Adrienne Barnes

How to Create SaaS Buyer Personas and Produce Better Content – with Adrienne Barnes [286]

How to Create SaaS Buyer Personas and Produce Better Content

Adrienne Barnes is a B2B SaaS Content Marketer and the founder of Best Buyer Persona. She helps SaaS and tech companies learn more about who their audience is and then turn those insights into useful buyer personas that help create better and more effective content.

Buyer personas are a great way to understand your customers and use those insights to improve every aspect of the customer experience from marketing, sales, product, and more.

Unfortunately, most companies do a terrible job creating buyer personas, or worse, don't have any.

Those companies create buyer personas based on loose assumptions and anecdotal information. While these personas look nice, they often don't serve any useful purpose and are quickly forgotten about.

If you create buyer personas this way, there's a huge risk that you're going to make the wrong investments in your product, marketing, and sales, and waste a lot of time and money doing the wrong things.

The key reason companies lack or have useless personas is that they don't talk to their customers.

In this episode, we examine how so many companies get buyer personas wrong. We layout a better way to create your buyer personas, and we walk you through the process step-by-step.

By the end of this interview, you'll have clarity and actionable insights you can take to create useful buyer personas which help create better content to attract, convert and retain more customers.

I hope you enjoy it.


Click to view transcript

Omer Khan: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of The SaaS Podcast. I'm your host, Omer Khan. And this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS business. In this episode, I talked to Adrian bones, a B2B SaaS content marketer, and the founder of Best Buyer Persona.

[00:00:34] She helped SaaS and tech companies learn more about who their audience is and turn those insights into useful buyer personas that help create better and more effective content. Now, buyer personas are a great way to understand your customers and use those insights to improve every aspect. All of the customer experience from marketing sales, product pricing, and more, unfortunately, most companies do a terrible job creating those personas or worse they don't have any.

[00:01:05] And those companies create buyer personas based on loose assumptions and anecdotal information. And while those personas look nice, they don't serve any useful purpose. And are quickly forgotten about. So if you create personas this way, there's a huge risk that you're going to make the wrong investments in your product, marketing and sales and wasted a lot of time and money just doing the wrong things.

[00:01:30] The key reason companies lack or have these useless personas is because they don't talk to their customers. In this episode, we examine how so many companies get by a persona is wrong. We layout a better way to create your buyer personas. And we walk you through the process step-by-step by the end of this interview, you'll have clarity and actionable insights you can take to create useful buyer personas, which helped to create better content that attracts converts and retains more customers. So I hope you enjoy it, Adrienne welcome to the show.

Adrienne Barnes: [00:02:06] Hi Omer, thank you. I'm so glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Omer Khan: [00:02:09] So tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do? How do you help your customers and what type of companies do you work with?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:02:16] Yeah. So I am a B2B SaaS content marketer that has really focused on audience research, content strategy, and buyer personas.

[00:02:29] So I've worked with companies like, Stripe, and Demio. Most recently, one of my really partner companies, his audience on really determining buyer personas and content strategy. So I really love the, the B2B SaaS startup anywhere from early, early-stage startup and founders, like one person team all the way up to enterprise-level unicorns the startup B2B SaaS kind of whole environment. It's just where I thrive. And I, and I love being a part of it, and creating buyer personas and content strategies is my jam.

Omer Khan: [00:03:02] Awesome. So today we're going to talk about how SaaS companies can use buyer personas to create better and more effective content. Maybe we can start by just getting everybody on the same page and    why don't you tell us what a buyer persona actually is or should be?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:03:22] It should be, yes, that's the tricky question. So there's two different parts of that. So what a buyer persona currently is in where I've seen most frequently, I've had the privilege of working with multiple companies as a freelance writer and a freelance content strategist. You get the chance to kind of sit.

[00:03:42] And see behind the curtain of quite a few different the way people operate, right. With a few different companies. So I've seen quite a few buyer personas. So the standard buyer persona is a, a segmentation of an audience that really looks at demographics and sociographic as a standard way or the best way to segment their audience.

[00:04:06] So meaning like job title, they're doing a lot of segmentations by just job title or by gender or age. And I just don't find that to be a highly effective way of segmenting our audience of like grouping our best buyers together. So what I like to do and the way I'm trying to really change the way our industry creates buyer personas is to think about segmenting our people and our best buyers differently.

[00:04:33] Really looking at it's not about what their job title is or how old they are or how long they've been in the industry or what other tools they use. It's really the best way to segment our best buyers is by what are they trying to accomplish with our tool? And this works really well for B2B SaaS, because that's exactly what we're providing people most often is we're a tool, right?

[00:04:55] So when we're trying to figure out what's the job they're trying to accomplish. And once we know that that becomes a, in my opinion, a better way to segment our audience, that kind of lasts the test of time.

Omer Khan: [00:05:07] Now, some people listening to this might be thinking, okay, I've worked at places where we've had buyer personas and they were kind of nice things to put up on the walls and have a picture of somebody or, you know, a visual representation of somebody.

