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20 Questions to Ask When Creating Buyer Personas [Free Template]


Buyer personas are a crucial component of successful inbound marketing, particularly for the sales and marketing departments. After all, the marketing team needs to know to whom they are marketing, and the sales team needs to know to whom they are selling.

But once you sit down to craft your buyer personas, you may find yourself staring blankly at a white screen for some time, wondering where on earth you’re supposed to begin.

Before you spend time and money on research, ask yourself these questions to help you develop your personas, and then use our free buyer persona template to share your personas with the rest of your company. 

Download your free buyer persona template here.

Creating Buyer or Marketing Personas? Ask These Questions

Personal Background

1) Describe your personal demographics.

Collecting demographic information is a great place to begin drafting your personas because it’s easy to obtain and starts to paint a clearer, more personal picture of your customer. Are they married? What’s their annual household income? Where do they live? Are they male or female? How old are they? Do they have children?

2) Describe your educational background.

What level of education did they complete? Which schools did they attend, and what did they study? Get specific here. “Boston University” is better than “liberal arts college.”

3) Describe your career path.

How did they end up where they are today? Did they major in a subject that’s very similar to or very different from their current role? Has their career track been pretty traditional, or did they switch from another industry?


4) In which industry or industries does your company work?

5) What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?

Knowing details about your persona’s company like industry, size, number of employees, and other details will especially help you when you’re building the fields for your landing page forms.


6) What is your job role? Your title?

How long have they had this role and title? Are they an individual contributor, or do they manage other people?

7) Whom do you report to? Who reports to you?

The importance with which you should regard your buyer persona’s job and seniority level certainly depends on the product or service you’re selling.

If you’re a B2C company, you may simply consider this information as another way to better understand nuances of your persona’s life.

If you’re a B2B company, this piece of information becomes more crucial. Is your persona at a managerial or director level, and well versed in the intricacies of your industry? They’ll need less education than someone at an introductory level, who may need to loop in other decision makers before making purchasing decisions.

8) How is your job measured?

Which metric(s) is your persona responsible for? Which numbers or charts or waterfall graphs do they look at every day? This will help you determine what makes them successful, and what they might be worried about when it comes to “hitting their numbers.”

9) What does a typical day look like?

What time do they get to work and what time do they leave? What do they do when they’re most productive? What’s their “busy work” look like?

This should include both the tasks they do for their job, as well as what happens during the day outside their job. Are they spending more time at work or at home? Where would they rather be? What do they like to do for fun? Who are the people in their life that matter most? What kind of car do they drive? Which TV shows do they watch? Heck, what outfit are they wearing? Get personal here.

10) Which skills are required to do your job?

If they were hiring someone to replace them and had to write a job description of what’s actually required, what would it say? What are the ideal skills for this job, and how good is your persona at each of them? Where did they learn these skills? Did they learn them on the job, at a previous job, or by taking a course?

11) What knowledge and which tools do you use in your job?

Which applications and tools do they use every single day? Every week? Understanding what products they love (and hate) to use can help you identify commonalities in your own product (and adjust your positioning accordingly). 


12) What are your biggest challenges?

You’re in business because you’re solving a problem for your target audience. How does that problem affect their day-to-day life? Go into detail, and focus on the nuances that illustrate how that problem makes them feel.

For example, let’s say your company sells personal tax software directly to consumers. One of your personas may be a first-time tax preparer. What are the pain points of first-time tax preparers? They’re probably intimidated by the prospect of doing their taxes by themselves for the first time, overwhelmed by a tax code they don’t understand, and confused about where to start. These pain points differ from those of a seasoned tax preparer, whose pain points may be not knowing how to maximize the amount of their return and find creative loopholes for deductions.

Try coming up with real quotes to refer to these challenges. For example, “It’s been difficult getting company-wide adoption of new technologies in the past;” or “I don’t have time to train new employees on a million different databases and platforms.”


13) What are you responsible for?

This goes beyond the metric(s) they’re measured on. What’s their primary goal at work? What about their secondary goal? Knowing these will help you learn what you can do to help your persona achieve their goals and overcome their challenges.

14) What does it mean to be successful in your role?

What can you do to make your personas look good? Companies that take the time to understand what makes their personas successful will likely enjoy more effective communications from both the sales and marketing teams.

Watering Holes

15) How do you learn about new information for your job?

If you’re going to market and sell to these personas, you need to understand how they consume information. Do they go online, prefer to learn in-person, or pick up newspapers and magazines? If they’re online learners, do they visit social networks? To Google? Which sources do they trust the most — friends, family, coworkers, or industry experts?

16) Which publications or blogs do you read?

In an effort to piece together how a typical day in their life runs, figure out where they regularly go to stay informed. If you know how they prefer to gather information, you can make yourself present in those spots and work on establishing credibility in those communities.

17) Which associations and social networks do you participate in?

You should be investing time and resources on social media marketing, but the question is: Which social networks should you be investing more time and resources than others? Identify the associations and social networks your buyers spend their time. Then, you can prioritize which accounts to create and which conversations to participate in.

Shopping Preferences

18) How do you prefer to interact with vendors?

The experience of purchasing your product should align with your persona’s expectations. What should their sales experience feel like? Is it consultative? How much time do they expect to spend with a sales person? Do they anticipate an in-person meeting, or would they rather conduct the sales process online or over the phone?

19) Do you use the internet to research vendors or products? If yes, how do you search for information?

Again, which avenues are they using to find new information? Do they search online, look at review websites, ask their friends and family, or something else?

20) Describe a recent purchase.

Why did you consider a purchase, what was the evaluation process, and how did you decide to purchase that product or service?

If you can anticipate the objections your persona will have, you can be prepared for them in the sales process and perhaps even educate them in your marketing collateral to help allay fears right away. What might make them reticent to buy from you or any other provider in your industry? Is this their first time purchasing a product or service of your kind? If not, what caused them to switch products or services?

Now What?

Once you’ve gone through this exercise and worked out any lingering questions about what makes your persona tick, browse through some stock imagery and find an actual picture to associate with your persona. Going through this exercise forces you to clarify an image of your target audience in your entire organization’s mind that will help keep your messaging consistent.

Another useful exercise is to practice being able to identify your buyer persona so you can tailor your communications. How will you know when you’re talking to this persona? Is it their job title? Something about the way they talk or carry a conversation? Their pain points? How they found your company? Once you’ve established not only who your persona is, but also how you can identify them when you encounter one or another, your employees will be able to maintain a consistent voice that is still customized to each person they talk to.

Then, use our free, downloadable persona template to organize the information you’ve gathered about your persona. Share these slides with the rest of your company so everyone can benefit from the research you’ve done and develop an in-depth understanding of the person (or people) they’re targeting every day at work.

Have you developed buyer personas for your company yet? What helpful questions did you ask yourself in the process that weren’t included on this list?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free buyer persona creation template

free buyer persona creation template




8 Modern Tips for Marketing to Millennials

There are currently 80 million Millennials in the U.S. – nearly one-fourth of the total population. And, with an annual buying power of $200 billion, they are the most lucrative market. Plain and simple: Nearly every marketer today is making Generation Y a priority – or at least working to understand what drives and delights this instrumental group.

One key element that justifies Millennial domination of the marketplace is the fact this new marketing style – which we’ll delve into in just a minute – isn’t just a fad. Here, we’ll discuss 8 important tactics for marketing to the demographic of the hour and explain why these tactics are lasting ones.

1) Authentic Content Empowers Them

According to AdAge, Millennials are spending an average of 25 hours per week online – and they’re craving content-driven media. They’re scouring websites, blogs, and social media because they feel empowered by all of the remarkable content they’re discovering. They’re also sharing, liking, pinning, tweeting, snapping, forwarding, and commenting on all of their findings to impart this sense of empowerment to the online community. So, what makes this type of content really resonate with this group? Millennials trust what they feel is authentic.

