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How to Create the Best Buyer Personas with Adrienne Barnes

July 5, 2021
Episode 18
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The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

There’s a thousand different articles and voices telling us how to create buyer personas, or ideal customer avatars, or ICAs, or one of a dozen other names. Often the recommendations of how to use these personas are contradictory.

In this episode, Adrienne Barnes and Alastair McDermott discuss how to create a buyer persona that’s actually useful, and what to look out for along the way.

They also discussed the “jobs to be done” framework, the importance of having a business coach, and how to grow a consulting firm to $1MM in revenue.

Show Notes

Guest Bio

Adrienne is the Founder of Best Buyer Persona and a B2B SaaS Content Marketing consultant. Best Buyer Persona was founded in 2018 and helps SaaS companies define their best buyers using the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework. When she’s not identifying companies’ best buyers, she’s using her customer research skills to create unique and effective content marketing strategies. She’s worked with amazing companies such as: Audiense, Stripe, Demio,, Unbounce, and Smartling.


buyer persona, clients, people, create, podcast, customers, job, marketers, marketing, buyers, questions, love, content, segments, business, problems, great, consultant, absolutely, book

Alastair McDermott, Adrienne Barnes


Adrienne Barnes  00:00

My opinion and I just actually published this in my newsletter yesterday is that when you name your buyer persona you have now elicited and then plus given it a gender and a name and a picture, you have created a foundation of bias. So you’ve got like naming bias, beauty bias, ageism, racism, essentially, like racial biases come into play as well. And if your customer segmentation if all of your buyers are not 100% female, you are eliminating a portion of your consumer base.


Alastair McDermott  00:43

Hello, and welcome to the Marketing for Consultants podcast. This is the podcast that helps independent consultants and subject matter experts to get more clients without having to beg for referrals or make soul-destroying cold calls. Today, my guest is Adrienne Barnes. She is the founder of Best Buyer Persona, and a B2B SaaS content marketing consultant, best buyer persona was founded in 2018. They help SAS companies define their best buyers using the jobs to be done framework, which is definitely something I want to talk about.  When she’s not identifying company’s best buyers. She’s using her customer research skills to create unique and effective content marketing strategies. Another thing I’d love to talk about. So, Adrienne, welcome! Let’s start with jobs to be done if you don’t mind. Can you just give us a quick overview of of the “Jobs to be Done” framework and how that how that could apply?


Adrienne Barnes  01:31

Yeah, so “Jobs to be Done” was something that kind of was discovered around the early mid 90s. Clayton Christensen is one of the founders, there’s quite a few there. I think I’m reading a book right now by Jim Kalbach that says there are five different types of “Jobs to be Done” framework, people who have founded this idea and really said, these are the best ways to approach it.  So when I talk about it, I like to use the Clayton Christensen type model for what we’re really trying to discover is at the core, what is the very basic simple thing your customers are doing with your product or service? So when I’m coming into my b2b SaaS clients, and we’re trying to understand what are people doing, what’s the one thing that they have hired this product to do for them. And then in my own business, I try to think of what’s the one simple like pain point job thing that the b2b company needs to accomplish to in order for me to be a success, what is the job that they’ve tried to hire on, and a lot of times trying to explain it to customers or clients, it gets a little confused or foggy with like use cases or tactics, it really is one simple line, like, this is what they’re trying to do. They want to know their audience, they want to get more leads, they want to expand their network, it’s a very simple one line job that they’ve hired the product or service to do. But then it can inform and create so much more value.  So once we know that very specific job, then we know what are the benefits that they receive, when they’ve accomplished that? How do they feel when they’ve accomplished that? What are the side effects? What, what is the process that they need to take to achieve that job. So understanding the one little job there’s a whole lot that then can inform and basically evolve off of knowing that information.


Alastair McDermott  03:26

Right. Okay. So is the goal there then to come up with that statement that this is the job to be done? And then using that statement, then basically creating your strategy around that is, is that how you do it?


Adrienne Barnes  03:38

Yeah, so for a buyer persona, specifically, I want to know that one statement, the job to be done statement, and then also, what were the benefits. And so once I know the benefits, I can take that information, and apply that to a content strategy to product launches, to features that need to be developed, it really can become an entire company strategy, or maybe not a strategy, but information and data that can inform other strategies and growth and development, and things like that. So yeah, once we know that one job to be done, we can then take that information and apply it across the industry across the organization. And that helps to to create the tactics and the strategies that are going to help reach their goals, whether that’s engagement or growth or leads or whatever the, the goal of the company may be.


Alastair McDermott  04:30

Very cool. So I’m just thinking about the potential pitfalls here. How many jobs to be done, can you have I mean, would you recommend that you have with a product or service?


