How well do you know your customers? You might have some insight into their browsing habits or demographic information, but do you know what their hopes and dreams are?
That might sound silly or unnecessary, but the more you know about your customers the easier it is to understand, anticipate and meet their needs.
One way to get a better sense of your customers and what makes them tick is to create a customer profile (also known as a buyer persona). Having a customer profile makes it a lot easier for you to imagine the type of person that you’re trying to reach and how to communicate with them effectively.
What Should Be Included in a Customer Profile?
A customer profile or buyer persona should suit your business’s needs, so there’s no one perfect template, but generally they are made up of demographics and psychographics.
Demographic information can include things like age, gender, race, marital status, family size, household income, location, etc. It’s pretty generic snapshot information about your customers.
It can give you some very quick insight into who your customers are. However it’s really important not to make too many assumptions based on demographics alone. We’ll discuss that a bit more later and how to avoid some common mistakes when analyzing data.
If demographics are who your customers are, psychographics are the why. Psychographics include things like personality traits, interests, values, attitudes, activities—you know, all the things that make someone a well rounded person rather than just a statistic.
Psychographics help you have a much more meaningful understanding of your customers and how to connect with them.
Customer Profile Template
There’s no one size fits all customer profile template that’s perfect for every business, but here are some things you might want to include.
Name – This is just to personalize your customer profile. The name should reflect the demographics of this segment of customers.
Job Title – Do most of your customers have decision making roles? Are they in high stress jobs? Come up with a job that fits the type of work this segment tends to do.
Demographics – What is the average age, gender, household income, family size, marital status, location, etc?
Goals and Challenges – What do they want to achieve? What are their personal and career goals? What problems do they have that your business might be able to solve?
Buying Habits – Are they a decision maker? Do they research purchases or impulse buy? Do they favor quality over economy products? Do they seek out referrals and reviews?
Where to find them – This could mean physical locations, or online spaces. Find out where they spend most of their time and what social websites they use. Learn what they read online and offline. Not only does this help you understand their interests, it helps you know where to advertise to them.
Activities – Everyone has a hobby or an activity that they enjoy. Knowing what your customers do with their time could impact how you market to them.
Interests – What do your customers think about? This could include things like becoming a better parent, advancing their career, improving their health, etc.
Attitudes and Values – It’s important to understand your customers values so you know the best way to communicate with them and earn their trust.
How to Develop A Customer Profile
There are a few different approaches to gathering data about your customers and if possible, you should incorporate all of them to have the most complete picture.
Primary Market Research
Conducting your own research is ideal because you have the most control over the questions you’re asking and who you’re reaching out to. This includes customer surveys, focus groups, interviews and analytics.
Using all of these methods together, in a specific order can really help you get a clear picture of your customer segments.
Starting with analytics, see how much you can glean and then move on to a survey to get more specific. If the survey leaves you with unanswered questions, you can follow up with an interview. Then you can conduct some focus groups to see if you’re on track.
Secondary Market Research
If your business is just starting out you may not have a customer base to survey or the resources to conduct studies and focus groups. That’s okay because a lot of that has been done already. It may not be as specific or insightful as primary market research, but it’s a place to start.
You can find public demographic information from resources like the US Census Bureau. You can also find journals and blogs about your industry to follow trends and research that might be useful to you. Another useful resource is trade associations, which may require a fee to join. And of course, if your competitors publish annual reports, read them!
Segmenting Customer Profiles
Once you’ve gathered all of your customer data and started analyzing it you will notice certain trends. The goal is not to narrow things down to just one customer profile and throw out the rest. Your goal should actually be to group your customers into a few different segments so you can target them effectively.
You may find that customers of different age groups spend their time on different social media platforms and value different things. Now that you know that, you can reach both groups in a different place, with a different message, targeting them more effectively. Your should have at least 2 or 3 customer profiles to make sure you’re not leaving out any significant portion of your customer base.
Creating B2B Customer Profiles
Putting together customer profiles for a B2B company takes a slightly different approach, but the same principles still apply.
Demographics in this case might include industry size, number of employees, revenue, who their customers are, etc.
