Feb. 18, 2021

Why Marketers Should Create Negative Personas with Rebecca Sadwick

Why Marketers Should Create Negative Personas with Rebecca Sadwick

Some companies are obsessed with their customers, while others still aren't quite sure who their ideal customer is. When done right, creating a customer persona can help ensure the decisions being made are the right ones. But as you'll hear in this episode, sometimes you also need a negative person to know who you shouldn't be selling to. Rebecca Sadwick joins Katelyn Bourgoin on this episode of Customer Show.

Some companies are obsessed with their customers, while others still aren't quite sure who their ideal customer is. When done right, creating a customer persona can help ensure the decisions being made are the right ones. But as you'll hear in this episode, sometimes you also need a negative person to know who you shouldn't be selling to. On this episode of Customer Show, Rebecca Sadwick joins Katelyn Bourgoin to share how to create a negative customer persona.

On this episode, Katelyn and Rebecca discuss:

  • Why Not All Customer Are Created Equally
  • How To Design Research Experiments (The Right Way)
  • How To Create Negative and Anti Customer Personas
  • And So Much More!

Rebecca Sadwick is a customer-focused marketer and the founder of Stretegica Partners. Rebecca is a regular contributor to Forbes. 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccasadwick/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rebeccasadwick

Strategica Partners: https://strategica.partners/

More On Negative Personas: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccasadwick/


Connect with Katelyn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KateBour

Get your free Customer Ranking Calculator: https://customercamp.co/calculator


Rebecca Sadwick: [00:00:00] the skepticism and the debate around whether personas are useful comes from this misapplication and the miss of the methodology. 

[00:00:08]The goal of these personas is just to make decisions easier. The positioning should be clear when you know, the problems The channels that'll be effective, become clear when you know the problems. And if you can't remember it, it's too complicated. 

[00:01:09]Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:01:09] I'm joined today by marketing  founder of strategic partners, Rebecca sidewalk, Rebecca and I, we have a mutual friend, Daniel Murray. And when I told Daniel about the theme of the customer show podcast, he said that I had to talk to Rebecca.

[00:01:23] So thank you so much for being here today, Rebecca. Thanks for having me. So I was on your website. I was scoping out your work, seeing the kinds of things that you talk about. And one of the topics that really jumped out to me as really exciting was something that you'd written about, why companies need to have negative personas.

[00:01:41] And I am really looking forward to digging into that before we start talking about the actual negative persona though. And when you share what that is and why they're important, I thought we could kick things off by talking about personas in general. And there has been a lot of debate in the marketing world about the usefulness of personas.

[00:02:00] And so some marketers swear by them. Others think that they're a waste of time. Tell me, like, where do you stand on this debate? 

[00:02:08] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:02:08] I think, I think, all right, that every single person who has a strong opinion probably is coming from a different place. And the way I see it, as it breaks down to the strategy versus the tactics, which is the execution, like everything we do in marketing, The way most percentages are done, I agree is useless or anything.

[00:02:25] More than useless. And then it makes us think we have a decision making tool. We do. Sometimes they are way too static. Somebody came up with a persona two years into the company and they don't really get looked at. Don't really get updated. And the customer facing teams aren't really consulted on them.

[00:02:40] In that case, they are useless. Sometimes they are just dead wrong. If they anchor in demographics, especially in a B2B setting, they are less than useless. If something like this is marketing Mary she's 34, she has two kids. Her household income is X. She has a college degree. None of that actually tells us how people buy in a B2B setting.

[00:02:58] People with different genders, different incomes, living on different coasts or in different countries could have identical business needs and business cases. So the demographics are typically very heavily overweighted and I would say should never even come into play unless they're actually driving.

[00:03:12] Say a fertility product at which point the age and gender of a person would matter. So the way most of them are done is people get into a room. They kind of hypothesize, they throw some stickies on a wall. They say, yeah, that sounds pretty good. Clap, clap, clap goes into a drag somewhere. We never look at it again.

[00:03:29] That is totally useless is not a persona that shouldn't be done that way. But if we're actually methodical with researching. With current customers and prospects who look like current customers, but in a way that isn't biasing their answers. So starting very high level, making sure that the current customers understand that we're not looking for the use cases around how we currently position our products, but their general workflows.

