Customer Profiling: The Ultimate Guide for 2021 [Updated]

In this article, you will learn everything about one of the best ways to get deeper insights into your audience — Customer Profiling.

Customer Profiling has helped hundreds of brands across the globe segment their clients and reach out to them in a more effective manner.

Read on to find out what customer profiling is, and how can it help achieve your business goals. You will also see some examples, and explore the process of building actionable customer profiles. 

    What is a Customer Profile?

    All businesses want to grow and develop. All businesses want to build a community of loyal customers who are satisfied, promote their brand, and always come back for more. But such a relationship can’t come out of the blue. 

    First, you need to understand the people you sell something to. This understanding will allow you to prevent negative experiences, provoke positive emotions, identify the most effective marketing channels, and more. 

    Customer Profiling Explained

    Customer profiles (or buyer personas) help you understand who your current and/or ideal customers are. Based on the actual data, they represent customers who act and think similarly. Thus you can segment all your clients into several groups and approach them differently. Without profiling, customer targeting turns into shots in the dark. 

    Customer Profiling vs. Segmentation

    Customer segmentation is a grouping of customers based on common characteristics like age, marital status, location, channels, etc. It comes in handy when you want to run a targeted campaign, which is sometimes enough. As today customer personality has become a major focus, general segmentation seems too narrow and a bit old-fashioned. That’s when customer profiling takes the stage.

    Customer profiling is about the consumer’s experience and its improvement. This approach uses segmentation characteristics but pays more attention to the customer’s habits, previous experiences, pain points, touchpoints, etc. In the first place, it aims to understand customers, offer a better experience, service, or product. Of course, at the end of the day, it makes them buy more, recommend you to friends, and write positive reviews. 

    So, basically, the key difference between segmentation and profiling is customer personality. Segmentation is like an empty shell, while profiling gives it a soul you can relate to. But look at the methods as partners in marketing crime, not as sworn enemies, and use both to create the fullest profile that will allow you to target the right people and get to know them at the same time.

    The Benefits of Customer Profiling

    As we mentioned above, customer profiling is the key to truly understanding your audience. Not only to learn their age, sex, location, or hobby but identify their buying patterns. 

    For instanсe, a profile for a male of 25 years who lives in New York and loves music can include such important details as what kind of music it is, how frequently he buys new tracks, what channels he uses, what troubles he has with it, how he searches for new music, what payment method he considers the best, and so on. 

    Such information provides more relevance to business strategies and decisions. It enables you to improve your product or service as well as communication with customers. And that’s not all. 

    Other customer profiling benefits include: 

    • Finding new leads. When you know which direction to look at, it’s not that hard to attract the right people.
    • Objective decision-making. Research and statistics are always more powerful than assumptions. For instance, you might think that you have too few leads because of not appealing photos in your online store’s profile, but the truth is you don’t indicate the prices and people have to request them while it’s hardly convenient for them. 
    • Coming up with new ideas about your product or service. Do people order your product or service for someone else? Provide an opportunity to add a gift card or special packaging.  
    • Having a shared vision of your target customers. The way the marketers imagine your buyers can be different from how the salespeople see and approach them. 
    • Enhancing marketing activities. When you know your customer, you can measure your goals more accurately and improve account-based marketing.
    • Increasing retention and loyalty of your customers. Customer profiling can make your service or product more personalized and empathetic. When you know your audience, you provide more relevant content, product, and services. 

    Methods to do Customer Profiling 

    There are different ways to do customer profiling. Each refers to a certain segmentation: psychographics, buying traits, buying motivations, social statuses, and so on. 

    For instance, one offers you to focus on what drives a customer to buy this or that product, another explores the lifestyle and hobbies of the consumers, and the third is more about sex, income, and occupation. 

    There can be different criteria for grouping customers, and demographics and behavior are the two most common ones. The former works like a charm when it comes to targeted advertising on social media, the latter does you a good turn when you want to get valuable insights into how to improve buyers’ experience and your product or service in general. 

    Tip: Having behavior-based profiles is much more beneficial in most cases. And you can always spice them with demographics. 

    Steps to Creating Customer Profiles

    Let’s put our researcher’s shoes on and take 5 steps, minding what information we need to gather. 

    1. Conduct research. Use quantitative (e.g., measuring, calculating) and qualitative (e.g., interviews, observations) methods. You don’t need to get the answer from all of your customers or users, but you have to gather enough feedback to identify patterns and prove their credibility. 

