. Are they hurt geography and I guess in France, but are they your friends in the UK or are they your friends in Singapore? I mean, we could ask, are they different based on company size if we're selling B2B? Are they different based on company size? So all of those are valid questions and those are questions that our approach to buyer ultimately answers. Because when we look at where we interview customers or buyers rather understand, you know, those five categories of insight that I mentioned, here is the science part. We can look for differences. And if they're different by industry, then we learn that from what the buyers are saying, if they're different by geography, if they're different by road, they're different by company size. Those are really the four potential places. They're different. What I can tell you because, you know, we have the benefit of having done this for work for one hundred and fifty clients across every part of the globe and apart across every sized company, across every kind of buying decision you can think of is that industry up until COVID industry was rarely important as a differentiator for buyer instance, covered change that a little bit because some industries were really severely affected in a negative way by Colgan, and other industries are thriving because of it. And then there's that great middle part, which is kind of like, you know, didn't really change much for us. And so now the industry can be a way to think about that. But I would tell you that. That's probably pretty obvious to you. You don't have to do a lot of research to know that. I mean, we all know which industries we're most negative about, I know for sure. So and the other surprising thing, especially for you guys in France, is the geography. While it does change the differences and some of the ways people think and are based on France, for instance, I don't know Quebec. You know, we do a lot of work for Canada, and it's Quebec different than, you know, and some of the folks that are in British Columbia, in Canada and. You can find differences, but you can also find so much that they have in common that you. And here's what I always tell people because it's easy to get too many personas and this is a big hazard. It's a big risk. The most dangerous thing you can do. Yeah. And so I always tell people, instead of searching and searching for what's different based on industry geography, company size, or role, to search for what they have in common. Because here's the role you can for sure right now. You should never, ever have more personas than you have the capacity to go to market. It's a very good one. If you can afford to build two completely separate marketing strategies for two different industries. You should not have two different consultants. You could I should find out what those people have in common because ultimately this work is not about having personas. This work is about having effective marketing strategies. I love people. People get caught up in this, you know, and I mean, as a client, we just started working with, they had one hundred and thirty-five personas. One hundred and thirty-five now. You know, you get that this is a four billion dollar company in the US, so they are a big company. OK, so this is patently absurd. There is no value in having that many facilities. And so our work is to help them get down to, I don't know, four five, maybe four one. And you did that. That's how many ways they have the capacity to go to market. And I just like to always I never want to get through a conversation like this where I have an audience listening to me without saying that you don't want more personas and the weight of that to you, that it's to look for what they have in common instead of what they have. That's different. 

How to find your buyer persona?


Adele: obviously that's what the whole book is about how you interview people and analyze the data and get it into those five categories. So I'll try to give you a short answer and then we can go deep on this. Did you feel as if you want to get on the question? But the short answer is don't pay attention to anything about the persona that doesn't follow and one of those five categories they're buying triggers. They're out the success they're seeking, their objections, the questions, they're off. We call that decision criterion and their journey. Don't look at anything else about them. If you bring in any other aspects of the persona, you will have to make. So that's the first answer. We get fewer. And the second answer is to look for what they have in common in each of those areas. You say that stop thinking because we have to always recall that in marketing, we cannot. If we can have to influence the market for buyers, we have to find how we can credibly and affordably, and efficiently say something that will appeal to all those different people. And then if there's a part of the buyer journey that where they have to get one on one information, that's sales. That's a job, that's a different job.


I grew up, I started buying computers in the 70s, in nineteen seventy-four when I worked for a big bank. And I grew up in the tech industry when nobody on the planet cared about what a computer was and certainly didn't carry one around in their hand. So I know where we got into this trap of, oh, we can or we can't talk about anything in detail. Plus, it was before the internet, so people, you know, couldn't go research things on their own. But nowadays, by the time a buyer is engaged with your company's marketing, I'm talking to everybody on this call today. They already know the benefits of your solution.

 That's what they want and they are saying, and the buyers perceive the benefits as the same for every single company, their valuation. So please, please stop talking about benefits. Employees start talking about how why they should trust you the most to deliver those benefits, which is all about the questions they have. Guess what, actually? Oh God, I can't believe she's going to say this just to feature. Oh, OK. I call them capabilities to make it a little less a little more palatable to people. But. You know, this is my rant, because we interview buyers every day and every single one of them knows all the benefits of our client's solution and every other competitor, and they all say to us they're all the same. So differentiating yourself around the benefit you can deliver is a lost cause, you are not going to do that. You must differentiate yourself by proving that you among everybody on the planet is best qualified to overcome their objections. So to, you know, take away their worry about what could go wrong and assure them that you are qualified to deliver those.


