Buyer Persona Institute President Jim Kraus explodes myths around crafting customer avatars. He reveals proven methodology unlocking what buyers truly prioritize when making decisions.
Listen as Jim maps a 5-point framework identifying core motivators driving purchases. We discuss tips to validate assumptions through buyer interviews, plus using insights to inform messaging.
You’ll discover common persona pitfalls to avoid, ensuring your perspective aligns with real-world needs. Jim shares tactics, like conversation starters, helping sellers exude relevance.
Join us to overhaul your approach, gaining traction and trust. Come away confident to develop personas sparking meaningful connections with customers.
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The UnNoticed Entrepreneur is hosted & produced by Jim James.
Jim James (00:01.634)
Hello, welcome to this episode of the Unnoticed Entrepreneur. Now this is the show which is really trying to find the best ways that entrepreneurs can build their businesses and build their brands without having a lot of budget for external agencies. And one of the frequent questions that I'm asked in my consultancies about buyer personas. And the guess that I've got on today is actually gonna help me to understand that I've been making a mistake. I've been thinking too much about the customer journey
and not enough about what Jim Kraus is gonna tell us about customer profiles. And Jim's also gonna tell us about a book called Jolt. He's got some wonderful resources that he's gonna share with us at the end of the show as well. So stick around. Jim Kraus is the president of a company called the Buyer Persona Institute, joining us today from New Jersey. Jim, welcome to the show.
Jim Kraus (00:53.395)
Thanks Jim, so glad to be here.
Jim James (00:55.286)
Well, I'm glad to have you because listening to you and looking at the website, I realize that I have been making a mistake for many, many years when it comes to buyer personas and customer journeys. So could you just help us to understand what we're all doing wrong when it comes to trying to identify who is the person that might be our customer? Take it away.
Jim Kraus (01:22.983)
Yeah, so great. It's a question I get every day actually. And I think the best way to think about buyer personas is to actually not even think about buyer personas for a moment and think about if, you know, you're an entrepreneur or anybody who's has as part of their role is to sell market products and services, influence buyers. A really great question to kind of think about is what type of insights do you need to have
to better influence your buyers? What kind of information would you want to say, how do I better connect with them? How do they get to even consider me? How do I move them through sales process so they'll consider me even more strongly and they'll select me at the end? So if you think about that, the traditional way of thinking about a buyer persona is it's a fictional avatar of a particular role or individual involved in a buying decision.
The problem with that definition is those type of descriptive characteristics, whether it's average age or family composition, what kind of car they drive, it doesn't give you a lot of information about how is that going to actually impact a very specific buying decision that they're making, right? Think about your product or service, probably not a lot. So what a buyer persona is or should be is really deep insights about that buying decision, very specifically, what do your buyers want to know?
And what do they want to experience to have confidence buying from you? So that's a very different kind of way of thinking about it, rather than focus on the individual focusing on the buying decision they're making and getting insights about that decision is a really a game changer as far as being more impactful in your marketing and sales efforts.
Jim James (03:06.354)
Jim, I think you're absolutely right because what we end up doing is kind of shoehorning and creating a stereotype, don't we, of a person who might be the buyer. And especially if we're selling products across geographies, for example, which most of us are these days, you end up with a buyer persona who is either so specific as to be exclusive of a large body of potential customers or so generic as to be almost worthless. So Jim,
You know, with the Buyer Persona Institute, what kind of clients do you help and what do you help them with in terms of understanding what is in effect a sort of a process profile rather than an individual profile?
Jim Kraus (03:54.823)
Yeah. So what we do with our clients is we either work with them on their behalf to do it, or we, we provide them information to figure on as far as doing it themselves is first, just defining what a buyer persona is, and then talking about what are the ways to actually develop your buyer persona. So we'll talk, let's talk about the buyer persona first. And there's, there's really five key areas that you want to understand about the buying decision. So,
for anybody listening out there, think about the product or services that you offer, and you wanna understand five things about those particular buying decisions. The first one we call priority initiatives, and you can see that on your screen there, is at the top. Priority initiatives are the triggers. These are the things that are literally getting one of your prospective buyers to start thinking about buying the particular product or service you offer from somebody. Could be you, could be somebody else. What is the thing that's actually on that day getting them going?
