Let’s say it right off the bat: Secondary research is good, but it’s no substitute for an in-person interview or survey of your current customer base. The best source of knowledge of your ideal customer comes from the people already buying from you!
That being said, secondary research is an important part of the strategy process because it can fill in gaps where your interviews or surveys fell short and it can be used to confirm and strengthen any findings bordering on assumptions.
Here are our four favorite secondary research methods and how they can be used to boost your research for better buyer persona creation.
1. Data and market research
These are reports from trusted sources like industry publications and trade organizations, government studies, and articles from the press.
They can offer valuable insight, some of which can be quantified, some of which cannot, into persona behavior. For example, I scoured EBSCO for consumer behavior insights for an organic lawn care company we worked with and found tons of studies on consumers who purchase organic and eco-friendly products.
2. Social media
While this was no substitute for actually speaking with the customers, it provided a backbone for the interviews I had already conducted and provided reasons why potential new customers might buy organic, which allowed us to better shape the company’s marketing strategy.
One of my favorite methods for creating buyer personas, especially for B2B companies, is to visit LinkedIn and search for the target audience’s job title. A ton of profiles with that job title and an exact description of their job will pop up. You can use this to fill in gaps and compare what your target audience does each day at work and what they are responsible for.
You can also check your social media. What types of content resonates most with your audience? Go to your Facebook or Twitter audience breakdown and check the audience demographics and interests. You’ll be surprised how much you can find from the audience already engaged with your social channels.
And don’t forget social listening! It’s a great way to see what people in your audience are talking about to help shape your persona’s interests and online behavior.
3. Your website
Based on your website, what are your customers looking for? What pages do they visit most often? For customers who make a purchase, how many times do they visit the site and what path do they take when buying? This can be extremely valuable in documenting your persona’s purchase process.
4. Industry publications and blogs
You can use industry publications and blogs for general information on the industry and to gain more insight on what your persona’s job entails and how they learn. But you can also use blogs for their comments. Who are the people commenting? What types of questions are they asking? Again, this is important to know for consumer behavior insights in persona creation.
We said it first and we’ll say it again, these methods are in no way a substitute for a good old-fashioned interview or survey – but they are a great way to expand your findings and build and solidify your primary research.
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