Adrienne Barnes  04:40

So there’s not necessarily you don’t want a lot you really do. You may there may be two or three within a very large company with different products and different kinds of services. And sometimes there’s just one most people and that’s why I use that to really garner the idea of the buyer personas because buyer personas have a tendency to get convoluted and complicated. And we’ve got 17 different buyer personas because we’ve got 17 different types of buyers that look like this, or have these different job titles. When you filter all of that through the job to be done, then it eliminates a lot of the wasteful information.  So now we know most of our segments of buyers, most of our segments of users actually are only trying to achieve this key thing. So now that we know that key thing, that’s how we can then create like more of the segments from that point on, rather than doing it vice versa, starting with segmentation, and then trying to figure out a job, start with your job and then go into your segmentation.


Alastair McDermott  05:38

Right, cool. So it’s really about simplifying that?


Adrienne Barnes  05:41



Alastair McDermott  05:41

Okay, cool. So let’s talk then about buyer personas for a minute. And I just mentioned briefly in the free show that like I’ve heard so many different terms for this ideal client avatar, ideal customer avatar, buyer persona, customer persona, customer profile, when people are using those terms, do they typically mean the same thing? Or are there actually lots of different variations of this either?


Adrienne Barnes  06:02

Yeah, so here is where I kind of come in and make people mad, because your standard marketer, maybe you’re old school marketer, your formal marketers, maybe they’ve had some formal marketing training, they had their degree or something like that. They know the difference between an ideal customer profile, a customer avatar, a buyer persona, you know, an ideal customer profile, all of the different jargony words, but when you take it to your users are when you take it to, you know, the rest of the marketing team, when you take it to your product, people, none of them know the difference, and it doesn’t quite matter.  What is the point of the document? What is the thing that we need to do, we need to know who our customers are, we need to know how our customers behave. We know why they behave the way they do. Those are the three things that we really need to be able to inform. And I think I call it a buyer persona. I’ve been told by old school formal marketers that I’ve adopted a term and it’s a misnomer. And you know, I’m defacing the the beautiful name of buyer persona. But when it comes down to it, people are have been creating these documents, I call them a check the box marketing practice, they’re just going through using a template and creating basically a wasteful, useless document that nobody uses, and nobody looks at. And so what I’m trying to do is say, let’s call it a buyer persona, but let’s actually create it in a way that’s useful and meaningful to the business case, to the business goals to the agenda that each individual business is going to try to achieve.  So all of my buyer personas are different, depending upon the clients that I’m talking with that day. So like you said, there are tons of terms out there. And there are people who probably know the exact nuances and definitions of each. But my clients, when it comes down to it, my clients need to know who their customers are, why they behave the way they do and how they behave. And so that’s kind of where I created that best buyer persona, where we’re going to go in and start with customer problems, and really develop a full study of who our buyers or users are filtering through that jobs to be done approach.


Alastair McDermott  08:10

Okay, cool. So so you have those, those three main questions. So I’ve seen these personas where, you know, they have, you know, Jane lives in the suburbs, she has 3.5 kids, she has a, you know, an MBA from a second year college, she doesn’t smoke, she likes Corona, you know, and blah, blah, blah.


Adrienne Barnes  08:29



Alastair McDermott  08:30

And getting super detailed. And I really do wonder about, you know, how important is is any of that? Is it? Like, is it so that so that a marketing team can picture a person in their mind? Or, you know, and understand how they might react? Or is this all rubbish, you know, kind of like, go back and forth between those two things. So can you talk about that a little bit?