[00:03:52] Saying nothing about our product to our prospects, until we've gotten through their priorities and their workflow, then we dive into how the product could fit into it. Otherwise you run the risk of people, biasing their answers based on what they think you want to hear based on the positioning that you've done.

[00:04:08] But if we don't have that research in those steps and we don't have actually good personas, which is telling us. What people are receptive to the channels that they're most likely to convert with how they communicate and share information. We don't even have the foundation for a positioning framework, which means we don't even have the foundation for any effective marketing experiments, because we don't have any confounding control factors for these confounding variables.

[00:04:30] If we're running quote-unquote experiments by just kind of. Throwing up some ads here and winning some contact day, wishing them articles and sending some emails. But we don't have hypothesis that we're methodically testing around who we're sending it to why they care, what their problems are, which is the goal of the persona.

[00:04:48] We don't have the foundation of experiment and we're worse off running experiments, looking at dashboards, thinking we understand because we have all of these unmitigated assumptions around who we're sending to and why. So if we haven't said much of the market, we haven't. W made that the foundation of our positioning framework, we don't have personas if we don't have a marketing 

[00:05:06] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:05:06] framework.

[00:05:07] This is so good. And so I think that you you've summarized a lot, my opinion on it, too. This idea that if a persona is coming from a bunch of gut assumptions and you kind of sitting around and putting stickies on the board, it's not going to be useful, but if it is driven by insight and research and focused on behaviors and what actually motivates people to buy, it's going to be really valuable.

[00:05:30] So you were talking about segments and leveraging those to figure out experiments, figuring out channels. Tell me what goes into creating those initial personas. So thinking first about the personas of this is who we want to sell to walk me through how you go about doing that. 

[00:05:47] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:05:47] So I I'll walk you through the end state and then go backwards if that works for you, because people often ask me, how do you know you've done it enough?

[00:05:54] And you know, you've done this when you can think of a real person and ask yourself what they would think of something, and this is best done. When you could think of two real people who have opposite demographics. So a man or a woman is an easy one. Different sized companies is another one, depending on how it's being applied.

[00:06:10] But we go through this by trying to replicate and recreate the buying behaviors as authentically and organically as we can, which is why a focus group would never come into this because people don't buy like focus groups. So we go through this by looking at our current user base and the current use cases that we designed for and trying to identify the people who fit into these power users, the ones who are more active than anyone.

[00:06:33] Understanding their use cases and why, and working backwards toward. We're creating likewise that prompted them to buy in the first place, the problems that are being solved and then making sure we're leveraging that into recreating those channels that be most effective. We also want to look at the different cohorts of people who could be what Andrew Chen calls, adjacent users, people who could go either way based on their usage of the product.

[00:07:01]And we want to understand what it would take to push them into the active acquisition that we're looking to. Did attain. So this really needs to anchor first and foremost, with the questions of the problem we're trying to solve. And qualitative research, the quantitative has to come second and the quantitative could be a survey, but the qualitative really are these longer form interviews trying to recreate the.

[00:07:24] Authentic problem set that these users have from their own point of view and not from the point of view that our product fits into them. So we'd ask them questions about the last board meeting they presented out at what the topics were, the last conversation they had with their boss, their quarterly goals and objectives, how they mapped the business objectives, because there's no shortage of accurate ways to describe what our product does.

[00:07:47] And there's no shortage of. Valuable feature roadmap to come out of it. So what we want to do is come up with the ones that avoid the secondary media group positioning things that people say. Yeah, I guess that sounds pretty good. Okay. I see where it's going. Sure. We'd pay for that. But it's not a priority.

[00:08:03] So you'll kind of stagnate to linear growth. What we want is to find the buying behaviors and the positioning and makes people jump out of their chairs and say, yes, I absolutely must have this map. And that's what we're going for. Then we can layer the data on top of it. Sorry with that. The product usage or surveys from there.

[00:08:19] What we would never want to start with them because we wouldn't know what questions to ask. 

[00:08:23] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:08:23] Right.  Okay, so let's make this tangible for the listener is a, maybe a client story that you can share. Maybe one that you've seen done really well, that is publicly available. Can you talk to me about a, a company that wanted to go through this exercise of identifying who their personas are?

[00:08:40] The ones they wanted to sell to maybe segmenting their audience up to a variety of buyers and what the output looked like? So what was the actual. Document or or the, the key criteria included in the persona. So kind of give me a real-world example. 