[00:05:23] But basically, I ignored them. I, I kind of never really used them. Didn't really know how I was supposed to use them. So how can somebody who's running a SaaS business today? How would they use buyer personas? Why do they need them?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:05:36] Right.  I mean, into that point, Omer, I've, I've read articles and in my just research of how people are currently using buyer personas, I've heard of companies creating cutouts of people and create like staging these cutouts in the office.

[00:05:51] Obviously this is pre-COVID so that the team is reminded of these quote-unquote people, you know, these, these buyers that they have. So I know that marketers and people are trying to make these buyer personas real, you know, like exists. They they're they're realize things. We really want them to resonate in the minds of our marketers.

[00:06:12] But most often nobody refers to them when they're creating campaigns or they're creating content or you're about to launch a new product. No one says, okay, let's go back to that buyer persona and figure out what that job title was. Cause I'm a little lost or a little confused on that. And that's because of the poor segmentation.

[00:06:29] We're not actually grouping people in a way that's meaningful and it's going to add any value to a sales process, to a content marketing campaign.  And so when we can actually create a buyer persona that is segmented in a way that really brings true to your best customers, buying motivations to their, their triggers, to their pain points and to the thing they're trying to accomplish, that then becomes a really a wealth of knowledge that that one document can be a foundational source for so many different things. It becomes something that, I mean, even in my experience with my clients, we've finished the buyer persona process and bells to start ringing off, even during the presentation, when I'm trying to go through the first founders and co-founders and CMOs like, Oh my gosh so that, that insight is why our customers behave this way or that insight is why this feature didn't succeed so well. So it really can become almost the foundation of product of customer success, of marketing, as long as it's done, right. It really can help to guide future business decisions that make a large impact on, on all kinds on our revenue on turn it touches almost everything in my opinion.

Omer Khan: [00:07:51] Yeah. And, and I think those cutouts and, and posters, I think the intent is right. That it's, it's about getting people across the company to think about customers to incorporate the customer's needs into everything that they're doing. But I think where it falls over is where people can't connect the dots and figure out how does that cut out that I'm seeing over there actually translate to something that I'm supposed to do in my job. And, and I know that you sort of touched on this, that the buyer persona really can help across the organization. It's not just about content. It could be about building a better product, figuring out your pricing, or, you know, even once they're on board, like customer support or customer success and all that stuff.

[00:08:45] But specifically when it comes to content, what are some of the issues you've seen with content marketing when companies don't have the persona figured out what happens with content?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:09:03] Oh yeah. Well, I mean, first of all, the content becomes all about the company and it's company-centric. And I think one thing to kind of just kind of walkthrough to help how, how is this different than what other standard buyer personas is? What I call them is when we do a best buyer persona process, we start with your customers. We start with actually talking to the people who are using your products day in and day out. And I really like to talk to three different kinds of segments.

[00:09:32] I talked to your best customers, the ones who have either spent the most money, been around the longest, who shared the best social proof have left the highest reviews. Those are the that's kind of a segment of your people that I want to talk to. And then I also want to talk to.  What I call your, like your greatest enemies.

[00:09:48] They don't like your product at all. They've probably turned very quickly. They likely went to social media and trashed your name up and down. And then the myth customers is what I call like that middle ground. They're just fine. They've been around good time, like a long enough time, but they're not like your shining stars.

[00:10:04] And when we get to speak to these three different segments. It really does show a lot of insights into who your customers are and uses their own words. And when we start there, when we start with your customer's words, those kinds of insights are just incredibly valuable. And that's why. You're able to use it across the board, through different departments in the company, you can turn it into one of my most recent projects.

[00:10:29] We did it right before we did the website. We're looking at really rehauling this whole entire website. They're not satisfied with it. It's not converting as they'd like. So we started with the buyer persona process first, and because I was able to pull their words and their own language, headlines, supporting headlines, key feature facts, all of that stuff just like pops out at you and becomes crystal clear. It makes writing copy easier. It makes creating content strategies better. So when. You, you can start with your buyer persona and back to your content strategy question. What, what do companies do if they're, they've created these poor personas  really your content strategy becomes what you think your customer wants, right?

[00:11:09] Like it's Oh, well we want to create an eBook and we want to do these things. We won these awards. Look at what we've accomplished. We have a product feature, your customer doesn't actually care. Like I know that we work really hard. I've seen marketers say, Hey, I, we, we are, my team spent three months on this eBook and we put in design and, Oh, man, this was such a challenging.

[00:11:33] Please read it. And it's like, nobody cares how hard you worked on it. Like, that's great. But your customer, it is, they're looking for their own pain, right? They're trying to solve their own problem, not appease you and whatever the situation is that you're looking at. So when really, if you start with poor personas and a poor understanding of who your customer are, who your customer is, it resonates throughout and you end up creating content that is very company focused and not customer-centric.

Omer Khan: [00:12:04] Now the way you approach creating buyer personas is by using the jobs to be done framework. Can you just explain what that actually means in this context?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:12:17] Yes. So there are quite a few different approaches to the jobs to be done framework. I'm reading a book that's combined all four right now.  So it's really, people have been able to take this idea of what is the job a customer is trying to accomplish and translate it into sales and development and now marketing for the way I use it. So when I say a jobs to be done framework, so the way I start off is really trying to understand from the customer, what is their experience with the product? What is the thing, the decision-making that whole entire buyer journey that really made them decide to purchase?

