Conduct Insightful Persona Interviews


The Ultimate Persona Interview Guide

Truly effective marketing begins with a deep understanding of our buyers yet gaining this insight is not easy It takes dedication, specialized skills and a lot of patience. But I promise it’s worth the effort! When well executed personas can help you accelerate demand, increase conversion rates, secure loyalty and improve your relationship with sales.

Unfortunately, there is no substitute for hard work. Your personas will only be as helpful as the quality of the research you conduct. And while you will augment interviews with surveys and online research you can not generate personas of value without validating your work with solid interviews.

Before scheduling any interviews you’ll want to develop an interview guide. While the guide should not be a rigid script, it is an extremely useful tool for fostering a quality conversation.

Using a variety of questions spurs the most insightful discussions that can later be used to find patterns. Each interview you conduct should be comprised of five parts:

  1. Organizational Context –  I like to start with these questions because it warms up the discussion by putting the participant at ease. It’s a great way to build a rapport between you and the interviewee. Here you will ask your interview subject about their role within the organization you hope to study, their buying authority and most valued team experiences.
  2. Personality Attributes  Although we’re focused on business-related insights that can be applied to real tactical execution, don’t be tempted to skip this section! While it probably doesn’t matter if your interviewee is a cat or dog person (unless you own a pet store) it is critical that you understand how they think. The right personality questions will help you build an emotional, not just logical connection with your buyer. In this section you’ll ask about their personal hero, how their peers perceive them, perhaps even about their internal voice.  Don’t be afraid to be a little playful with your question – it often unlocks surprisingly insightful responses. For example..If the “voice in your head” giving you advice was a cartoon character who would it be? (For the record mine would be Velma from Scooby Do, but I don’t always listen to her.)
  3. Propensity to Buy – The persona interview is not the time to test specific capabilities of your product but you can use insights to understand how your audience prioritizes the category of offerings relative to other objectives and alternative approaches.
  4. Motivators & Priorities – Understanding what is important to your buyer is essential to building an offering that is compelling. In this section you’ll probe for how they are measured and what they value as personal success. When this portion of a persona is well researched it’s easy to go through a list of all your benefits & capabilities and select the value messages that are most likely to resonate for a particular audience.
  5. Content Clues  One of the most immediate values a persona can provide is to offer guidance on the type of content that will attract your audience. In this section you’ll test a series of ideas. While you may find specific pieces to produce, the purpose of this exercise is to identify topics of interest and to test how your audience responds to different formats such as How to Guides vs. Research.

For tons of sample questions and answers to all your interviewing questions check out The Ultimate Guide to Conducting Insightful Persona Interviews which was produced with my friends at CINTELL. It requires a two question registration which I hope you’ll find well worth it.

Thinking about conducting persona research? You might also find these resources helpful: