80 questions to target your ideal customer
How to narrow in on your dream audience
by Brittany Taylor
published January 14, 2016
updated May 30, 2018
¶ There are two ways to form a business: 1. starting with a customer problem, which you solve, or, 2. starting with a solution, and looking for potential customers.
If you’re the former, grab a cookie and take ten—you know exactly who your customer is, and that’s great! This spring on SeeBrittWrite, we’ll be diving deep into audience-customer differentiation. Coming soon: a guide for small business owners looking to broaden their scope and figure out who their customers could be.
If you’re the latter, grab a cookie and take a seat. We’ll figure this out together. Ready? Cookie in hand? Let’s do this!
Why customer targeting matters
Have you ever had a yard sale, or been to a yard sale, or seen a sign for a yard sale and thought, “Oh, I’d totally go to that, but it’s supposed to rain on Saturday”? I’ve done all those things (if you haven’t just nod along until this weekend, then go find a yard sale and capture the full experience).
Not targeting your customers is sort of like holding a yard sale: You put out all your wares. You let people know they’re there (some signs being better than others, of course). Then you sit there and wait for you customers to come and buy your stuff. Or not.
The “or not” is what happens with most yard sales. If you’re in a community of fervent yard-salers, you might get lucky and sell out before dark. But if you don’t, you’re just hoping the right person will come along.
That’s fine. If the weather’s nice—and you’re trucking along at a full-time job during the week—then you don’t particularly need to move product. You can just sit out and enjoy the weather. But if this is it, you can’t just leave it up to the right guy driving by at the right time on the right day and happening to stop and finding something he likes enough to open his wallet for. That’s a lot of “ifs” to contend with.
You don’t want to leave your business up to chance, right? That’s why targeting your customers is essential to effectively market and sell your products and services.
What makes up a customer avatar?
Answer: All the things.
A customer avatar, or persona, is a snapshot of the person you want to sell to.
Chances are, you’ll start with a few different customer avatars, and those avatars will change as your business changes.
Let’s dish more on this notion of an avatar being like a snapshot. Remember snapping Polaroid pictures way back when—or maybe earlier today, if you’re playing around with one of the newer models? After you press the button and the shutter opens and closes, you’re left holding a funny white square. It doesn’t look like anything, not yet, anyway. But the more you flap it in the breeze and the longer the film has to expose, the clearer the picture becomes.
That’s exactly what happens with your avatar, minus the shutter and the film and the flapping in the breeze. The more questions you ask yourself about who your ideal customer is, the clearer that persona becomes in your mind’s eye.
An avatar, then, includes all the details that comprise a customer’s physical and psychological being.
80 questions to ask yourself as you build your customer avatar
There are 80 questions on this list. No, I’m not joking. Eighty. These aren’t nearly all the questions you could answer about your customer, and all of these won’t apply to the product or service you want to sell. They’re a jumping-off point, the low-dive at the public pool that you can totally tackle.
Demographic questions to ask yourself
These questions are straight-forward. They’re all fact-based, and lots of them are yes-or-no. These questions aren’t intended to give you insight into your customer’s psyche. Instead, they’ll give you a snapshot view of them. What do they look like? What does their life look like? What do they do?
These are the answers you’ll get from digging into this section.
- 1How old is my customer?
- 2What generation do they fall into?
- 3Where do they live? Think: country, region, state, city, neighborhood
- 4What is their gender?
- 5What is their sexuality?
- 6What is their relationship status?
- 7Do they have kids? Do they want kids?
- 8Are their parents living? What about their grandparents?
- 9How many languages do they speak? What’s their native language?
- 10What’s their ancestral background?
- 11How many siblings do they have?
- 12Do they live where they grew up?
- 13What’s their medical history?
- 14What’s their education history?
- 15Are they planning to go back to school?
- 16What industry are they in? Are they looking to transition to a new industry?
- 17What level of experience do they have? Are they seeking a promotion? A new job?
- 18How much do they make? How much do they want to make?
- 19Do they travel? Do they have a passport?