[00:12:55] And, and really getting deep down into the details of what were their buying triggers. There's, there's things that go on before a person buys. And I really want to understand that very clearly. And then we move on to now, how are you using this? What does this tool. Do for you? What does it accomplish? What would you do?

[00:13:15] Or what were you doing before you had this tool? How would you feel if this tool was no longer available to you? What are the most frustrating things that you find while using this tool? What do you love about it? So when I'm asking my questions, I'm really trying to dig deep into. How they use the product, what is their job?

[00:13:34] And that basically means like, what do they, what's the one thing they must accomplish or that they feel like they've hired this thing to do for them to make their job easier. And then what were the buying triggers leading up to it?

Omer Khan: [00:13:49] Got it. Yeah. I mean, I think the,  the whole jobs to be done thing, like I thought I understood it, but then the more you, you sort of start.

[00:13:59] Sort of learning about it, the more confused I get. And I think it's because there's, there's so many different people have sort of different perspectives on what that means.

Adrienne Barnes: [00:14:08] Yes, there are. I mean, like I said, I think the one Jim callback is one of the books. He wrote the book that I'm reading right now.

[00:14:13] And it literally is four different frameworks from four different people, who've kind of taken this and adapted it. And I think that is almost why I really like it because when I was looking through buyer personas and, and. Be like getting these from other clients. And I was just like, how is Sally the salesgirl, who's 32 and you know, wears red shoes it would be cat woman, if she were a superhero, how do I then go and create 32 pieces of content from this? Like, I, I had, I really struggled as a freelance writer and as a content strategist, when my clients would hand me their buyer persona. Cause that was my first question. Like, who are we writing to?

[00:14:50] Who's your audience? Who's your best buyer. And they'd. Either, they would say, well, it's so and so, and they'd give me like a one-liner, you know, they're a mid-level manager and this is kind of their problem, or they'd hand me like slides and slides and slides of decks of information that I had did not understand how knowing that information, like the fact that they were 32 or a female, or in like a sales, it was frustrated with quotas.

[00:15:17] And loved red shoes and I mean, literally, and would be cat woman. If she were superhero, I've had buyer personas. That said that to me.  How does that help me now? Right. 32 pieces of content. That's going to help this customer through their buyer journey and convert. Like it feels like for a standard buyer personas, the process of creating a buyer persona is a check the mark process.

[00:15:41] That's not actually tied to marketing or sales, like, it's just something you need to have. So we did it great. Now we put it over there. Now let's get to the business of marketing people. And that is really when I saw jobs to be done. I was like, Oh, this is what a buyer persona should be. We're getting to the core of what people are trying to do and how they're getting it accomplished. And that just made so much more sense to me.

Omer Khan: [00:16:07] And I think when, when you sort of asked that question, Initially on the surface and you say, what are the jobs to be done for your people using your product? It kind of seems like an obvious answer. It's like, well, I have an email outreach tool. So the job to be done is to send out outreach emails, but it's, I think it's like getting deeper into understand, well, why exactly are they doing that?

[00:16:31] And what's, what are their motivations behind this? And the thing that sort of really, I, I think is a great example is I think it's, it's a Clayton Christianson's website where they talk about the, the milkshakes for breakfast?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:16:44] Yes. That's my favorite example. Yes.

Omer Khan: [00:16:46] Yeah and I think for people who are listening, who aren't familiar with that? I think the idea, just the story is that there was a fast food chain who found that they were selling a lot of milkshakes at breakfast time. And so they started thinking about how they could improve sales and do they need to add more flavors or make it more chocolatey or whatever. And what they actually realized was that the reason.

[00:17:10] Customers were buying those milkshakes in the morning was because it was a convenient way to have breakfast and sort of stave off hunger until lunchtime. And so when you, when you know that insight, it's not like the job to be done is that they want a milkshake. It's actually, they're hungry between breakfast and lunch and they're looking for a convenient, quick way of getting some kind of breakfast. And so then you start thinking about the whole problem in a very different way. Well, maybe it's not about a better milkshake, maybe it's about different types of breakfast products and so on. So I think just, I think just for anybody listening, I think that for me was just a great example that just sort of really lands it.

[00:17:50] That when you think about jobs to be done, it's kind of going below that. So the superficial answer you might come up with, when you think about your product and really understanding why people are doing what they're doing. So with that, let's start digging into like, okay, like, hopefully by now everyone's with us.

[00:18:08] And they're like, okay, I get why buyer personas. Don't typically work. Why, what I need to do to probably make a better one. And we've sort of laid out the jobs to be done framework, but then how do we actually go about creating a buyer persona?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:18:24] Yeah. So in this whole, the buyer persona creation process for me always starts, like I said, with those conversations.

[00:18:33] So it begins with just asking. Your customers, if they wouldn't mind getting on the phone and having a conversation with you. And I know that probably half of the founders that are listening just cringed a little bit and probably have sweaty palms right now. Cause that's what I hear from them. They're like, no, I don't want to talk to my customers.