Interacting in a user-centric environment is what engages them, as 43 percent of Millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. Today, young shoppers’ attitudes and behavior are largely inspired by people they know in person or online, or even strangers who share their interests on social networks. Millennials carry these “advisors” with them on their smartphones and everywhere they go. They trust relevant, authentic opinions from real product users they can relate to. In fact, 84 percent of Millennials say user-generated content has at least some influence on what they buy, and 73 percent say it’s important to read others’ opinions before purchasing.

For brands that want to successfully reach Gen Y-ers, they simply need to speak their language. People ages 18 to 34 will perk up when hearing or reading words that could have come from the mouths of their peers, as these messages warrant comfort and trust. When you offer your audience content they would proudly share with others, you’re building a real brand-consumer relationship.

Taco Bell successfully speaks to Millennials with their creative “Millennial Word of the Week” tactic. The brand incorporates the lingo of their young consumers, which is curated by company employees in their 20s, into its messaging. Here’s an example of how Taco Bell works to speak to its young audience in a relatable way.


2) Outbound Marketing is Out

Millennials want to feel connected and involved when it comes to their purchases, and traditional marketing does not encourage this. Outbound marketing methods, like magazine ads, direct mail campaigns, and radio spots, do not impress Millennials. In the mind of a young consumer, these campaigns are impersonal and company-focused, filled with logos and void of any real substance. This generation demands more customer-driven, personalized marketing. A 2014 survey, Engaging Millennials: Trust and Attention Survey, reveals that 84 percent of Millennials don’t trust traditional advertising.

This Medill Northwestern University pop-up ad is an example of outbound marketing that comes across as disruptive, annoying, and unsolicited. Millennials know what they want and, since they’re so digitally savvy, know how to find it online. That’s why these young consumers do a lot of their research via blogs, forums, and YouTube videos. If they decide they want to go for their master’s degree, odds are that an in-your-face pop-up ad wasn’t the deciding factor (not to mention they’re surely taxed by student loan debt). While the ad is relevant to the person’s search history and may put the idea in the their head, seeing it wasn’t their choice. Millennials feel empowered to make their own online choices – which are usually inspired by their peers or other authentic content.

3) Inbound Marketing is, Well, In

Millennials support businesses that are dedicated to improving their customers’ lives with informative content. Rather than product and service listings, Millennials want e-books, whitepapers, blog posts, videos, and other how-to information – and that’s inbound marketing. They appreciate thought leadership and expertise, so this is your company’s chance to provide killer content that ranks highly in Google and show young consumers that you’re the industry buff – especially since Millennials are 44% more likely to trust experts (who happen to be strangers); they are 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social networking sites.

Mac Cosmetics’ YouTube page is a great example of how brands can offer their audience how-to’s from the experts. People want helpful guidance, and when your company takes the time to provide that, they appreciate it and respect what you stand for. Mac is giving young viewers exactly what they want, where they’ll find it. 60% of Millennials (vs. 29% of non-Millennials) are engaged in uploading videos, images, and blog entries to the Web – so utilizing YouTube is perfect. A Millennial makeup lover is much more likely to tell her friends to check out Mac’s makeup tutorials than show her friends a print ad of Mac talking about how great they are. 

Mac Cosmetics’ YouTube page is a great example of how brands can offer their audience how-to’s from the experts. People want helpful guidance, and when your company takes the time to provide that, they appreciate it and respect what you stand for. Mac is giving Millennials exactly what they want, where they’ll find it. A Millennial makeup lover is much more likely to tell her friends to check out Mac’s makeup tutorials than show her friends a print ad of Mac talking about how great they are.

4) Organically Made For Them = Notable

Millennials want to feel like your content was created with their interest (not their wallet) in mind. When this is the case, they are more organically introduced to purchasing your products or services. Without ever being “pushy,” your educational content helps build strong brand-consumer relationships. People appreciate honesty, and brands with transparent campaigns win.

And, what’s more transparent than encapsulating the spontaneous adventures of travellers in hostels – with skinny dipping? Hostelworld’s new Meet the World advertising campaign, which features genuine travellers that are strangers upon meeting and share a once in a lifetime adventure of skinny dipping, celebrates real travellers in real places who crave adventures, not souvenirs. This successfully speaks to Millennials because it screams “Live!” instead of “Buy!” – and that’s something that’ll stick with them. Most young people would rather have an unforgettable experience than seek out luxury, and Hostelworld gets that. 

5) Content Marketing is Forever Enticing 

If you think content marketing is a passing trend, think again! Here are some key examples of how content marketing has succeeded over the years:

  • 1895: John Deere introduces The Furrow, a free publication with tons of farming tips and techniques to help farmers become more profitable. Today, it’s available in more than 40 countries and in 12 different languages.
  • 1900: Michelin Tires released a 400-page auto maintenance guide with everyday drivers in mind, and also included travel tips. 35,000 copies were distributed free of charge before the company started selling the manual for a profit.
  • 1904: Jell-O circulated free copies of its own cookbook, highlighting creative ways to use the unique product. In 2 years, the company saw sales increase to over $1 million annually.
  • 1966: Nike released a 19-page booklet titled Jogging. It was filled with advice on enjoying running as a recreational activity, including posture and striking tips. This brought running, as a sport, to America, and it never once mentioned a Nike shoe.

We know that Millennial consumers value awesome, authentic content – so it looks like content marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. The inbound methodology, with its emphasis on strong and consistent content creation, is not a fad and will continue to win over your ideal customers. 

6) Collaboration is Key 

Today, Millennials are interested in having a say and becoming product co-creators. In fact, 42 percent said they are interested in helping companies develop future products and services. In our society, companies usually create products and hope that their target market will consume them. When it comes to Millennials, they want to be more involved with how products get created. So, companies that enable them to be part of the product development process will be more successful. Marketers need to focus on building relationships with consumers by fueling their self-expression and helping them establish their own personal brand.

Coca-Cola used online co-creation to gather expressions of its brand promise “Energizing refreshment.” They prompted their audience to unleash their creativity by interpreting Coca-Cola as an energizing refreshment in whatever style or format they wished. Coca-Cola gathered these videos, animations, illustrations, and photographs to use in its marketing campaigns worldwide. This method was mutually beneficially in that Millennials all over the world got to pour a bit of themselves into a product made for them, while helping Coca-Cola bring fresh authenticity to the market. 

7) Use > Ownership

Millennials prefer use over ownership, with 35 percent of respondents in a 2014 report from The Intelligence Group saying they would rather pay full price to access an item when they need it as opposed to owning it. These shoppers would rather rent, share, and barter than buy.

In this new “sharing economy,” mobile services and apps such as Spotify and Airbnb, and fashion sites like Rent the Runway and Relapse Clothing, have taken advantage of this crucial opportunity. This is also a new trend in the automotive industry. According to an analysis recently released by car-buying platform Edmunds, Millennials are acquiring cars – they’re just not buying them. Instead, they’re opting to lease more luxurious, tech-forward cars than they could otherwise afford to buy, such as Ram, GMC, and Lexus models. Capitalizing on this “sharing” mentality is a smart move for modern businesses, especially those targeting Millennials. Offer more creative and feasible options so that, in case consumers can’t yet buy, they can at least try. 

8) Millennials Just Want To Have Fun

Young consumers increasingly see the act of researching and browsing for a purchase more compelling than the purchase itself. Millennials tend to crave the experience of shopping more than the purchase. In other words, online exploration is becoming more than a means to an end, with many young shoppers viewing e-commerce as a form of entertainment. This phenomenon has been coined as “Fauxsumerism.” Pinterest is a perfect example of how the shopping journey can also become an act of personal expression. This social platform, which helps users catalog prospective purchases by curating collections of items of interest, accurately reflects the facts that 40 percent of Millennials make wish lists of products they want to buy (The Intelligence Group).

Successful companies understand that young consumers want to have an enjoyable online browsing experience, which is why brands like Etsy show off their products on Pinterest, making perusing and pinning fun and social. No matter what platform you use, you should market to Millennials in entertaining ways in order to effectively engage them and inspire activity.

These 8 tips when marketing to Millennials will endure for years to come because this group is wired for authentic, content-driven, honest experiences that cater to who they are and their voices they yearn to share. Empower them with the pieces they’re looking for in this puzzling world and remind them that, because of their generation, the bigger picture is looking brighter.