[00:08:58] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:08:58] So I'll give you one from a biotech startup out of San Francisco.

[00:09:01] They have, have best in class technology that does more than anyone in this space, but we're seeing kind of a. Difficulty is breaking out and categorization and being compared to competitors whose feature set is far more limited than theirs is, but was being perceived as being more comprehensive. And the big takeaway from that after dozens of these interviews, was that the way that they were positioning of being the most reliable to tool in the market, wasn't connecting.

[00:09:28] So we did all of these interviews with current users and potential users and found that the accuracy of the testing it's a diagnostics tool. Was the most important thing. So we came back then and we said, this is the criteria, the buying criteria. This is how you're perceived compared to competitors because your users turn more about accuracy.

[00:09:48] And the team's response was we know, we know that accuracy is the most important thing to that. That's what we call ourselves the most reliable, but to their customers, reliability is the measure of durability, how long the testing tool would last, which they didn't care about. The accuracy of the results being confident they could act on the data did.

[00:10:07] So things that we think of as being synonymous, the users might not. And what we come back with is a, basically a flywheel of how people buy and then decide to keep using the product and then pair that with what it would take to get them to retain for additional purchases and renew and renew their subscription or refer others.


[00:10:29] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:11:59] I think that you hit on something that is such a problem inside of organizations, which is this, you know, this bias of knowledge where we know too much, or we think we know too much and we're using this insider language or where assuming our audience is perceiving the words we're using the same way we are.

[00:12:18] You were able to go to as this kind of like unbiased third party, right. And identify that there was this disconnect from what they thought they were saying and what their customers are hearing. And I love that example. So that leads me to another question. When it comes to putting together these personas and teams do come with those inherent biases, what can they do if they're going to do this research internally?

[00:12:43] Like what can they do to avoid not missing out on those signals that you are able to hear. 

[00:12:50] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:12:50] The first thing is to make sure that the people who come to those meetings have come with two or three bullets written down, answering the questions that we care to address that day often they're things like what is true about the company?

[00:13:03] What do we do better than anyone else? How do we want customers to feel when they. Work with us and what would they do if we didn't exist? If people come into those meetings with two sticky notes or the virtual equivalent of that, then we have a bigger variety of perspectives. And I often find this is too internal.

[00:13:20] The executives have filtered to many levels between the customer facing teams. You should have a, a customer support rep in those meetings, not just the VP. They ladder up to somebody who was on the phones every day and account executive. Not just the sales manager. And I find that too. There's too many levels between the people who are talking to customers every day and the people who are making the decisions, oftentimes in a way that it's it's filtered.

[00:13:45] So when we have these hypotheses to tasks where we have anchored in the criteria that we are. Of of what makes our company better. That's what we want to have hypotheses around that we then go and listen to methodically without any bias or judgment or assumptions. We talk to our customers and talking to customers and talking to prospects should look different because people who have never heard of your product, never interacted with your product, thinking conceive the problem that yourself and differently than those who do.

[00:14:13] And for these prospects, we want to say as a little about the company as you can, because the second you say hi, I'm Kaitlin. Here's what we do. And this is what I want to talk to you about today. Everything you've said has been filtered through the lens of what they think you want to hear, meaning you could be missing eight, even more compelling problem space because they just think it's not relevant to you.

[00:14:33] So you want to go out with saying as little as possible, making sure the discussion guide is adaptable. So if you find that you're asking a question that isn't particularly useful or needs to be clarified in different way, make it adaptable for the existing, for the customer and prospect calls that come after that, but make sure that you're not confusing product research, customer research, buyer, research, user research, and market research, because they're entirely disparate functions that need to be conducted differently.

[00:15:01] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:15:01] I love that that's such a common mistake that teams make you end up having three people from three different departments jumping in trying to be like, Oh, we get to talk to a customer. Well, I have these questions that I have these questions that I have these questions, and ultimately none of them really get what they need and is thrown about bandied about.

[00:15:20] And I think that it's so true and exercise back in my consulting days and exercise I used to run through with teams was I would have these. They set some questions, which were assumptions about the customer and their product and their unique place in the market, similar to what you addressed. And I'd have them all fill them out separately and then show reveal their answers.