[00:18:52] Like, let's just, they're fine. Leave them alone. They're over there. They're doing good. They're paying their bills. Let's just leave them alone. But that is, you're doing a disservice, trust me. So you, the first thing I do is I just send out an email and I make sure that that email is really honest and transparent and simple.

[00:19:09] And I just ask, Hey, we are trying to do this and what is our end goal? So I've, I've, we've created buyer personas before because we're trying to improve our product or we're creating buyer personas because we're trying to transform our website. So I just say like, Hey. We're looking to learn more about your experience.

[00:19:27] Would you mind getting on the phone for 30 minutes? Here's a calendar link of it's convenient to you. And I surprisingly enough people fill up my calendar. I've had to turn away customers because my calendar gets too full with customer interviews. People want to share about their own experience and I've heard it from founders before.

[00:19:46] Their biggest objection is who's going to want to get on the phone and talk to me about my product. Well, they're not going to want to talk to you about your product. They want to talk to you about their experience and if you frame it around the customer and keep those interviews and the conversations focused on the customer, the conversation and the insights is going to be great.

[00:20:08] So I start with an email. I don't even offer an incentive right off the bat.  And I think a lot of people might be surprised at that too. I'll offer an incentive and an incentive being something that would. Not necessarily pay, but incentivize customers to get on the phone. I've done charity donations where I've said, Hey, you know, we'd really like to speak to you.

[00:20:28] You're one of our best customers. I would love to donate a dollar for a minute of your time, to your preferred charity. That has a really good conversion rate if they've been hard to reach before. And so we schedule these interviews and when we get on the phone, My whole entire goal. The whole intent of the interview is just to hear from them to let them tell me more about their experience to tell me how their buyer attorney went and to really dig and undercover some questions.

[00:20:57] My favorite follow-up question is that why like, Oh, that's interesting. Tell me more about that. Using those kinds of questions to, to get deeper and to allow them to expand on their answers. And then once we've gone through and, and we have the interview and the, the data back there, these transcripts, that is where for me, I'm able to then read through it, transcribed, have those words that becomes the foundation and the framework for the best buyer persona.

[00:21:29] And each one is different. So I feel like. We're so used to a buyer persona template, right? Like everybody has a free download of a template. Here's your buyer persona template. And people want to just like plug-in their answers and great check done. Now we've got our buyer persona completed, but each persona for each client really is a different thing.

[00:21:50] Like what is, where are your gaps in your information? What are your challenges? What are we trying to learn and uncover and, and what kind of information do we need to know? To actually reach these people better.  For instance, with one of my clients audience right now, One of the key things that we really wanted to discover was what other technologies are our best customers using to get their job done.

[00:22:14] We know they use audience as a tool, but what else are they using? Because knowing the other tools they use helps us understand who we need to collaborate with. How the level of like budget that our clients have. There was a lot of insights that we're able to uncover from those from those answers. So really being able to tailor each persona to your needs is one of the best ways to, to create it actually.

[00:22:39] So don't kind of think that you got to come in with a template. Think about what are your questions, what, what would it help you to know to reach your best buyers? And that's how I lay out my  each slide has basically. This is what we want to know. This is an answer. And we found that is one of the best ways to then use the buyer persona throughout the company.

Omer Khan: [00:23:00] Okay, great. So that's a great overview of the process you go through to, to collect that data. I want to kind of drill down into that a little bit more. So firstly. For the people who are listening now with the sweaty palms, can you use surveys or do you have to talk to people?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:23:22] No, you can absolutely use surveys.

[00:23:23] So this is how I do it. We do our customer interviews first, and then I allow the survey in the digital data. We use quite a bit of social listening and digital mining and all of those different things, especially with audience and  that tool. But when. I want my survey to validate what my interview said.

[00:23:44] So my interviews give me the information, the data on a small scale. And then I send out a survey. So, I get wide and vast validation of what my interviews have currently said. And if usually, I've never had it to where there's a contradictory between the two, usually when my we've done our interviews and then now I send out all of my surveys, the, the data in the survey correlates to what we already learned in the interviews, but I like to use it all. I think it could all work together, but I know that oftentimes the, the conversation in the interviews is the scary part. People are sending out surveys quite a bit. So, yeah. But use the surveys to validate what you've learned via the interviews.

Omer Khan: [00:24:26] Yeah. So, it's a combination, I think. Right. So, what you're saying is there's this sort of quantitative data that you can probably gather by researching the customer by using surveys. And then there is the qualitative stuff, which probably you're not going to get, unless you have a conversation with people.

[00:24:41] So. So, yes, you can use surveys, but you also going to have to talk to people.

Adrienne Barnes: [00:24:47] Yeah. Just don't rely on this survey to be your only asset.

Omer Khan: [00:24:50] Right. The second question was how many customers does it make sense to talk, to, to get a reasonable amount of data? If I am a founder today, I'm a solo founder and I have 25 customers, is it too early for me to be thinking about buyer personas?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:25:11] No, absolutely not. So the solo founders in 25 customers is one of my favorite groups and people to, to work alongside. I have a special engagement just for them because they light me up. They fire, they just strike a fire. What I would suggest for those, those small-scaled founders is to make customer interviews a part of your weekly checklist. Like you should be talking to at least one customer every week. And so, what I've said for, especially this, this stage of founder, this stage of development is you want to make sure that, I mean, you could have a buyer persona process completed with one hour a week.