Want to effectively engage Millennials? Then delight them where they’re hanging out: social media! Check out the Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing to learn how to do it right! 

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Rethinking Your Buyer Persona: Who is the Real Decision-Maker?


It’s commonly known that buyer personas are essential to any successful inbound marketing strategy. But, in the B2B industry there have been some interesting (and even seismic) shifts in the last two years, causing the need for the buyer personas you created even just six months ago to be re-evaluated and possibly redone. If your B2B inbound marketing strategy has not been as effective as you like, this could be the reason why.

The fact that 89% of B2B researchers are searching online for solutions is not groundbreaking news. What is newsworthy is who these investigators really are in 2015.

The Real Buyer Persona Is The Online Researcher

A common misconception by many B2B marketers is that they should target the final decision makers, or C-suite executives.

When identifying buyer personas, it is crucial to look not just at the top of the funnel, to the financial decision maker who will be saying yes to or approving the contract; but to the layers of influencers along the lead funnel, all of those involved in the buying or decision making process from the very beginning of the research and prospecting phase. Many companies make the mistake of identifying their buyers as only those at the top of the food chain. But is the CEO or CFO the actual person searching Google for solutions? The CEO may identify the challenge, but the research phase is most often someone else’s responsibility.

The reality is that a many of the oldest Millennials (those born from the early 1980s to early 2000s) are in their early 30s, and are now moving up in their careers, playing a bigger part in purchasing decisions. And, of course, while there are some very well-known C-Level Millennials at some of the biggest tech companies, the majority of top B2B executives are Gen X’ers and Boomers.

Just as the entire marketing industry has dramatically shifted in the last few years, so have those sitting in the decision making seat, and even more important to inbound marketers, the researcher’s seat.

The Millennial B2B Buyer

A study, The Changing Face of B2B Marketing, published in March 2015 by Google and Millward Brown Digital, revealed some interesting insights to which every B2B marketer must pay attention.

New Reality: Almost Half of all B2B Researchers are Millennials

Google noted that even just a few years ago, in 2012, the age demographics of B2B buyers were fairly evenly spread across generations. In 2014, that shifted by 70% with almost half of all B2B researchers falling into the 18-34-year-old category.


It’s no surprise that this age group automatically turns to digital channels for any information they might need, personally or professionally. Most Millennials hardly remember a world without the internet and technology as we know it, the majority having used email, search engines and cell phones for most of their lives (and certainly all of their professional careers). It’s how they are naturally inclined to think and act.

New Reality: Non C-Suite Researchers Influence B2B Purchase Decisions

Historically, B2B strategies have focused primarily on C-level executives, which is not as impactful today when connecting with B2B influencers and researchers. The Google study revealed, that while 64% of the C-suite have final say, so do 24% of non-C-level B2B professionals, and 81% of the non-C-suite has a say in purchase decisions.

So, if your B2B company is focused on marketing only to the CEOs and CFOs of the world, you’re likely missing a huge opportunity to be found by the most influential researchers who are seeking you out.

In her book Buyer Personas, Adele Revella, Founder of the Buyer Persona Institute, also discusses this very important topic. She reminds us that the top level executives are not likely involved in the details of how solutions were first discovered, evaluated and decided upon, and therefore are not the primary targets for buyer persona interviews in the development phase. Revella says:

The more senior the buyer, the less likely that person will be to be able to provide important details about how the final outcome came to pass. Add this to the difficulty of scheduling any extended time with the senor C-Suite level executives, and you can see why we don’t often recommend that you interview the economic buyer.”

What Does It All Mean?

Businesses must have a deep understanding of their audience to create the right content for them, at the right time. B2B researchers and influencers are now proven to be much younger than previously thought, so you have to make sure you are giving them the content they want, where and when they need it.

Still stuck in the process of creating the right buyer personas? Download SPROUT Content’s free guide to developing and using buyer personas to help fill your lead funnel with full, clear and helpful content that’s for the right people. 

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What Hollywood and Cats Can Teach You About Creating Marketing Personas


So, it turns out that Hollywood screenwriters have quite a lot in common with professional marketers.

First of all, there are thousands (if not millions) of both of them, all trying to make a living through forging a connection with an audience. Both the screenwriter and marketers’ job is to connect with a particular audience in order to increase sales, whether it’s box office tickets or machine parts, their jobs are very similar.

Most recognize the need to emotionally connect with their audience and most recognize the importance of key ingredients to their job including the need to:

Screenwriter Marketer
Define a hero Define a brand
Provide a goal to strive for  Provide a goal to strive for  
Create an obstacle to overcome  Suggest a problem to solve
Offer a reflection character Offer customer testimonials
Deliver a moral to the story Benefit statements

Both are storytellers. Unfortunately most of them, despite being decent storytellers, are failing to make that emotional connection sufficiently to make a difference and this is of particular interest to me.

The mechanics of a good story have been studied and well documented in both worlds, yet still there is a wealth of stories that just don’t cut the mustard.

Now I love movies, I love writing about marketing and I’m sometimes also guilty of procrastinating over one to talk about the other. One particular afternoon I was having lunch with a friend during a break from researching my book, Getting Goosebumps.

Whilst chatting about what I should have been doing at the time, my good friend, Glynn was listening to me draw parallels between movies and marketing and started to get quite excited. At first, I thought his excitement was due to such a profound parallel I was drawing, however it turned out to be something else. Randomly, Glynn had just read a brilliant book about Hollywood screenwriting. He read this book in less than 48 hours, couldn’t put it down, and the same was about to happen to me. Amazon Prime served me well and in less than a day I was part man, part book for 48 hours too.

The mechanics of good marketing storytelling seem to be a little more basic than the twists and turns, sub-plots and character development you can find in Hollywood. However, I was convinced the two worlds had more to offer each other and this book was about to let me in on the secret that Hollywood had kept from marketers for far too long.

Hollywood screenwriters have been ‘saving cats’ for years – this was the one thing I’d been looking for… Let me explain.

The late Blake Snyder, author of ‘Save the Cat’, sums up the reason for some movies being a hit and others being a complete flop, regardless of budget, lead actors, special effects and every other whistle and bell that Hollywood has to offer.

If you don’t like the hero, you don’t like the movie.

Snyder explains that in the first 10% of all successful Hollywood movies, something happens, something is said or the hero does something to provide a very good reason for the audience to like them. He calls this, the ‘Save the Cat’ moment.

Now, this doesn’t mean all heroes need to physically save a cat from a tree (although that would probably work). But they do need to do something that operates along the same principle.

Even if the hero is the meanest, most evil genius on the planet, if they do something to endear themselves to the audience in the first 10% of the movie, the audience can settle down, content that they like the hero and the story can continue to unfold.

A Modern Example

Disney writers are old masters at this concept. When they first wrote Aladdin, they faced a problem. Aladdin was originally a thief; he stole things from people for his own benefit and he wasn’t such a likable guy. After several re-writes of the screenplay, the opening sequence now included Aladdin stealing some food, only to give it to a couple of street urchins that were in greater need than him.

Just to make sure the likeability factor was as high as possible, the two street urchins immediately found themselves in danger, about to be whipped by a rich suitor for the princess. Who steps in to catch the whip and get the children out of harm’s way? Why it’s our hero, Aladdin, of course!

Aladdin is now safe to continue with the main plot with the full backing of the audience. We like him, we want him to win and it’s all due to the addition of the ‘Save the Cat’ scene.

I could write about these examples all day. Top Gun – Maverick flew back to guide Cougar home after he freaked out at nearly being killed by enemy Migs, despite being low on fuel. Heist – Gene Hackman leaves his mask off during a robbery in order to distract an innocent woman in the bank, despite being caught on the security cameras. You get the idea now, right? 

OK, so now you’re in on the secret mechanism used by great Hollywood screenwriters, what do you do with this information, apart from shout, ‘Save the Cat’ every time you see the scene in a film! (It’s a great game to play but only if everyone is in on it – don’t do this in movie theaters without being prepared to be thrown out!).

