How well do you know your target audience? I mean, really. Do you have a clear vision of the people who buy your products and services, and would you describe them the same way your co-workers do? If not, this list of buyer persona questions is for you because it’s time you did some research and developed buyer personas to guide your work.
What are Buyer Personas and Why Do I Need Them?
Buyer personas are research-based, written profiles that depict a fictional target customer. They describe what your customers are like, how they spend their days, the things that motivate and challenge them, and how they make decisions. Buyer personas are usually captured in a shared document and some companies even display them as visual reminders of the people that most matter to their business.
Sometimes referred to as marketing or customer personas (or even profiles or avatars), buyer personas are a critical tool for your business. The very process of creating buyer personas helps your team gain a unified view of your target audience. And, once they’re complete, you can share these documents with others in your organization to ensure that everyone understands your customers and can do a better job of attracting and/or serving them.
Buyer personas provide clarity for your messaging. When your team has one, coherent vision of your target audience, all of your communications are more effective. And your target customers will be more likely to buy because people prefer to work with organizations that understand them.
Who Should Be Involved in Creating Your Buyer Personas?
Developing buyer personas is a collaborative process that works best when you include a wide variety of perspectives. Gather insight from your co-workers, conduct independent research, listen in on sales and support calls, and schedule customer interviews. Each of these activities will unearth a fresh point of view that will help to shape your personas.
When I create personas, I like to start with some independent research so I can customize my list of questions. Then I survey people within the organization who engage with customers, such as marketing, customer service, the sales team, and executives. I make note of any inconsistencies or questions revealed in the data, then I use what I learned to build a first draft of the persona. I review this draft with my client so we can address concerns and refine our methodology before moving on.
As a next step, I’ll speak with customers directly. But first, I reduce the list of questions to just a few, open-ended queries designed to elicit the most important information. During the interviews, I use the questions as a guide, but I keep it conversational and let the customers do most of the talking. I’ve found that if I keep quiet and pay attention, customers will share things I never expected.
As I gather more information, I refine the persona. Then I continue working with my client until we agree that the persona is an accurate depiction of the buyer they want to attract.
Buyer Persona Questions to Kickstart Your Market Research
Every market is different, so the following buyer persona questions are not “one-size-fits-all.” They’re just a starting point that can help you prepare for your research. You’ll notice that I framed these questions as if I were interviewing people within your company, about your customers. That’s because I like to start with a broad list of questions when speaking with people internally. Then I reduce it to a select few when I’m ready to interview customers.
Be sure to adjust this list to make it relevant to your business, then add or remove questions until you have a script that will allow you to conduct productive buyer persona interviews. If you sell B2B, for example, you might focus more on the questions about the buyer’s professional life. A B2C company, however, might adjust this list to emphasize questions about the customer’s personal concerns.
Buyer Persona Demographics
The answers to demographic questions will provide a high-level, generalized picture of your target audience. It may not be appropriate (or time effective) to ask all of these questions of the customer directly. But you can certainly ask internal personnel for their perspective or gather this information from public sources.
- What is your customer’s age?
- What gender do they identify with, if any?
- Do they have children? If so, how many and what are their ages?
- What is their marital status?
- Where do they live?
- What is their personal or household income?
- What is their education level?
Regardless of whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, it’s helpful to get a sense of the customer’s professional life because this will impact how they experience the world, spend their time, and make decisions. Even if the buyer doesn’t have a traditional job, they will usually have a dominant role (like a stay-at-home parent, student, or volunteer) that is, technically, their job.
- Where does your customer work?
- What is their job title and/or primary role?
- What’s their career path like?
- What industry do they work in?
- How big is the company they work for?
- How would they describe their typical day?
- What special skills do they have?
- What tools do they use to do their job?
- Who is their boss and what is their relationship like?
- Do they manage others?
- How is their success measured?
Now for the best part. In this section, we want to learn what motivates this person. These buyer persona questions will illuminate what’s important to your customers and the things they worry about. We’ll work to gain insight into the goals they’ve set for themselves and/or what they’re expected to achieve for their organization. And, finally, we want to know what gets in their way.
This is the information that will help us understand our customer’s “pain points” and the things that drive their buying decisions.
Goals and Challenges:
- What personal and/or career goals does this buyer have?
- How do they prioritize them?
- What challenges impact their ability to achieve these goals?