[00:25:51] So one hour a week, you make sure you have 30 minutes to, to talk to a customer, you put aside that time and then another 30 minutes to code the data. Now, will it take you four months to have a fully completed, fully flushed out really good idea of a buyer persona? Yes, but this is the kind of process that we should be reiterating on anyways.

[00:26:11] And continually adding to and learning too and adapting, no matter what size of company you're on. So, it within. And so, everybody should really be, have some sort of process to were speaking to your customers, social, listening, all of this as a part of your buyer persona process. So, for these solo founders, it's never too early.

[00:26:31] Get on the phone, talk to those customers. Even if it's once a week, you will be light years ahead of competitors and peers who aren't.

Omer Khan: [00:26:40] Okay, great. And if I'm a startup on the founder and let's say I've got 5,000 customers, how do I figure out who to go in talk to. So, you mentioned sort of three types of customers that I think the fans, the enemies and the men, right?

[00:27:02] Yeah. Yeah. How many customers, like, who do I figure out how to talk to him? Am I emailing all 5,000 of them and trying to get some interviews? Or am I trying to segment them first before I figure out who I should go and ask?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:27:17] Yes. So, I like to segment them first when I've worked with some B2C, we had Shopify content and that was really easy to say, okay, they've spent this much money on your product and then this much money.

[00:27:30] So that was a really easy way to go about it. With the B2B SaaS we've looked at, they've been clients for, you know, since you first launched, like they were early adopters, they were beta users and they're still with us. That's a best buyer. That is somebody who has stuck around, knows the company, knows the product and sets it out.

[00:27:50] So really you want to look at just your own data, your own internal data. Is it going to be, who's purchased the most? Who's been around the longest. That's really a good way to get your best. And so what I would say is take your top 15 of your top best customers. The ones who've either been around the longest or spent the most money, and then take that bottom, like who turned quickly, who basically didn't stick around very long, who maybe they're newer customers and then take 15 out of those and then take a 15 of average and send out the email and ask those bad group of people.

[00:28:27] And that way, you know, if you can get 20 interviews across all three segments, you will be doing fine and dandy. Like that is more than enough to get a good idea about who your best buyer really is and what they're doing with your product.

Omer Khan: [00:28:41] Okay, great. And then let's talk about the interview itself, and I think this is where people will get more and more nervous.

[00:28:48] So I think the part of the problem here is that, founders who maybe aren't comfortable going out. And having these types of conversations. I think there's always this fear that you're going to ask a question, like, why did you buy a product? And they're going to say, I don't know, I just came across it and signed up and then you're going to be okay.

[00:29:12] And then there's this kind of this awkward silence and this experience where you're just like, what do I do now? Is this interview going to be done in like 30 seconds? So, what, what tips for someone who's like thinking, okay, I should do this and, and maybe even if it's like just talking to one or two customers a week, what tips can you give them to be more prepared for a good interview?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:29:41] Yeah. So, first tip would be to decide, what do I need to know? What is it that we have a question on? Are our customers turning quickly? And we're noticing a lot of friction. I've worked with a client where we really noticed that the sales cycle was incredibly long, and we didn't feel like it should have been.

[00:30:01] We couldn't figure out why, why is this taking so long? What's, what's, what's the friction that's happening? Where, where are the, the roadblocks that are going on? So we really included that in part of our interviews and in the heart of the question. So then once you've really determined, okay, these are the things I need to know beyond just like who they are and what are they doing with your product?

[00:30:23] Then you create a script. You just write the questions down on a Google doc.  The way I do it is we have a Zoom window up on one part and my Google doc up on the other. And your first time, it's going to be a little clunky. Yes, you should most definitely feel awkward at times because when you're doing a customer interview, it's not like a regular conversation like you and I are having today.

[00:30:46] It's it's very much like you allow for long pauses. You ask. Follow-up questions that may be generally you probably wouldn't ask, but you really want to understand what it is that is going on deeper under the surface. So, you just have your list of questions set up, and by the time you've done five or six, you probably don't even have to go off of your script and you don't even have to do it. On your first one. And I always kind of say, have those questions there to help you to make sure that you're going through and getting the stuff that you really want to ask. Or if they're very like short-spoken, they don't have long answers or maybe they're just in a hurry and they're not really willing to share a whole lot use your script to kind of help you.

[00:31:27] But the majority of what you want to do is, follow their lead and follow that conversation and kind of let it go wherever they choose for it to go. One of my biggest tips for founders, especially founders if you're doing an interview with your customers, you will want to fix the problem when you say, so tell me what's most frustrating to you about our product or what's something, a problem that you wish you could change?

[00:31:55] You're going to want to say, Oh wait, no, no, but that you're using it wrong or that's not how it's intended or let me tell you how to do that better. That's not the way it's supposed to go. And the moment you find yourself wanting to fix it, you need to stop, and you need to say, Oh wow, that's really interesting.

