As a marketer, you put a lot of effort into understanding the people you’re trying to reach, and one of the most important tools you have are buyer personas.
They help you identify valuable characteristics about your audience, such as:
- Their interests and hobbies
- Some common problems and questions they have
- Purchase triggers
But in order to be a useful marketing tool, buyer personas must be based on actual information. Marketers can use data and interviews to build personas, but there’s also a powerful internal source you can use—one that’s easy to overlook if your company’s departments are siloed.
Why You Should Collaborate with Sales and Customer Service on Personas
Leaving the sales and customer service teams out of the process of creating personas is a huge missed opportunity, as they can potentially be a valuable resource for improving the accuracy of your buyer personas.
1. They know your customers better.
Your sales and customer service teams interact with leads and/or customers on a day-to-day basis. What they see as an everyday part of their job is gold to the marketing department.
“In general, salespeople are, in most organizations, so much closer to the customer than marketers ever will be,” says Erika Heald, Marketing Consultant.
A retail sales rep could tell you if customers tend to prioritize fit, color, or cost when picking out a new shirt. Including notes on the decision-making process behind each purchase in your persona will then guide your team in creating marketing materials that directly address the things your customers are most concerned about.
2. Sales knows the leads that didn’t become customers better.
Another important point Heald brought up is that the sales team doesn’t just know your customers, they also spend time with the leads who didn’t convert. For marketers, knowing which types of leads don’t convert—and why—is just as valuable.
In some cases, that information can help you figure out aspects of your marketing strategy that aren’t working, and in other cases, it can help you determine anti-personas—people who aren’t a fit for your brand or service, and therefore aren’t worth wasting marketing resources on.
If the stores of a high-cost beauty brand get a lot of foot traffic from college-aged women who walk out disappointed after checking the price tags, your sales team can report on that. You’ll know to age up your personas so you’re reaching women with more established careers and a higher income to match.
3. Customer service knows who your best customers are.
Marketing isn’t just about generating new leads, it’s about creating a brand that keeps customers coming back. Customer service teams “offer insight into the personas that are most like the end user of your product or service,” says Heald.
The departments that work with customers every day get to know them well and can help identify your customer advocates, and when you know who your best customers are, you can create a persona that targets leads that look like them.
Collaboration with your customer service team also gives you the chance to train them on persona cues to pay attention to their interactions and start tracking. That results in better data on how different types of customers use your products and the specific issues they have, which you can use to craft a more data-driven marketing strategy.
Tips for Successful Collaboration
Making the decision to collaborate with other departments when creating buyer personas is one thing—actually executing the idea is a lot harder. All departments have their own priorities and goals, and getting them to work with you can be a challenge. Heald has a few suggestions to help with that.
1. Conduct meetings with relevant departments.
Set up meetings with the head of each department you want to work with. If your marketing team hasn’t made the effort to form relationships with the other teams in the past, you may have to do some convincing. At companies where departments have traditionally been siloed, employees sometimes view other departments as competition rather than collaborators.
Be prepared for the possibility that you’ll need to earn the trust of the other departments before they’ll willingly cooperate. That starts by meeting with them and actively listening.
“If you’re proactively asking for feedback and demonstrating you value it, that builds trust,” says Heald. “It all starts with a conversation.”
2. Be accommodating.
The people you want to hear from have their own set of goals and priorities to worry about. “Make it easy for them,” says Heald. Try to figure out ways to work around their needs.
“If they’re too busy to attend a meeting, be flexible. If they don’t have time to do an in-person meeting, conduct it via email or Slack,” she suggests.
3. Be persistent.
If you try once or twice and don’t get an answer, it may be tempting to throw your hands in the air and assume it’s pointless. But it can take time to get other teams on board with helping you out. “Be persistent,” says Heald. “Don’t take no for an answer.”
Having a good persona will ultimately benefit the departments you’re working with. Sales will get better qualified leads, which saves them time and effort, and attracting more of the kinds of customers who love your products will make your customer support staff’s jobs easier too. So don’t feel bad if it takes a while to get a response—the payoff is worth it!
Better Collaboration Means Better Business Results
Buyer personas help you understand who you’re talking to so you know what messaging will resonate. By working with different teams that spend time every day with your target audience, you can not only launch better marketing campaigns and achieve stronger results, but also establish mutual trust that will serve you well for future initiatives.