Guides and Templates

Persona research guide

Learn different customer research techniques to create buyer personas to inform marketing

About the guide

Thinking about how you can create or improve buyer personas? Start here! Use this guide and our companion resources to create effective, actionable personas.

This guide will help you build personas using the most appropriate research techniques. The research doesn't need to be lengthy or costly, as this guide explains.

What's inside?

The guide is comprehensive covering both primary and secondary research methods. Techniques covered include:

  • Building the case for creating personas
  • Contextual interviews
  • Diary studies
  • Online blogs and bulletin boards/ forums
  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Using Data from Facebook and Google Analytics for persona development

Also includes a downloadable Excel template for creating detailed personas with journey maps (blank template plus B2C and B2B examples available).

Why a guide on persona research?

The guide will help you effectively build personas using the most appropriate research techniques. The research doesn’t need to be lengthy or costly, as this guide explains.

There are various reasons we created the persona research guide namely:

  • With so many research techniques out there, this guide summarises many techniques to help you decide which techniques to use when you’re creating your buyer personas
  • Personas are commonly used across large businesses, but there are advantages for all sizes and types of businesses to build customer personas, this guide helps you estimate costs of building personas and helps you create a business case for doing so
  • The guide will also help you to plan your persona building, which may seem more complicated than it seems. You’ll know where to start and what combination of techniques you can use

Many marketers are familiar with personas, how to use them and what they look like, but this guide is for marketers to effectively create personas using the most appropriate research methods.

Also included in this resource: A downloadable Excel template accessed from this resource will help make your personas more actionable. Including a blank worksheet, plus one B2C and B2B examples of personas and customer journey maps.

Who is this guide for?

You may be a seasoned marketer looking to streamline your campaigns by creating personas, or you may run an SME and are looking to use insight to understand your customer to grow your business. Our guide is a brilliant starting point if you’re considering using personas in your marketing or want to see how you can refine them to include more advanced, yet practical techniques like customer journey mapping and content mapping.

Resource Details

Recommended companion resources

  • Persona, customer journey and content mapping examples guide – contains many best practice examples from different B2B and B2C sectors to inform your style of persona
  • Persona example template – a blank template with a completed B2B and B2C buyer persona example – available for download with this resource (no additional credits needed for Expert members on the monthly plan).

About the authors

This guide was written by Robert Jones and was edited by Dr Dave Chaffey.

Robert is Research Analyst at Smart Insights, he works on member research, improving user experience of the Smart Insights site, our partner research reports and helps produce our member content. He is a member of the Market Research Society (MRS) and has over 5 years experience in Insight and UX.

Dave is CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights. He is editor of the 100 templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ Digital Marketing experts. Our resources used by our Expert members in more than 80 countries to Map, Plan and Manage their digital marketing. For my full profile, or to connect on LinkedIn or other social networks, see the About Dave Chaffey profile page on Smart Insights. Dave is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Emarketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing.

What’s inside?

The guide is written in such as way that introduces personas, helps you to build a business case and discusses research techniques including what they are, how to use them, how to analyse the data and provides an estimation of cost.

The main sections are:

  • Background to personas and building a business case for using them
  • Primary research techniques including focus groups, diary studies, surveys and much more, with considerations and examples of how each can be used
  • Using marketing data to build personas
  • Recruitment tips for qualitative research
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