[00:15:40] And oftentimes there was this big disconnect even between the founding teams. And that was a great way for me to kind of. Really get in that, Oh, like, you know, we're not on the same page here. And so it makes sense for us to slow down a little bit, invest in some of this foundational work, because even though we want to jump right to like, what's the marketing strategy you don't get here first.

[00:16:05] We're not going to get ultimately where we want to go. So it's so don't have the right people in that room. Then you're missing out on so 

[00:16:14] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:16:14] much. I find that this happens the most when the founding team built the product for themselves, because they may think they understand the problem space, but it could have been six years since they were actually in a customer's office, seeing what it looks like now.

[00:16:29] And so whenever teams will say, Oh, we do talk to customers. We talk with customers all the time. My first question is what do you ask them? And if it's, well, it changes every time. We don't really have a clear hypothesis that we're testing. And if it's a little bit of exposure, if we've kind of been ad hoc with what we've collected, there could be a lot of selective listening happening.

[00:16:49] So that discussion guide is key, but making sure it's adaptable to going forward. And again, a little bit of exposure, it could be worse than none because you may think you understand the solution space for people who look like you or look like the audience that you built for. But it could have evolved.

[00:17:03] And we run into what Andy Grove wants is that with hippos, the highest paid person's opinion, the second, the C. Executive says something, everything is filtered through that lens. So they should go last. And oftentimes I'll make the CEO of the note taker in the room to make sure that really listening.

[00:17:20] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:17:20] That's such a great tip. I love that. Okay. So let's talk a little bit about negative persona. So we all know that typically a persona personas around who do we want to have buy. And when you have teams who may be going after or. Different types of different segments of the market, or have conflicting opinions about who's the most valuable.

[00:17:40] It's probably pretty good to make sure that you get that. If there's people who aren't a good hire, you want to get that help me. What is the purpose of creating a negative customer persona? 

[00:17:54] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:17:54] The purpose at the end of the day is to make sure that we're not fragmenting our value proposition, which will erode our lifetime value.

[00:18:01] Embrace customer acquisition costs over time and negative persona is somebody that we would not change our product or marketing strategy around. But if they came to us organically, we may sell to them, but we wouldn't incorporate their feedback into a product roadmap. And anti persona is somebody who don't want to sell to.

[00:18:22] Because they're going to fragment our brand equity and could raise our support. Tickets could fragment the use cases. And wouldn't really understand that the value that they're not seeing is because of their use cases, not the products. So negative persona negative, we think neutral anti we think adjacent or avoid.

[00:18:42] So negative is somebody that we're not changing our pricing model. We're not waiting their behavior in the products and we're not waiting there. Product requests because they're not reflective of the actual value proposition in the ideal case that we want to foster. 

[00:19:01] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:19:01] Oh, okay. Cause so cool. Can you give me an example, like, is there a company that you've worked with where they had clearly defined personas, negative personas, that kind of neutral level and the auntie, like, we do not want these people, like we need to like re repel them with our messaging.

[00:19:18] Is there one that comes to mind that that clearly had 

[00:19:21] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:19:21] defined those? Yes. I'm an EdTech tech company who was selling primarily into K through 12. Public schools when a K through 12 private school came to them, they were happy to sell to them, but they didn't change their marketing around it, or their go to market strategy around them.

[00:19:39] And when they made feature requests, they weren't. Deviating from the core audience base around that and anti persona, it was when a hospital came to them or really large HMO that anyone in the U S will have heard of. I came to them and asked if they could purchase the product, but because they were confident that they wouldn't see the value of the way the product was intended, they actually turned that customer down and said, this isn't Bill's fee right now.

[00:20:05] Here's the recommendations we have where this becomes even more interesting is when the volume. Doesn't match up with the willingness to pay or, or the net revenue. What I mean by that is that it's really easy to have 70% of people surveyed say one thing, but if you haven't just aggravated what the negative personas or the cohorts within those are, it's very easy to miss that the majority of the differentiation that you have and the long-term revenue that you would hope to generate from that.

[00:20:37] Differentiation you have could be obfuscated by the fact that 70% of people said something, but 80% of the differentiation wasn't captured in that. So you want to be very clear about who fits on an account level and on a user level, into the differentiation that you have and keep in mind that what people want and what people are willing to pay for may not be the same thing.

[00:20:58] So a good way to do this has been leveling in, and that's there for contract survey to see the features that they care the most about. And then a van Westendorp pricing model. I talked with that to have a matrix of what are people really valuing and what are they willing to pay for? Because there could be feature sets like lists, traffic notifications, for example, that people really valued.