[00:32:10] Can you tell me more about why you felt this way or why you said that, because if you are trying to then explain to them how things are supposed to be, you've centered the conversation on yourself and the product again, and you're no longer learning from your customer. And it's really hard. I take every customer discovery interview that I can, as somebody who uses a lot of SaaS tools and the people reach out, Hey, can we interview you or curious?

[00:32:39] And as just an interview junkie, I'm like, absolutely yes, I want to tell you all about it. And I've yet to have a founder who doesn't want to defend. Their, their tool, their process, or their decision. When I say, well, I didn't really like this thing. And they'll, they'll say, well you know, you were confused.

[00:32:58] You didn't know like one of my most recent I'll give you a really good example. I was going through buying a tool that I use, pretty frequently. And there was that whole toggle between an annual and a monthly price, right? Like that's the new thing you can do now. And I wanted to play the monthly price.

[00:33:17] So I was like, okay, that's a monthly price. I can pay for a great way to check out the checkout did not enable you to toggle to the monthly price. So it showed you a monthly price, but you had to pay annually, right? So you had to pay the $500 for the year, rather than like the 35 for the month. And I told the founder, I didn't like that.

[00:33:37] I felt like that was a bait and switch.  And instead of the founder saying. Okay. That's really interesting. Why did you feel like that was the bait and switch? Tell me more about that. The founder said, Oh, I'm so sorry. You were confused by the toggle switch and didn't see, yada, yada, yada, and explained himself.

[00:33:52] And I, I didn't respond back, but I kind of wanted to say, no, I got it. Like I saw the toggle. I know that it works. But then when I went to check out, you didn't allow me to pay monthly. And that was frustrating. So I just abandoned the cart completely. But that founder missed out on that, that piece of information that I think as a founder would have been, could have been quite insightful, you know?

[00:34:14] So if you find yourself wanting to defend, stop and ask deeper questions, and that piece of advice for the interview is really going to allow you to, to have a better understanding really, and, and to keep the conversations focused on your customers.

Omer Khan: [00:34:30] Yeah. I think there's a, there's some really great tips there. There's probably a couple of things that I can probably want to add on to that just from like talking to people as I've coached them through doing like customer development interviews that, which I think is, is there's a lot of overlap with that is, is that first of all, I really liked what you said about, you know, having these questions. And then also these follow-up questions and making sure that they're open-ended and if you're, if you're asking like closed-ended questions and you're going to get a yes or no, then you are going to end up in a weird situation because it's not going to feel like you're learning much. The other thing I've, I've suggested to people which has been helpful is like, like, think about like the worst possible answer somebody could give you if you ask this question and cause I think there's always this fear that I'm going to ask this question. Like, like I said earlier, they're going to go, well, because right. And then it's like, okay, well, if somebody asks you that, what are you, how are you going to follow up? What kind of questions can you have?

[00:35:25] And I think if you think a little bit about your worst-case scenario actually coming true, then you're a little bit more prepared. But, but the other thing that I found also, and it kind of also applies to during this podcast is that I started out spending a lot of time having scripts and questions, and it was kind of like a useful crutch to have.

[00:35:45] But what I think really helped me was to transition from having a list of questions to ask to really being more curious. And I think that curiosity, if you can nurture that and really think about what, what are all the things in your mind that you really want to know about this person or this situation?

[00:36:08] I think that kind of helps to have a more meaningful question or conversation. And ultimately, I think what you just said, I think is like, that's the biggest thing is it probably is like, if your customer is not doing 80% of the talking, then you're probably doing something wrong. And if, and if a founder feels like they have to sort of defend the product it program is they're doing a lot more talking than, than they should be.

Adrienne Barnes: [00:36:32] Yeah, that's so true. And the hard part of it is to listen and not go in, like I say, have your list of questions and a script so safe. If you feel like you'd need it. But don't use that as a checklist.  I've been on quite a few customer discovery interviews where it's like question one, okay, dah, dah, dah. All right. Good check. Now question two, dah, dah, dah. All right, good and there's no like, Oh my goodness. Yeah. Like you said, just really stay curious about your customer. Keep the conversation focused on them, on their experience, on what they've got going on. And listen, listening is really hard when you're not used to it and to be an active listener and slow the conversation down, slow your conversation down, allow for long pauses after the customer has made a statement, because they're going to want to fill that time up. Right. So if you fill it up, if you move ahead, you've lost potential for some really cool and neat information. So I agree with that.

[00:37:32] Yeah. It's listening is hard. Another thing is like, just not to get the most value out of these conversations. It's not about, upselling them either, or really trying to like sneakily, tell them about your product, you know, save those kinds of conversations, your CX conversations, your, your feature request conversations or your upselling conversations for a completely different time.

[00:37:56] Really focus and know that this time that these interviews are really just about, I want to uncover everything I can about you imagine this is like a first date, right. And you're just really interested. Who are you? What's going on? What do you do? Like, why do you use this thing? Where do you go?  This is your time to really get to know them and, and use that time wisely and the insights and the value will be there for sure.

