How to create and enhance your customer profiles

    Last updated: November 10, 2023

    Customer profiles are key to understanding your audience, delivering on their expectations and creating lifetime value that compounds over time.  

    But the complexity and scale of new marketing technology has made this process harder. To stay on top of your customers’ needs, you need to collect, unify and standardize their customer data quickly enough to create actionable and predictive profiles. And then you need to activate it quickly enough to actually connect with the people you’re trying to reach.  

    It’s no small task — but the right strategy and technology can help you build and action customer profiles quickly enough to see results. In this post, we’ll present the benefits and challenges of creating customer profiles, tell you how to create customer profiles of your own, and add real-life examples to help you effectively identify, segment, and engage your target audience.   

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    What is a customer profile?

    A customer profile is a detailed description of a typical customer or target audience for a product, service, or brand.   

    Customer profiles combine demographic information — like age, gender, job title, location, industry, company and company size, etc. — with psychographic aspects — like their interests, values, lifestyle choices, attitudes, motivations, and purchasing habits. If your profiles are complete, this information will come from a variety of sources — from your social media, email, events and marketing data as well as any events and surveys you’re running.  

    Why is customer profiling important?   

    Customer profiling gives you a more complete view of everyone in your audience. And if you look closely enough, it also tells you how you can connect and ultimately convert them, too.

    That alone is more than enough to justify the effort. But some other benefits of customer profiling include:  

    • Target your marketing and communications: Many times, making a sale is just about telling someone the right thing at the right time. The more complete your customer profiles, the less guesswork you need to figure out what your audience — or specific audience segments — need to hear at different times. That becomes exponentially more valuable as you start to manage more brands, products and/or publications, each with their own audiences.
    • Personalize customer experiences: Every company out there, from Netflix and Starbucks to your neighborhood nail salon, is leaning hard on personalization. But if you don’t know what each individual in your audience wants, you’re in no position to give it to them. (Check out more best practices on personalization here.) 
    • Allocate resources more efficiently: Nobody wants to chase unrealistic markets or fall short on a splashy new campaign. But if you don’t have a clear view of your audience, it’s easy to chase the wrong ventures and spend money in unpromising places. Accurate customer profiles will give you that clearer view — and ensure you’re putting your dollars in the right place. That leads to optimized resource allocation, higher efficiency and better outcomes — all with less stress for you.
    • Improve customer retention: In the rush to get new customers, it’s easy to lose sight of the ones you already have. Customer profiling makes it easier to stay on top of your current audience’s needs, interests, and experiences. From there, you can personalize your offerings and communications specifically to that group, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, reduce churn rates and increase their customer lifetime value. And the lower your churn, the less you have to rely on new business to stay afloat.
    • Gain a competitive advantage: The most successful businesses are the ones that know who they are. Just as importantly, who they’re not. Customer profiles give you the information you need to answer those questions. With a better view of your audience, you can identify their needs, your value proposition for them and, in turn, the key differences that’ll separate you from the crowd.  

    4 steps to create customer profiles 

    • Make sure your data is clean and actionable: Customer profiles are built from customer data. So if your customer data is spread across 10+ different software, and you have no easy way to merge it all in one place, your profiles will be incomplete at best and inaccurate at worst.

      Complicating matters further, that data is changing more quickly than ever: According to research from Dun and Bradstreet, 62% of business contact information will change within a single year. The report also found that there are close to 100 C-level executive changes and more than 200 business telephone numbers disconnected every hour.  That’s a whole lot of data — and updates — to keep track of. And it’s impossible to manage manually. Before building your profiles, make sure that you have processes for ingesting, unifying, cleaning and standardizing your data from all of your customer-facing channels. (Just getting started? We’ve got even more best practices on data cleaning and management here.)  

    • Choose your customer profile software: You’ve got a few options here. You could combine your CRM, your analytics software and customer feedback tools to create your customer profiles piecemeal. But if your organization works with a lot of data, or you’re managing multiple brands, this could convolute your workflows and keep you from activating campaigns quickly. If you’d prefer an all-in-one solution, consider using a customer data platform. A CDP will combine data from all of your marketing tools — every marketing channels, database, etc. — and combine it in one easily accessible place. From there, the data is standardized and cleared of duplicates according to automated workflows, so you get a single customer profile for everyone in your system (without constantly sending your data between teams).

    • Build your ideal customer profile: Once you’ve picked your software, it’s time to build your ideal customer profile. Think of your ideal customer profile as your company’s North Star — the person with the best-fit demographics, industry, etc. for your needs. You probably already have some idea what this ICP looks like, but you’ll want to dig into your demographic to be sure — or to find any promising secondary customer profiles.

      To do this, review your past purchase history to see what characteristics your most valuable customers have in common. You could start with your standard demographic criteria (location, company size, industry), but also consider factors like length and depth of engagement with your marketing campaigns (for instance, someone who regularly attends your events might be 10x more likely to convert than someone who only interacts with your digital content, etc.). The right customer profile software will allow you to query your audience on both of those dimensions.

    • Analyze and evolve your customer personas: Your customer personas will evolve alongside changes in your industry and the market as a whole. Periodically review performance for each stage of your customer journey to ensure that your ideal customer profiles still reflect the makeup of your actual audience. And don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board — or add new personas to your strategy — if the situation calls for it.  

    Ideal customer profile examples

    Now let’s put it all together. Here’s an example of what an ideal customer profile might look like for a data management company targeting audience development managers in consumer media.

    • Title: Audience development managers
    • Industry: Consumer media
    • Location: United States
    • Budget: $7000/month
    • How do they find you?: Industry referrals, events and LinkedIn/other digital communities
    • How do they engage with you?: Email newsletters, events and social media
    • Pain points: Their data is spread across multiple systems so they can’t get a single view of their audience. They spend too much time managing data silos to focus on audience growth activities.
    • Technology: They have complicated tech stacks that create more work than they solve.
    • Now that you know what problems your audience is facing, how can you meet them?

    How to make the most of your customer profiles 

    Data is only as powerful as the strategy behind it. If you’re letting your customer profiles sit in your database, or you’re not using them to personalize and optimize your marketing, you’re leaving potential sales on the table. Once you’ve built your profiles, activate them with these best practices:   

    • Segment your marketing and prospects based on their similarity with your ICP. Then target your messaging, communications and offers specifically to that audience’s observed needs and interests.
    • Use information from your customer profiles to pursue better-fit sponsorship opportunities (or if you’re selling ads, use your rich customer data to prove your worth to advertisers and attract more revenue). Or if you’re considering a partnership, ask the potential partner to profile their audience so both parties can identify overlap and best promotional opportunities.
    • Use dynamic content in your emails: So far, we’ve portrayed your ICP as a monolith —  anonymous people with the same broad interests, needs and wants. But there’s a lot of individual differences even within your ICP. So how can you individualize your messaging to everyone in your ICP without losing your mind? Use dynamic content. When it’s active, every email recipient is served with content that’s tailored specifically to their past browsing, engagement and purchase history. This allows you to give everyone the one message that’s most likely to resonate with them — and helps you capture nuances within your ICP.   

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