Adrienne Barnes  08:50

Absolutely. This is my my favorite piece about buyer personas right now that I’m I’m it’s my soapbox, so to say. So you’ve got all of those demographic information. Sally, the sales girl is 22 she loves red shoes, da-da-da. Is that important information that’s really going to depend on your company. Do you need to know Sally, like in order that her name is Sally in order to market or sell to her? Probably not because in my opinion, and I just actually published this in my newsletter yesterday is that when you name your buyer persona you have now elicited and then plus, given it a gender and a name and a picture, you have created a foundation of bias. So you’ve got like naming bias, beauty bias, ageism, racism, essentially, like racial biases come into play as well. And if your customer segmentation, if all of your buyers are not 100% female, you are eliminating a portion of your consumer base.  So maybe, you know, maybe it’s important to note that 75% of our buyers are female, that can be a piece of information within the buyer persona, but I do not think it does anyone any favors to make a buyer persona a fake person. You are going to you’re not actually creating one person, we’re not marketing to one person, we are marketing to hundreds, if not millions of different people from different backgrounds, different genders, different races, all kinds of things. So why then should we segment our customers in a way that is automatically eliminating a piece of our customer base?  So I like to do it without gender, without names. Without the that basically like Mary market or type fluffy information? I’ve seen stuff where, you know, it’s if you could be a superhero, what kind of superhero would our buyer persona be? And, and I feel like maybe the marketing team sits around a table one day and is like, This is so fun. Okay, so and it’s, I mean, pardon my French, but it’s all bullshit, right? Like it doesn’t, it’s from their own minds, they’ve assumed some things, they’re making up a fictional story about a fictional person. And they haven’t actually gone into any strict data, where they’ve only used digitally intelligence, or they’ve only used customer interviews, very few people are doing all gathering their data from all three perfect like sources, from Digital Intelligence from the customers one on one conversation, and from, you know, like surveys and social listening, because it’s challenging, but once you eliminate that kind of stuff, you can really focus in on a stronger segment of your buyer.  So you’re going to actually be able to focus on what are the pain points that our buyers face? What are the jobs to be done? What are those challenges, so for instance, rather than naming a buyer persona, marketer, Mary, I have a tendency to name them according to their segments. So like high developing markers, or mature marketers, or maybe they’re newbie marketers, or maybe they’re tech marketers, or, you know, whatever the kind of segments that we are, I want to position my buyer persona within that segment, not within a fake name, you know, picture kind of guy, because it doesn’t, it’s not about envisioning one person. There, we’re going to now funnel all of our content, all of our products, all of our marketing through because what you’re, you’ve eliminated large portions of the rest of your audience for no other reason than you thought it was a fun activity to kind of assign a person in a name.  If you’re not 100%, in a CEO, you know, like, maybe you’re marketing to CEOs. And you say, well, we’re gonna use cliff, the CEO, because 65% of CEOs are male, that’s fake. I don’t know if that’s real or not, but I’m just saying a large a larger portion of CEOs are male, we know that. So we’re gonna make our CEO, buyer persona male. Well, you’ve eliminated in your marketing and your messaging and a lot of the content that you’re going to create and the words you use, you’re going to eliminate your entire female audience, because you’re not considering them in your buyer persona. If we take away the gender, if we take away the name, if we take away those kinds of demographics, then you’re able to now be more inclusive, while still really narrowing in on your segment and a much more impactful and valuable way.


Alastair McDermott  13:11

Okay, I love it. So let’s see how a solo consultant who might be listening to this might be able to use this information. So where would you start at? If you were talking to somebody, if you were giving advice to a friend who was an independent consultant? What would you suggest that they do first? And with regard to jobs to be done, or personas?


Adrienne Barnes  13:32

Yeah, I would say and this is what I do in my own, like consultancy, when I think about it, is what main problem am I solving for my clients? Who are the people that are looking to hire me? Who are the people that who has this main problem? So once you can identify what problems you can solve? Or what challenges you’re able to bring value and insight to? Who are the people that have those problems? And then really try to figure out what words do they use to describe these problems? What questions are they asking about these problems? Who are they looking to to be experts to help them solve this problem? Or who are they influenced by when you can really figure out other people’s circles of influence as consultants, we all know that networking and marketing and relationships will make or break you. So it’s really a matter of being able to say, Okay, these are the people that I know, I can help. These are the problems I can help with. Now who has these problems? Let’s go find them. Let’s figure out who is influenced by them. And then that’s room for collaboration for you know, all kinds of like, that’s where your product should be. That’s the podcast, you should be on all of that stuff.


Alastair McDermott  14:42

Where does the way that I solve that problem come into it? So so there’s lots of different ways to solve particular problems? Where does my my way of solving that problem come in? Or is that relevant at this point?


Adrienne Barnes  14:54

Yeah. So I’m not sure if your process if your process is so unique, or maybe you have have a unique framework, like the jobs to be done, maybe you’ve invented your own framework, if that is your selling point, if that’s the thing that hooks your clients in, then maybe that’s where you should start. But if it’s not, if it really is you or your relationship, or you know, the problem that you solve, then that’s the approach that you’d want to take the, how you solve it, I think that’s not necessarily something that you would look at in the buyer persona process, or in your process of finding your best clients. Unless it is your hook, you know, unless it’s like you have created such a unique process, that you’re the only one out there who can do this thing, then I would combine them with the your, your ideal clients, essentially. But otherwise, I would save that for your discovery calls.


Alastair McDermott  15:48

Right? Okay. Okay, we have this question. So so we’re looking at what are the pain points that they have? What’s the main problem here that we’re solving? And so then how do we bring in who they are, why they behave in the way that they behave? And how they behave? How do we bring in those those other questions?


Adrienne Barnes  16:05

Yeah. So I say if you’re going to know your customers, you have to be able to answer three questions because everyone tells you know, your customers know your customers. But nobody really says what that means. Or actually, there’s a large disconnect, customers reported that they do not feel satisfied with their brand experience, while marketers are saying, Yeah, we’re doing a great job, I’ve got to start somewhere on one of the webinars I’ve done. And it just shows there’s a very clear disconnect between what marketers feel like we’re doing and the way customers actually feel like they’re being treated. So in order to actually know who your customers are, or know your customers, you need to know how they self identify, what are their bio keywords? What are they saying about themselves? You need to know how they behave. So what are they, how are they using your product or service? How are they behaving on social media? What podcasts? Are they listening to? What content? Are they engaging with all of that kind of behavioral information? And then you need to know why they behave the way they do. So not only do you need to know who they are and how they behave, but you want to get those deeper insights into why they’ve done the things that they’ve done. And that’s where those one to one conversations come into play.


