What is a buyer persona?

Buyer personas are a semi fictional representation of your ideal audience. Clearly defined personas can be used to inform communication at all levels, from sales and marketing teams to bid managers who are hoping to win their next tender. Through developing an understanding of your persona’s wants and needs, your organisation will be perfectly placed to communicate with them effectively.

There are a number of ways to develop your personas, we’d always recommend using a combination of the below three where possible:

Method 1: Market research

Whilst market research may only get you so far, it is never one to be overlooked. If you dig deep enough, there’s a plethora of first-hand data at your fingertips. There’s a variety of forums, social sites, interviews and ‘day-in-the-life’ style articles that can be found from a simple Google search.

Method 2: Persona workshops

Involving your team in persona workshops is not only a great way to secure internal buy in but also to get valuable insights on how your customers interact with your brand. Each member of your team may have a different experience with your customers so it’s vital to get them together to make sure you factor in everyone’s perspective.

Method 3: Consumer surveys

Consumer surveys provide the basis to validate your research and gather first-hand information from your personas themselves. You’ll get insights into the type of language your personas use, and you can fill in any gaps that may be missing from your prior research.

This step-by-step guide focuses on method 3 – consumer surveys. While market research and workshops can provide a great deal of insights into your persona's wants and needs, these can still be focused around assumptions. By surveying your personas directly, you’ll be able to really get into their heads, uncovering primary data that will make your brand messages stronger.

Who should you involve in the surveys?

If you are an organisation that is already established, it’s likely you have customers that you can contact to take part in your survey. Remember you should focus only on your ideal audience types to build personas.

Your ideal audience types are defined as the people you are hoping to attract to take your business to the next level. This could mean a type of customer who is likely to have high value spend, a type of buyer who provides quick and easy wins or even somebody who can give you access to a new market, helping you break into a new sector. The criteria for defining your ideal customers should always be linked to your overarching business objectives.

You should reach out to your existing audience base, via telephone or email to ask them if they are happy to partake in a short survey.

If you’re just getting started or don’t have an existing customer base, you could put a call out on socials or put your questions on a forum such as Quora or Reddit to obtain your data. Alternatively, platforms such as Survey Monkey offer a service where you can find exactly the right people you’d like to target. Whilst this is a paid service, if you ask the right questions and build this data into an integrated marketing and communications strategy, this will be a valuable investment that can help propel your organisation, and in turn, your career forward.

What platform should I use?

There are a number of platforms you can use to send out online surveys. We’ve outlined a few options below so you can get access to the data you need.

Google Forms

Google Forms is a free platform that is easy to use and shares some of the brilliant features available on Google Drive:

  • You can collaborate and invite different team members to update your survey and monitor results
  • Surveys can be designed so you can add your own brand and colour scheme
  • Respondents can be set as anonymous to encourage open discussions
  • You have full control over the questions you can ask. From multiple choice to comment boxes and linear scales, it’s easy to select the format that is best suited.
  • Responses are collated and visualised in pie charts so you can easily dissect data. For a more detailed view, you can also export a CSV file containing all of the individual answers to your questions.

Survey Monkey

Survey Monkey is a sophisticated platform that allows you to create and publish surveys in a matter of minutes. Whilst there are limitations to the free plan, the paid tool is a complete and flexible solution that will allow you to gather data with ease:

  • The platform is easy to use from a non-tech perspective
  • You can set the surveys as anonymous to collect data discretely
  • The automatic charts and summaries function mean you can dissect data more easily
  • Survey Monkey offers pay-as-you-go services to purchase survey responses from your target audience
  • Customisation options allow you to easily brand the surveys
  • The website boasts an in-depth resources section to give guidance on best practices, case studies and tutorials
  • Collaboration tools are available for you to work efficiently with your team

What questions should I ask? 

In order to get the data you need to build effective personas, your survey should be made up of the following types of questions:

  • Demographic – to determine which persona group the respondent belongs to
  • Attitudinal – to determine respondents’ opinions, judgements and perceptions
  • Behavioural – to gain an understanding of respondent’s factual circumstances

Your questions should be open to avoid bias – your aim is to collect true opinions and perceptions, so you don’t want to lead your personas in any way. Setting the surveys as anonymous is also a good way to encourage respondents to be honest.

Opening statement:

We’d recommend always opening your surveys with a statement, explaining how long the survey should take and that respondents will remain anonymous.


Whilst there will be specific questions that are only applicable to your company, the below template is a great starting point to help you determine what questions you need to ask to validate your personas.

 About you:

  • What is your gender?
  • Age range?
  • What is your education level?
  • What is your current occupation?
  • How many years industry experience do you have?
  • What is your company size?
  • What duties tend to fill up your day?
  • What are your ambitions?
  • What frustrates you at work?

Previous experience of product/service:

  • Where to you go to learn about [insert product/service]?
  • What websites/publications/social networks do you use?
  • Who influences your decision to purchase [insert product/service]?
  • What would trigger you to purchase [product/service]?
  • What would your biggest concern be from purchasing a [insert product/service] from us?
  • What is your previous experience with [insert product/service]?
  • On a scale of 1-5 (1 being low, 5 being high), how satisfied were you with the [insert product/service]?
  • How could the [insert product/service] have been improved?


  • On a scale of 1-5 (1 being low, 5 being high), how likely are you [or your company] to invest in [insert product/service]?
  • What’s the minimum price you would be willing to pay for [insert product/service]?
  • Are there any brands or companies that first come to mind when you consider [insert product/service]?
  • What was your first impression of our brand?
  • What are 3 key things that you’d like to get out of [insert product/service]?
  • What is the ‘dream’ [insert product/service] you’d pay almost anything for?

How do I dissect the data? 

A well thought out survey can not only validate your personas, but can capture current perceptions and explore the viability of your service offering. The results should be used to inform service design, costs and your overall marketing strategy.

Identify patterns within your research to inform your personas. In order to pre-segment your data, set up a separate survey for each persona group of focus, this will help you dissect your data more easily.

By using Survey Monkey or Google Forms’ refined answer settings, you can ensure responses can be collated and visualised so you can spot patterns more easily.

Like scales (where respondents rate on a scale of 1-5 how much they identify with the question), pre-determined answers and adding in ranges to determine the age category will help you further segment quickly and effectively. Of course open questions are key so you will also need to include comment boxes in your survey.

What next? 

Once you have built this information into your personas, you should ensure everyone in your team understands who your personas are. They should be used to make decisions in all aspects of the business beyond just the marketing department.

Lastly, your personas should never remain static and consumer surveys are a useful way to keep your personas refreshed and up-to-date. Sending out yearly surveys can also work as a tactic to measure brand perceptions and what impact your marketing efforts are having on your core audience segments. The more accurate your personas are, the more effective the leads you generate and the visitors you attract will be. To start building your personas, download our free templates today.

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