According to a recent Gartner study of 700 buyers across the US, EMEA, Brazil, India, and China, consumers spend only 32% of their purchasing journey interacting with supplier-side content or sales people. The majority of their time is devoted to internal assessments, peer discussion and listening to the recommendations of external experts.

Why? Because there is too much noise out there.

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember when it was exciting to receive an email; now you likely ignore more than eighty percent of them. As consumers, we’re feeling so overwhelmed by the volume of content that we’re turning to other trusted sources.

Many small businesses are adopting content or inbound marketing strategies to attract potential customers; in itself, a good strategy. However, creating content without a clear idea of how it adds value, helps educate and build trust during the purchasing process is a waste of time, and money.

Therefore it is essential to understand the journey a customer typically follows when making a decision to purchase your product.

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing recently interviewed Adele Revella from Buyer Person Institute on his podcast. During the interview, they talked about the need to move upstream in the buying process. As John put it, “somewhere between, I need to go home earlier, and I need an outsourced printing service”.

Most prospects don’t immediately know they need your businesses product or service. They have a problem or a challenge that they need to solve. In this case, the need to go home earlier.

Your goal is to uncover the marketing sweet spot –– that point when a buyer identifies a problem or discovers a need, and you do this by creating buyer personas.

Unfortunately, the mistake most people make is taking a rather simplistic view of how to develop buyer personas. Typically, instead of speaking to customers, we look inward – interviewing sales staff, customer support professionals, and the executive team. No doubt, these people have valuable insight, but the most important interview is with the client.

When it comes to interviewing clients, Revella suggests abandoning the scripted approach and starting with one simple statement:

“Take me back to the day your company first decided they needed a printing solution.”

Keep in mind your aim is to uncover what triggered the buying process and understand how your customer arrived a the decision to purchase your product or service. Listen to their story; the highs and lows of the decision making process; the obstacles they had to navigate in selecting your company; the challenges in making sense of all the information they found along the way.

Revella suggests you can only do this by asking open-ended questions, listening, and probing throughout the interview. Doing this will help you uncover what you did to win their business, and what you need to do in the future to accelerate the process.

Your customer will tell you exactly how they made their purchasing decision, from the moment they identified a need to signing the purchase order. Once complete, for sales and marketing teams, having buyer personas can be like having the answers before the exam.

Another tip, interview at least 8-10 customers, and not just your favourite ones. Often it’s the prospects you didn’t win that can offer the best insights.

If you want to learn more about buyer personas and the buyer’s journey, download a copy of our Digital Distillation Plan.