#Unpacked EP 19: Buyer Personas

George Thomas:
All right. Remington Begg, guess what? That was the fastest ever.

Remington Begg:
It is time.

George Thomas:
It is time. That was the fastest ever of us going from like hitting a button to being live. And are you back?

Remington Begg:
I'm back.

George Thomas:
All right. There we go. My goodness. So we are here for an episode of Sprocket Talk Unpacked, and Remington, it's funny because we started kind of talking about this topic last week and then you're like, "Wait, wait."

Remington Begg:
Someone got a soapbox.

George Thomas:
We will not name who that someone was, but we definitely need to ... Hey, what are you doing there? We definitely need to unpack this a little bit more. So we're going to talk about personas today and we're going to see what we can kind of get into. So Remington, where do you want to start when it comes to thinking about personas and kind of the way HubSpot has sold or taught or positioned them inside the tool, where does your mind go first?

Remington Begg:
So it automatically goes to what the heck is a persona? I mean that's the easy way of kind of unpacking that. But even further so, maybe you should answer this George. Like what is the reason for a persona in the first place?

George Thomas:
I love that you asked me that. So it's funny because there's kind of two things that come to my mind, Remington. The first one is that it's very important, I mean vitally important that you know who you're actually speaking to when you're taking the time to create all this content. Now, first of all, let me just back up a second and say, creating all this content. And creating all this content isn't cheap. And so if you start out and you're just trying to talk to everybody, which by the way, if you're talking to everybody, you're talking to nobody, then you're wasting money. You're literally flushing cash down the toilet for your business because you don't have specified people who you want to talk to.

George Thomas:
So part of this is conversation related and having a voice and an understanding of the problems that they're facing. Or let's even go like this with the roles, goals, and challenges of their life. Okay.

Remington Begg:
Roles, goals, and challenges of their life.

George Thomas:
Yes, roles, goals and challenges of their life and then being able to create all this content to those things. Okay. Now the second part of this that is fundamentally important is for less segmentation. HubSpot is a big database. That's what it is. It's just a big database that we put a bunch of information in with all these cool, fun things that we talk about custom properties and forums and popups, and it's bringing information into a database. And to be able to segment that information when it comes to emails, when it comes to showing chat bots, when it comes to showing the right popups, when it comes to doing, God, almost anything in your marketing, you want to have that list segmentation on persona.

George Thomas:
Now I'm going to stop there because there's more that kind of bolts onto that or circulates around that. But if you think of how do I have the right conversation with the right people at the right time about their roles, goals and challenges, and how do I segment my database so that I can report in a smart way and market and sell in a smart way with the tools that HubSpot gives me. Then you're like, "Oh crap, Jimmy, why don't we have personas in our tool last week?"

Remington Begg:
Sure. So I think what's interesting is you're talking about why don't we have it in our tool. I take it a step further. I'm like, people don't even have them. It gets pretty bad. So when we're thinking about that, another way of thinking about personas is like Amy Porterfield calls them ideal customer avatars.

George Thomas:
Yup.

Remington Begg:
Right? So it's creating a fictional nonfiction character that you can leverage to speak to and that kind of thing. So I think that that's super important to make sure that gets out there. Now when I'm talking with clients, a lot of times we have conversations around the difference between an ideal client profile and a buyer persona. And the big thing is if you imagine them in a cross section, you've got ideal client profiles which are like the industries, maybe the size of the companies and stuff like that. That might be that vertical split.

Remington Begg:
But the buyer persona is actually the horizontal split that from the ideal client profile is more of a company metric while the persona is that personal metric. That's a huge thing because that's one of those areas that people tend to confuse, which is like a major flop if you don't do it right. Now, buyer persona is going to be, I'm Sally, I'm the CEO of XYZ company and that company is in this ideal client profile. Right? I'm going to have different pain points than Sue who's in accounting. Right? Than Sally the CEO.

George Thomas:
Yeah. We all love Sue by the way too, because she's in charge of us not getting in trouble. I'm just going to throw that out there.

