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Target Audience and Buyer Persona Research 101

Posted by Eric Scharf on July 25, 2017

Successful advertising and marketing campaigns use research-backed targeting to resonate with potential customers. They dedicate ample resources to discover the answers to their target audiences’ “why” and “how” questions. By fully understanding your buyer persona, or target audience, you can help campaigns reach the right audience and resonate with them. How do you get started with this research? Find out what research you’re missing, define business goals, and fill the gap!

SWOT/Competitive Analysis

For starters, do a self-evaluation of your organization or brand.  Analyze how it competes with other brands in the industry and what your customers think. It’s essential to be cognizant about your brand position and where there’s room for improvement – that’s the whole reason you’re doing user research in the first place.

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In the example to the right, the client, Snapple was trying to figure out where they stood among other beverage companies. They thought about what other brands have to offer and how they can differentiate themselves from the competition. These results helped guide their market research path.

The companies were positioned along an axis of brand characteristics. Additionally, there is a SWOT analysis to dissect Snapple’s place in the market and to investigate where there is room for improvement and development. Strengths and weaknesses reflect internal pros and cons of the brand’s current state. Opportunities and threats relate to external forces that can affect business like technological advancements and the economic state.

Another good starting place is to conduct secondary research. This usually includes compiling materials from external sources and interpreting the findings to apply them to your strategy. Start out by searching for articles about the company and industry trends. This will give you a good foundation to see what the public perception is of your brand and what the competition is doing. Another secondary research method is using syndicated databases like Nielsen or Simmons OneView. Nielsen has statistics on what people watch, listen to and buy. Simmons OneView contains demographic and psychographic information to predict what products and brands are used, how people spend their money, and their media habits.

User Research Methods

Now that you have background information and more context, it’s time to conduct user experience research by going straight to customers or your target audience.


Surveys are a great way to conduct research when you’re on a tight budget or timeline since free tools such as Survey Monkey can help you create and send them on the fly. When you’re wanting to reach a broad audience, surveys are perfect to collect quick demographic data and use simple yes/no or ranking queries.

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When you have more time on your hands to select a group of individuals and conduct a guided discussion, focus groups can be perfect. This is a way for potential customers to collectively generate ideas your team might not have come up with on their own. Check out these tips for conducting your own focus group and drawing out key insights to inform your marketing strategy and buyer persona.

Personal Interviews

One-on-one interviews are the best way to dive deep in the customer experience and get the full user journey with your company’s brand or product. The idea behind an interview is to map out the thought process of the consumer when they’re shopping and making purchasing decisions. You’re trying to uncover insights that might not come out in a survey or focus group. Although data from interviews can take longer to gather, the details are helpful when trying to conceptualize the buyer persona. 

Your last step is to interpret the research and visualize your buyer persona, which is integral to creating a compelling marketing campaign. Want to learn even more about crafting buyer personas and inbound marketer techniques? Consider spending a few hours with the HubSpot Inbound training material and perhaps earning your certification!


Topics: Training