Alastair McDermott  17:14

Could you give us an example of that? Because I’m not quite getting that. When you say why they behave that way? Like, like, why they’re listening to podcasts in general, or particular podcasts? Or can you just go a bit deeper on that?


Adrienne Barnes  17:25

Yeah, let’s so using the podcast example. Let’s say they are an avid podcast listener. So we want to know who they listened to who were the like, their top podcasts that they can recall off of their top of their mind. When I asked kinds of questions about media, people are often like, I don’t know, it just kind of pops up, or I don’t remember what it is. But it’s this guy about this. But if they can recall the name, and like, Oh, I listened to this podcast with this title, like, you know that they’ve been invested for a while. So what, what, like media, are they consuming? And then if we’re trying to understand, like, exactly why they listen to podcasts?  So what is the job to be done when they’re listening to your podcast? So then we’re asking questions like, well, when do you listen to the podcast? What else are you doing while you listen to the podcast? What is the podcast? If the podcast wasn’t around? If we didn’t have access to podcasts? What else would you be doing? What were you doing before you listen to podcasts really trying to get an understanding of the journey that they’ve decided that podcasts has become a part of their life? How often do you listen to podcast? When like, what are you doing while you’re listening to them? Are you sitting in a chair really taking notes? Are you on the drive to work? Are you you know, like taking a walk with the dog? What is going on while you’re listening to these podcasts?  And what that does is that helps us to understand their why and why they’re making the decisions they do. And that’s what can go ahead and inform all types of new content. And, you know, like new collaborations, marketing campaigns, it really does a good job at getting us those deeper insights and nuggets that clarify a more 360 understanding of your customers.


Alastair McDermott  19:12

Right. Now, the other talk that I have about this is the answers can be across the board. When I asked that question of my audience, and I’ve asked similar questions to this actually. And I’ve got so I’ve got, you know, 200 answers back to a survey, telling me for example, what podcasts they listen to what books they read, what magazines, but the answer is very broad. The range is very broad. I’m just wondering how how then to use that in coming back to the benefits the the contents, the collaboration, then figuring out those nuggets. So can you just talk about how you actually, you know, you filter that out? Because I think it’s kind of like almost information overload at that point.


Adrienne Barnes  19:54

Yeah, it can be absolutely. So what I like to do is create word clouds. That is a really cool and simple way to see where ideas and words were repeated. So once I like for each question, essentially, I scraped all of the data for that one question. And then I looked through the responses, and there should be most likely repeated answers, something that is common for your audience, where there may have been, you know, 200 answers, you’re not necessarily typically going to get 200 completely individual responses. So then what I do is I read through that data, I really look for what was repeated, what seems to be a very popular response, or at least was repeated more than a few handful of times. And then I put it into word clouds, because it’s just become so clear and evident that this was the thing that, you know, like, this was the main book that was read by my clientele, or, or this was the podcast, or this was why this was when most of my people are actually listening to podcasts in the morning, as they get ready for work, or whatever the situation may be. It creates a really quick and easy visualization. So you can see the repeated data.


Alastair McDermott  21:04

Very cool. I love the work cloud idea. And actually, I’m gonna, I’m gonna do that.


Adrienne Barnes  21:08

You’ll see it’ll become apparent.


Alastair McDermott  21:11

Yeah, I might even put a word cloud from, from some of my research into into the show notes. Just that just for fun. Okay, so yeah, that’s really cool, then. So coming back, I know, the phrase that you use by jobs be done is hire the products to do a job for them or hire the service do a job for them. I find that phrasing really interesting that you know that this is the word and Can Can you just explain a bit more about that? What why it’s higher the products to do it?


Adrienne Barnes  21:38

Yeah, well, so the product for me is b2b SaaS companies. That’s essentially who I work with. So they’re all products every time we have something, that’s a product. And what I’m really trying to discover is what this customer needs this product to do for them. So with b2b SaaS, often, the competitor is an Excel spreadsheet, something manual, something old, that’s been around for a very, very long time. So maybe the it’s, you know, an enterprise and they’ve been stuck in using one product for a long time. And now there’s a new product. So I’m trying to decide what is it that you are achieving by purchasing this thing? Why are you using it? What is it doing for you? And once we get down there, it really does help to to identify a whole lot of other things. But yeah, that’s why I say what is the product? Why have you hired this product or service?