How can us marketers use this technique within our story telling to encourage your audience to like your brand right from the start?

Set the Scene and Provide Context

Take a sufficient amount of time to set up a scenario before jumping straight into the features and benefits of your product or service. Your audience needs to understand the relevance of your story and its apparent value to someone else before you can talk about yourself.

It’s really important for brands to pay attention to context when storytelling. You could be creating amazing content every day but if you’re putting it in front of the wrong people it’s meaningless. In today’s saturated marketplace, personalized, relevant and contextually appropriate marketing is how you get your audience to love you from the off!

Be Funny

Consider using humor in some way to explain a situation or to break the ice with your audience. humor is a great way to draw your audience in to a story before they’ve decided whether to buy into the whole shooting match just yet.

humor is such an important and fundamental aspect to the human personality. It’s a direct and authentic way into a potential customer’s emotional decision making. Most buying decisions are emotional ones, so if you can provoke some humor then you’re well on your way to engaging with your audience and they’re more likely to remember you that way.

In Hollywood, writers sometimes use humor as the single redeeming feature of an otherwise unlikable character to make the audience laugh and find something to like about the character. We’ve all met grumpy angry characters before – the world is full of people that just aren’t very nice. But, if they have a sharp wit and they can make you laugh, their jokes save the day every time.

Danny DeVito has played many a leading role whereby he’s a horrible, angry man. In ‘Twins’, we’re introduced to him sleeping with someone else’s wife, he double crosses Arnie and steals from him multiple times. But, he’s got this amazing angry wit that’s just so likable. The second the audience sees this side to him that, believe it or not, is his ‘Save the Cat’ moment!

A brilliant example of a brand that wasn’t afraid to inject some humor into their marketing is television channel TNT. They set up a big red button on a podium in the middle of a quiet, unremarkable square in Belgium. Above it hung a sign, in the shape of a giant arrow, saying “Push to add drama.”

People being people, it wasn’t long before a curious passer-by took the plunge and pressed the mysterious button. What follows is a sequence of increasingly weird events, a fight between a paramedic and a cyclist,  a football team carrying a man on a stretcher,  a woman in shocking red underwear riding a motorbike, all topped off with a banner that falls from a nearby building, proudly proclaiming “Your Daily Dose of Drama : TNT”

Why does it work? Well, who could possibly forget something so out of the ordinary, ratcheting up the tension on an unsuspecting public? When the marketing message is revealed it is filled with knowingness and a natural sense of humor that you’ll struggle to forget the scenes you’ve just seen. As marketers, if you can be fun and memorable, that’s half of your battle won!


Be Brilliant at Something

We all admire an outstanding talent or ability. It can be as simple as Marty demonstrating how good he is at skate boarding at the start of ‘Back to the Future’ or Mitch McDeere, clearly being the outstanding, superior A-grade law student that everyone wants to hire at the start of ‘The Firm’.

You don’t have to be lovable to be liked if you’re a genius. However, this one comes with a health warning. If straight out of the blocks you lead with, ‘look at me I’m amazing’ it can be very difficult to recover and the audience can be turned off quickly.

I recommend demonstrating your genius carefully by using your customer as the hero, or even portray the genius of your customer for using you as the solution to their problem. Nobody likes a smart-ass so be careful how you showcase your brilliance.

Mitch was also waiting tables to pay for college. Marty was cool, but also a flake who was caught being late for school which gave us insight into the endearing character flaws and traits we could also identify with.

One of my all-time favorite examples of a brilliant brand being…well, brilliant while simultaneously making their customers the hero of their story, is WestJet Airlines’ 2013 Christmas marketing campaign. This is an example we look really deeply into in Getting Goosebumps.

WestJet asked their passengers what they wanted for Christmas before they boarded a busy, holiday time flight using an interactive Santa on a TV screen. A nice touch? Sure! But that’s not where it ended.

In the time it took the flight to get from Toronto to Hamilton, WestJet had bought every passenger’s Christmas wish, which were left gift-wrapped and waiting for them on the luggage belt. You don’t really have to look any further to find a brand that knows exactly how to make their marketing all about their customers, while managing to make themselves look pretty brilliant in the process.

As viewers we’re left in no doubt that this is a business that cares. 

Be Human, Be Vulnerable and Be Honest

The temptation to showcase your products and services as the best thing since sliced bread can be overwhelming. Naturally, as a storyteller charged with adding value to your business, it’s natural to live in the world that talks about the benefits of what you’re selling and why it’s so amazing.

Something that virtually nobody does is write about a situation that went wrong. Why would you ever reveal your flaws or failures? How would that help you sell more product?

When we fail, we chalk it up to experience, we learn and we move on. If you can talk about those epic failures honestly, you can also demonstrate how you’ve become better and more valuable because of those experiences.

When is the last time you saw a case study page on a website listing a long line of epic failures? You’ll certainly stand out from the crowd, endear yourself to your audience and probably become more credible to them than by talking about a string of victories.

When you’re honest about your shortcomings it inspires two reactions in the people you’re talking to. You come across as caring (and you are, right?) because your end customers’ experience with your brand matters to you. Being honest about your flaws shows that you don’t want them to be disappointed.

Secondly, people start to trust you. If you’ve nothing to hide then people have no reason to be suspicious of you. If you’re not wheeling out the smoke and mirrors to try and blindside your customer base then you instantly become more likable. The old adage that people buy from people they trust has never been truer when it comes to laying it all out in the open.

Dove took the bull by the horns when it comes to making themselves vulnerable as a brand. Exposing the beauty industry’s obsession with using a very limited selection of women in their advertising and marketing, Dove redressed the balance by using a wider selection of female models to sell their products. This move took guts because they implicated themselves as colluding in a long-criticized advertising standard while also taking clear and transparent steps to move beyond it. And now? They have a digital community of millions of loyal and inspired customers all over the world. Sometimes vulnerability can be very worth it!

The Bottom Line

So, ‘Save the Cat’ or ‘Save your Marketing’? You’ll have to decide that one but I know it gave me plenty of food for thought during the research phase of writing Getting Goosebumps. It turns out marketers have a lot more in common with other professional storytellers than you might initially presume.

I’ve read the tricks and techniques of stand-up comedians, political leaders and even professional pick up artists during the writing of the book. It turns out that, as a profession, marketing has a lot to learn from all corners of the storytelling world. Yep, even pick up artists…

If you have come across any other examples of professions that us marketers can learn from to make us better storytellers, I would love to hear about it.

Any finally, I’d also love to know what you think of our finished book, Getting Goosebumps. It includes more insights into how marketers can connect emotionally with an audience with tons of great examples from different industries about how to craft a compelling story.

Start to really understand your audience and figure out exactly who they are by downloading our free guide to persona and empathy mapping. You’ll win their hearts and minds once you start crafting great content just for them!

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3 Ways to Use Buyer Personas to Shorten Your Sales Cycle


The most important and valuable piece of knowledge any business can have is the deep understanding of who their customer is. When speaking with sales and marketing organizations across North America, I share that the most important question a business can answer is, “Who do we want to be a hero to?”

It’s not enough to merely talk about it among the senior team and occasionally in sales meetings, nor is it enough to document your buyer personas and then cast them aside with your marketing plan to collect dust.

Your buyer personas should be among the most worn out documents in your sales and marketing arsenal. While there has been a meaningful increase in the adoption and use of personas on the marketing side (as a recent report from CMI and MarketingProfs supports), the sales side of most organizations still seem to be lagging in this area.

While using personas to map content marketing strategies is useful, it provides only a small percentage of the value that it should. If both sides of the organization aren’t fully committed to using personas to guide their day-to-day actions, the fracture between sales and marketing will multiply and sales momentum will stagnate, causing customer acquisition costs (CAC) to skyrocket.

We use personas to guide our actions every day, both in terms of the sales efforts we pursue for Imagine Business Development and to guide the actions we provide for our clients. This not only creates tremendous clarity for everyone, it enables us to materially shorten the sales cycle. Here are the primary means through which mutual clarity and use of buyer personas can help you shorten your sales cycle:

1) Seek and You Will Find

As the saying goes, seek and you will find. What people often forget, however, is that if you don’t know what you’re seeking, it’s going to be very hard to find.

