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Buyer Persona Research: 10 Essentials Questions to Ask

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What is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better.

It’s been a while since we spoke about your customers. I keep insisting on the importance of knowing them, understanding them and talking to them, stating that everything starts from them. But honestly, since we started to talk about your customer-centricity journey, did you speak to one of your customers?

I know, I know… What to ask? Well, I have created a one-pager with a list of questions for you to download to help you with this. Let’s also explore it here…

When you’ve just met somebody it’s hard to get into a conversation about values, goals and habits. You’re likely used to some market research methodologies filled with product or service related questions on expected behaviors and customers’ likes and dislikes, or even the “evaluation” questions. These last ones, I think, are the worst…

I understand you want to know if people like your product or service but there are clever ways to evaluate this. You cannot expect to understand what people are really thinking with closed and guiding questions like:

“Did you like this product? Yes or No”, or “On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best, how did you like the product?”

These questions will not give you the insights you need to understand your customer.

Satisfaction surveys on products or services are not made to better understand the needs of your customer nor are they designed to build personas from. They are a way for managers to validate the assumptions they have been making whilst building their product or service. 

This is also valid for questionnaires that intend to know people’s intentions. There is usually a huge gap between intentions and actions – remember your last New Year’s Resolutions..? You don’t build personas on intentions. So what do you build them on?

How to build a Buyer Persona using segmentation data

If you have an operating business, you already have access to a lot of information from your customers and some can be really helpful. 

Thanks to the digital era or former surveys you may have a lot of data available and, if you are lucky, you might have a segmentation ready to target your current offer. There are a lot of different methods for building a segmentation, that I won’t elaborate on right now, but mostly you can rely on the following elements to build traditional market segments:

  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Behavioral activities
  • Technical knowledge
  • Usage and purchase situations
  • Benefits from the products

Sounds like a lot but let me reassure you, those who built segmentation with all of these elements are in the minority. Thanks to these pieces of information and data you can now make a choice about the type of segmentation you want to focus on:

  • The demographic segmentation that sorts a market by demographic elements such as age, education, income, family size, race, gender, occupation, nationality, and more. This segmentation is one of the simplest and most common.

  • The behavioral segmentation split markets by behaviors and decision-making patterns such as purchase, consumption, lifestyle, and usage. For instance, younger buyers may tend to purchase liquid soap, while older consumer groups may lean towards bar soap. 

  • The psychographic segmentation considers the psychological aspects of consumer behavior by dividing markets according to lifestyle, personality traits, values, opinions, and interests of consumers. For example, you might want to sort your customers into categories of people who care about healthy living and exercise, or those who care about the environment or social causes.

  • The geographic segmentation designs different target audience groups based on customers’ geographical boundaries. People living the whole year in 25 degrees and mostly sunny weather will not have the same needs as those who live in cold with wet winters.

Each can be used together to go deeper into the precision and accuracy of the segmentation helping the manager to understand the customer and make relevant decisions.

Be careful if you have an existing segmentation. Just because you already have one doesn’t mean that it’s the most effective one! As a manager, you are entitled to challenge the status quo. It’s what is expected of you. So make sure any existing segmentation answers the following requirements: 

  1. Measurable: you must be able to identify segmentation variables that are related to the purchase of the product and develop a tangible and descriptive profile.

  1. Accessible: you must be able to identify and reach them in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Where are they? Where can you find them?

  1. Substantial: the market segment must have the ability to purchase. For example, a lot of students want to have the latest iPhone with earpods, but few of them have the ability to purchase such expensive devices.

  1. Actionable: The market segment must be willing to purchase. You need your target to respond and be reactive to your offer… Your go-to-market team will thank you for this sanity check!

If you’re building or reviewing your segmentation, your work will be so much easier if you can check these four elements along the road. The quality of your analysis and segmentation will be boosted. 

10 essential questions to ask customers for Buyer Persona research

But you came for the questions, right? What are the questions to ask to gather this information?

Here you go – remember you can download this list of questions right below the article.

  1. Who is your customer? Ask about the gender, age, family, status, job, personality, triggers, motivators

  1. What do they do? Their job title, where they work, how many hours, role in their company, their professional goals

  1. Why do they buy? What do they enjoy or really not enjoy buying? What are their guilty pleasures? What is the experience they expect or are looking for? Do they enjoy learning? Are they more of an investor type? Do they buy for personal use or mostly for business?