Remington Begg:
She just cares about different things. [crosstalk 00:05:35].

George Thomas:
Yeah, exactly. Talks about them in a different way too. Right?

Remington Begg:
Yup.

George Thomas:
That's what we're saying. So Remington, here's a fun exercise that anybody watching this live now or in the recording later can do. When I ask you who do you do business with? I would love for people to answer that question or think or write down on a piece of paper, who do I do business with? And most times, more often than not, that's super easy for people to do. And then you flip it on its head and you go, so who don't you do business with? And this gets very difficult. People almost get pseudo paralyzed because, "Well, we do business with everybody." Do you? Because you can't be all things to all people, I'm just saying. That's like a fundamental principle of life.

George Thomas:
And so one of the things that I always try to get people when I'm helping them with these personas to put into place is a negative persona. One or two negative personas, the people who we don't want to do business with, the people who we can't do business with. And the reason that negative personas are so important is because you truly can't know who you're trying to help unless you know who you can't help. And also in HubSpot when it comes to segmentation, there's this beautiful thing that you can create a list of people who you can't help. And instead of just like letting them die on the vine or ignoring them and them getting mad at you, now you can do what HubSpot is really good at and that's automation and you can automate almost an off-boarding of a bad fit lead negative persona, doing some research, giving them some links, sending them in the right direction. And now all of a sudden you've given them warm fuzzies even though there's no revenue happening at the end of the day.

George Thomas:
And they're like, "Oh man, you remember that company who helped us even when they couldn't sell us anything?" And then all of a sudden when they aren't a negative persona because they've moved on in life or changed jobs or something else, now they remember you because you were focused on who we can't help and an automated process to give them value even though there was no revenue dollars and it didn't take your marketing team's time. It didn't take your sales team's time. It's just something that rinses and repeats itself over and over and over again adding futuristic value to your company.

Remington Begg:
Yeah, I love that. And the big underlying thing that you just kind of riffed on was the fact that they're actually human beings. Right.

George Thomas:
Well yeah- [crosstalk 00:08:12].

Remington Begg:
Yeah. Well, and I joke about it in the conversations talks that I do. Like what happens if you're like, "For all others, press zero." And when they press zero then it just hung up on you. Like that's really what it comes down to. You know what I mean?

George Thomas:
Right.

Remington Begg:
So I think personas are fun there. So one of the areas where I can't wait to get you up on your soapbox-

George Thomas:
Ah, here we go.

Remington Begg:
... is the second smart questions that you throw in. So I want to make sure you riff on that. But before then, before we do that, I'm interested to hear and I'm turning this into an interview today.

George Thomas:
I know, it's kind of crazy. This is not what I expected.

Remington Begg:
I'm interested in to hear your points on how to make it easy for people to be able to self select their personas as a prospect.

George Thomas:
Oh yeah, for sure. Well, and that's one place where people are just, I don't know why, but it's like a fundamental breakdown in two places. And what you're talking about is one of the places in what I would call a larger place. Meaning people, there's a breakdown when you go to create your personas because everybody thinks that it has to be this heavy lift. They think that you got to build out this story and you've got to do all this research and you've got to ... and yes, yes you should. But to get them going and going back to the very bottom line of list segmentation, literally you just need to be able to name them, give them some type of visual representation, understand their roles, goals and challenges, and then give them a place in the persona where it's actually the only thing that they'll ever see that they can self identify with who they are.

George Thomas:
And here's the tip. Here's the thing that people aren't doing. Every one of those personas where they're describing themselves, we're not describing them, they're describing themselves. We start with, "I'm a," no, you know what? I'm going to say that again. We're not describing them. They're describing themselves. So what do you have to do as a marketer or a salesperson or a business owner, you have to put your customer hat on. If I was Jimmy in accounting, how would I identify with who I am as a person and the type of company that I work at? Right? And so now you start that piece with I'm a.