Because they may have had a challenge for a long period of time. What is the thing that's getting them going? It's important because it helps you figure out where do I beat my buyers? What's going to be on their mind when I meet them? The second thing is success factors. That's number two. And just simply think about those as outcomes that your buyers want. What are the benefits? They're making this investment. What are the most important things they're trying to get out of that investment? And again, those first two, priority, initiative, and success factors, when you're thinking about early on, when you're first
interacting with your prospective buyers in whatever fashion, you want to be really aligned to what's most important to them. The third one we call perceived barriers. Think of these as, these are your buyers' fears, their concerns, their trepidations, right? They may have concerns about moving away from the status quo, even investing with anybody, you know, or they may have certain fears and concerns with certain providers for whatever reasons.
You want to know what all those barriers are. What are their concerns? You want to know those ahead of time so you're not guessing at them. And the advantage of that is then you can proactively and calmly address them and be the guide, if you will, for your buyer. Make them calm, make them at peace, right? You're addressing the things they're worried about. The fourth thing is decision criteria. And these are, think of these as the questions that you can anticipate your buyers asking. These are the things they're going to ultimately evaluate you on if they're looking at different
Jim Kraus (06:14.075)
alternatives, right? In addition to whatever you're offering, right? It could be product and feature related. It could have certain things to do with your service and support. It could have things to do with price. It could have value, et cetera, et cetera. And then the fifth and final one is buyer's journey. And buyer's journey is, you know, what are the steps that a typical buyer that buys your product and services, what are the typical buying steps that they're going to take, right? Who are the key decision influencers that are going to be involved in that decision
and what types of information sources are they going to be using to get more educated and be more informed as they winnow down their options, they make a final buying decision. So if you think about your buyer persona, if you know those five things about a buying decision you're trying to influence, you really have everything you need to know to influence your buyers.
Jim James (07:04.487)
Jim, that's wonderful. And for anybody that is listening to this, I would like to go and check this out. It's buyer at persona.com. And you can see these five rings explained and illustrated as Jim has just done so nicely here. Fantastic. So that really is very liberating, isn't it? Because we're no longer trying to identify a person as such
but rather a series of considerations, which could be then universal, regardless of geography or scale of company, or even industry, right Jim? So just tell us then, people are using this research and how are they then implementing it? How do they translate this Buyer Persona into their...
sales process, their marketing process, because on its own, it's academic, isn't it? We need to then make that into how we engage to drive leads, for example.
Jim Kraus (08:09.363)
Yeah, so one of the things that typically folks that use this approach will do is through understanding these five rings, what you're going to end up doing is you're going to end up finding five or six, usually five, six, maybe seven at the most themes, if you will, things that become very evident that your buyers really, really care about when they're making that buying decision. That's super important because now if you're developing thought leadership material, if you're writing things on social media.
If you're doing thought leadership, you want to be focused on these five or six things, right? Because that's what your buyers are really going to care about. When it comes to your messaging, if you're developing sales pitch decks, if you've got messaging on your website, right? Again, you want to be focused on these things that buyers really care about. If you develop developing sales campaigns, right? If you're trying to figure out, you know, what's the hook? What are the things that buyers are going to get their attention? Your this, your buyer persona will tell you exactly what you should be focused on to get their attention.
The reason all those things are so important is because when you think about these kind of decisions, these higher consideration buying decision that buyers are making, the reality is they may have never made this buying decision in their life or they make it very infrequently. So they're going to be anxious about it, right? They're going to be trying to figure out like, what do I even look, who do I look at? What's the most important thing that I should be involved in my decision? They're going to have information coming at them in a variety of different ways.
The provider that does the best job of giving them comfort and confidence that buying from them is the right decision, right? Nothing's gonna get messed up if I go with them and their product or service usually wins the business, price aside. So again, all these different things I've mentioned. Another way that our clients use these quite often is for conversation starters. You identify these five, six themes, for example, and now you know that you've got.
Jim James (09:55.007)
Jim Kraus (09:59.335)
you know, things that you can almost be assured that your buyers are gonna care about all those things or at least several of them. And you can start kind of winnowing your conversation in those, that way.