When I’m working with salespeople (both young and experienced), I see that the greatest amount of time wasted is when they’re spending time with the wrong people, or delivering the wrong message.

When personas are used across the entire organization, salespeople know who to target (so they find them faster), they know what to say, and they know how to navigate the connections between role players.

2) Alignment Between Sales and Marketing

According to MarketingProfs, 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, despite only 27% of those leads actually being qualified. Not only does that contribute to significant time wasted (see point 1), it also represents a tremendous waste of resources and opportunity.

Without clearly agreed upon buyer personas, there can be no effective lead triage or scoring mechanism put in place. This not only means that salespeople have less time to focus on their best opportunities (thus decreasing the probability for success), they are also approaching those opportunities with bad messaging and tactics.

I recently got into a debate with the CMO of a SaaS company. He took issue with me in my characterization of the typical conflict between the sales side and marketing side of the business. He claimed that there was no such conflict and that I was overplaying it for my own self-serving purposes.  However, when I asked him (and others in the organization) to describe their best opportunities and the personas within them, there was no clear answer. 

Simply put, it is impossible to have alignment with clarity on who you are trying to attract without defining your buyer personas. Service level agreements are wonderful, but buyer personas are at the center of alignment. 

The impact of this is quite significant. Research from The Aberdeen Group found that companies that had highly aligned sales and marketing organizations achieved, on average, a 32% year-over-year revenue growth, while their less aligned competitors saw a 7% decrease in revenue.

3) Sales Call Planning

My favorite place to use buyer personas is when I’m planning my sales strategy. Clear personas inform my sales development reps (SDRs) who they should be focused on connecting with.

Even more importantly, they guide my actions (and those of my salespeople) when managing specific opportunities. Since buyer personas are a fictional representation of what the best opportunities look like, there’s never a situation where a prospect fits the description completely.

What’s tremendously valuable for me and for my sales team when we’re developing our opportunity strategy is to highlight how the specific prospect is like the description, and how they’re different. For example, I’ll come back from a sales call and share something like this with my opportunity strategy team:

Mary is our Eric Entrepreneur in this opportunity. She’s a lot like him in that she’s very vision-oriented, she started this business and has been the most successful salesperson in her company. She’s different because, well first she’s a she, but more importantly she has a bit more of a formal business background than our typical Eric. 

While my conversations get much deeper than that, they allow all of us to quickly get on the same page and quickly determine the sales tactics we should employ.

This cuts down the analysis time by a factor of 10 and allows us to maintain a proactive posture throughout the sales process, further cutting the sales cycle time.

I should point out that buyer personas should never be considered complete. They are always a work in progress. By ensuring that personas are clearly communicated and utilized throughout the go-to-market process, you also ensure the ability to keep your personas up-to-date, making your marketing and lead generation efforts more effective and further cutting cycle times and sales costs.

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8 Rookie Mistakes You Might Be Making With Buyer Personas


Creating buyer personas is an essential part of building a successful inbound marketing strategy. Buyer personas help you better understand your current and potential customers, what their pain points are, what information they need, and how you can position your offering to meet their needs.

Without documented buyer personas, essential inbound marketing tasks such as creating engaging content can be challenging. And since creating engaging content is a top challenge for marketers, there is good reason to invest the time and resources into researching and developing your buyer personas.

When it comes to putting together buyer personas, there is no one correct way to do it. There are, however, some simple mistakes you can avoid making during the process. Below are some of the most common mistakes people make — and how to avoid making them yourself.

1) Too many personas.

Creating too many personas can be really tempting. You might think you’re doing yourself and your team a favour by defining a bunch of personas, but having too many can be harmful. Chances are, with many personas, there won’t be a clear delineation between them all — making it really hard for you to actually attract, engage, convert, and delight any of them.

So start with one core persona and build up from there. Once you start to analyse the data based on your most successful customers, you will start to see where one persona ends and another begins. There should be clear differentiators between each persona — the whole idea of creating personas is to create an experience that resonates with each of them. This will lead you to having a far clearer picture of the persona your marketing should be targeting.

Pro tip: Be ruthless when creating your personas. If you don’t have enough information on a particular persona, remove it. In fact, don’t be afraid to add or remove personas over time — this guide will help you understand how and when you should do so.

2) Not thinking about negative personas.

There are people who you won’t want to target — they may not have budget, they may be students, or they may be far too expensive to acquire as a customer. To identify and understand these kinds of people, you need to create a negative (or exclusionary) buyer person. It may appear counterproductive to spend timing getting to know people who will never be your customers, but, it will save you and your team time and money in the long run, as you will not waste time marketing and selling to these people. 

Pro tip: One of the biggest challenges when creating buyer personas is knowing where to start your research. A great place to start for your negative personas is by interviewing a sample of customers who closed, but they had a very low average sale price. You could also speak with some customers with low customer satisfaction scores, which might be an indication they were never really a proper fit for your company. Our guide on creating negative personas will walk you through the whole process.

3) Thinking personas are only for Marketing.

This is one of the most common attitudes when creating personas. Creating personas is not one of those one-off exercises that your team does (and then promptly forgets about). Implement the persona across your entire funnel strategy and let everyone in the organisation know who they are dealing with, especially those in Sales and Services.

Pro tip: It’s easy to see personas as something on a one-off item on your team’s to-do list. If your entire company starts using your personas as soon as you have them created, you will develop good habits from the beginning. If you need inspiration on how to get started with them, we’ve put together this guide on ways to get use out of them. 

4) Thinking personas are an individual person.

Personas are generalisations of your ideal clients — they are not specific real people. Rather than identifying the challenges, goals, desires and needs of only one individual (such as Tom who works as a marketing executive in the printing shop down the road), aim to gather a collective of characterisations about your ideal customer. 

This means, for example, that you can group multiple titles or job roles into one persona. At HubSpot, one of our primary personas is Marketing Mary, and we know that she typically is a Marketing Manager or a Director of Marketing. A real person can’t be both — but because Mary is a fictional representation, she could occupy either role. 

Pro tip: A great place to start is by grouping your personas based on individual goals, as we do with Marketing Mary. Check out this great example of a buyer persona from Visual Creatives. Note how it includes all the roles and responsibilities an agency owner/founder might have. Going into such detail can really help your content creation and strategy, as you will know what your audience’s everyday challenges are. 


5) Describing an aspirational persona.

Instead of identifying the type of person or business you are currently making money from, a common mistake is to describe the person you dream of making money from. Try to stay grounded and realistic, and describe the person you are currently serving the needs of. It’s fine to have a persona created that describes the person you want to target in the future, but keep it at a high level until you feel like you have the resources to reposition yourself to be more attractive to your ideal audience.

Pro tip: Rather than relying on internal opinions and beliefs to guide your personas, allow your personas to be data-driven. Dig into your CRM, look for trends, and survey your current or past customers. This will mean your personas are more factual and current. Use tools such as Survey Monkey to help you gather the data. Not sure what questions to ask? This guide will steer you in the right direction.

6) Basing your personas on old-school demographics.

Sure, demographic information is important to include, but it’s not the information that should differentiate your personas. Psychographic information is what makes your personas so powerful.

So, rather than defining your personas like “male, 30-45 years old, urban, mid-salary role,” think more about what the persona does, how their day looks, how they consume media, what challenges they face, and how they measure success — and define your personas around this information. Allow this to define how and when you interact with your audience — if it’s a mid-level business person based in London, for example, you may want to post mobile-friendly content between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m. local time for their morning commute. 

Pro tip: Prioritise understanding what your persona’s typical day looks likes, and use that as the core of your document. Referring back to our example from Visual Creatives above, you can see how they’ve broken down the “Story” part of their persona, which accurately profiles persona challenges, desires, and daily life.


7) Not knowing how to research your personas.