Omer Khan: [00:38:19] Yup. I love that. Okay. Tell me about how to, once people have done these interviews, they may have lots of notes. There may be an audio recording. There may be a transcript, and often when I've spoken to, to teams have gone out and done customer interviews. It sort of feels like the information is all over the place.

[00:38:44] And so you sit down and it's like, well, somebody will say, well, I heard them say this and somebody else will be like, well, you know, this was the thing that stood out for me or, and it sort of is there's no structure to it. And that's kind of quite natural because it was this open conversation, and it wasn't like filling out a survey where you get some clean, structured data back.

[00:39:05] But how do you then take an interview? And, and you, you sort of mentioned, say like, like how, how to sort of code the information? What do you do to turn this into a more structured set of information that people can do something with?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:39:20] Yeah, so, in order to code the data, it's so interesting that you say that because I was in the midst of this kind of project just a couple of days ago where I'm finishing up a really large buyer percenter project for a client of mine.

[00:39:33] And we got to the part where I was doing the coding of the data, where I was really going through every single transcript, reading them, copying and pasting it into my, my, my document. And so here's how that works for me. When I create my interview questions, what I'm looking for is to answer those knowledge gaps, right?

[00:39:54] So there's always a process. So when we've addressed what these knowledge gaps are, I will then go through and make the knowledge gaps or the questions, basically a title in an empty Google doc. And I like to color code it because my brain sees colors really well. So. Some important things that I like to put in for, for my buyer personas is their roles.

[00:40:17] What roles do the people play in the company, their relationships, the rituals that they produce every single day, the job to be done, obviously. And then each client has their own different questions in their own things that they were looking for audience most recently wanted to know what was the tech stack that people were looking at and what was the project workflow that people went through different clients have wanted to know what kind of relationship status they are in. Like, as in are they married, single other clients have wanted to know where are they located or just different kinds of information that can really add clarity and help motivate and like translate into sales or the content marketing.

[00:40:59] So when I'm going through my transcripts and you had mentioned like potentially they have transcripts or potentially they have recorded. I would say most definitely to do this process in order for it to make a difference across the company, you must record and you must have transcripts. If these are just, Oh, I'm just the founder of one and I'm doing these interviews and I'm making notes in my notepad.

[00:41:24] What you are doing is you're keeping that information to yourself and on your desk. It's not going to be able to be used company-wide and eventually the goal is that you are not just a company of one, so you want to be able to continue on and grow this information. So, make sure that you do have recordings, that you do have transcripts.

[00:41:41] And then in order to really turn that, all that data, you've got 20 conversations, right? 20, 30-minute conversations that you need to turn into, actually something that's beneficial. It's kind of the painstakingly tedious process of just reading through the transcripts, finding out what were the answers that they used copying and pasting it onto the right bucket, essentially.

[00:42:05] And then once I have them divided out into their topic, it becomes really clear what was repeated, what information was most important to most of our buyers. And that's really how I know, Oh, this is a trait, or this is what's important, or this is the same tool, whatever the question may be that are our best buyers are really doing.

[00:42:26] This is a commonality between all of our best buyers. And that's what informs the best buyer persona for me.  On top of that survey data, and the digital analysis. All of those things come together and are able to inform the entire information of the buyer persona.

Omer Khan: [00:42:43] Okay, perfect. So we've got all of this data and we, we were probably ready to start turning it into a persona or multiple personas. How do you go about deciding how many personas to create? Like what would be the logical way to sort of think about different ways you might want to segment your customers?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:43:11] Right. This is good. So in the buyer persona world, when people consult on doing buyer personas, I researched and found that some people are out there saying, Oh, well, for this much money, you get five personas or we'll find your top seven personas.

[00:43:26] And I'm kind of once again, scratching my head saying, how do you know how many personas they have before you've ever had a conversation? Looked into anybody's data. How is that even possible? And I, you know, I don't think it is. I think if we're looking at the job that the customers are trying to accomplish, that our best buyers are really after, that probably limits the number of personas out there, but it's also very dependent on each client and each customer.

[00:43:51] So when I start out, I kind of like, we, we segment a little bit once again, by your, your best, your myth. And your greatest enemies.  And from there we really pull it into the side. W w who are these people, what are they trying to do? And there's, it's not really like I go in knowing we're going to find three personas.

[00:44:12] The information and how we know how many personas develop during the process. Sometimes there's very clearly two different people. We have users and we have buyers. So then we can create those two personas because they're vastly different in the job that they're trying to accomplish. Sometimes there's only one best buyer. Like one job that needs to be done, but then we can create where we really fill in some better data, more detailed information about different segments within that one large buyer persona.

[00:44:43] So it really does depend on the client, but I just say, don't go, don't start your project knowing you need to find three personas or whatever your situation may be. Let the data lead that and inform that decision along the way.

Omer Khan: [00:44:55] Okay, great. And then once we have the personas we've created them, let, let's kind of close the loop here and go back to how this helps to create better content.

[00:45:10] So obviously one it's a little bit kind of obvious that if you go through this process, you're going to have better insights into who your customers are, how many segments they can kind of fit into what they care about, what jobs they're trying to get done and so on. So that on its own is, is, is some really useful information to start to create better content.