George Thomas:
I'm a HR employee at an enterprise level company. Why do we start out with I'm a? Because when somebody says, "Hey, what do you do?" "Well, I'm a," that's how we answer that question when we're human to human. And so what we're literally doing in the form, in the drop down field is we're starting their sentence for them so it's less work, they just have to finish it off. And so it shouldn't be too long. It should be as succinct as possible. It should start with I'm a and really allow them to dive into that. So anyway, my goodness.

Remington Begg:
I love it. So that was awesome, exactly where I wanted it to go. So once we know who the personas are, then there's a whole framework that you should, any of our listeners or viewers should take a look at or reach out to us about that we can define and build out pretty easily for you or show you how to. But one of the big areas is how to start thinking about it in your marketing.

Remington Begg:
And I'm amazed. To this day, like I got a dozen emails this morning, right? And it's like talking to me as if I'm a different ... like I'm not sure if you're the right person to reach out to about this, but, right?

George Thomas:
Yeah.

Remington Begg:
And it's like-

George Thomas:
You know what I say when I see those? As soon as I see those words, I'm like, "Nope, I'm not.".

Remington Begg:
Yeah, you're right.

George Thomas:
Nope, delete.

Remington Begg:
100%. But when we think about the user experiences, whether it's chat or conversations, personas are huge. Like as a CEO, I care more about time, right? As an accountant, I care about the bottom line. There's so many different direct things. And you said roles, goals and challenges. And I want people to literally hear that. Roles, goals and challenges, because the role that they have or that they are participating in, right? The challenges that they're running into, those are the easiest hooks for you to be able to grab and really kind of tie into.

Remington Begg:
And then the goals should be easy for your marketing. So people are creating content, they're building websites, they're talking about website pages and they don't even know who their personas are, and then they wonder why things don't work. So it's super important.

George Thomas:
Yeah. When you're talking about this, Remington, it's funny too because my mind goes a couple of different places. The first place it goes is back to kind of creating them. You don't have to have the story, but you should put the story in place, and it's easier to put the story in place when you're looking at lead intelligence off of personas that you've already built. And so like you said, it's one of the easiest hooks is like the challenges side of this, right?

George Thomas:
Which by the way, you want to know their goals too. Knowing their goals is super important. So I didn't mean to cut you off there, but knowing their challenges like literally in almost every form known to man and you go to a website, you see, so what's your biggest hurdle? What's the problem you face? Everybody's asking that question. People are filling out that question. But here's the funny part, Remington, is nobody's going back and adding those answers into the persona or adding those answers into an Excel spreadsheet or some type of system and figuring out, "Oh, the top five words that we get on this question over the last year are X. We should go remodify our challenge section of our personas so that when the sales team, when the service team, when the marketing team, when the content team, when the CEO goes back and looks at the persona," by the way, did I mention everybody?

George Thomas:
If you're the janitor watching this, when the janitor goes back and looks at the challenges they're facing because you've learned over a year's timeframe, now you see, "Oh, these are the five things that we should be writing about, talking about, making videos about," because we're paying attention to lead intelligence along the way. Everybody looks at personas as a set it and forget it. Whew. Thank you Jesus. We got them and we're done. Let's continue on with our journey. And they never come back to it. And these should be growing organisms, to the fact of that you should also be looking at when we built the personas, did we forget? Did we leave somebody behind? Like for instance, agencies, most agencies, and you can think of your business right now, your competitors are somebody you're not paying attention to or a negative persona, probably a negative persona.

George Thomas:
But what if you're in a system where we are, where all of a sudden agencies become another persona. When we first started building this out, we didn't think of agencies as another persona that we could help because we were just an agency doing the same thing that other agencies are doing. But now, Remington with Sprockettalk.Com, agencies are our persona. But most companies won't go back in and add another one. They're like, "No, no, no, no, nope, nope, no. We've got four personas. We're good." No, that's not how it works. Yes. That is not how it works.

Remington Begg:
No. And you know, there's different things. So I get that question a lot, right? And an impulse, we'll even start with, typically we start with X amount of personas, right? Because if I said you had to have 14-

George Thomas:
Oh, you'd lose your mind.