Not knowing how to practically research personas can be a barrier to creating buyer personas for many marketers. Many start with jotting down what they think their buyer personas should be, or relying on anecdotal input from their team. This results in a very one-sided view of a company’s buyer personas, and it might not be that realistic. 

Pro tip: Thoroughly researching your buyer personas should include everything from speaking to your sales team to speaking with your current customers (long-term and new) to researching current marketing trends to diving into your analytics. You can also develop and add to your personas as time goes on — they don’t need to be “complete” from day one.

8) Thinking persona development is difficult.

Some people think persona development is a massive job, and they don’t see the benefit in investing time into creating them. At the end of the day, persona development really doesn’t take that long. You don’t need to go into great detail when you are starting off, and remember you can add to them later if you like.

As for not seeing the benefit in the time investment, remember that your personas are going to be a massive help to your content creation, SEO, and social media strategy. It will save you time in the long-run and ensure that you attract the right people to your business, helping you grow much faster and better than you would have otherwise.

Pro tip: Whether you’re just getting started with personas or if you’ve already begun your research, try out our free new persona generator here. It will help you focus, simplify and streamline your persona development. 

free buyer persona generator




How to Quickly & Easily Create a Buyer Persona [Free Tool]


Whenever people ask for a primer on inbound marketing, I always start by talking about buyer personas. Why? Because without knowing who your ideal customers are — their backgrounds, goals, challenges, and so on — it’s very difficult to create an effective marketing strategy to attract more of those types of people. Without understanding your ideal customers inside and out — and integrating that research across your entire marketing funnel — you risk stifling the growth of your business.

But one of the hardest parts of creating those buyer personas is coming up with all of the questions that will shape your buyer persona research. What are the key things you need to know about your ideal customers in order to really understand who they are and what motivates them? How do you even begin to answer these questions?

Here comes the good news. Over time, as our team has spoken with more and more marketers about the buyer personas research process, we got to thinking: Is there any way we can make the question-and-answer process even easier — and, dare I say, sexier?

That’s when we came up with the MakeMyPersona tool, an interactive web tool that generates buyer personas for you once you answer a series of questions about your ideal customers.

Here’s how it works: First, it’ll ask you all the questions about your ideal customer that’ll help you build out your persona. (And don’t worry, it’ll guide you through the process of how to answer them, too.) Then, it’ll generate a buyer persona for you based on your answers — in the form of an editable Word document that you can edit and expand on later. You can also select an image for your persona to help bring them to life and make them more relatable for everyone in your organisation.

Like the sound of that? Click here to get started.

Want to learn a little more about how to use the MakeMyPersona tool? Here’s how it works.

How to Use the MakeMyPersona Tool

Using the MakeMyPersona tool to create your buyer persona couldn’t be easier. Here’s all you need to do:

1) Go to and click the button that says, ‘Start Making My Persona!’

Buyer Persona MakeMyPersona

2) Answer the questions in the tool as best you can. 

Developing your buyer persona takes some research, so don’t worry if you can’t complete every question in great detail right now. We’ll send you your persona in an editable Word document so you can expand on it later. 

Give your persona a name and select an image so you can put a face to that name. Remember, buyer personas are fictional representations of our ideal customers. They are not real people, so you can feel free to generalise the behaviours of your top customers when thinking about your answers. 

Buyer Persona Tool Images

Note: Survey tools like SurveyMonkey and QuestionPro are good ways to gain information for persona research if you don’t have a good customer database to tap into.

3) We’ll send you your customised buyer persona within 15 minutes.

Once you’ve completed all of the questions, make sure you give us a valid email address we can send your customised persona to. It can take up to fifteen minutes to generate your persona, so go grab a coffee and high-five some co-workers when you tell them you’re cooking up something really special. By the time you get back, you’ll have something that looks a little like this waiting for you in your inbox:

Buyer Persona Output Example

Once you receive your persona, check over your answers and see which ones require a little more research. (If you’re stuck, check out these great tips for researching buyer personas.)

4) Share your persona(s) with your entire organisation.

Buyer personas help bridge the gap across all the different teams in a single organisation by aligning their idea of who they’re selling to. The trick is getting each team to adopt them and integrate them into the way they think about and speak with customers and prospects.

Once you and your immediate team are happy with the final persona(s), here are some ideas for how to get the message across:

  • Save your persona as a PDF and email it to the entire organisation. In the email, explain what buyer personas are and why they’re important, and then introduce yours to everyone in the company.
  • Present your new persona(s) in your next company meeting and explain why they are important and how they play a part in what everyone does.
  • Think about this persona every time you create a piece of content and ask yourself: Is it helping them achieve their goals or solve their challenges?
  • Print out a few copies and put them on the walls around your office.
  • If you’re a HubSpot customer, use the persona tool within HubSpot to get a holistic view of how each of your personas are performing across the funnel. (And if you’re not a HubSpot customer, feel free to take a demo.)

5) Share the MakeMyPersona tool with your marketer friends.

Share the MakeMyPersona tool with your social networks to pass on the gift of simple and quick buyer persona creation. Trust us, sharing helpful content to your social networks is the best way to grow your following and increase engagement. Simply click the image below to tweet about it:


Try it out, and then let us know what you think in the comment section below.

free buyer persona generator




Buyer Personas Gone Stale? Use Agile Techniques


For most marketers, the buyer persona is one of the first things developed when beginning work on a new campaign. In an ideal world, you have time to carefully craft personas through a combination of internal stakeholder discovery and direct customer interviews.

Unfortunately, timing can sometimes cut the schedule short. The number of customer interviews could be reduced, or maybe eliminated completely. You find yourself relying on internal institutional knowledge for your customer insights because your team already “knows” your customer.

The personas are written up, printed out, and if you’re lucky, posted on the wall in the campaign “war room”. Once completed, the task is checked off the list and it’s onto the next job in the queue.

However, understanding that buyer personas change over time could be an important realization for your marketing team. So, how do you determine the right time to evolve your buyer personas?

I recommend using agile marketing to help solve the problem. You see, with the speed of change in marketplace today, taking an agile approach to your marketing (and in this case, buyer personas) is critical for your program’s ongoing success.

A Brief Overview of Agile

A few years ago, a group of marketers at the SprintZero event in San Francisco developed what they described as the Agile Marketing Manifesto. While every business and campaign is different, there are some central truths in their approach: 

  1. Validated learning over opinions and conventions
  2. Customer focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
  3. Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns
  4. The process of customer discovery over static prediction
  5. Flexible vs. rigid planning
  6. Responding to change over following a plan
  7. Many small experiments over a few large bets

So for the question of when should you revisit your persona, your answer should be as often as you have the opportunity to gather new insights. So how do you go about acquiring this information? Here are some key areas to examine that will help you understand how to enhance your buyer personas.

1) Use your customer interactions

Just because you didn’t have time to conduct interviews at the beginning of the process doesn’t mean it’s too late to get at the customer voice. Look for opportunities where you can interact with customers to get more insights to help adjust and improve your marketing.

  • Attend a few client meetings with your sales team and look for the “wow” moment that gets the customer’s attention
  • Sit with your customer service teams and listen to customer calls
  • Pay attention to the types of questions that researching buyers are asking

Getting closer to the customer might seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Invest some time doing so and you’ll probably get a few great ideas on how to shape your personas even more.

2) Look for digital cues

By leveraging the data from marketing automation or other sources of analytics on your website, it’s possible to get insights into what does and does not interest a buyer.

  • Which of your content pieces are your personas downloading?
  • What can you draw from the blog articles are they reading?
  • How are they answering the questions on your landing pages? 

Even if you don’t have a marketing automation platform, you can still use website analytics to gather how your visitors are interacting with your site. While it might now give you the robust information that an automation platform provides, it’ll be a start in better understanding your target audience.

3) Leverage your attribution models

Building marketing attribution models can seem like a mystery to non-analytical marketers. Luckily, marketing automation systems like HubSpot have recently added attribution-reporting right into their dashboards to make this easy.

  • What’s different about how your buyer personas find you? Certain sources, visit days or times of day?
  • Do some personas have different visit behavior versus others? Time first seen vs. first conversion dates?
  • Are there any differences in which pages of your site are in the conversion path for one persona over another?