Psychographics might include things like financial goals for the year, corporate culture, challenges and obstacles, etc. Similarly to a customer profile, you also want to know things about their buying habits. Who is the decision maker in the company? Are purchases made by one person or by committee? What kind of budget do they have for your products and services? What other B2B relationships do they have?
Time for Action!
After doing research and analysis, you should have several buyer personas that represent the most important segments of your customers. Good job!
Now, the question is, what have you learned that’s actionable?
A successful customer profile should give you the information you need to reach your customers more effectively. That includes knowing exactly where to advertise and how to write copy that resonates with your customers. Based on what you learned, you might even create new products and services to meet your customers’ needs. It also means, hopefully, you can avoid making huge mistakes and wasting money on promotions that would not engage your customers or creating new products that wouldn’t interest them.
Which leads us to…
Common Mistakes When Creating a Customer Profile
The only way that creating a customer profile works is if you do it effectively. The goal is to get into the mindset of your customers and figure out the best way to communicate with them and solve their problems. If you make assumptions or research the wrong topics, your buyer persona will be significantly less effective.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Actually, this is a pretty good rule in marketing in general right? We’re supposed to test things, do market research, ask questions, test things again… you get the idea. Customer profiles work the same way. You have to use real data, rather than your gut. It can be easy to make things up that sound like they make sense, but it’s important that you do thorough research.
To avoid making too many assumptions about your data, write down your assumptions before you even begin your research. Make sure you challenge those assumptions. Also make sure you’re not accidentally ignoring data that might be contradictory to your original theories. Ask your team to point it out when you’re making assumptions.
Get A Large Enough Sample Size
One of the most common mistakes when creating a customer profile according to Aaron Agius, Founder of Louder Online, is not interviewing enough people. If you only have data from a few customers you just don’t have enough to information to be accurate. If you don’t have enough customers yet, supplement some of your data with secondary marketing research.
Don’t Lead the Witness
When conducting surveys, it’s really important to pay attention to your wording. Otherwise you might unintentionally skew your results.
When people are being observed or recorded they tend to answer questions how they think they should, rather than honestly. This is called “Social Desirability Bias” and it can skew your results. When asking questions like “Would you donate to charity?” or “Have you ever pirated a movie?” people might answer dishonestly to make themselves look better.
You might also impact how someone answers a question based on a previous question. To avoid this problem, it’s a good idea to send out randomized surveys with the questions in a different order.
Don’t Be Afraid to Dig Deeper
Looking at your analytics and talking to your sales reps are great places to start gathering information… but they can’t give you the whole picture. There’s still too much room to make assumptions about what motivates your customers and the reasoning behind their spending habits. In order to take things to the next level you need to hear from your actual customers and conduct your own survey.
Don’t Get Bogged Down WIth Useless Data
Yes, dig deeper, but unless you’re a sporting goods company, do you really need to know what your customer’s golf game is like? Probably not. Get specific, but make sure you’re asking the important questions.
Check Your Biases About Demographics
Back to that whole, don’t make assumptions thing, assumptions about demographics can drastically hinder your ability to connect with your customers.
Companies have made some serious missteps in the past when marketing to women, often using a tactic author and activist Belinda Parmar calls “pink it and shrink it.”
Bic famously drew negative attention by applying the “pink it and shrink it” tactic, creating the Bic pen “For Her.” The packaging suggested that the slimmer design of the pen would be more suitable for women, which begged the question were pens previously unsuitable for women? It was a marketing fail that lead to hundreds of bad reviews on Amazon and a satirical takedown on The Ellen Show.
This oversimplification and misunderstanding of women’s values not only misses the mark, but actually alienates a large part of the demographic.
It’s also important not to leave out any demographics based on your assumptions. Most surveys leave out people under 18 and lump anyone over age 65 together. Alex Powers who works in marketing recalls a children’s show he worked with that targeted parents only, leaving out grandparents who often play a major role in raising children.
It’s easy to imagine how many other groups get left out of market research based on biases, rather than facts.
One way to minimize biases when analyzing your research is to hire a diverse team with different skills and perspectives. It’s important not to make any assumptions about a demographic, especially if you aren’t a part of it.
Stay Up To Date!
It’s important to reevaluate your customer profiles every year or so. Your existing customers might change their priorities and i’s important to know if that happens. You might also attract a whole new customer base you didn’t have before, so you better get to know them too!