Adele Revella is a marketing keynote speaker, workshop facilitator and author of The Buyer Persona Manifesto. We were lucky enough to snag an hour of Adele's time to pick her brain about the buyer persona development process. Here's what she had to say.
Kuno: Buyer personas are a big topic. What does your work focus on?
Adele: What we teach marketers to do is to interview buyers who have just been through the buying cycle. They find out the truth from real buyers. It’s simply a matter of asking them a series of questions, and then probing their answers to get the facts and insights about what matters to the buyer.
Kuno: Who should marketers interview?
Adele: We interview people who have recently evaluated the product, and we ask them who was involved at each step. The interview structure is around them telling us their story. For example, the first question we would ask is, “Take me back to the day when you first decided to evaluate our solution, and tell me what happened.” It starts them at the beginning of their buying process, and they tell us a story about how they went through each step.
Kuno: Do you repeat this process with multiple stakeholders?
Adele: Our methodology actually allows the marketer to interview a single buyer and find out who all the stakeholders are.
Kuno: Is there one stakeholder you would prefer to have access to over another?
Adele: Yes. The person who did all the work. I don’t want you to interview the economic buyer. Usually, the economic buyer didn’t do all the work.
Kuno: Phrasing it as “the person who did all the work” is interesting because I’ve heard it phrased as “the person who notices the problem" or "the person who has the problem.”
Adele: Yes, it's very deliberate. I want to talk to the person who did the work, because they know the whole story.
Kuno: You’re right—that person also knows everything about everybody else involved.
Adele: Exactly! And they’ll dish about everyone else. The economic buyer isn’t going to tell me about his personal pet peeves or biases, but the person who did the work will tell me about them.
Kuno: Yes, and often times we think the person who actually opens his wallet doesn’t even really care that much.
Adele: He doesn't. I mean, that person cares about the results a lot; we teach marketers to talk to whoever they can. But our question when we’re recruiting for the interview is “We want to talk to you about what worked and what didn’t as you evaluated our solution.” Then, the economic buyer hears that request and says, “I’m not the right guy to talk to. You need to talk to John.” So he refers me to John, because John did the work.
Kuno: Is John normally the person who has the problem, too? Or is John evaluating on behalf of the person who has the problem?
Adele: Often times John is someone who is a project manager or is in business development. He doesn’t have the problem; he’s just tasked with finding a solution.
Kuno: It seems like there's always some sort of convoluted scenario between point A and point C in terms of who’s actually evaluating the product. Often, the person in charge doesn’t necessarily realize that.
Adele: Yes, the economic buyer is usually the person who is the least well-informed. These days, they’re just clueless. They usually just go into work one day and say, “You know what? We’re going to fix this problem. I’m not living with this problem anymore. John, go fix it.” And then they disappear until it’s down to two or three vendors.
Kuno: In our experience, teaching others to do buyer persona interviews isn't easy. Open-ended interviewing skills don't come naturally to most people. Do you agree?
Adele: I’m with you. I’ve been doing interviews like this since 1986, and I spent a decade traveling around the country telling marketers how to do effective product marketing. I said, “You need to have buyer personas and interview your buyers.” People would ask me how to do that, and when I said, “Well, you just listen to them,” they looked at me like I had three heads. So three years ago I decided to start a company to solve this problem.
Kuno: Do you have any tools that people can use to better understand all of this?
Adele: Yes! I have a master class available. If you want to learn how to do buyer interviews, my class is a great way to do it.
Kuno: Who in the marketing community is a typical student in your class?
Adele: Usually they’re content marketing people. This master class is really hitting a nerve with content marketers. Not being able to come up with enough content, not having the right kind of content, etc. The people who take this class are fed up. A lot of them have been doing this for years. Trying to do interviews and always feeling like they aren’t really getting to the insight. My number one goal is to educate people about how to do this correctly.
We're so glad we got the opportunity to speak with Adele! You can learn more about her work and the Buyer Persona Masterclass by visiting her website. Stay tuned for upcoming Q&As in this series, including interviews with Christine Crandell and Mark Gibson!
photo credit: Adele Revella
Stephanie Kapera is a Strategic Accounts Manager for Kuno Creative and writes about content marketing, buyer persona development and inbound marketing strategy for Brand & Capture. She lives and works in Raleigh, NC.