How well do you know your customers? Thanks to increasingly powerful social and e-commerce analytics, you can learn a lot about your tribe just by checking Google Analytics or Facebook Insights. But sometimes it can be difficult to parse a mountain of juicy data into understandable and personable guidelines for your marketing and sales strategies.
That’s where a customer profile comes in.
What is a Customer Profile?
A customer profile, also known as a customer persona, is a detailed description of an imaginary, “ideal” customer. It’s created based on thorough audience research. It’s not who you WANT as a customer; it’s who your most likely customer is and how they behave. Creating buyer profiles are a tried and true way to get the most value out of your customers; 71% of companies that exceed their revenue and lead goals have documented personas.
What Does a Customer Profile Look Like?
Let’s say you own a garden center. Maybe you already know that your average customer is female, between the ages of 35 and 50, married with one or more kids, and gardens as her hobby. You know a lot of other things about them too: your customer primarily views your website on their phone, they have a college degree, and they mostly find your site through social media.
Great. Now, what do you do with all of that information? It’s hard to know what this tells you if you only think of it as aggregated data. So, let’s try creating a person out of it.
Meet Cathy. She’s a happily married, 40-year-old office manager with two teenage children. She’s a heavy social media user who takes pride in sharing her successes and finding inspiration online. Most of Cathy’s posts are about her children and her “gardening journey.”
Because of her education, dual income, and the fact that her kids are old enough to drive, Cathy has the time and resources for a hobby like gardening. In fact, now that her children have grown up, Cathy sometimes feels like she has too much time on her hands.
Now Cathy is someone you can talk to. It’s a lot easier to tailor the content and delivery of your marketing message to her than to a set of data points.
Let’s talk about what goes into building a customer profile.
Building a Customer Profile
The most useful profiles are highly detailed. You need to know the basics of who your customer is, but you can’t stop there. Use your customer’s identity to help you identify their goals, their pain points, and where they fit into your marketing funnel.
Age, gender, education level, marital status, and household income are all basic characteristics that will determine a lot about how your persona will behave.
Can you dive even deeper? Do they have kids? Pets? Are your customers religious? What is their political affiliation?
The more personal you get with your questions, the less likely you are to get accurate responses. That’s why it can be helpful to use surveys to gather the information that people are less likely to disclose in a one-on-one conversation.
Once you know your customers’ goals, you can figure out how to best reach them. What does your customer need most right now? What might they need in the future? What are their priorities—professional and personal?
You need to know what might get in the way of your customers’ goals too. This is where it can be helpful to talk to “bad” customers—people who don’t use your product or used it and disliked it.
What are they worried about when they’re looking for products or services like yours? What issues have they encountered in the past? You can’t alleviate your customers’ fears until you know exactly what they fear and have experienced.
Marketing Funnel Position
It’s important to have a unique profile for each of your marketing funnels. If you’re a hip, craft brewery, the group of customers who are weekend regulars is going to look very different from those who only come in for your home brewing classes.
You probably won’t ever build just one customer profile, even if your company only offers a single service or product. There should be a distinct profile for each stage in your funnel. Your loyal customers exhibit different behaviors than your fresh leads. Profiles need to reflect these differences.
Data Collection Methods
Now that you have a basic backbone for your profile, you need to fill in the details.
Social and Website Analytics
Most social media networks – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Pinterest – have analytic reports built into their platforms. Once you find the “insights” or “analytics” page, you’ll see a ton of demographic and behavioral information about your followers. Third-party sites like Google Analytics and SproutSocial can give you even more detailed data about your customers and leads.
While all of this data automatically coming to you is great, it doesn’t paint a complete picture. The best way to get accurate information about your customers’ needs and experiences is to ask them directly.
If you have a hands-on sales team or customer support, you may have already received plenty of information from their conversations with your customers. But if you haven’t, a lot of customers will be willing to speak with you if they think it could lead to your product better meeting their needs. People love having a say in the services they use. You’ll probably find some willing volunteers in both your happiest and your more disgruntled customers.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to offer an incentive. Often the feedback you get from talking one-on-one is well worth the offer of an Amazon gift card or a future discount on your services.
Maybe you don’t have as much demographic data as you’d like from your social media and website analytics. Or perhaps your customers haven’t given you much in one-on-one interviews. Either way, surveys are a great way to fill in the gaps in your customer data.
Since it’s impersonal and can be anonymous, customers are generally more comfortable divulging personal information via survey than they are in an interview. However, keep in mind that it’s more challenging to ask personalized follow-up questions on a survey.
Implementing Your Profiles
You’ve done your research, and you’ve taken the time to build a detailed set of customer profiles for every type of person that interacts with your company.
Now, it’s time to implement. Your profiles will serve as a litmus test. For every marketing initiative, new product design, and published piece of content, you should be referring back to your profiles. Does this make sense knowing what I know now about my leads and my customers?
If you’re not sure, or if it’s a no, keep revising it until you know you have something your audience will love.
What If My Audience Doesn’t Love My Profile-Based Content?
You’ve developed the perfect ad campaign, service package, or blog post for your profile. You send it out to the world and…it’s a total dud. That’s okay. Building a customer profile isn’t a perfect science. It takes trial and error. You’ll constantly be adjusting and updating your profiles as you learn more about your audience and as your customer base evolves.