Alastair McDermott  22:30

Okay, cool. Do you have any other recommendations for somebody trying to implement this as a as a solo consultant? Are there any mistakes to watch out for?


Adrienne Barnes  22:38

Yeah. For the jobs to be done specifically?


Alastair McDermott  22:40

Yeah, actually, or personas?


Adrienne Barnes  22:42

Yes. So personas, you know, just specifically for your own self, it can be challenging to want not want to be biased or not want to have a lot of confirmation bias. So you have an idea of who your clients who your best clients are, and we’re going to serve them. And because consultants are working so closely, right with our, with our clients, and in our ideal customers, that we’re likely seeing things very repeated. But I would just challenge those of us who are out there trying to really research who are my customers so that you can go out and find more of them. Because that’s what we want to do. We want to be able to have, you know, 100 of our best clients not struggling to get one of those good clients try to step away and not allow your own confirmation bias to inform who your best buyer is. So looking at, you know, what kind of challenges were the did you face within a potential client? What were some struggles that you’ve experienced with them, really trying to determine who were the clients you’ve had that came on like butter, loved everything you said, thought you were the most genius expert they’ve ever spoken to. And then the project ended an off boarded, like, easy, easy, easy. Those are the people you want to repeat. And that’s the clientele you want to continue to have. So what is it about those people that went so well?


Alastair McDermott  24:02

Awesome. Okay, that’s super advice. I want to switch gears and ask you about content marketing strategies, because that’s something that’s kind of near and dear to my heart as well. I love content marketing, and I love learning more about it. How do you approach content marketing? How do you approach like figuring out what channels, what content to create? I guess we can, we can go back to what we just talked about for that. Can you talk just talk about how you approach content marketing and how it fits in the picture for you?


Adrienne Barnes  24:26

Yeah, it is very much where we start back. So all of my content marketing strategies begin with buyer and customer and user information. So I want to say if I’m creating content, who am I creating it for? And that’s really how the service as a consultant, I was coming in to b2b SaaS companies and they hired me as a freelance writer and I was coming on rate, I’ll write your stuff for you long content, no problem. Who am I writing to? Who’s your customer, and most some companies could not tell me anything. It was a very vague oh there this, that and that other clients were like, Well, here’s our 45 page document. That’s a buyer persona that we did over the weekend, you know, two years ago, and we haven’t looked at since. But if you need to see it, you can look at it.  And that was what really informed me as a consultant that there was a need for a better approach to buyer personas. So when I’m doing content strategy, it’s very much the same thing. Who are who is our audience? Who are our readers? What are the words that they’re using? What’s the language that they use? What are their pain points, and then from there, that helps me filter through keywords. So we’re also using those like search google search keywords, and then creating a content strategy from there.  And for consultants, it can be very much the same process, like I know, now, even as consultants, I’m struggling with this or trying to adapt this, we have to have our own content strategies, we have to do our own promotion, we have to be putting ourselves out there. So it really is a matter of like, what are the pain points? And how can I through my lens and my expertise, create value for my potential clients and customers? And so being able to say, you know, I know that, you know, most of my clients experienced these five problems. Well, guess what, that can be 10 blog posts right there or one whole ebook, or really trying to decide how can I create content that is going to serve in need and not just being created for content creation sake?


Alastair McDermott  26:26

Absolutely. What else? Do you have any tips because I know that people struggle with content marketing, because it takes so much time to create good content, and the return can take so long to come back. It can feel like you’re just spending a lot of time to just putting stuff out into the ether and nothing comes back. Do you have any tips or advice around that? Around, you know, creating a content campaign and and feeling like you might be wasting time?


Adrienne Barnes  26:54

Yeah. For consultants specifically?


Alastair McDermott  26:57

Yeah, if he if he if you have.


Adrienne Barnes  26:58

Yeah, so I think what has worked really efficiently, what I’ve seen do really well, is were number one, acknowledge that it’s most likely going to take some time, and that it’s consistency. So people will say, well, you have to be on LinkedIn, or you have to be on Twitter, or you have to be on core like no find the place in the medium that works best for you. Is it LinkedIn, is it medium? Is it is it Quora? Is it Twitter, wherever you happen to really enjoy the community, the the candor the type of information and the format, right the platform, and then that’s where you can really narrow.  And so I don’t say, as a consultant, that you should be on all platforms that all the time, like really find a place that you fit in comfortably, that matches your personality. For me that place is Twitter, I really love using Twitter, trying to get into LinkedIn for others that might be LinkedIn, and then just go in and really share your insights as consultants, our knowledge base is our highest is our greatest strength in our in our best content. So don’t be afraid to share your like things that you’ve learned share problems you’ve seen share how you’ve solved problems, get really in detail and in depth, because a lot of clients come to me and they say, Well, I saw what you said about this situation you faced with this other company, and we’re experiencing the exact same thing. So can you help us with that?  You know, and that type of content for consultants specifically is going to be what helps you convert? It does take a long time, though, like people will tell me Oh, well, I, you know, we were thinking about you last year, and they’re just now in my inbox. So no, it’s a long game. No, that’s why I say you need to enjoy it, because you’re going to be there every single day. So wherever it is, that you enjoy being show up every day, participate in the community, get to know the experts in the field that you’re serving. So whoever the key thought leaders are within the field that you’re trying to serve, get to know those people network with them show up in their content, that’s going to be another really great way for you to to create content that’s going to help you and grow your own network as a consultant.