  1. When do they buy? Very clear, when do they take the time or do they allocate time for consumptions: holidays, weekends, after hours, business hours, school hours

  1. How do they buy? In-person at a local shop? Online? With what system? PayPal, credit card, cash… Which device do they use to buy? Phone, tablets…

  1. How much money do they have? What is their annual salary or revenue? Do they allocate budgets for specifics?

  1. What makes them feel good about buying? Is it related to their values? Is it something that reminds them of their childhood? Did their parents used to buy this brand? If so, why? Are they building a collection? Do their neighbors and friends already buy this?

  1. What are their objections to buying? What will prevent the action of buying? You want to identify their pain points, the objections they will elucidate, any practical issues or maybe some moral positions, or if it’s that they don’t have enough money or resources.

  1. What do they think about and expect of YOU (the brand, the product, the service)? You want to know what are the benefits the customer is looking for, what do they want to achieve? It can be everything: looking for quality, authority, delivery, value, personal, professional.

  1. What do they think about your competitors? You want to know exactly what you asked in question 9, but regarding how your direct or indirect competitors are better or worse than you. This provides valuable input into what your customer really values and prioritizes.

Voila… these are the ten things you need to know about your customers. 

With this as your basis, you can build any questionnaire to further explore your customer understanding and refine your segmentation.

How to get good quality answers to your questions

I also want to share some tips on optimizing your questions to make sure you have qualitative input for when you build your questionnaire. Clearly the quality of the answers you will receive depends directly on the quality of the questions you will ask!

  1. Ask only single questions. Avoid asking: What do you think about buying online and buying on your cell phone? This is confusing. Split this into two separate questions.

  1. Avoid survey biases
    – instead of using leading questions like “How satisfied are you with the online method of payment?” ask: “How do you feel about the online payment method?”
    – avoid assumptions: “Where do you go shopping at the weekend?” – here you assume that everybody does this and exclude those who don’t. “What do you do at the weekend?” is easier for everyone to answer.
    – avoid questions that require only yes or no answers. eg. ‘Do you eat bread every day?’ Many people don’t, so they simply answer no. By asking, ‘How many times a week do you eat bread?’ you’ll get much more quantitative data…

  1. Speak your target audience’s language: nobody will understand questions filled with corporate jargon and product specifics.

  1. Explain why you’re asking these questions to customers: A clear context is key in constructive discussion!

  1. Sensitive questions: questions about money are sensitive and people quite often lie about money… so only ask such questions when they are absolutely necessary and justify why you need them. Always include a ‘Prefer Not to Answer’ option for such sensitive questions.

  1. Use a scale such as ‘Strongly Agree’ to ‘Strongly Disagree’. Scales extend the depth of analysis and give you nuances.

  1. Test your questions!

OK, now you are ready to approach your customers and use the valuable insights you acquire to help your sales and marketing activities. After all, this data has so many important applications for your business plan and marketing efforts, particularly in how to market to your customers to get the best results. 

It can be used to create a marketing plan, optimize content marketing strategy, better understand the types of content that can lead to inbound marketing success and differentiate you from a competitor. It can be used for marketing automation, to improve the sales funnel and better inform lead generation – and these are just a few examples.

To recap: 

  • Use what you already have as information but check the quality, don’t hesitate to challenge the status quo
  • Define what you need to know and who you want to interview
  • Build and test your questionnaire with your objectives in mind

The next step will be to analyze the results and build your persona profile, the one-pager that will accompany you on many CX methods and briefings on the road of new product and services development.

Here are some links to CX methods which you may find helpful:

The Persona is a key document. We’ll explore together how to build the one-pager persona very soon. In the meantime, you can always contact me if you have questions, or if you want support in elaborating on your questionnaire.

Don’t forget to download your PDF with the list of 10 essential questions to ask (right below the article) and let me know if you use it!

I would love to hear how you got on with your responses – whether from new customers, existing customers, or both – and how these influenced your marketing department and business goals.

I’m always happy to discuss your projects and ambitions!

Free

Thanks to this list of 10 questions, you’ll be able to create an accurate profile and discover how you can really help them in a relevant way.

The ultimate list of questions to meet your customer

Enter your email & download the list for free
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Amélie Beerens

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