Iterative Marketing Podcast Episode 13: Tools & Tips For Effective Persona Research

A well researched buyer persona can unify an entire organization around a central vocabulary and target. Leverage these seven (mostly free) sources for buyer persona research.

Episode Show Notes

Introduction To Effective Persona Research

(0:00 – 2:07) Introduction To Iterative Marketing Podcast: Welcome to the Iterative Marketing Podcast, where, each week, hosts Steve Robinson and Elizabeth Earin provide marketers and entrepreneurs with actionable ideas, techniques, and examples to improve marketing results. The topic of this episode is Persona Research.

The resources discussed on the show can be found at, which includes a blog and a LinkedIn group for community interaction.

Defining Buyer Personas

(2:07 – 4:59) Research, Benefits, and Execution: Buyer personas are fictional representations of buyer segments that help businesses understand their customers and influence their buying decisions. This understanding fosters empathy and sets companies apart from competitors. Personas apply to both B2C and B2B businesses, and the benefits include shared vocabulary, focus, and better-targeted marketing efforts. Utilizing resources like buyer persona templates and on-demand buyer persona webinars can help businesses execute persona research effectively and improve their marketing strategies.

Sources For Crafting Accurate and Empathetic Buyer Personas

(4:59 – 5:56)  Seven Sources for Research: To create accurate and empathetic buyer personas, businesses must draw from a variety of sources to build a comprehensive understanding of their customers. Some sources may be more applicable to B2B or B2C, but combining these sources effectively will allow marketers to achieve their goals better. 

(5:56 – 7:40) Source One – Institutional Knowledge: Institutional knowledge from sales, customer service, and other frontline team members is crucial for effective persona development. Involving these team members in the process not only ensures that important insights are included but also fosters better communication and buy-in across the organization. Companies that neglect to include these team members risk developing incomplete or inaccurate personas, which can lead to major issues down the line.

(7:40 – 10:11) Source Two – Social Media Profiles: Social media profiles, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, can be valuable tools for persona research in both B2B and B2C markets. Examining customer backgrounds, interests, and interactions can reveal key insights. However, it’s important to be aware of potential biases, such as outdated information from long-term employees or skewed perspectives based on roles or territories. Additionally, relying solely on social media profiles may result in a bias towards digitally connected customers, potentially overlooking less digitally active personas.

(10:11 – 12:26) Source Three – Trade Publications and Business Media: Trade publications and business media can provide valuable insights into customer pain points, aspirations, and industry trends when conducting persona research, particularly for B2B markets. Articles, interviews, and profiles within these publications can offer a unique perspective on target personas. However, it’s essential to be aware of potential biases, such as inconsistency between industries or a focus on “hot topics” that may not accurately represent customers’ day-to-day concerns. Balancing these sources with other research methods can help create a more comprehensive understanding of target personas.

(12:26 – 13:40) Source Four – Web and Social Analytics: Web and social analytics, such as Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics, can provide valuable demographic and interest-based insights for persona research. These analytics can help narrow down age ranges, geographic clusters, and specific interests for target personas. However, the data’s effectiveness relies on proper segmentation and may be subject to digital bias due to cookie tracking. Despite these challenges, structured and quantitative data from the web and social analytics can be a valuable resource in persona research when used alongside other methods.

(13:40 – 14:46) Source Five – Social Communities: Social communities such as Quora, Reddit, and industry forums can be valuable sources of information for persona research. They offer a platform for targeted searches and direct interaction with the target audience, providing firsthand feedback and insights into their passions and concerns. However, this research method may lean towards digitally connected consumers and may not be as effective in capturing insights from those less active online. Despite this digital bias, social communities can offer a unique opportunity to understand target personas directly from their perspectives.

(14:46 – 17:48) Source Six – Social Listening: Social listening is a powerful method for understanding target personas by aggregating and analyzing data from social media conversations. However, it faces challenges such as expensive tools or the need for manual labor to analyze large datasets of unstructured data. With a range of tools available, from freemium models to enterprise-level options, businesses must balance their budget and resources when incorporating social listening into their persona research. As these tools become more refined and accessible, the potential for social listening to contribute to persona development will continue to grow.

(17:48 – 20:23) Source Seven – Primary and Secondary Research Methods: Primary and secondary research methods are essential for understanding target personas. Secondary research, including studies and reports from government agencies, industry publications, and trade organizations, offers valuable insights at a lower cost. However, when this data is unavailable, primary research, such as surveys or working with a marketing research firm, may be required. Primary research can provide more detailed and accurate data, but it comes with higher costs and resource requirements. Balancing these factors, businesses should use both primary and secondary research methods to develop a comprehensive understanding of their target personas.

Charity Outreach

(20:23 – 21:11) Charity Break: The Salvation Army Echelon 

Keys to Success in Persona Research

(21:11 – 24:39) Key Points to Consider: To effectively research and create personas, consider these key points:

  • Understand the bias in each source of data, as it will help you build an actionable and realistic persona.
  • Identify patterns and significance in the data, differentiating between anecdotal data points and consistent trends.
  • Accept that you won’t have all the answers, and be prepared to fill in the gaps with your own experiences and assumptions.