Remington Begg:
Yeah, you'd probably fire me before you hired me. Right. But when we're thinking about it, it's slicing things up into the manageable pieces to understand the right conversation. So when we do that buyer persona ideal client profile matrix, you could have three different CEOs that are there that all have very similar problems, or you could have three different CEOs that have very different problems. That means that they're not one persona. They're actually three different in that case. And so understanding how things are alive, to your point, like when's the last time you updated your personas? Any of the people watching, let us know when the last time you edited your buyer personas were and also if that last time was when you created them.

George Thomas:
I'm going to see some of these answers and start twitching. Huh? [crosstalk 00:17:15] I can feel it already. I'm going to be like, "Ah.".

Remington Begg:
This is a public service announcement, right? Like really it is. Because one of the things that blew me away, you brought up Sprocket Talk and the fact that agencies are almost 50%. I'm giving actual numbers now. But agencies, when we started building the Sprocket Talk community, we knew we had a couple of agencies in there and we had a pretty good idea about what people had or were using. But I'll tell you what, when we actually built live reports for it and then started breaking that down, it was literally a Holy Schnike's moment. It was like, "Wait a minute." To this day, we have 55% are HubSpot users and we have 40% HubSpot agencies, right? That are a part of Sprocket Talk. So we start thinking about that.

Remington Begg:
You want to go, "Okay, so how do we line this up?" So we could be asking that, "Are you a CEO?" Right. But if they say CEO at an agency, there is a boatload of things they care about more than just using HubSpot. And then of course we sliced it up with HubSpot Hubs. Right. This is one that really blew me away. I thought that Service Hub would be a lot smaller. Right? Service Hub is 15% of the people are interested in Service Hub are using Service Hub. Granted, small sample, but still like our audience, right, that is our sample. And I think that people that don't continually try to innovate on that in regards to their personas are setting themselves up for failure in their marketing in the future, to your point.

George Thomas:
Yeah and see now what you're leaning into is second smart questions. Like that's literally what you're leaning into right now because what people don't do is they don't realize the power that is progressive profiling or dependent form fields inside of HubSpot. And they really don't stop to think ... and maybe you do. So if you do good job. But some of you watching this are like what? What do you mean? They don't stop to reimagine how their form should be versus a form: first name, last name, email, job title, company name. Oh, let's see, state. Okay, we're good to go. Pack it in, put that submit button on it and call it a day. Great marketing, Jimmy. No-

Remington Begg:
Please rename your submit button.

George Thomas:
Yeah, yeah, please, by all that is Holy, do not have it be submit. Nobody likes to be submissive. Anyway, I won't travel down that. That's a whole psychological thing. But re-imagine your forms and imagine a day where you actually use dependent form fields and you started out with your actual persona question being first. And it would say, how would you best describe yourself? And if they selected CEO of an enterprise company, the next five to six questions that would open up and show up in that section would be specific to that persona. Or if they picked an HR person in a small to mid size business, the next five to six fields that would open up would be specific to HR.

George Thomas:
So now you can actually ask the questions, the second smart questions, how did I name that, people? I don't know. It was real difficult. But now you get the first question that's vitally important. Who the heck are you? And now that I know who are you, now here's the next five to six questions, two to three questions for all of you that are worried about longer forms. However, if it's a contextual conversation, they don't really care as much about length. But two to three, five to six, seven to nine, I don't care. It's up to. Should be AB testing by the way. But now you can open up and have questions that are contextual specific to that person, to their roles, goals and challenges, and to who they are. Now that is not first name, last name, email, job title, company name by any means.

George Thomas:
You know what? I do have a damn soapbox for this topic. I'm just going to throw that out there.

Remington Begg:
So here's one that's pretty near and dear to my heart. People ask the question because someone told them that they needed to on a cool show like Sprocket Talk, but then they don't do anything with the answers to those questions.

George Thomas:
Oh geez.