[00:21:19] They liked seeing Google maps laid over their route in real time, but they're not willing to pay more for it. Same thing with Virgin America, they liked the orchids. They liked the hand towels. They liked the purple lights, but they're not paying more for a flight because of it. And so the goal of these negative personas is to make sure that we are not conflating what people are willing to pay for.

[00:21:39] And the ideal buyers with just a sheer number of people, making a certain request that could deviate from our core differentiation. 

[00:21:47] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:21:47] I love that. Okay. So you mentioned two different, you said two different servers in a major. Can you name those again?

[00:21:52] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:21:52] Absolutely. I have a couple articles on Forbes about them as well. But a MaxDiff survey is essentially asking people to stack rank the feature sets or any aspect of the product in order of importance to them and the port. And the key thing here is that they have to choose.

[00:22:06] So they couldn't have a top a, the van Westendorp pricing model is. Consider it one of the simplest ways to get a sense of willingness to pay with an acceptable to a too expensive range with just four questions. And if you lay you the results of the two onto a X Y axis, basically the four quadrant matrix, you can get a sense of where that willingness to pay and where the feature priorities can lie in overlap.

[00:22:35] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:22:35] Right. And is that one of the exercises that you can leverage to help you identify? Okay. These are the personas that we're really wanting to go after. They have the willingness to pay. They care about the features that are differentiated to us. And these ones, we, while we thought that they were a good fit, like they don't care about the things that, that we were striving towards making us different and they were not willing to pay.

[00:22:57] So maybe if they come to us great. And then there's other ones where they, you know, maybe they. The features that they care about are ones that you never planned to build, 

[00:23:05] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:23:05] It was interesting that you say that now that you say that I would imagine you could, but I usually do it the other way, when we're confident in the personas that we have, then we know who to ask that massive and the van Westendorp pricing model on top of, but now that you've said that, I would imagine that it's a good way to.

[00:23:25] Develop some of those cohorts in the opposite order too. So I think shouldn't exploring 

[00:23:30] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:23:30] that. Well, it's interesting. Cause one of the we're doing a survey currently right now to understand how marketers specifically marketers that work with other companies. So we called them our marketers for hire how they go into their client's organizations and learn about their client's customers.

[00:23:45] And the fascinating part is that to no surprise of anybody who's ever been a marketer for hire, oftentimes your clients don't really know who their customers are, but they don't necessarily know that they don't know, or they. I think that they know, and aren't really willing to invest much time and energy into finding out, or they're really protective of the the audience research, because that's the thing that they bring to the table.

[00:24:08] Whereas if you're coming in as an agency that does the, you know, there's one particular thing, they want to outsource that to you, but this, the strategic stuff that's us. And so it's fascinating because I think that so often, right. When you are entering those relationships as that marketer coming in from the outside, it's difficult to build that trust when the client.

[00:24:31] Either thinks that they know, or they are not really interested in letting you spend too much time exploring that they just really want you to do the thing they hired you to do. And I could see those two surveys that you just mentioned being a really good way to gut check the assumptions that those teams are making.

[00:24:52] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:24:52] Absolutely. And sometimes just asking the question. Of great. How was that developed or asking multiple people who are your personas just coming back with, I've heard three different things. Or when we talk about this, the team seems to think this, this and this, or they don't come to mind. These have to be living, breathing documents that get updated with the input that our customer-facing teams have.

[00:25:14] And so sometimes a good way to overcome that skepticism is just by saying great. How were they developed? Who was involved? What are they? And if people have to say, Oh, let me look it up. I forget. I think it was a couple of years ago. That could be a good segue into 

[00:25:29] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:25:29] revisiting it too. Right. And that gets me to the next question I want to ask you.

[00:25:32] So when you are putting together these personas, let's say that you've identified through conversations with the team, that there are certainly ones that should be developed for the negative and anti personas. Maybe those don't make sense. Where do you go about gathering the data that will inform those personas?

[00:25:49] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:25:49] . So we typically would start with the customer facing teams, thoughts about it, then doing sales, look back data, and then product usage analysis as well. Sometimes even customer support analysis too, to see if there was a high volume of tickets created by people who ultimately churned. Could we have predicted that with any kind of leading indicator, even before acquisition?