Jim James (10:09.166)
Jim, many people build their customer avatar and customer journey, sort of almost in isolation of the customer, you know, and now of course you can use AI tools to build them for you. How do you recommend at the Persona Institute to really build out this by a persona so that it's accurate and in alignment with the people that you're wanting to talk to?
Jim Kraus (10:38.023)
Yeah, the only way to really do it, do it well, and to be really assured that what you come out with is fact-based and is reflective of your market, whatever that is, is to interview recent buyers. And when I say recent buyers, what I mean by that is these aren't necessarily your current customers. It's okay to talk to some of your current customers, but they're going to have some inherent biases, good or bad. You want to find people that have made this exact same buying decision in the past three to six months. Some of them may be opportunities you never saw.
Some of them may be opportunities you saw and you didn't win the business, and some may be opportunities you saw and you did win the business. And you wanna literally interview them for, typically interviews that we do last 30 to 40 minutes. We only ask one scripted question at the beginning, say, take me back to the day when you first decided you needed X, and X would be whatever your product or service is, and tell me what happened. And then you just question and you probe to understand all the steps that they took from that very moment,
all the way until they made a final decision. So you can understand how did they even figure out who they were gonna look at? How did they winnow down their options and evaluate the providers? How did they come up with a final decision? If you have those kinds of conversations with the recent buyers, that's gonna enable you to look across the interviews and develop those five different areas of insight that we just talked about. Your recent buyers are the only experts in this. AI can't do it for you.
AI doesn't have that information, right? It's proprietary information that only you can get by actually interviewing buyers. Things like AI can help you supplement some of those things, but it can't be the primary source. The other benefit of interviewing buyers, and I can't emphasize this enough, is that with that, you will have an abundance of buyer quotes from these studies. So you'll get to see exactly how your buyers think and talk about this particular buying decision they're making. And...
A, it adds amazing credibility to the findings so that you can feel really confident in them. And then B, you're going to get this sixth sense about your buyers, right? And it impacts everything that you're doing as far as how you interact with them, your messaging, all those kinds of things.
Jim James (12:45.046)
Jim, I love that, that you go back, if you like, to the source as opposed to be theoretical. Jim, you know, you yourself are the principal of a company, KS&R, which then acquired the Persona Institute. So one of the reasons I was excited to have you on the show is that you've really got an entrepreneurial story in here as well. Just tell us about the acquisition of the Persona Institute.
know, why that took place, what you're looking for in a company to add to the portfolio of KS&R.
Jim Kraus (13:21.767)
Yeah, so KS&R is a global market research firm. We've been around for 40 years. And we have a very strong culture as far as what the types of value we want to provide our clients. And basically, our bumper sticker is help providing market and buyer insights to our clients so they can make more informed and confident decisions. And that really is the thread that goes through our entire organization. So Buyer Persona Institute.
Um, Adele Ravella founded the company 15 years ago. Her and I have known each other for years. Um, and I got wind of the fact that she was looking to retire and move on and, and Buyer Persona Institute was such a perfect fit with. KS&R's culture and what our, our value proposition was, which I just described, right? It's about developing insights that are just highly actionable that our clients can use to make better decisions, improve their performance. So it was just a perfect fit for us.
And it also enabled us to get into certain markets that we wanted to get into a little bit better as well. So it was, it was a great fit for our company and what we're all about, right? The value we deliver. It also helped because it was an opportunity to expand into some other markets as well. So I think those were probably the two primary drivers that us resulted in us acquiring BPI early of 2022.
Jim James (14:45.014)
And plainly you've taken over the mantle and are building it out, which is fantastic. And I think some of the resources that you're going to share at the end will be some learnings that the unnoticed entrepreneurs, my community can go to the website and download some tools, aren't there Jim? So appreciate you sharing with those as well. When you made the acquisition, let's just talk about the communication side of that, because you had a founder who was very much...
the personality behind the business. Do you want to just tell us the process for communicating about the takeover and really reassuring existing clients and staff that the business would continue to serve and to grow?