Alastair McDermott  29:10

Absolutely. Great advice. And one thing just you’re talking about sharing your insight, and I was listening to Christo of “The Futur,” and he was talking about when they when they were growing and like they have 1.5 million YouTube subscribers now massive channel on business. But one thing that he said was was the big game changer for them was when he decided to stop holding back and just to give everything that he could possibly think of that might be useful. So not holding back any kind of secrets or, you know, the idea of trade secrets or anything like just sharing everything. So yeah, I love that.  Okay, so you mentioned you know, just starting your own business and I just want to go back to that because people listen to this will be really interested in everybody’s journey into this kind of solo consulting world and, and, and growing your business. Can you can you just tell us how you started your business and, and how that develops and a bit about how you market yourself.


Adrienne Barnes  30:04

Yeah. So my business started four years ago, when I was I was a stay at home mom had just had my last baby a year ago. So for those who’ve had babies, he was sleeping through the night. And suddenly my brain started working again. It was like, Oh, I want to do something, I’m ready to like, get back to work. But you know, I had these kids, and I just did not want to go into a job. Like I was really invested. I wanted to be home. And I happen to know, a girl who had a family and never left her house, but she had a mortgage and she was a single mom. And I was like, What do you do? How do you make money that allows you to just create your own schedule and, and be here. And she said, Oh, I’m a copywriter. So that opened the doors for what content marketing was, I had an English degree, I was an English teacher, I knew that I could write and research into it well, so that really opened that door. I started getting clients, they loved the work, I started getting more clients, you know, word of mouth, that whole thing started growing.  And then about a year later, I really decided it was time to get serious and level up and just stop playing small. So I got a coach, Kaylee Moore was my coach, she really did open up a lot of doors and say, more of process like what are you trying to do? What are you trying to learn and that’s when Best Buyer Persona came into play that I had seen this need, I had seen this, you know, pain point in my own clients at this point. And I was ready to to launch a greater idea and something that I could help people with. So I spent three years studying qualitative and quantitative data analysis, setting jobs to be done studying from anybody who asks people, any kinds of questions, podcasters, and journalists and social service workers, essentially, how do you ask people good questions. And then I spent, you know, also time trying to figure out what is survey design UX design UX content strategy.  So I became a student, and really entrenched myself in all different kinds, of course curriculums into, you know, published books, ebooks, anything I could find, that would help me strengthen the skills that I knew that would be necessary to do a buyer persona. And so I have the the benefit of having like a fresh set of eyes, a different viewpoint, but a strong skill set and what’s required to gather good data, and then glean insights from that data. So that’s my basic journey. And then I just started really narrowing in on the consulting on the strategy, I have stepped away from writing, it’s not even a service that I offer anymore. And now it’s all about offering clients a really strong buyer persona. And usually, often the buyer persona, research and insights feeds itself into the content strategy type consulting.


Alastair McDermott  32:46

Yeah, absolutely. I can see how they dovetail perfectly. Okay, there’s, there’s a few think things you said that really interests me. Can we go back to where you said that you got a coach? You mentioned Kaylee Moore? Is that a name? Yes. Yeah. Kaylee more. So coaches, good business coaches, and I’m a big fan of of working with coaches. There’s, there’s actually quite a few who I work with Philip Morgan, Jonathan Stark, Brad Ferriss, to name a few. And so I’m a big fan of of paying experts in your field to to get their insights and their support and their mentorship. How did you make that decision to go and get a coach? Like, what what triggered that?


Adrienne Barnes  33:22

Yeah, I knew that I knew how to write I knew that I knew how to do particular deliverables. And that things that I was trying to do, what I was struggling with, was how do I be an entrepreneur? How do I be a solo consultant like, I can do what I’m trying to do, but how do I put myself out there, what needs to happen? So she really had a really good four week framework that was like in most of her consulting is for coaching is for writers, I was a writer at that time. But the process she has develops in such a way where you discover your strengths and your network via her coaching process. So that’s how, after kind of working through her process, I was like, Oh, you know, what it really is about discovering these insights. I didn’t have the term best buyer persona at that time, or even that it was a buyer persona. But I knew that that was what I wanted to do that I wanted to do, really that market research, that user research that informed and really helped out the clients in a much better and stronger way.