The beauty of digital marketing is that the platform is perfect for adaptation, learning and continual improvements. Your buyer personas should be reviewed and modified in the same way.

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How and When to Follow up With All Types of Leads


In the sales and marketing world, there are few issues that are getting more attention than the issues surrounding lead management and follow up. In my experience, clarity around lead management, qualification and response times are the crucial linchpin to align sales and marketing efforts.

It’s a rather scary statistic, but according to a study most recently done for Harvard Business Review, 71% of qualified leads are never followed up with. What’s more is, of the leads that are followed up on, they’re only touched an average of 1.3 times. This represents tremendous opportunity costs not only in revenue, but in the customer/prospect experience as well.

This is why creating a clear service level agreement (SLA) is important. An effective Lead Management and Response SLA lays out how leads should be treated, when they should be followed up with, how often they should be followed up with and how the sales and marketing sides of the organization will be held accountable in the process.

While there is a tremendous amount of research on how to respond to inbound leads, developing effective protocols requires more than just determining the source of a lead. What’s important is determining the quality and the context of the lead you have generated.

The Four Components of Lead Classification

We’ve identified four components that must be factored in when developing lead management protocols:

1) Type of Product/Service

Is your offering one that fills an already existing need, with an existing line item; or, are you selling something to solve a problem that isn’t being managed, with no existing line item? If you’re selling the former, you’re response management is going to need to be on the faster side of what I explain below.

2) Source

Where did the lead come from? The simplest designation via inbound or offline efforts. Inbound leads typically need much faster response that offline leads do. However, it’s not always that simple. There are offline sources that need quick responses, but not every inbound lead should be responded to immediately.

3) Company Quality

An important rule to remember when qualifying leads is to always be qualifying the company, not the contact. Whether it’s someone who downloaded a white paper or checklist from your website, gave you a card at a trade show or called in to your main number, you want to be paying attention to the company when assessing the strength of a lead. The higher the lead quality the faster you’ll want to respond.

4) The Buyer’s Journey

You must consider where the prospect finds themselves in their buying journey. While responding within five minutes of a download is ideal at the bottom of the funnel, it can turn people off when they’re at the top. To get a feel of where your prospect most likely is, consider:

  • Which of your buyer personas do they represent?
  • What offer did they download (or how else was the lead created)?
  • What other actions have they had with your company and website? 

The lower the prospect is in the funnel (the closer they are to their decision stage), the faster you are going to want to respond.

Lead Scoring vs. Lead Triage

With your lead classification criteria clear, next you’ll want to decide whether you’ll take lead scoring or (what I like to call) a lead triage approach. While lead scoring is a hot topic, with the siren song of certainty, I’ve found that very few companies are in a position where they should actually focus on lead scoring. Lead scoring works when:

  • There is certainty about what actions and attributes cause a prospect to be more likely to buy, and
  • You’re being overwhelmed with more leads than your sales team can manage. If you’ve got capacity to respond to more leads, lead scoring is relatively useless.

Lead triage is a simple (and at least partially manual) process of reviewing each lead to categorize it within the context of your lead management SLA. The job is to simply classify each lead as qualified, not-qualified or not enough information to determine.

For qualified leads (QLs) the vast majority of companies will do fine designating each QL as low, moderate or high quality. That designation should trigger corresponding actions within your SLA. If you feel the need for a more nuanced approach you can add a bottom/not-bottom category to each designation.

Effectively Responding to Leads

The first rule of lead response is “respond.” Keep things simple, as the statistic at the beginning of this post highlight, merely responding to leads puts you in the top quartile of organizations.

Timing of Response

For a lead generated online, waiting just five minutes will reduce the likelihood of contact by 10x factor. Now, as I shared in the classification section, I’m not an advocate that every online lead be contacted instantly. First off, few companies have the resources to consistently respond in such a manner, and secondly the context of your prospect often make it unnecessary.

I share this statistic to highlight that time is of the essence. For companies with a lead response system in place, the average response time is 46 hours, 53 minutes – almost two days! That is simply too long for the average initial response.

Frequency of Response

When developing your lead response process, you want to address not only the time that a qualified lead should be responded to, but the frequency as well.

As I shared above, the typical lead is touched by a salesperson on average only 1.3 times. Increasing the number of touches to six increases the likelihood of making a contact by 70%.

When crafting your response protocols, you’ll want to integrate voice mail and email. Highly qualified leads should get at least six outreaches over a sustained period of time.

The Importance of Nurturing

As a part of your lead management process, you’re going to want to designate whether a lead is being actively or passively managed. If you fail to connect with your prospect within the time prescribed in your SLA, and even if you connect and no sales action is initiated, you’ll want to make sure you have a defined nurturing process in place to position yourself strongly in the future.

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Human-to-Human Marketing: A Trend for 2015 and Beyond


Imagine walking into your favorite coffee shop. It still looks and smells the same, but something is off.

As you approach the counter, ready to order the usual, it hits you – this place is being run by robots.

These particular robots don’t care that you’ve been coming there every day for the past six months, or that you’re lactose intolerant. They’re not interested in talking with you about your morning or giving you a little something extra because you’re a loyal customer and you deserve it.

Nope, these robots were programmed to do one thing and only thing only, and that’s get your money and give you a coffee back.

That sounds horrible, right? And yet, that’s how some businesses still operate. We, the consumers, are mere representations of data and revenue – numbers.

But we’re not numbers and they aren’t robots. So, what is the one thing that businesses and consumers ultimately have in common? We’re all 100%, completely, undeniably human.

Welcome to the Human Era

We live in a remarkable, revolutionary time where humans are more connected to technology than ever before. With technology comes the constant influx of information thrown at consumers from every which way on a daily basis. Out of necessity, we’re all learning to be selective.

This has, in turn, forced businesses to reevaluate their approach to marketing. Because, let’s face it: it doesn’t matter how many marketing dollars you spend, if your brand isn’t resonating with your audience, it’s money wasted.

With humans so attached to their technological counterparts, businesses must find ways to reconnect with consumers on each device and each social platform they use, but in a way that enables those consumers to actually feel connected to the business on a more human level than was previously ever required.

As opposed to the Industrial Era where big businesses cast a shadow on their audience with power, authority, and demanded respect, the Human Era urges businesses to be a peer instead of a superior. Only by individualizing an audience and building authentic connections will a business thrive in the Human Era.

After all, just because consumers are so connected to their devices doesn’t mean they’ve stopped craving human experiences and interactions.

Human Era Brands

In 2013, advertising agency, Hill Holliday, and brand strategy consulting firm, Lippincott, released the “Welcome to the Human Era” report, which evaluates brands and separates those that are Human Era brands as opposed to Industrial Era. What exactly does it mean to be a Human Era brand? According to the report,

“Being a Human Era brand goes beyond merely saying that one is more “human.” It requires an authentic story delivered consistently through an inspiring experience. It requires hard work — establishing organizational values and commitments that are customer driven, while also driving them toward daily leadership decision-making and employee behaviors.”

Those brands who fit the Human Era brand mold are creatively paving the way for a new world of marketing that sparks an emotional connection with the audience.

Perhaps not by coincidence, Lippincott’s brand refresh for Southwest Airlines fits right into this mold. The refresh is exemplified in the 30-second ad spot below explaining that the airline’s people are its greatest fuel, and ending the ad simply in reference to the plane (maybe even the business as a whole) with, “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.”

Taking it behind the scenes in the video below, Kevin Krone, VP and Chief Marketing Officer, explains what Southwest’s “heart” is and why they’ve incorporated their heart symbol in the design of their planes and in everything they do as a brand.

By now, I’m sure you know what was missing in that coffee shop from before: an emotional connection. There was no heart in that business or the experience you were presented with (or lack thereof). There was no trace of an emotional connection. You didn’t smile or laugh; you were met with a faceless, emotionless machine. That is the exact feeling that human-to-human marketing aims to eliminate.

What are some vital qualities of a humanized brand?

