Create Better Marketing Personas with Client Interviews

Post by Alison Knott | Last Updated: May 9, 2023

Video: create better marketing personas with client interviews overview

Creating marketing personas without interviewing your clients is leaving a lot of opportunities on the table. Your marketing efforts will be easier and more successful when you include client interviews in your personas because:

  • They allow you to focus on the client’s journey, not the demographics
  • They align the persona with your sales funnel
  • You can use them for copywriting gold
  • They make for instant competitor research
  • They are easy and cost-effective for small teams to do

That’s not to say your experience serving your clients all these years isn’t insightful. But understanding the true triggers that cause a prospect to reach out has to come from actual clients. This article will get you excited about the goldmine that is adding client interviews to your personas. And, what you can accomplish with all that juicy insider knowledge to rock many areas of marketing.

What is a marketing persona?

Marketing personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal clients. Ideally, they are based on a combination of interviews, data, and research. They help you focus on qualified prospects rather than your assumption of who your ideal client is. A deep understanding of your personas is critical to driving content creation, product development, and sales.

two sample marketing personas
Small Business Sal” is every B2B brand’s dream while “Busy Mom Becky” is the usual hero in the B2C world. But are these marketing personas enough to help you generate leads?

The problem with most marketing personas is lack of the depth

When filled out without consulting actual clients, marketing personas become hypothetical. They act more like a 2-dimensional snapshot of who a person is. What they miss is a clear connection between who that person is and where they fit along your marketing funnel. This is because they rely on observations made by you or your team about demographics, goals, and objections.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not dissing marketing personas as a concept. What I am saying is that we need to be more intentional in how we put them together. 

You don’t want to make decisions based on the information you suspect is true. Better results come when actual client goals and values fit into your offer. 

I’ll ask a pointed question:

If you created your personas internally without consulting existing clients, how accurate are they… really?

So let’s all agree to stop making assumptions, and go talk to our clients to make the perfect personas instead!

Why client interviews make better marketing personas

Interviewing your clients, rather than speculating, makes for better marketing outcomes. And no one knows this better than marketer Katelyn Bourgoin, an authority on customer interviews. She’s also the creator of a really great client interviewing system. But more on that later.

Bourgoin agrees about the risk of assumptions bit:

“Assumptions are especially problematic when they’re being used to make big decisions—like marketing and messaging strategy.” – Katelyn Bourgoin

So what is it about client interviews that are so effective?

You can focus on the client’s journey, not the demographics

When trying to attract our target audience, we tend to hyper-focus on the benefits and features they’ll get after they become our clients.

I get it, I own my own business and it can be hard to see what our offer looks like through the eyes of potential leads. Notice I said “potential”?

“Conducting even just a handful of 1:1 interviews with existing clients helps you to get clear on what really matters to prospects,” says Bourgoin. “The goal of these conversations isn’t just to ask clients what they think of your business. It’s to understand what motivated them to begin the buying journey in the first place. And, why they chose to work with one company over another. Real stories from real buyers are where the gold is buried.”

Most people don’t wake up and go “Oh boy! I need to go hire this particular expert today!” There’s usually a series of events that leads up to their journey to you. You can use this to fill out the “Pain Points” or “Goals” section of a persona.

Client interviews reveal your actual competitors

Interviewing clients reveals who and what else they tried before finding you. Who you think your competitors are isn’t always true for prospects. Your idea of competition may be whoever comes up in a web search. Or maybe colleagues in your industry that you’ve had previous experience with.

But who was on your ideal client’s radar could be radically different. For example:

  • One company you disregarded because its website looked bad might have a CEO who is an international keynote speaker. Clients are drawn to their wisdom and experience and aren’t phased by an outdated website at all.
  • A colleague you think is doing awesome with their online courses may, in fact, have poor client satisfaction. Turns out they have a lot of complaints from purchasers who found the content too thin for their needs.