- What problems does this cause for them?
- How could your products or services help with those challenges?
- What would prompt them to seek a solution?
Values and Fears:
- What do they value in their personal or professional life?
- What’s important to them when considering a product like yours?
- What objections might they have to making the purchase?
- What drives their decision-making process?
- Which competitors (if any) might they consider?
- What would happen if they picked the wrong solution?
- What would happen if they did nothing at all?
Now we want to know how to reach these people. The questions in this section will help you figure out which social media channels you should participate in, where you should publish your content, which conferences to attend, etc.
- How does your buyer get information?
- How do they communicate?
- What media do they consume?
- Do they belong to any associations?
- What social media do they use?
- Do they attend events or conferences? If so, which ones?
- Where do they spend their days?
- Do they have any relevant hobbies?
Negative Buyer Persona Information
As important as it is to understand who you should sell to, it’s just as critical to be able to spot people who are a bad fit for your products or services. This can help you avoid wasting time and exposing your business to people you can’t please. Think about a time when a customer engagement didn’t work out, then (if possible) expand this list of questions.
- Which types of customers are too difficult or expensive to support?
- Are there certain customers who don’t have the budget for what you offer?
- Is your product a bad fit, or simply not designed for certain industries or individuals?
Use these questions and any others you can come up with to gather as much information as possible about your target audience before taking a first pass at your buyer persona.
Buyer Persona Examples
So, what does a buyer persona look like? It’s really up to you, but when you’re ready to build buyer personas choose a format that will allow you to see the most important details at a glance.
This means, a one-page document, broken into sections, and a photo to represent the person you have in mind. Ideally, you will also bold important words, use bullets to draw attention to key characteristics, and include plenty of white space. This buyer persona template should give you a start.
And, if you’d like to see some alternatives, Google’s image search is a great place to find buyer persona designs.
Writing a buyer persona is trickier than it sounds because your research will yield a ton of data. You need to review that data, decide which insights are most helpful, then mold that information into a clear, concise document that captures the person’s essence and that your team will actually use.
The best way to learn how to write a buyer persona is to just dive in and experience it for yourself. But, if you feel you could benefit from a fresh perspective, contact me and I’d be happy to help.
How to Use Buyer Personas
Now, this is where it gets fun. As a marketer, I use personas all the time. A well-researched persona will contain important details about where customers get their information. This is useful to have on hand when I’m building inbound marketing strategies and trying to decide where to focus my efforts.
Buyer personas are also a wonderful tool that can seriously help with your content marketing. Every time you sit down to write a blog post, build a resource, or design a new webpage, review your personas. This will help you get into the right mindset and craft content your audience can relate to. And, if you work with a marketing agency or hire freelancers, be sure to share your personas with them as well.
Of course, it’s not only marketers that use buyer personas. Ideally, everyone in your organization who interacts with customers will use them. This will help to keep your communications consistent.
Your sales team can review the buyer personas before customer meetings and include them as part of their training materials. Your customer support colleagues can display the personas in their workspaces. They will serve as a reminder of the challenges your customers face so they can exude empathy and improve the outcome of their interactions.
Like the people they represent, your personas will never be perfect or truly done because your market and customers change all the time. So, be sure to update your personas as you learn new things, spot trends that impact your customers’ lives, or shift your strategy.
How Many Buyer Personas Should You Create?
It’s not unusual for businesses to create several buyer personas, each one representing a different target customer, or individual involved in the buying process.
For example, if you sell a product or service to salespeople, there could be several roles influencing the final decision. The field sales rep might be your ultimate end-user, but sales enablement, operations, or even leadership may influence the decision. When this is the case, you might create a buyer persona to represent each one of these people because the way you market, sell, and serve them will differ based on each person’s unique needs and buying criteria.
But, don’t let this overwhelm you. You don’t have to do it all at once. Start by building one persona, see how it feels, then expand from there.
Buyer personas are an incredible tool that can help you and your colleagues do a better, more efficient job of acquiring and serving your customers. Use the buyer persona questions above to guide your research. Then create your personas and apply them gratuitously. Let your personas lead the way to save time (and avoid misunderstandings) as you rework your messaging, create targeted marketing campaigns, and engage with the people who matter most to your business.
Editors Note: This post was originally published on March 1, 2016, and updated on February 12, 2020.