Jim Kraus (15:30.811)
Yeah, I think one of the advantages we have is that Dell and I have always had a great relationship and we kind of see the business world through the same eyes as far as the value that we want to provide clients and the impact that we can make through market research and studies. So that was number one, right? That we shared kind of the same vision. I think what we actually did was one of the things we did is her and I did in an announcement video that we put out on our website. We put out on different social platforms
where her and I both just talked about the acquisition and how it made a lot of sense and how Adele was really happy and confident that BPI was in good hands. And the fact that we had some things that we wanted to do, some additional services that we wanted to add that were complimentary to even extend the great thing that she had started 15 years ago. So her and I both jointly being out there together, I think especially in those first nine months is really important. I think the second thing that we did was
we made sure that we visited with clients, right? Clients that have known Adele and are a fan of Adele's even for years. And they got a chance to really meet me with Adele and kind of hear what I was about and some of the things we were thinking about as far as adding some additional services and expanding on the great work she started. So it ended up being pretty seamless, right? And I think the relationship her and I had and our view of things and my understanding about
what BPI provided and how we could enhance it even more. And the fact that we did get out there and communicate this, I want to say aggressively, but proactively is the right word, that helped immensely.
Jim James (17:11.642)
Yeah, Jim Kraus, we're talking with you as the principal of the Buyer Persona Institute. You know, I always ask people not to be embarrassing, just to learn from you. Is there anything that has not gone quite as planned? Any sort of learning that you can share so that my fellow unnoticed entrepreneurs don't fall into the same trap?
Jim Kraus (17:36.243)
Yeah, I mean, I think, like I'm sure the entrepreneurs that are listening to this, you try different marketing and sales tactics. You're trying to figure out, aside from the buyer persona and trying to understand exactly what your buyers want, you're still trying different tactics to figure out what's the best way for folks to become aware of us, to really know what we're about, to be able to assess our value. One of the things that we have tried with very limited success is different organizations that provide, basically generate leads for you where
we tried one thing where they would basically take, act as you on your social platforms like LinkedIn and communicate very professionally and come up with different drip messages to prospects and clients. And we didn't have a ton of success with that. I'm not 100% sure why. I felt like the messages that we were sending out there were relevant. I think part of the challenge is when you have somebody who's taking over
you know, you're you as the person or the role, they can never quite capture the heart of the thing that you have a passion for, right? Like the thing that you really just can't wait to talk to people about because you feel so strong, or you can add value. That part, no matter what you do is going to be missing. And I think that's part of the reason why it probably wasn't as successful as we had hoped.
Jim James (18:55.098)
Yeah, that's really, really interesting. And the first person that shared that about using an outsourced agency to represent you and what we're hearing more and more of course, is about the need for authenticity and that, you know, it's not a volume game. You're trying to build relationships on LinkedIn, not just try and engage at mass. Jim, on the other side, with all of your experience, both at KS&R and now with the Buyer Persona Institute.
Jim Kraus (19:08.596)
Jim James (19:25.854)
What would you give advice in terms of what really does work in terms of getting noticed?
Jim Kraus (19:33.119)
I think the two things for us would be, one is continuing. Any time we're out there, communicating with the market, whether it's very specific market we're targeting or the broader market, and it sounds very obvious, but we steer away from just sending out communications for the sake of it, just so somebody sees our name or awareness. We try to make sure it always has teeth. It's always something that somebody will learn something new, or it may
give them a different angle on something, or it may just be a good reminder of something that could impact them. I think that's one thing that we've tried to do as a matter of course. And then the second thing I think that we do is when we are interacting with our prospects, we talk about what we do, some of the things we talked about today, but we also make sure that we are showing them actual tangible deliverables of what they can expect from us, so that it becomes
theoretical, it may make sense to them, but then when they actually see an example of it and we talk about how they can use it, that really makes them feel going back to the confidence issue, it makes them feel like, okay, this is something I can actually see and touch and think about and I can start forming in my mind how we can use this. That is just so incredibly important to make that value very transparent to folks. So anytime you can show examples of what you're actually going to be delivering and how to use that
Jim James (21:01.122)
That's great, Jim. And at BuyerPersona.com, under your resources section, you've got how to create buyer personas gap analysis, and Buyer Persona templates as well there for people, which those that maybe can't afford your services yet, but do need some of the insights can go there. So really putting that into action and making it freely available. Fabulous there. Jim, you're obviously a man that has
a long history and career in research, but also you are no doubt a reader and a listener. Could you give us a recommendation for a book or a podcast that my fellow unnoticed entrepreneurs should download and get ready for the Christmas season?