Remember that personas are living documents that can evolve and change as you learn more about your audience, and if something doesn’t feel right, test and refine it until you create a persona that accurately represents your target audience.

Persona Research Process

(24:39 – 25:34) Step One – Preliminary Research: Before starting the process of persona research, conduct preliminary research to gather the information that will help facilitate conversations with your internal team members.

  • Review your CRM database and look for trends, patterns, and segments of your audience.
  • Analyze your web analytics to understand your audience’s behavior, interests, and demographics.
  • Consider both new and existing perspectives within your organization to ensure the information is up-to-date and unbiased.

Preliminary research helps ensure that you have a solid foundation for understanding your audience and can guide the conversation effectively when discussing the persona with your team.

(25:34 – 27:10) Step Two – Discovery Meeting: After conducting preliminary research, hold a discovery meeting with representatives from the front line of your organization to discuss the personas and understand the edges between them.

  • Invite representatives from various departments, including sales, customer service, and marketing, to ensure a well-rounded perspective.
  • Avoid presenting a roughed-out persona; instead, start with a blank slate to encourage unbiased input.
  • Use a list of facilitation questions to guide the discussion and gather information about your audience.
  • Focus on identifying the distinct personas within your audience and establishing clear boundaries between them.
  • Remember that fewer personas are easier to manage and refine, so aim for a manageable number.

The discovery meeting helps establish a solid foundation for your persona research by identifying key characteristics, segments, and edges between personas, as well as gaining buy-in from front-line team members.

(27:10 – 27:44)  Step Three –  Conduct In-Depth Research: After the discovery meeting, use the information gathered to guide your in-depth research using various methods to collect the necessary data to create well-defined personas.

  • Refer to the insights and information gathered from your internal teams during the discovery meeting.
  • Choose the research methods that are best suited for your goals and audience, as discussed earlier in the podcast.
  • Utilize social media resources, surveys, interviews, and other methods to gather quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Analyze the data, looking for patterns, commonalities, and trends to better understand your audience.
  • Identify and address any biases, and ensure the data collected is representative of your target audience.

In-depth research is crucial to building accurate and actionable personas. By using the right research methods and drawing from a variety of sources, you can create well-defined personas that effectively represent your target audience and guide your marketing efforts.

(27:44 – 29:52) Step Four – Analyze and Refine: After conducting in-depth research, analyze the data and identify patterns to refine your personas. Adjust and split personas as needed to create distinct, actionable segments that can be targeted effectively.

  • Organize the collected data into a format that allows for easy analysis, such as an Evernote notebook, Word document, or Excel spreadsheet.
  • Analyze the data separately from the research process to avoid giving undue importance to anecdotal stories.
  • Identify patterns and commonalities that help refine your personas, their characteristics, and the distinctions between them.
  • Adjust the delineations between personas based on job titles, ages, or other relevant criteria.
  • Split personas when necessary and feasible, considering whether the differences are significant enough to warrant separate targeting strategies.

By analyzing the data and refining your personas, you can create distinct, actionable segments that enable you to target your marketing efforts more effectively. Recognizing patterns and adjusting personas as needed will ensure that your marketing communications are tailored to the unique needs and preferences of each audience segment.

(29:52 – 32:05) Step Five – Draft, Refine, and Share: Draft your persona, gather feedback, and refine it, then share the final version with the rest of the organization. Keep in mind that personas are living documents that can be continuously improved as you learn more about your target audience.

  • Draft your persona, including a picture and a name to facilitate empathy and relatability.
  • Label your persona as a draft and call for a refinement meeting with your internal teams to gather feedback and make adjustments.
  • Make the necessary tweaks based on feedback from the refinement meeting.
  • Publish the final version of the persona in a format that is easy to share with the rest of the organization.
  • Remember that personas are living documents, and establish a process for continuous improvement and updating as you gather more information and insights.

Feel free to share your persona with different departments, such as marketing, management, business development, research and development, sales, customer service, and human resources. Sharing the persona helps align the entire organization around the target audience and contributes to a more effective and unified marketing strategy. 

Additionally, feedback from various departments will help further refine and improve the persona over time.

Join Us Next Time

(32:05 – 33:23Conclusion: Today’s episode focused on persona research. Next week we’ll discuss how to take these personas and create a Persona Matrix.

Have a great week and we’ll see you next time. This concludes this week’s episode. For notes and links to resources discussed on the show, sign up to the Brilliant Metrics newsletter.

Iterative Marketing is a part of the Brilliant Metrics organization. If you would like more information on the marketing services provided by the expert team at Brilliant Metrics, reach out today for a free discovery call.

The Iterative Marketing Podcast,  a production of Brilliant Metrics, ran from February 2016 to September 2017. Music by SeaStock Audio.

Learn more about Iterative Marketing and listen to other episodes on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

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