They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

But, what if you don't have a picture of your customers? I certainly didn't see a big mural on the walls of HubSpot depicting all of our loyal HubSpotters. Looks like you do need those thousand words after all.

However, obtaining that information is the tricky part. It involves asking questions about your customers' personal lives and how they became the people they are today. Not every customer is lining up to share their life story, so you need a way to extract this information quickly, painlessly, and in bulk.

This is where demographic survey questions come in handy. These questions are usually placed at the top of the survey and ask participants about their background. When analyzing survey results, this information helps your team visualize the people who are filling out your forms.

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When creating your own survey, you may have noticed the variety of demographic questions to choose from. But, how do you know which one is right for you? After all, your customers value their time and may not finish the form if you overload them with questions.

In this post, we'll discuss why demographic questions are important as well the ones you should use in your customer surveys.

Benefits of Demographic Questions in Surveys

Demographic questions help your business develop accurate buyer personas. Buyer personas influence your marketing campaigns, sales tactics, and how you provide customer service. The more accurate your personas are, the better you'll understand your customers' needs and values.

When it comes to customer service, agents use buyer personas to assist with customer interactions. Frontline reps may not know each individual customer, but with buyer personas, they'll have a basic understanding of the type of people they're interacting with. This helps them create positive customer experiences because they're familiar with the user's short- and long-term goals.

Now that we understand the importance of demographic survey questions, let's dive into a few examples you can use with your feedback collection tools. First, we'll start with the most standard questions you should include in any customer survey.

1. Gender

One of the most fundamental questions you should ask is about gender. However, even though this is a standard demographic question, how you approach it is extremely important. Gender is a complicated and sensitive topic and how you phrase this question can impact your participants in different ways. While this information is valuable, it shouldn't come at the expense of your customers' comfort.

When phrasing this question, be sure to use the word, "gender" in place of the word, "sex." Gender is based more in perspective, giving the participant more flexibility when answering. Additionally, you should always include an option to "prefer not to answer." This will ensure participants don't feel forced to concede sensitive information.

Example: "What gender do you identify as?"

A. Male
B. Female
C. ________ (Short Answer Space)
D. Prefer not to answer.

2. Age

Age is a standard demographic question that should be included in every survey. You'll want to know how old the participant is and whether they fit your target audience or not. The best way to ask this question is with a multiple-choice format that uses age ranges for each answer. Some customers may not feel comfortable revealing their exact age, so this structure allows them to participate while still protecting their personal information.

Example: "What is your age?"

A. 0 - 15 years old
B. 15 - 30 years old
C. 30 - 45 years old
D. 45+
E. Prefer not to answer

3. Ethnicity

Ethnicity questions paint a clearer picture of your survey participants. They reveal cultural backgrounds made up of a variety of different practices and traditions that influence your customers. By having this information available, you'll have a better understanding of why some customers may answer questions differently than others.

Example: "Please specify your ethnicity."

A. Caucasian
B. African-American
C. Latino or Hispanic
D. Asian
E. Native American
F. Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
G. Two or More
H. Other/Unknown
I. Prefer not to say

4. Location

Another standard question you should ask is about the location of the participant. You want to know where your customers are from because they may live in places you wouldn't expect. For example, you may find that your business has a strong international audience and there's an opportunity to market in different countries. Or, you might learn that your customers are travelers who are using your product or service on the go.

Example: "Where is your home located?"

A. North America/Central America
B. South America
C. Europe
D. Africa
E. Asia
F. Australia
G. Caribbean Islands
H. Pacific Islands
I. Other: ______
J. Prefer not to say

5. Education

Education is a core demographic question because it provides insight into the type of work a participant may be doing. If your respondents all say they have a Ph.D., you know that their jobs involve critical thinking. Therefore, you can make a logical pitch -- rather than an emotional one -- to these leads about why your business is right for them.

When asking education questions, be sure to include options for trades and apprenticeships. Some of your customers may have chosen a different career path and the answers on your survey should reflect that.

Example: "What is the highest degree or level of education you have completed?"