Alastair McDermott  34:23

Yeah. And I love how you became like a sponge for all this information, and you just consumed everything. As you can see, I’m a big fan of reading books as well. And so taking that and then you you you specialize in a new niche down into this one area and you make like I’ve joked before several times, that I could rename this to the specialization podcast because it comes up as a topic so often, but you’re another example of somebody who’s who’s specializing in one thing in one fairly narrow, but you know, amazingly broad your problem is buyer personas and your niche Is b2b companies.


Adrienne Barnes  35:02

Yeah, it really is narrow. I mean, like, and that’s what people say like, Oh, you know, be a T shaped marketer, I what I do is I help marketing teams get from like it’s a bridge, it’s a very tiny bridge. But if they get it wrong, so much else goes wrong. So it’s an important bridge. But yeah, it really is about helping with this one deliverable. And once that one deliverable is done well, they know that they can then go off and reach their goals essentially, as a company.


Alastair McDermott  35:29

Yeah. When you were coming up with this, this niche, and this specialization, did it occur to you to go broader to have more reach? Or were you already bought in? Because you’ve already been doing work with these this particular type of company?


Adrienne Barnes  35:42

Yeah. No, I didn’t want to go broader. Sometimes. I think I’m too broad. As is really, I love b2b SaaS, I love startups, founders, that whole energy, the passionate founder gets me so lit up, like, it’s not even funny after talking to somebody who is like in the midst of funding or creating a product, and they’re finding their first customers. Like, I just love it. So working with those clients is my favorite. And then the buyer persona was a natural evolution, like I’ve said before, so it just kind of evolved. And I think that was a great way I didn’t like all of a sudden say, I’m going to do buyer personas, it was really an evolution of seeing the struggles that my clients were going through and trying to meet that need.


Alastair McDermott  36:27

Yeah, yeah. Can I ask you how you do marketing for yourself, then? I mean, apart from guesting on podcasts?


Adrienne Barnes  36:33

Yeah. So podcast is definitely one. It’s actually been a great lead generator for myself a great way somebody said today, I feel like you’re everywhere. And I was like, that’s my goal. I want people to be like, dang, Adrienne, we just saw you over here. And now you’re here, even though I’m not. And I also Twitter is like a great lead generation marketing channel for me. I do have a couple of newsletters. I have one on SOP Substack that’s Watch Me Grow A Million Dollar Consultancy. That one, you know, has a tiny little yeah, 129 subscribers. So it’s a little bitty thing that I just add to


Alastair McDermott  37:13

Is that a paid or paid or free,


Adrienne Barnes  37:15

Oh, it’s free. It’s free. And I just basically am sharing my journey, the ups and the downs, the positives and the challenges. I’m very transparent. I share I don’t share clients names or specific client problems. But I will say like, this is what I’m dealing with. These are the clients I just this is how many calls I had. This is my conversion rate. You know, sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s not. But I’m trying to be as transparent as possible, because I don’t feel like there are many people who are documenting a process while the process is going on. usually read, oh, it’s 10 years later, and I’m a million dollar consultant like, look how great that was. And let me tell you how I did it. Now that you know, I’ve got rose colored glasses on and everything’s really pretty. Whereas I’m like, you know what I’m okay. Telling you like yesterday sucked. And this is why and here we go. But that I think that’s part of the journey.


Alastair McDermott  38:06

I’m actually 100% with you. And I released a transparency report just last week on the podcast. So with numbers. So yeah, I’m really interested that can you tell me very, very approximately where you’re at right now, in terms of annual revenue. I’m just interested in how far you are away from this. The million.


Adrienne Barnes  38:25

The million, I’m quite far from the million. So my million is maybe a yearly annual revenue of a million last year was my first year to exceed 100. Like the six figure mark. So I’m on,


Alastair McDermott  38:40

Six figures, you’re at six figures on the way to seven figures. That’s cool.


Adrienne Barnes  38:43

Yeah. Trying.


Alastair McDermott  38:45

Is there any in terms of growing the people I’ve talked to who are growing from six figures to seven figures, it’s usually quite a lot about what they’re not doing, rather than what they are doing. Is there anything that you’re not doing in order to allow you to grow the business that much?


Adrienne Barnes  39:00

Hmm, that’s a good question.


Alastair McDermott  39:02

What are you saying no to?


Adrienne Barnes  39:04

I am saying no to perfect clients, I am saying no to red flags, I am saying no to writing, which sometimes it’s hard for me to do because I have a lot of writing leads in my inbox. When I stopped writing I was probably I was charging a really decent rate for four pieces for an average blog post was like $1,000. And that can be quote unquote, easy money. But it also requires like time and chair, a lot of brain power. It’s kind of exhausting for me to write, and I’m kind of a slow writer, I’m good, but I can it can take me some time. So I’m saying no to those things so that I can really focus it. I’ve said I’m hiring myself as a writer for this year for Best Buyer Persona. So I’m going to create my own content. I’m also saying no to doing everything myself, I’ve hired a VA and I’m saying okay, VA you can do these things like you can go up and do my follow ups. You can You know, help me with my LinkedIn content because I don’t absolutely love LinkedIn. But I know that it’s important. Just different things like that.