 How do buyers' personas happen to become a marketing tool?

How did we do the switch between Alan Cooper, Caddy, and the inmates and marketing? Yeah. Who triggered this switch? How did it happen? I was figuring maybe when marketing became digital that we merged the two notions. I was just curious.

Adele: Yeah, so nobody really knows for sure. So if you read Alan Cooper's book carefully, you'll see him talking about marketing to summits. Mm-hmm. Just a couple of places. But you know, all work, it's embedded in the contacts of people who have a problem. And I love Alan Cooper's. The inmates are running the asylum because he was really grappling with how to get teams to build products that people would want to use. And you know, this was in 1990 when technology was just horrible to use. So he was trying to figure that out. We came up. He really just sort of like out of that deep inquiry, he invented this idea of user personas. To help developers understand how people wanted to use their products. And he refers a little bit in there to this idea of marketing personas, but only by way of saying that isn't what this is. But then, you know, I wish I could tell you when I first heard I didn't invent the term buyer persona, I'm not even sure when I first heard the term, but I always because it always feels like I just knew about this idea, that we set up a user persona that tells you how people want to use your father. And there's a buyer persona that tells you how people want to buy your product. Just think those are very, very distinct things. If you already nobody ever really. The reason I wrote my book, which was the worst year of my life, I never wanted to write a book. I hated writing the book. I hated every minute of it, but I felt compelled to lay down the rules for what a buyer should be because nobody had done it. And there I mean, it makes me crazy to Google. What are the buyer persona and pop-up? You know that it's a fictional or even semi-fictional depiction of a buyer because, oh my gosh, that makes me crazy. Why would anybody build a strategy around fiction?

You know, let's just go build a strategy for Harry Potter while we're at it. I mean, you know, honestly, it just makes no sense to me that anybody else in the world would build any kind of a business strategy and invest money based on fictional or even semi-fictional anything. So I had to go write a book about it, and I'm glad I did it, but it was horrible. I never wanted to write about it.



How to create buyer personas for a startup?


Adele: Well, you're only talking about triggers now, which is only one of the five. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But if it's just around the trigger, I want you to find an expert ideally talking to a buyer themselves. That's what you really want to do and ask this one question. Take me back to the day when you first decided you needed something like X and X is something in your category that your product name, it's women. Take me back to the day when you first decided, you know, sometimes I like to say some of the best people to do. These interviews are with journalists. Because this is not traditional. You don't need to be a researcher. This is more like journalism. We're trying to capture people who have recently made the decision. We want to capture this story. And so we start at the beginning of our story. Take me back to the day when at the beginning of this journey, when you first thought you might need something like this and tell me what was. What happened? What was the trigger?

Difference between market research and buyer personas?


Adele: If you're talking about traditional research or basically quantitative research surveys and digital statistical validity, and there's qualitative research, which is focus groups and interviews. So this is in the qualitative category and all that I've done is propose a different way of doing those interviews where instead of building a discussion guide or a script and asking people to think about something or coming up with the questions that we want to answer, we instead find people who have just made the decision and we ask them to tell their story. So, you know, my gripe with traditional approaches to research is that it tends to be structured around things that we, as marketers, want to know. So we built and I mean, the worst example of the survey, we build the questions, we make up the questions. And then we make up the answers and we ask people to choose between them. I mean, this is great, this is a great way to validate what we know, but it's a terrible way to learn something we don't know because we made up the answers. We bias the results. And even a discussion guide was interviewed by the results. So my method was that you need really and that, yeah, some professors around the U.S. internationally are using her to teach classes for research is let's not you build a discussion guide at all. Let's not have a scrap. Mm-hmm. Let's just find people who have recently made the buying decision. We want to understand and ask them. Take me back to the day when you first decided that you needed this and then walk them through everything they did and thought about through their entire journey. All the questions they asked, all the concerns they had, all the things they didn't like and did like. And ultimately we required those interviews and transcribe and look for patterns about Pakistan.

Conceiving buyers' personas from scratch (without existing customers)?


Adele: So first of all, for people that are on startup, I always remind them that people that you are trying to solve a problem that people have been solving, either by buying from someone else and feel now or by doing it some other way that people have been spending time, energy and money to solve the problem you solve. Those are the people you want to interview. OK. That is people who ideally spent money. So I always talk about the Apple Watch. We didn't do work for them. But when Apple launched the Apple Watch, they couldn't interview customers of smartwatches. So we would have interviewed people who bought in the last year an iPhone and a Fitbit because those people were trying to solve the problem of the Apple Watch solved. So we could understand the goals, the triggers, the outcomes they needed, and the decision criteria they had. And then at the end of the interview, we could test our value. And so this is an add-on to our interview where we say, Oh, OK, so now what if instead of buying an iPhone and a fit that you know you had a watch that will have you on the wrist, then you got a text? And how would that affect it? So these don't have to be your customers, and they don't. Even even if you think you've invented something brand new, then the objective is interviewed people who are spending money to solve their problems. Another way?

