4 Tips for Facilitating a Successful Buyer Insights Workshop

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In my last post I introduced the idea of hosting a Buyer Insights Workshop within your company. You can read more about the details behind the concept by following the link, but essentially, the workshop is an alternative way to build effective buyer personas and map buyer journeys by leveraging the latent customer knowledge that team members across your organization have.

In that first post I also provided my suggestions for three important elements: the workshop format, who should attend, and what the agenda should include.

4 Tips for Facilitating a Successful Buyer Insights Workshop

In this post, let’s dive into the practical details of what it actually takes to pull this off. Here are four tips on facilitation, inputs, outputs, and some pitfalls to avoid if you want to run a successful Buyer Insights Workshop.

1) Maintain a Light Touch with Your Facilitation

The team member(s) leading your company’s buyer personas development efforts should take the lead in conducting the meeting to make sure that the key steps of the agenda are followed with a reasonable pace. However, even as that person leads the workshop, the facilitation should be as light as possible to maximize the attendees’ inputs and to create a collaborative, transparent atmosphere where great ideas can emerge.

The facilitator’s overriding goal is to ask questions that spur discussion and push the thinking of team members to coax out the most thoughtful and incisive insights from them. A skillful facilitator will make the agenda fade away when new, valuable ideas emerge from the discussion, and gently but firmly advance the agenda when the discussion has run its course.

You can refer to the list of questions we have developed for our Buyer Insights guide as a starting point, but do not stop there. Asking the same question in multiple forms can elicit new perspectives on well-worn topics, while challenging the assumptions may expose serious gaps or lack of alignment.

2) Establish Expected Outputs

Because this is meant to be an interactive workshop with a loose agenda, having well-defined outputs is essential to bringing structure and focus to the discussion. It behooves the facilitator to keep participants on the same page about the expected outputs and consciously working towards them. 

An example set of outputs include:

  • Definition of typical buyers by roles: context, important characteristics, and decision-making behavior
  • Definition of typical buyer journeys, for each important buyer role: the stages in their buyer journey, key milestones/conversion points between stages, possible points of contacts, and possible topical content that they are interested in for each of those stages
  • A clear plan to integrate the buyer personas and buyer journey definitions throughout the entire organization: For an excellent take on tying these elements together in winning successful go-to-market strategy read this blog post by our founder Scott Maxwell.

One effective method is to build the output as the discussion happens, and put working outputs (with both answers and outstanding questions) on the walls around the meeting rooms or on the table so that all participants can visualize the workshop’s overall progress and achievements.

3) Supply Supporting Inputs

Complex information is often best absorbed visually, and to the greatest extent possible, the workshop should be supported by visual aids such as whiteboards, buyer personas, and buyer journey templates (you can find one in our recent content marketing eBook ).

We often find that discussions can be more substantive if all participants have access to basic background information such as segmentation analysis of your customer base, summaries output from prior customer research, and competitive analysis, etc. These can be provided ahead of time to participants, and should also be made available in easy to digest summary formats during the workshop.

4) Practical Issues and Pitfalls to Avoid

At their best, these workshops become intense, highly interactive discussions that spur the whole team’s thinking to the next level. However, they can also be easily bogged down in unproductive moments for a variety of reasons. Here are some we have seen take a toll:

  • Attendees fail to agree on the outputs and how they can be used to make an impact in the organization.
  • Attendees become too dominated by the presence of the senior leadership in the room and fall victim to groupthink.
  • The discussion gets fixated on small details and the attendees or facilitators lose sight of the objective of the meeting itself, turning the discussion into a cross examination of facts and assumptions.
  • Participants are unable to take on the customers’ perspective — perhaps because they are still too wrapped with an inside-out mindset, or that there is not enough insulation from the ongoing demand of the business that is happening outside of meeting room.
  • Some participants feel that they are not given enough airtime, or that the group does not properly weigh their opinions, and therefore fail to fully buy into the outputs.

I hope that these pointers can be helpful for you as you consider conducting such a workshop — it can be really helpful in bringing consensus, clarity, and insights on your most important buyers for your team!