- 20What car do they drive? What’s their dream car?
- 21Where do they shop? Are they an online shopper? Do they go to the mall? Do they shop local?
- 22What do they eat? Do they go to farmer’s markets? Do they grow their own produce?
- 23What sort of place do they live in? Do they want to move?
- 24Do they hire people to help them maintain their place? Do they want to?
- 25Do they live alone or with other people?
- 26How do they vote? Do they vote?
- 27What music do they listen to?
- 28What do they watch on TV? Are they a cord-cutter? Do they watch reality shows?
- 29Do they DIY? Do they wish they did?
- 30What’s their favorite book? How many do they read in a year?
- 31Do they read a newspaper? Do they get their news online?
- 32What’s their most-used app?
- 33How many credit cards do they have?
- 34Are they in debt?
- 35Do they have a smartphone? Is it Apple or Android or something else?
- 36Do they use social media? How many times a day do they check it? What’s their favorite platform?
- 37Do they have a budget? Do they stick to it?
- 38What do they spend their money on?
- 39How’s their health? Do they have insurance? Do they go to the doctor frequently or regularly or never?
- 40Do they have a savings account? What about retirement?
Psychographic questions to ask yourself
These questions are more complex. They’re based on emotions and the impulses behind wants and needs. They get to the motivations of your customer. Why would they invest in whatever you’re selling? Because something is going on internally that makes your product—and the problems it solves—compelling to them.
- 1Are they a penny-pincher? What do they value?
- 2Are they a know-it-all? What don't they know?
- 3Are they open-minded?
- 4Are they dense? Is it purposeful?
- 5Are they tech-illiterate? Do they want to change?
- 6Are they desperate?
- 7Are they defeated? What’s getting them down?
- 8Are they feeling betrayed by someone or something?
- 9Are they innocent? How about naïve?
- 10Are they rebellious? Why do they rebel?
- 11Are they self-accepting? What makes them confident?
- 12Are they unprotected? Are they feeling vulnerable?
- 13Are they feeling dumped or left out?
- 14Do they see things in black and white?
- 15Are they a special snowflake? What makes them unique?
- 16Are they hard to please?
- 17Are they a quitter? What makes them quit?
- 18Are they a wannabe? What do they want to be?
- 19Are they nerdy?
- 20Are they funny? What’s their brand of funny?
- 21Are they difficult to work with?
- 22Do they hate something? What fuels their hate?
- 23Are they feeling protective of something? Why is that?
- 24Are they artistic?
- 25Do they think they're creative?
- 26Are they sensitive?
- 27Are they defensive? Why are their hackles up?
- 28Are they socially awkward? What makes them think they are?
- 29Are they feeling unattractive? Has someone made them feel that way?
- 30Do they dread going to work? What’s got them down?
- 31Do they feel lovable? Why or why not?
- 32Are they trusting? Who do they trust the most? Why?
- 33Are they happy? What would make them happier?
- 34Do they think they're successful? What’s stopping them from achieving success?
- 35Are they hopeful about the future?
- 36What are they cynical about?
- 37What is their biggest disappointment?
- 38What is their proudest accomplishment?
- 39When they feel most at peace, what are they doing?
- 40When they are stressed out, what are they stressing about?
How to develop your customer avatar with these questions
As you answer these questions, I want you to visualize an ideal customer in your mind. Just one person. Fill in the details—hair type, skin color, what they're wearing. Then picture them in their life. Pick a job and an industry and a location. Give them a car and a domicile. Sketch in their family.
Next, I want you to conjure up what they're doing and how they're feeling when they might use your product or service. What problems are you helping them solve? How are you making their life better?
Finally, I want you to watch them solve those problems. Feel how they feel once they’re solved. Now, write down those emotions. Write down everything you’re seeing and experiencing.
This is your avatar, this person who exists only to you in your mind. You can make them real through your branding and your content, and one day, if you do it right, they’ll become your customer.
The next step: Develop your mission statement, your vision, and your brand story.
My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.