Remington Begg:
So what I'm saying is don't do it if you're not going to use it. It'll transform your marketing if you use it. But asking these questions is not going to solve all your business problems. Right? And the reason I say that is because there's so much potential data, right? Imagine saying, "How many CEOs hit my pricing page today?" Yeah.

George Thomas:
Right.

Remington Begg:
Like you could go so far, and then so at Impulse we've actually taken it a couple of steps further. So we've got those second smart questions. We're actually asking a lot of those questions anonymously. And the reason we're asking those anonymously is because we are well on our way to making the entire website experience change based on the persona that you say you are. And so the homepage is an experiment for the record, but it's flowing into the rest of the site and it's only going to get better from here. But it's a perfect example. I think we just put out a report on it that 15% of the people that hit our homepage actually engage in the persona selector to customize their messaging. Right? That's pretty huge. And I'm not saying just one piece, like I am a CEO and I need more leads. Right? Like taking that further. So don't just ask questions, actually use that information. Otherwise remove all that friction and don't ask. But I'm leaning very heavily towards use that information.

George Thomas:
Yeah. I mean, it makes no sense to ask the question if you're not going to use it. We've all been there. Why is the sky blue? Why are there clouds? Why does the sun move during ... like at a level of that you're like, "Ah, just stop." Right?

Remington Begg:
The third one. Right. Yeah.

George Thomas:
But if you're going to use it, then it makes sense. And, Remington, I'll even go kind of a step deeper to me personally, like there's always these shifts, right? There's these shifts in what happened. It was a suggestion to have a website that was mobile optimized. It was a suggestion to have a site that was SSL or secure. It was a suggestion to use blogging as a way to to attract leads. A suggestion to do Facebook ads when they were pennies on the dollar.

George Thomas:
A suggestion to do right now, smart content. To do what is an Amazon style website to truly give somebody a contextual specific journey of content that makes sense for them. It's a suggestion right now. But Remington, there will come a day because of everything that's happening with castle and spam and GDPR and all of this stuff that you're going to have to figure out a way to clear out the noise and super streamline the content digestion process and sales process and service process online. The way that human beings are going, that an Amazon style website is not going to be a suggestion. It's going to be a must have. And if you right now have not embraced personas. If you have not embraced the mindset of content in a database and contacts in a database and being able to merge those two with something cool like Hub DB and dynamic pages and personas, all in one ball of wax, you're going to get left behind. And it's going to be like in a blink of an eye. You're going to be like, "Wow, how are our competitors doing that?"

George Thomas:
That's it, that's it.

Remington Begg:
Right. Step back in the soapbox there. But no, it's absolutely true. [crosstalk 00:25:39] And the other part is we have the contacts. This is what scares me, right? We have the contacts, we have the databases and a lot of times people aren't segmenting. I'm really more on a horrified like spectrum surprised that when I jump into some HubSpot portals and they have like five lists and it's the five imports they did when they started. Right. And stuff like that. And they definitely created an all emails folder or list.

Remington Begg:
And there's things, like we're not saying you have to send a different email to every single one of those people. But this is where smart content, we did a whole big thing on smart content and we'll probably have to do another one. But that one email could have just a sentence variation difference that means the world to the prospect that gets it. And think about the appreciation for a customer, and this is actually going to be in my talk at Inbound is I come back to your homepage. Rather than saying, "Hey, sign up for a free demo," why don't you say, "Hey, thanks for being a customer. You need some help?".

Remington Begg:
That simple message is not a lot of work, and the amazing thing with HubSpot is it's not a lot of work to build. It's just a matter of having those personas. But you can never do that if you didn't have that customer list in that persona.

George Thomas:
Yeah. Here's the thing, and I'm going to share something that I have yet to share because I'm still unpacking where my mind is with this, but I'm going to unpack it a little bit here. Because you started to say something and I was like, "Yeah, but this," and here's why this. You said we've got the contacts, we've got them in there and we've got the database. And so what's missing? The missing piece is the bridge, the context between the information in the database and the context. And here's the thing. The problem with this, Remington, is for you to truly get the context, you have to understand how to reverse engineer the machine to get the context.