  Everything about these interviews, it's like balls that I put in my. I say now to prospective clients, this is almost like cheating. You know,

  It's every single thing, it's the SEO strategy. You couldn't name anything in marketing that isn't improved by having verbatim quotes from real buyers listing their words or how they describe that. Absolutely forgets the keywords and all of that.


Can you build buyer personas on a subscribers list?


Adele: Well, that's a very good question for me. So I always say that at the root of it, we're trying to understand people making decisions and buying decisions is a very discrete decision where there's an exchange of money, right? But there's actually something more valuable that buyers have, and that's their time. And when they decide to spend time reading your blog, then you can ask them. Take me back to the day when you first decided to start reading my blog and tell me, what got you interested in that? What was what? Tell me what happened. What was the event or experience or whatever that really got that to be compelling for you? And then you can do that around your competitor's blogs. You know, if you can find the course finding these people, there is probably the hardest part of this. But if you somehow have access to people that are reading the blog that you want people, those same audiences to come and read your blogs, then it's asking them to take me back to the day when you first started doing this reading this blog because. And for a lot of people, their time is even more valuable than money. And so if you break it down to we want to understand decisions, then you can extrapolate or you can leverage this methodology for other things other than buying decisions.


How many interviews for buyer personas are to be completed?

Adele: If you can. I mean, the main thing is not more than 10. I mean, you'll get to learn a lot from five or six. But people think because research tends to be, oh, you know, 50 percent of people say this seventy 75. And then there's like thousands of people involved with this quantitative research. And this is qualitative and it's really the quality of the interviews. It's much less about how many. But we found that we found because we do this all day long. And I just think people that work for me, this is what they do all day. That tends about that place where there's like you'll get more and more and more and more information. It keeps going up. And then after 10 interviews, it's like you're starting to hear the same thing all the time. So the value of doing more than 10 is really marginal.


How much do buyer personas cost?


Adele: Well, that's a hard question to answer because we are probably the most expensive service to do this, but we do have clients. We just did an analysis. You know, most of our clients have 100 million annually in revenue and up, but we've done work for companies as small as 10 million in revenue. So but you know, it's been this is getting a professional company to do. This is going to depend a lot on their approach. So the main reason our work is so expensive is that we never work from our client's customer list. We find people on our own and the interviews we do are double-blind, so nobody ever knows how our client is. And that allows us to interview competitors, customers, and people who are biased during the interview by knowing who our client is. So it's it was very expensive.

What I tell people it that usually when you're a marketer, I trust me. I've, you know, I've owned a couple of companies. I've been a CMO and smaller companies really hard. And this is time-consuming, even if it's only 10 interviews finding those people in interviews, and scheduling on analyzing the data. Go to your local university and see now. I'm not that familiar with the universities in France, but you have this idea of people that, yeah, that that does work for companies like during the summer, like just to get experience, to get job experience. Have them read my book. I'm sorry, it's not translated into French. No, I don't

So, find a local university student who wants to work and you need somebody in journalism, especially. That's how journalists are. People who think like journalists understand getting to the root of a story, like asking good follow-up questions, because that's really where the art of this interview is. Is not just reading questions from a script, but also you say you wanted something easy to use. What did you mean by using? How did you know which was easiest to use? What is how much truth? Training, do you need before, you know, really getting people to elaborate, the people you're interviewing, to elaborate and journalism students are ideal and these people need the work. I mean, in the US, sometimes we don't even have to pay these students. They just want to work. Is that available in France, too?

$15,000 to start and succeed with content marketing?

It's a very general question. If you had $15,000 for your marketing budget and you wanted to launch a new product.

I'm a content marketer. I think it's all about starting a blog and getting the content out there. It's definitely not about any paid anything. No paid to advertise. No paid fifteen thousand. You can't buy enough paid anything to make a difference. It's all about and it's then it's also about influencer marketing, finding influencers in your category who will help you get the message out. But I wouldn't spend a dime. You have to have a website. So somehow or another that's got to get factored into your budget because you have to have a place for people to go to get the content.

I'm with the audience. I'm sure you've interviewed him. You really need an owned platform on social platforms. Except for LinkedIn, they're all even LinkedIn starting to deteriorate a little bit, but most of the social platforms are really getting runs. Sadly, because they had a place, but like a lot of technologies and as anything gets good, then we find a way to ruin it, right Karin?

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