[00:26:09] So, because sometimes this breakdown between the goals of the acquisition team, the goals of retention aren't aligned. So at the first place we would start the hypothesis that the customer facing teams had, but then putting some historic data on top of it, based on what's happened in the past. And then if we can talking to prospects or church customers or.

[00:26:31] Existing customers who are at high risk turning to understand what that looks like, because typically there are leading indicators that should have been available even before acquisition. And if we can put a process around them, that's a good foundation for it. 

[00:26:45]Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:26:45] Out of curiosity, have you ever seen a team that had a belief around who may be, you know, a bad fit customer that anti persona or, you know, we sell to them, but they're not really our people.

[00:26:57] And that ended up shifting like they, as they continue to evolve the product as demand, continue to come in from those audiences, they made a kind of strategic pivot. Has that ever happened? 

[00:27:08] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:27:08] Absolutely. And that typically comes at either this adjacent user of people who could kind of go either way based on how they're using the product.

[00:27:17] Initially have some indicators that show that they could see value and understanding what it would take to expand the value or to move the friction of the onboarding from them is where it's most often valuable. 

[00:27:31] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:27:31] Very cool. Okay. So let's say that you now have, your team has been brought in they're smart.

[00:27:36] They brought in an outsider who knows this stuff inside and out. You now have these resources that you can socialize with the team and getting everyone on the same page. Tell me about how you typically go about sharing this information with the different stakeholders on the team. 

[00:27:52] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:27:52] So we'd like to start with the kickoff meeting where people have come prepared with.

[00:27:56] Three core questions that we developed with the executive team around that the core problems to answer the core questions to address. And typically that means that we look at some surprises of some of the thoughts that we have are different than the others. And starting with that initial kickoff meeting gives us very clear buy-in to the hypothesis that we're testing the questions that we helped to answer with our customer discovery process, because that becomes the foundation of the discussion guide.

[00:28:26] And then we level in real quotes and the qualitative. Input that we have from these prospects and customers. It gives us even more to then delve into and put data on top of, and I think the real important thing here is that we always want the qualitative to come first because without that context, we can be making wildly unsupported claims with lots and lots of dashboards in ways that aren't always obvious.

[00:28:48] And that same process is something we come into with having people look at every dashboard and data set before a meeting. Coming written down two conclusions. They have in two questions that they have, because we'll find that six people can look at the exact same dashboard and have very different conclusions because the data doesn't tell us why people are behaving in a certain way.

[00:29:09] It just shows us what is happening and taken in silo. Any data set can be interpreted to me in any different thing. And when people come and realize that it's concluded different things, business, same dataset. Usually that's where the blind spots, the assumptions are found, but that doesn't happen when dashboards are built for the first time in a meeting, when somebody throws a dashboard up and says, see email marketing, just isn't working for us.

[00:29:33] Everyone goes, nod, nod, nod. Okay. But somebody could come with a different conclusion of, we haven't been segmenting effectively. We don't have the right call to action or subject lines in our emails. That's something that we need to look at first. So this is very much a qualitative. Process of first we leveraged the input.

[00:29:52] We let people think about and surface the points of divergence in their thinking in advance. Plus the qualitative discovery process to establish hypotheses and then the quantitative look back data or product analysis to make sense of what we're seeing in us and to either surface areas of divergence or give us an idea of if, what we've heard in these relatively few, a couple of dozen.

[00:30:18] Discovery calls is supported by the data we see at large. And that's often the foundation then of a survey. 

[00:30:25] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:30:25] I think this is so brilliant because the thing that you're doing that I think often gets missed is in recognizing that it's not just enough for everyone to be seeing the same information, even that information is being gathered, using really rigorous and, you know, like supported.

[00:30:42] Research methodologies. They are going to draw different conclusions from that information. And if you don't carefully ask what conclusions they're drawing and give them the opportunity to do that in a space where, you know, like you said, it's not the highest paid person's opinion wins, then risk of somebody just staying quiet around.

[00:31:04] Well, I kind of thought it was this. And then that brilliant insight that they had. Being missed in there. So it's not just about helping them to find the right information. It's really very much about helping them to find consensus around what's important and what they are striving for going forward. Am I hearing you correctly?

[00:31:23] Absolutely. 

