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Developing a Customer Persona requires asking the right questions and listening to the stories behind the answers.

First of all, it’s important to understand the difference between Customer Personas and Ideal Customer Profiles. If you haven’t read our article on the subject, read that first.

Also, I just want to reiterate the importance of customer personas. As I mentioned in our free ebook, Customer Personas are crucial because they help shape website content that leads visitors to complete your call to action.

Developing personas starts with market research. You’ve researched the market to determine if your product or service is wanted, who wants it, and who’s able to afford it. Those particular people in that group make up your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). From there, you get more specific by developing a Customer Persona. Customer Personas should be the end goal of your research.

I won’t write about how to do market research here because the people at WikiHow did a great job. Your market research should have accumulated the following demographic information which makes up your ICP:

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Household size
  • Location
  • Education level
  • Children
  • Marital status
  • Rent or own

B2B demographics include:

  • Industry
  • Annual sales
  • Years in business
  • Number of employees
  • Number of locations
  • Markets Served
  • Products they offer

Now that you know who your ideal customer is, it’s time to understand why they buy products and services like yours—their motivations, frustrations, and aspirations.

The goal is to construct at least three different customer personas—real stories your customers have about your product or service. It starts with finding your ideal clients and asking the right questions.

Where can I find info about my customers?

  • Review your CRM data.
  • Look over your own testimonies.
  • Ask sales reps about what they’ve heard.
  • Check your social media comments and reviews.
  • Visit independent review and complaint websites.
  • Survey your existing customers with a random prize as an incentive.
  • Setup a Google Alert and monitor talk about your company or companies like yours.

What questions should I ask?

  • Why did you purchase our product or service?
  • What problem(s) did you have that the product or service solved?
  • What were the pain points and challenges?
  • What leads you to buy again?
  • Were there other companies you considered? If so, who?
  • Why did you choose our company versus the other?
  • Why did you choose XYZ company instead of us?
  • What do you like and dislike about our industry?
  • What do you value in product XYZ or service XYZ?
  • What kind of information is valuable to you in the buying process?
  • What do you value most in life?
  • What does success mean to you?
  • What is your typical day like?
  • What is your occupation?
  • Do you have any pets? If so, how many and what kinds?
  • Check off some of your hobbies

B2B Questions:

  • How long have you been at your job?
  • What is your job description?
  • Who do you report to?
  • What is your typical day like?
  • What do they like and dislike about your day?
  • What are your frustrations and daily struggles? How do they make you feel?
  • What would make your job easier?
  • What do you value in a product or service?
  • What are your goals in your business or career?
  • What kind of information is valuable to you in the buying process?
  • What are your barriers to finding solutions or choosing a product or service like ours?

Questionnaire tips:

You’ll likely be using an online form through a survey service to interview customers. Make as many of your questions single or multiple choice answers. It makes it a lot easier to review the data instead of reading hundreds or thousands of comments. However, most survey services like SurveyMonkey can highlight the frequently used keywords for any given field to give you an overview of what’s being said.

I’ve listed some solid questions to ask, but before you submit your survey to the public it’s important to review this insightful article on the 7 golden rules for survey question writing; even the best survey service in the world can’t save a poorly written survey.

Check out the best survey software comparison to determine what features are most important to you. I mentioned SurveyMonkey because it’s popular and provides the standard features you’ll need. Look for features like the following:

  • Demographic targeting
    You should be able to target your ideal customer
  • Graphs and charts
    Colorful charts and graphs make understanding data easier
  • Conditional form fields
    You can show different fields depending on response
  • Keyword/tag cloud
    This shows an overview of the most used keywords within an answer

Research tips:

If you’re doing this yourself, it’s more labor intensive to read over social media comments, reviews, and complaint forums. But don’t exclude these sources because you’ll find the best stories there. You can also follow your competitor’s to find information that will help craft your customer personas.

As you research, pay close attention to:

  • What emotions people express the most
  • Most used keywords
  • The perceived demographic behind the commenter
  • What is common among the complaints and the praise

What do stories look like?

Here’s an example:

I went to a chiropractor because of back pain. I have difficulty picking up and playing with my grandkids. I used to be able to take long walks and bike outdoors. I want to be more active with my grand kids, and enjoy outdoor activities again.

Within their story we discover what will make up our customer persona:

  1. Frustration: back pain
  2. Motivation: enjoying life
  3. Aspiration: being active with grandkids and enjoying outdoors

If I were building a website for a chiropractic service, my website copy would focus on the aspiration of the customer. I’d show images of older people lifting children with a smile on their face and enjoying outdoor activities. The headline on the homepage might read, “Live life pain-free and without restriction.”

Examples and conclusion

After you review your feedback, you should have an idea of who your customers really are. Out of that information, find at least three different groups of customers and create some profiles sheets for each. You can view some good examples of customer personas in this article from MyCustomer.com. The article showcases four example customer personas (buyer personas as they’re also called) and what you can learn from them. Visit their article for more.

Your persona profile sheets don’t have to be complicated, just one or two pages detailing the demographic info, motivations, aspirations, and frustrations of the customer. As you study your profiles, you’ll see a story, and it’s that story that you or your copywriter will translate to copy for your website and other marketing materials. With a personalized message that speaks directly to the aspirations of your customers, your website copy will more likely convert.

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Published: updated on 07/18/2017.
About Neal Chester

Neal Chester is a web designer, teacher, writer, and marketing consultant. He places emphasis on user experience and conversions. Visit his website and connect with him on Linkedin.