Jim Kraus (21:47.987)
Yeah, so we're actually working on a second edition of Buyer Personas. Adele wrote the first one. Her and I are co-writing the second one coming out in the middle of the year. And one of the books that we're referencing, which I really loved, is called The Jolt Effect. And it was written by Matthew Dixon and Ted McKenna. And it's really cool because they, with COVID, there's not many silver linings from COVID obviously, but one of the unique opportunities it presented was that a lot of the,
you know, seller-buyer interactions that often occur in offices were now happening virtually. And they were able to be recorded on, you know, different platforms like, you know, whether it was WebEx or Teams or Zoom, et cetera. So they partnered with dozens of companies and were able to record all these sales conversations. And they ended up recording over 2.5 million sales conversations, really the largest set of data
that we've ever had on those type of unfiltered, in the moment conversations. So what they were able to do is they were able to use AI and machine learning algorithms to really analyze that data and just really learn a lot of really cool things about the buying decision. The premise of their book is really casting a light on how much buyer indecision there is in the marketplace and really popping some bubbles on conventional wisdom about why is it that interested buyers
don't end up buying. So there's some great insights in that book about that. There's some really cool insights in that book. They analyzed how top sellers overcome buyer indecision. So I can't summarize it all on this thing, but I will say that if you are interested in understanding why buyers don't buy and you're interested in how to overcome buyer indecision, their book is a great resource. And it's based on hard data and recent data.
Jim James (23:35.966)
one of us a book called Jolt and we'll find the details and put that in the show notes as well. Jim Kraus, you give me a jolt to be honest, because I used to think that doing a buyer persona was about, you know, profiling kind of an age, gender, you know, education, buying habits. I always intuitively felt we got stuck a little bit. But today you've, A, shown me why I was getting stuck
but also giving me a roadmap of how to get unstuck and how to help my clients when they're working on their personas. So thank you so much. It's been so, so illuminating. Jim Kraus, president, sorry, of BioPersona Institute. Thank you for joining me today.
Jim Kraus (24:21.067)
Thanks, Jim. I appreciate it.
Jim James (24:23.614)
If you want to find out more about you, Jim, where can they go?
Jim Kraus (24:27.667)
I guess two sources, one you mentioned already, but buyerpersona.com is a great resource. We have lots of thought leadership there. We have free templates. We have a master class for do-it-yourselfers. It's a couple hundred bucks. It's not free, but it's not super expensive either if you want to really get in the nuts and bolts of this. And then anybody wants to link into me, Jim Kraus, feel free to, we put out a newsletter. We're always talking about the buying decision and buying insights. So happy to connect with people on that platform as well.
Jim James (24:56.942)
Jim Kraus, thank you for joining me today.
Jim Kraus (24:59.487)
Thanks, I appreciate it.
Jim James (25:01.75)
Well, the two Jims there you have it. Jim in New York, New Jersey, and Jim in Wiltshire. Doesn't sound quite as glamorous, does it? But we've had the two Jims for you today, and really, really can't stress enough how the sort of general wisdom of Buyer personas is actually flawed. And so very, very grateful to Jim for coming on and helping us to understand where the flaw lies, but also where the solution
Jim Kraus (25:09.192)
Jim James (25:30.85)
lies as well, especially if you're in the B2B decision-making process, where the purchase is not an impulse purchase and it's not one person making a decision with a relatively low threshold but maybe multiple decision makers and over time and multiple vendors as well. This is really, really powerful methodology and mindset as well.
So as always, I hope that you've found this as interesting and as insightful as I have. If you have, do please review the show on your player because that really helps me to understand what you think of the show and how I can do better and follow the show because I don't want you to miss another episode of the Unnoticed Entrepreneur. And until we meet again, I just do encourage you to keep on communicating. Thank you for listening.