[00:31:24] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:31:24] And we kind of come back to where we started, which has to think of a lot of the skepticism and the debate around whether personas are useful comes from this misapplication and the MIS. The miss of the methodology. And if we do something like a survey first, we have no idea the wording that's actually going to elicit the kinds of responses that we care about.

[00:31:47] And so if we just. Survey our users without actually asking longer-form qualitative questions. First, the data we have is worse than none at all. The personas that we have, if we do this wrong, it's worse than none at all. Making decisions just by looking at dashboards is worse than having none at all, because we have these completely unmitigated assumptions that we think we have answers to.

[00:32:09] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:32:09] Right. And that's the problem too, is the confidence because you're being data-driven quote unquote, when that data, as you said, it tells you what's happening, but not why. And all the conclusions that people are drawing are different, but they're often very confident in those as they came from data. 

[00:32:26] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:32:26] I love that. George Bernard Shaw quote, beware of false knowledge. It's more dangerous than ignorance because we think we know and we don't, but that's why most marketing experiments.

[00:32:35] Aren't actually experiments. They're just kind of hacking things that Facebook and Instagram and email and thinking, we see what works, but if we don't have control groups, we don't have their hypotheses. We can't say something like Facebook is a highest performing channel because maybe we segmented that better or the creative and the copy and the call to action were more compelling.

[00:32:55] Then in email, we just don't know. And so oftentimes companies are worse off running these ad hoc experiments. I'll say experiments loosely then if they did nothing and just talk to people because they think they have data to act on and that doesn't scale. 

[00:33:12] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:33:12] So Rebecca, let me ask you, I know that with your background previously being an in-house marketer, you worked with a lot of fast-growing companies.

[00:33:19] Like let's say that some of the listeners may be at smaller, early stage companies. Some of them might be at mature companies that have resources and the, you know, research ops teams and that sort of thing. Maybe there's a big variance. So talk to me a little bit about how. You might suggest you could alter some of this work.

[00:33:40] If you're at a very small company with not a lot of resources to put into this effort versus, you know, larger teams that have the, have the capacity to take on a bigger lift, typically prescribe it differently, depending 

[00:33:53] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:33:53] on who you're with. I would say that it can be iterative and it doesn't have to be complicated.

[00:33:57] It doesn't have to be expensive. Whatever tools you're currently using are fine. If it just means capturing. Customer feedback and a spreadsheet after a recall, a certain criteria, eventually keywords will come up. Certain pillars will come up with the problems you're looking to solve. And then before, you know, it, you had some great customer quotes and stories that can be the foundation of this work and can happen in evolution, which is great.

[00:34:21] Because again, these personas shouldn't be stat documents done once every couple of years, it should be updated based on what you're hearing. And so I would say it could be a Google spreadsheet. Just by listing out the attributes. You may not know what's important at the time. So just listing out company size type title, use case, product usage, time of signup, total number of users, whatever it feels like it's actually driving the engagement.

[00:34:47] Again, this can be a spreadsheet. And then now you have a hypothesis that it looks like customers who sign up in these key cyclical times who are doing this. 30 days later, tend to retain better and. Have an upsell or cross sell opportunity at this point. Can we get some data around that? So you'll have these hypothesis come up.

[00:35:06] If you're being systematic about capturing it and just being clear on what is the question you've helped to solve and what is the point of any of this? And when you start with that, the types of data you need, the text questions you want to ask become much more obvious. 

[00:35:19] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:35:19] Such a good point. Okay. So let's leave the listeners on a high note.

[00:35:23] Let's let them get, see the, get a taste of how good life can be when you start applying some of this foundational work and really getting it right. So do you have a story you can share about a company? That invested some time to make sure that the everyone across the team understood who the personas were, that everyone was selling to the same people and that they were refining their messaging.

[00:35:45] And then kind of like how that applied to their marketing or their sales, or led to growth opportunities. Any stories you can share 

[00:35:53] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:35:53] working with a really awesome team within a fortune 500 company. And we started with. The goal of doing these persona work around their buyer's journey. And the very first thing we did was we asked them to tell us what the mission was, the mission of the company and write it down.

[00:36:08] And no Glenn said the same thing. And when we asked them same question about who their partners were, no one said the same thing. And so this was a really great foundation for them to see firsthand that. Even though there were thoughts. Everyone thought they knew the lack of alignment was actually costing them opportunities to work cross-functionally.