Understanding who your current clients considered or tried before arriving at your door is incredible insight. As Bourgoin points out: “Companies that invest in ongoing customer research
grow 2-3X faster. Yet studies show that only 3 out of 10 teams do it regularly. Teams that invest in customer research have a big competitive advantage.”

Interviews make the best buyer personas
It’s time to stop guessing who’s lining up to work with you, and why they might get up and leave.

Client interviews reveal better copywriting opportunities

Client interviews give you the exact words and phrases they use to describe your services. And you can use all that gold in your copywriting to describe their struggles, hopes, and how your offerings helped them. 

You can use it to write sales pages, blog posts, and social media campaigns. And then prospects will be like “Holy shit, it’s like this brand knew exactly what we were looking for!”

Of course: because it came from someone who already bought from you!

Client interviews even reveal where they hang out online and which social accounts they follow. This can be great for content ideas and collaborations. You can also survey them or use an audience research tool to dive deeper.

Tips for conducting customer interviews

Conducting client interviews is a service I offer as part of web consulting. But you can do your own interviews easily.

Now you might be thinking, “But Alison, no one on our small team has done these kinds of interviews before. Is this gonna be expensive and take a lot of time?”


The reality is that you can glean a LOT of information from conducting just five interviews. Here are my top tips for conducting client interviews:

  • Make it as easy as possible for people to say yes to being interviewed. If you’ve worked directly with them, an email is usually all it takes. If your product is more ‘hands-off,’ a gift card might be a good incentive to participate.
  • Create a calendar link to make booking your interviews easy. This could be a free service like Calendly or something paid like Acuity Scheduling. In Calendly, you can limit how far in advance someone can book. I find giving 1 week to book forces people to commit rather than say “Eh, I’ll get back to this later.”
  • Keep the interview to under 20 minutes and use a script. This keeps the conversation on-task and keeps note-taking and review consistent. As mentioned earlier, Bourgoin has created the Customer Clarity Call Cheatsheet. I cannot tell you how amazing this kit is. It provides all the scripts, tips, and note-taking templates you’ll need. And, it’s affordable!
  • Record the conversation if you can, and take extensive notes. Pay attention to the language they use when describing their pain points, needs, and reactions to the solutions available.
  • Ask the right questions. I recommend ones that are all about your client, and their journey to you. It is NOT a focus group or product review. Some questions you can ask are:
    • “What else did you try before you found us? What was that experience like?”
    • “Where else do you go online to find out more about _____?”
    • “What hesitations did you have before you decided to work with us?”

How client interviews helped a life coach clarify her messaging

I had a client in the life coaching industry. We’ll call her Ruha.

Ruha’s clients came from really different backgrounds. Traditional marketing personas couldn’t narrow down their common elements. Also, because she was a life coach, she already knew a lot of personal details about her clients than most business owners would. Lots of worthwhile data there, right?

What was missing for Ruha was figuring out the common reasons people chose to work with her. 

When I conducted her interviews, something incredible happened. When asked “what did you try before working with Ruha”, interviewees fell into two buckets:

  • People who had never tried any kind of coaching and were unsure if it could help them.
  • People who had tried other experts’ group programs, but were disappointed by the results and lack of depth.

With this information, Ruha knew to create two kinds of content pillars:

  • Content that introduces people new to life coaching and what to expect.
  • Content that validates more experienced clients’ expectations and helps them see that Ruha’s 1:1 programs would support them where they needed it.

Now she could adjust her website copy, blog posts, and Youtube videos to meet prospects where they were. Despite their varied backgrounds. And, before they had even had to book a discovery call with her.

Marketing personas are great. Marketing personas informed by client interviews are even greater.

Interview your current customers to create better marketing personas that will help your business grow.

As Bourgoin puts it: “People don’t buy because of who they are. They buy because of who they want to become. Interviews allow you to understand what motivates people to commit to your brand. They’re extremely powerful.”

It’s time to get real results by interviewing your real clients for your marketing personas. That way, you can attract more of the same, in their own words.

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