Alastair McDermott  40:07

Very cool. I’m definitely going to, to subscribe to that, to watch that journey. And and maybe I’ll have you come back on and give us a report in a couple of years time see how you’re doing?


Adrienne Barnes  40:18

Yes, absolutely.


Alastair McDermott  40:19

This podcast and your consultancy are both doing really well at that point. And we can that we can share our Transparency Report. Okay, very cool. One question I like to ask people is just about failures. And is there any business failure that you’ve had that that stands out that you encounter that you you’ve learned from? Could you tell us about?


Adrienne Barnes  40:39

Yeah, absolutely. I think if somebody says, No, I’ve never failed at all, they’re lying. Or they’re not learning and they’re not pushing themselves, like one of the other, you’re either being really small, I think some business failures, I didn’t outsource soon enough, that’s definitely been a business failure. I have a tendency to neglect my own business. That has been a business failure where you get wrapped up in you’re performing for clients so much that you forget to perform for yourself. That has definitely been.


Alastair McDermott  41:12

That’s a major one that I did in 2011. And it nearly destroyed the business. I nearly went bankrupt because of it. So yeah, I feel you on that one. Yeah.


Adrienne Barnes  41:21

Yes. I mean, to the point that last year, I had what I would call a whale client, a huge they basically monopolized my time. And then one day, COVID, March 15 happen. And they said, Stop where you cannot. So there was no other streams of revenue, nothing else coming in. And essentially, I had to start from scratch in the middle of a pandemic, which was not fun. But thankfully, I had a solid network, I have great friends. And I was able to say, Hey, I’m a free agent. Let’s go, what are we working on? And I was able to build?


Alastair McDermott  41:56

So diversify your income.


Adrienne Barnes  41:59

Yeah. diversify your income? Absolutely. Unless you or if you don’t just do it with a nest egg in mind and know that you’re taking a risk.


Alastair McDermott  42:09

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Okay. Is there any book or any other type of business resource that you would that you love that you recommend?


Adrienne Barnes  42:17

Yes, I’m looking at my bookshelf now. I love, like “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” I probably probably hear that one like 12 times a day. But as a consultant, I just think that one is really, really good. Also, what do I have up there? Oh, “Crucial Conversations.” I forget the author, also a very solid book, how to talk to people how to open up those conversations. Very good.


Alastair McDermott  42:43

Right. Excellent. I love I love those. Okay, I’m gonna put those in the show notes. Do you have a particular fiction book? Or if you’re not a big fiction reader TV series, or anything that you like?


Adrienne Barnes  42:52

Oh, TV series or fiction books. So recently, I finished “The Choice” by Dr. Ruth Edgar something I can’t remember right now. Heavy book, like trigger warning. It’s It’s intense, but it was very good. It’s kind of it’s not quite fictional. Actually, it’s a true story of her in the Holocaust. So but it’s her telling it. So that’s kind of more of a post by biographical and then I read a lot of business books. So I love “Think Again” by Adam Grant. I just finished that one very solid, if you enjoy like data and scientific human behavior type data with storytelling involved with it. It’s great.


Alastair McDermott  43:30

Very cool. Awesome. Okay. That’s, that’s great. Thank you. Okay. Can you tell us where we can find you online?


Adrienne Barnes  43:37

Yeah, I’m at Also @adriennenakohl on Twitter. So happy to connect and anything that I can. If you have any questions or help in any way, I’d love to connect with your audience.


Alastair McDermott  43:49

Super. And I will link to those and to your substack things that are all in the shownotes that will be with this episode. Great. Taryn, thank you so much for being I really appreciate you coming on. Absolutely. Thanks, Alastair. I appreciate it. Super. Bye, bye. Hey, folks. So I just want to tell you about a free resource that I have available for you. I was recently on Brandon McAdams podcast sales for founders. And he asked me to walk him through my sales meeting process. So during the podcast, I decided to make my sales question sheet available for his listeners to download. So this is a single sheet with 25 questions that I always ask in every sales meeting. And I’ve used these to successfully close five and six figure deals. It’s literally the sheet that I use. I bring it into every meeting. I have it in front of me as I’m speaking with the prospective client. And it’s all the questions that I go through during that sales meeting. If that sounds like it might be something useful for you. You can grab a copy by visiting That’s You’ll also get an explainer sheet with comments on why I used Those questions and I’ll even link to the podcast episode with Brandon. Thanks for listening. See you next time.