[00:36:27] And when we did this research and had something simple that people could remember, and it was part of every meeting, it was the difference between 48% revenue growth in a single year. And the retention rate has been doubling since we did this two years ago, which is great. And again, this doesn't also say it should be simple.

[00:36:44] It should be living. It should be how you start meetings. How do you think of making decisions? And the goal of these personas is just to make decisions easier. The positioning should be clear when you know, the problems The channels that'll be effective, become clear when you know the problems. And if you can't remember it, it's too complicated.

[00:37:00] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:37:00] Great point. And when it comes to yes, these being, living, documents, them being at the forefront of all the team's mind, do you have any tips for again, how to kind of like share these with Anna team is I've seen some teams will like blow it up and it's on the wall. Other teams have it as like a background on everyone's desktop computer, like any tips for how to make sure that people are being reminded and.

[00:37:28] And that when changes are made, that those are trickling down to everyone who needs to 

[00:37:33] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:37:33] know the novelty of the application really helps people tend to stop reading things on the wall. They don't remember it, but if you have a different person, who's the designated value driver, or if I'm getting a different person who was responsible for coming with a customer story about a new space, a customer story about living their values or a teammate shout out of how someone on the team has.

[00:37:56] Serve this use case, but represented their values. If it's different, every meeting you're reminded again of his core values, his core use cases, these core personas, but it's not so much that people's eyes are glossing over it. Because if you just read the mission at the beginning, you just read the personas off.

[00:38:12] People think they first, or they turned out if a different person at any seniority level is responsible. Every meeting to have a new story of it. People listen. 

[00:38:22] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:38:22] That's brilliant. I think it also, it creates that buy-in because we care about things that we feel ownership over. It's not a matter of fact where like, if you give us university student that like a mug and you tell them it's their mug.

[00:38:34] And then they're asked like, well, how do I sell this for suddenly the people that they belong to them thought that the mug was far more valuable than the people who are just evaluating like a general endowment effect of like making it. Everyone's and letting them take ownership over those stories and the, the use case and the evolution, because I mean, with so many companies, this is an evolving thing.

[00:38:58] It evolves your product evolves. It evolves as the market evolves. It evolves as the market changes. And I think that's such a great way to, to really crystallize it into the team and make it and give them ownership. 

[00:39:10] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:39:10] I think what you just said is what a lot of executives feel like they have to be the source of the answers.

[00:39:14] A lot of companies feel like they have to be the source of what the customers want and tell it to them. But if you bring the customers into that process, you bring the team into that process. It's better. And they'll remember it more.

[00:39:25]Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:39:25] Because one of the things that we often do in our research is we play the audio clips from the customer, because it's one thing for me to say, you know, that point, it's quite another thing where I can play three clips of customer saying that this matter to them. Whereas when I say it, it's, you know, it's a data point when, when the customers say it, it feels real 

[00:39:47] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:39:47] definitely.

[00:39:47] And the novelty of it, a different customer saying something different. Clicks differently. We don't have to get too clever 

[00:39:53] Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:39:53] with that. Great. Okay. So I know that people are going to want to learn a lot more from you. You mentioned that you were a contributor to Forbes, so we'll make sure that we link to your writer profile there so people can read all the stuff you've written.

[00:40:05] Is there anything that you're working on right now that you'd love for people to check out?  What are you up to that people should know 

[00:40:11] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:40:11] about. We're actually in the process of publishing a guy that's previously only been available to our clients about our process of how to launch products.

[00:40:19] And I would love for any of your listeners to check that out, it'll be on our website, strategic things. 

[00:40:24]Katelyn Bourgoin: [00:40:24] Fantastic. And we're going to put a link to your website. And so if people want to learn more about you, we're going to link to your Forbes bio 

[00:40:31] awesome. Well, thank you for sharing with us with me today. I learned even more than I was expecting. So, and as somebody who's like a research nerd, you just schooled me in some really cool methods that I had.

[00:40:41] Not that I didn't know about. So thank you. 

[00:40:44] Rebecca Sadwick: [00:40:44] Thank you. It's been fun talking with you. 

[00:40:46] . 


Katelyn Bourgoin Profile Photo

Katelyn Bourgoin

Host of Customer Show & Founder of Customer Camp

Katelyn is the founder of Customer Camp, a training and research firm that helps growth-ready product teams to get inside their customer’s heads so they can market smarter.