George Thomas:
Which means in all honesty, in my humble opinion, every marketer, every sales professional, every business owner, every whoever, if you deal with human beings, you should really focus on how much of my day can I spend learning about psychology? How much of my day can I spend learning about human triggers? How much of my day can I spend learning about why humans do things for emotional reasons? Because marketing and personalization and contacts and databases and context, the bridge is all that stuff. Look Remington, I just got done doing and they're still coming out slowly, 14 videos on personalized one-to-one videos. And I wrote each one, I wrote like a little piece for an article and I turned it into a video and after I sat back and watched the collective work, do you know what I thought to myself, Remington? [crosstalk 00:00:28:57].

George Thomas:
No. Well, yes, I got to do it again. But I thought to myself, this is very interesting. I've now created 14 videos teaching people how to be more human under the title of one to one videos. And I was just amazed. I'm literally teaching human principles wrapped up with a bow of one-to-one videos. And I was like, "Oh my gosh." And this is where my brain started to go into this psychological, emotional, human triggers context that people are really bad at.

George Thomas:
We're really good at these firm pillars. If I was to teach all of a sudden, by the way, I'm dipping into maybe another future Unpacked, if I was to start to talk about informationally qualified, engagement qualified, persona qualified, oh, we're talking about personas, you wouldn't have that pillar, and recency qualified. Like your brain can understand those firm four pillars. But if I started to talk, get all gushy and mushy about emotions and why that human won't answer that, or will answer it this way, now all of a sudden we're like, "Whoa, back up. This just got difficult." I'm just saying. That's where my mind is at.

Remington Begg:
Yeah. Well that's a fun rant because I think that all of this comes down to the context you're talking about. And what's interesting is all of the problem solvers that I know, marketing, sales, life, otherwise, always ask why. Right? And they're asking why because they need that context. And I think that if we're not asking those questions early, and when we say early, we mean like what George mentioned earlier, like at the top of your form rather than the bottom. It shows what matters. And we all, and I say we all, I mean like agencies and most companies that are with it are striving to be customer centric. But we're not actually asking the prospects about themselves. Right? So now all we care about is our customer base, people that are paying us money, but we don't care about making the smooth transition into becoming a customer easy either by answering those direct questions.

Remington Begg:
So if you haven't gathered people, personas are important. We didn't get into much around how to do it with HubSpot other than the form fields. But that's the thing. I think that's one of the most misunderstood pieces here is it's not a thing in HubSpot. Like if you use Marketo, you still need buyer personas. Right. Like if you do anything else, you still need those buyer personas and those ideal client profiles and those things. But I think a lot of times people get hung up. It's just something HubSpot needs because it's a spot in HubSpot, which for the record, there's a spot in HubSpot called personas.

George Thomas:
If you got to this part and you didn't know that, sorry, whoops.

Remington Begg:
Yeah, we ranted. But on the flip side, I think that as we dig in here, George and I are here. George is like obviously passionate about this. But ask some questions about it. Let's get some answers and try and help you out on how to define them and maybe that will be a course in the future.

George Thomas:
Yeah, for sure.

Remington Begg:
We sure know that there's a lot of passion behind it.

George Thomas:
Yeah, there sure could be a course, easily. Like you've got the whole HubSpot side. I want to leave you with one thought, one thought before we close out this episode.

Remington Begg:
Let's do it.

George Thomas:
If you go and you listen to anybody teach you how to create great content, they're going to tell you, always start with your best information at the top because that's how people get bought in. That's how people stay along for the ride. However, I want you to think about that. Yeah, that makes sense. But when it comes to your forms, you're starting with crap. Just going to throw that out there. Why would you do that? All right, that's another episode of Sprocket Talk Unpacked. As always, I'm George B. Thomas. He's ...

Remington Begg:
Remington Begg.

George Thomas:
And we're saying, make sure you go out into the world and do some happy hubspotting.

Remington Begg:
Sweet. Tootles.