A. Some High School
B. High School
C. Bachelor's Degree
D. Master's Degree
E. Ph.D. or higher
F. Trade School
G. Prefer not to say

6. Marital Status

Marital status lets you know who your participants are interacting with during their everyday lives. If they're married, their buying decisions may be influenced by different factors compared to someone who isn't.

Example: "Are you married?"

A. Yes
B. No
C. Prefer not to say

These are the demographic questions that should be included in almost every survey you create. Now that we know they're on your list, let's move on to some other questions you can add.

1. Household Income

Household income refers to the total amount of money made by people living in the same home. This sum includes the participant's income, their spouse's, and any other people living in their house. Collecting this information helps you understand the amount of buying power your customers control. As with any sensitive information, be sure to use range answers and include an option to skip the question.

Example: "What is your annual household income?"

A. Less than $25,000
B. $25,000 - $50,000
C. $50,000 - $100,000
D. $100,000 - $200,000
E. More than $200,000
F. Prefer not to say

2. Employment

It's useful to know the participant's employment status as this contributes to their buying power. However, just like with household income, be sure to give the participant an option to omit the question if needed. For example, if the survey is for a job application, the applicant may not want it on record that they currently have a job. They could get in trouble with their current employer and potentially face repercussions.

Example: "What is your current employment status?"

A. Employed Full-Time
B. Employed Part-Time
C. Seeking opportunities
D. Retired
E. Prefer not to say

3. Family and Dependents

If your participants are adults, it may make sense to ask them if they have children. Kids play a major role in buying decisions and influence your customer's personal values. This means that customers with children are going to have different needs than people who don't. It's important to identify these differences so that you can create campaigns that appeal to both audiences.

Example: "How many children do you have?"

A. None
B. 1
C. 2-4
D. More than 4
E. Prefer not to say

4. Voting Status

Voting status identifies whether or not the participant is registered to vote within a given region. This is useful because it shows how active the person is with local or national politics. Since this topic is very polarizing, you'll want to know how much your customers value your political system.

Example: "Are you registered to vote in ____?"

A. Yes
B. No
C. Prefer not to say

5. Language

Businesses care about language for two major reasons. First, speaking the same language as your customers builds a much stronger relationship with them.

Second, knowing the languages that they speak also reveals some important cultural details about the person. Just because two people are from the same place, doesn't mean they speak the same language. And, that difference in language can lend to significant differences in customer needs, values, and goals.

Example: "Which languages are you capable of speaking fluently? (Check all that apply)"

A. English
B. Spanish
C. Portuguese
D. French
E. Mandarin
F. Arabic
G. Other
H. Prefer not to say

6. Place of Birth

Knowing where and when a person was born can reveal significant details about their life. For example, if they were born in one country then moved around the world, there may have been a family, professional, political, or social factor that influenced their move. Experiencing this type of major life event will affect their wants and needs as a customer.

Example: "Where were you born?"

A. North America
B. Central America
C. South America
D. Europe
E. Africa
F. Asia
G. Australia
H. Pacific Islander
I. Caribbean Islands
J. Other
K. Prefer not to say

7. Religion

Another cultural influence that's prevalent in many people's lives is religion. Religion significantly impacts your customers' moral values and determining which one they subscribe to will help you understand their personal beliefs. Keep in mind that some people aren't religious, so there should be an option to reflect this perspective.

Example: "If applicable, please specify your religion."

A. Catholicism/Christianity
B. Judaism
C. Islam
D. Buddhism
E. Hinduism
F. Other: ______
G. Prefer not to say

8. Political Affiliation

There are a few ways to approach this question, but how you do so should depend on the information you're looking to obtain. If you're interested in learning the political party that a person affiliates with, then you should ask that question directly. However, if you're looking for their beliefs on political issues, you can ask in a more generic way, like in the example below.

Example: "How would you describe your political view?"

A. Very Liberal
B. Slightly Liberal
C. Slightly Conservative
D. Very Conservative
E. Prefer not to say

For more tips on creating surveys, read this guide to writing effective survey questions.

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Originally published Aug 2, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated December 02 2021


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