[00:45:32] But can you, can you maybe give a real-world example of how creating a buyer persona can help to create better content. Like what's your experience being, is there kind of an example you can share?

Adrienne Barnes: [00:45:46] Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, just currently with my most recent client audience, we have created this larger buyer persona and through that realized that there were actually like smaller streams of community or audiences that we wanted to reach.

[00:46:01] And so what we've been able to do is now say, Oh, okay, we know that these are their pain points overall, the users of our tool. But we have very specific communities who come at the tool differently or who are actually using it differently. And through doing the buyer persona, I know what their keywords are.

[00:46:19] I call them relational keywords. It's how this community, this buyer uses what words they use most frequently when they're talking about your product or your tool. So I combine that with SEO keywords and those help to inform a really detailed and precise content strategy. So that's kind of what we've done with audiences where we've said.

[00:46:42] You know, we, now we now know who the very larger buyer persona is and what their job is doing. And now we're creating smaller content strategies for smaller segments of our audience and our communities to really make sure that we are able to pinpoint pain points and, and the buyer journeys, and it's helped to inform all of that kind of just that really good engaging community-building type content, where it's talking about interests and things that are specific timely kind of content that's very specific to that one community. And had we not known the larger buyer persona, the larger job that the best buyers we're trying to accomplish with this tool, we would not have been able to even see the smaller streams and these smaller communities that emerged from that. And that's gonna enable us to really create the type of content that's really specific.

[00:47:35] And, and I think timely for right now, people are really looking for a community for high quality and engagement and not just SEO-type listicles and things like that. Like, it becomes much more specific to, to what your customers are needing. And so that's one very like real-world example that I'm in the middle of right now on how just really one buyer persona understanding who our best buyers are translates into shifting an entire content strategy. Like this has really moved how we've thought and seen our content and our content development in the past.

Omer Khan: [00:48:11] Awesome. Yeah. And I think beyond being able to hopefully create more useful content and more relevant content for your different personas. The beauty of this process is that it doesn't just stop there.

[00:48:27] If you're, if you're using this for content marketing and you know, so much more about them, the language they use, the terms they use, the things they think about, the things they want to get done that can then just lead on from an article you write to the copy that they see on a landing page or the types of content you might write in an email drip or nurturing sequence.

[00:48:56] So it's, it's again, like we talked about earlier, it kind of, it's not something just that gets used for content or by the marketing team. It's something that can work across the board, but there's also this this sort of more seamless journey you can take people across where it's like, I'm reading an article, i, this connects with me, you're talking about my pains and then suddenly I end up on a landing page on your website and you're talking about something completely different, and then you've lost me. And so this, this can actually help to connect those dots a lot better as well.

Adrienne Barnes: [00:49:30] Absolutely. And in my content strategies, the way I formulate it is one piece of that is what I call a content upgrade like a deliverable or a webinar.

[00:49:39] What's the thing that we're doing that translate back to this one blog post. So if they're reading a blog post, where else can we send them? Is it a landing page to a downloadable? Is it an upcoming event? Is it a conference? And if those things don't translate. Then, yeah, how frustrating is that? Like, why am I getting an ad or something in the middle of this blog post, it doesn't speak true to what I'm currently experiencing and knowing there, this buyer persona, it does, it allows us to create and not just seamlessly through the marketing journey, but it, I mean, it's been used with my clients for product development. And we've been able to even just in a presentation, one of my clients was like, Oh my gosh, that explains why they behave this way. Reading this piece of information tells me now, like what product that we need to be working on in six months from now. It really does need to be something that is used across the board because it's your customers, it's your customers' data.

[00:50:35] It's their words. It's their, it's their everything. And so it's a discovery sprint for development, and it's a buyer persona for marketing. It really can become something that is utilized and should be iterated on as you go along.

Omer Khan: [00:50:49] Awesome. Well, Adrienne, thank you and  for showing us a better way to create buyer personas that actually are useful and get used across the organization.

[00:51:01] I think we covered a lot of really useful stuff here. So thank you for sharing that. If people want to find out more, they can go to and learn more about the process and what you do there. And if people wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that.

Adrienne Barnes: [00:51:17] I'm on Twitter, a ridiculous amount, so @AdrienneNakohl on Twitter,, there's a contact form. If you have any questions about a buyer persona, if you're in the middle of a buyer persona process, I'd love to hear from your community, reach out.  I have some templates. I'm not a huge fan of templates, but it's a, it's a start.

[00:51:35] If you'd like to see those, I'm always happy to share. Thank you so much, Omer. This has been amazing. I'm so glad I got to come today.

Omer Khan: [00:51:42] Yeah, I know.  Thank you so much for making the time. And I kind of really enjoy this and you know, I was kinda curious about personas as well. So, you helped answer a lot of questions that I had is about the process.

[00:51:52] So thank you. Yeah. I wish you all the best. And thanks again for joining me.

Adrienne Barnes: [00:51:56] Thank you so much. Have a good day.

Omer Khan: [00:51:58] You too. Cheers.

The Show Notes