They’re personal

Integrating super personalized marketing into your strategy is a way for your business to say, “I’m listening. I know what you want, I know what you need, and I know what you enjoy.” The more your business shows this to a customer or prospect, the more likely they will be to connect with you and become a promoter of your business.

I was personally tickled to receive this email from Pet Supplies Plus after a visit into their local location in Buffalo, NY last month. They asked me to take a survey, which also means they really care about my experiences in-store. Way to go, Pet Supplies Plus!


Personalized marketing takes a tremendous amount of planning, strategizing, and following through, but there are amazing marketing automation tools out there developed to help marketers get personal with ease! Oh, the times we live in.

They’re conversational

Actually engaging with your audience on social media must be a serious part of your customer service arsenal. By interacting at eye-level, where your audience frequents, they can see you as just another person trying to help them out, reaching out just to connect, or just to say, “Thanks for your support!.”


They’re empathetic

Perhaps no characteristic is more refreshing than being empathetic toward your customers’ lives and struggles. There’s no better feeling than seeing a commercial or post in any of your social feeds that just makes you say, “[So-and-so company] really gets me.”

Hill Holliday’s campaign for LG, “Mom Confessions,” shows the inner thoughts of a humorously cynical mom. Acknowledging that moms often have that inner dialogue when doing the often daunting tasks that are essentially the glue holding a household together is something I’m sure most moms can appreciate.

However, you don’t have to be humorous to show customer empathy. Understand your audience well and understand the problems they face. Then integrate that understanding into your advertising, social media posts, blogs, etc. Just show them you care, and that no one in this world goes through anything alone.

They’re inspirational

Humans want to feel inspired to be themselves, to make their lives better, to strive for success. The brands that forego bragging about how their products and services will change your life for campaigns that just move you to feel inspired are the brands that truly shine to their audience.

Not surprisingly, Dove is one of those brands. The ongoing Dove Campaign for Real Beauty launched by Uniliver has a mission to “create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety.”

With the same goals, Under Armour’s I Will What I Want” campaign featured ballerina Misty Copeland, who didn’t “fit the mold” as a ballerina. This was explicitly expressed in a “Thanks, but no thanks” letter denying her application to a ballet academy, but that didn’t stop her from demanding respect in her sport as a ballerina. The advertisement (below) is goose-bump inducing, to say the least.

The purpose behind the “I Will What I Want” campaign is simple; “It’s a reminder that you don’t need permission, advice or affirmation when you have WILL. It’s a celebration of who you are. As an athlete. As a woman…And there’s one reason you are where you are today. That reason is you.”

They solve problems

A wise man once said, “Humans don’t buy from companies; humans buy from humans, so solving for humans is every smart company’s primary goal.” 

That man was Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot. He’s had massive success creating an educational and efficient marketing automation software company to help further the inbound marketing methodology, so it would be wise to take his advice.

Problems come in many forms and sizes, but perhaps your most important job is to fix them. Help consumers use your products, help by answering a question or alleviating an issue they’ve expressed they’re having – regardless of the time of day or night. This post gives you eight incredibly helpful ways to ways to solve your prospects problems through your marketing, and is definitely worth a read if you’d like some specifics.

They’re humorous

Humor is one emotion that has the power to really win over your audience. Humor is a completely human attribute and it elicits joy and happiness, and is honestly quite addictive. Integrate it into your marketing effectively and your audience will be coming back for more, guaranteed.

BuzzFeed, is one of my favorite online media destinations. Why? They just get it! They understand the way we consume information, and they especially get it when it comes to humor. They know how their audience operates, they know their personas well and they know what they think is important or funny. With that knowledge, they create amazing media and blast it to any social channel where their audience can be found.

Everyone with a dog can probably relate to this BuzzFeedVideo video: 

They make mistakes

Humans make mistakes, so don’t be afraid if your business does. DiGiorno Pizza made a big mistake with their real-time marketing by hopping on the trending #WhyIStayed hashtag with what was declared the absolute worst brand tweet of 2014. Not realizing that after the controversial domestic violence incident with then-Baltimore Raven’s player, Ray Rice, the hashtag was trending because women were voicing their stories about why they stayed, or didn’t stay, in an abusive relationship.


Source: Adweek

DiGiorno quickly removed the tweet, but didn’t cower in fear of the repercussions of it. They personalized a tweet to many of the obviously offended Twitter users expressing how truly sorry they were and that there was no excuse for the mistake.

Human brands make mistakes, and human brands say they’re sorry. No human or brand is perfect, but showing remorse for any offensive mistake can certainly garner respect and nurse some wounds.

They’re authentic

I asked my Dad to think of a business he liked and trusted, and to tell me what that business did to earn his trust.


This is a man that couldn’t really care less about social media or fancy marketing ploys. He hears out a brand’s promise and expects them to follow through. He wants a brand to care about his investment in their business as much as he does, and he wants to be treated like a human, by humans.

Humans aren’t easily fooled anymore, and if you’re hiding something from your consumers or stretching the truth of your story, they’ll quickly communicate their findings through their connected self and you’ll be exposed to the audience of their own personal brand.

Be authentic to your message. If what you’re telling is true, you won’t have to hide behind the walls of your social media channels. Moreover, transparency is one of the largest trustworthy attributes of any business; in a world where corporate trust has been depleting, transparency and authenticity will give you a trusting edge against your less open and honest competition.

They have a story

Perhaps one of the most prominent buzzwords of recent years, storytelling is still a fundamental piece of the human experience puzzle.

Humans have preconceived ideas about their world – stories we tell ourselves. Brands and businesses have to find a way to fit into those stories or add to them. That’s why the development of buyer personas is so crucial. If you don’t know the beliefs, wants, and needs of your audience, how can you know that the content you’re presenting them is relevant at all?

Humans want to experience a business and building a story around your products and services will help them experience you. I absolutely love Seth Godin’s novel first published in 2005 as All Marketers Are Liars with a revised cover in 2009, All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories. Seth explains that conversations are had and stories are told about your business with or without you. So why not create a great story and experience and let that be what spreads?

They live their story 

The best way to ensure that your good story remains true is to introduce a company culture that reflects it. Humanizing your brand starts from the inside and works its way out. Live your story, and you’ll radiate it. 

In 2013, Trader Joe’s was America’s favorite grocery store according to a Market Force study. Many special and unique characteristics of the beloved grocery store attract customers and keep them coming back for more, including personalized in-store signage made by employees, new and exotic items you can’t find anywhere else, super punny product names, and more.

According to Adrian Weidmann, principal of StoreStream Metrics, in an online discussion about the study’s results, “When you go to Trader Joe’s, you are experiencing a ‘story’…Trader Joe’s is a brand that is very good at storytelling and bringing that story to life. The ‘typical’ grocery story is merely a clean warehouse.”

Another great example we’re all familiar with is Amazon who aims to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Often keeping a chair open at meetings where the customers “sits,” Amazon is truly living out their mission every day. In the words of founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.”

I’ll leave you with this quote via Seth Godin and you’ll know what to do from here:

“So the challenge you face is now clear. You must have a consistent, authentic story that is framed in terms of the worldview of the person you’re telling the story to. Your story must be robust and honest and transparent and you have to be prepared to live it out loud.”

Stay human, businesses.

The first step towards becoming a more human business is to understand the humans of your target audience. Download our guide to creating buyer personas to start understanding and targeting your audience more effectively.

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The Science of Building Better Buyer Personas [Infographic]

science-of-buyer-personasCreating buyer personas is an important part of a successful inbound strategy.

These semifictional representations of your ideal buyers help you understand your customers better; and when you understand your customers better, you can create content better geared toward them. And better content helps attract website visitors who may well turn into customers one day.

But building a buyer persona isn’t as simple as narrowing your customers down to an age range, location, occupation type, gender, or some other descriptor. It’s a science — one that involves research, analytics, even surveys of your existing customer base. Creating very specific personas can dramatically help improve your marketing campaign results. Check out the infographic below created by Single Grain to learn more about the science behind building great personas.


  free buyer persona creation template