    Here are some ways to gather the information:

    • Talking to customer-facing employees;
    • Using web analytics;
    • Offering customers to fill-in feedback forms;
    • Checking out customer support logs;
    • Analyzing social media;
    • Conducting interviews;
    • Reading industry-related reports. 
    1. Identify behavioral attributes. This step is about analyzing the data you gathered during research. You need to see what people with the same role (an accountant, for example) have in common. These things show what affects them when they try to solve their problems, fulfill their goals, solve problems, or interact with your product.
    1. Create behavior scales. Here you have to take the attributes, decide what values they can have, and turn those into the scales. Try to come up with at least 3 attributes per scale, but don’t push yourself to create as many attributes as possible (3-7 is the optimal variant). 
    Customer Behavioral Scale
    Customer Behavioral Scale

    Hints to use as attributes for your scales:

    • Experience (e.g., How does the person solve problems now? How did the person achieve goals in the past? What experience do they have with your product?).
    • Human factors (e.g., How old is a person? Where do they live? What kind of schooling did they have? What physiological characteristics do they have?).
    • Problems (e.g., What does the person try to avoid? What keeps the person from achieving their goals? What problems does the person want to solve?).
    • Needs (e.g., What needs does the person want to satisfy? What does the person want to achieve?).
    • Expectations (e.g., What does the person expect from your product?).
    • Knowledge (e.g., What professional knowledge does the person have? What does the person know about your product?).
    • Tasks (e.g., What does the person do? What tasks does the person perform? What are the typical scenarios?).
    • Triggers (e.g., What prompts the person to start performing a task? What prompts the person to pause or stop?).
    • Execution time (e.g., How much time does the person spend on the task? What determines the execution time? How does the lack of time influence the person’s behavior?).
    • Environment (e.g., When and where does the interaction take place? What channels are used? How does this person impact the context?).
    • Relationships (e.g., Who else is involved in the process? Who is a decision-maker? What influence does this person have on others?).
    1. Put all research participants on each scale regarding their answers. You will get something like this:
    Customer Behavioral Scale
    Customer Behavioral Scale
    1. Identify patterns. If you see the same respondents at the same positions at least 5 times, it’s a sign that you’ve got customer profiling material here. Keep looking for the matching data to find other repeating patterns that are the ground to build your customer profiles upon. Mind that any unique pattern can be transformed into yet another customer profile and matters for your business. 

    So, now you have grouped your customers, and it’s time to turn them into profiles.

    Visualizing Customer Profiles

    There are different tools to digitize customer data and transform it into customer profiles that are always at hand. Some even have generators that select the most suitable name and picture that fit your persona’s criteria. Here, we’ll use the UXPressia platform to build a customer profile online.

    3 Steps to Fill In a Customer Profile

    1. A customer profile should be informative and action-provoking. So it’s important to add such data that brings out empathy in you and your colleagues. Start with a name, photo, and maybe a few facts about a person you describe. 
    Customer Profile Template 1
    Customer Profile Template
    1. Now add more flesh to the profile: expectations, challenges, background, goals, frustrations, motivations, etc. 
    • Background is personal information about your customer that relates to your product or service. It’s a story that tells about your persona’s journey, which brought them to you. Selling coffee, put your customer’s routine, their lifestyle description, coffee preferences, etc. 
    • Expectations are what your customers anticipate from you by default or based on their previous experience with similar products or services. Sometimes the expectations are very low, especially after the bad experience in the past, and it’s your chance to win the customer over. 
    • Goals are what your customers want to achieve by using your product or service. E.g., someone comes to your coffee shop to cheer up a bit while someone comes for the atmosphere or even Wi-Fi. Therefore, each group of customers will value different things in your shop. 
    • Challenges are about problems or barriers your customers face trying to reach their goals. For example, a person would love to bring your muffins to work, but you don’t have a proper package. 
    • Frustrations are existing or possible pain points. Think of what can discourage your customers from purchase, what can spoil their experience and scares them off. It’s always better to prevent customer’s displeasure than making amends afterward.
    • Motivations are the reasons the customer comes to you. This section provides insights into increasing the consumer’s satisfaction. 
    Customer Profile Template 2
    Customer Profile Template

    There are more sections to use inside the UXPressia CJM tool. It’s up to you whether to describe your customer’s previous experience, their current environment, or a scenario to put them in. Each section is customizable, so feel free to create a unique information block that makes sense in your particular case. 

    1. Spice the profile with additional yet optional information like your customer’s favorite brands, skills, or personality type. This data will help to approach your customers or users from new angles, to open new dimensions, and deepen your understanding. This information is also good for targeted marketing, just like the data from step #1.
    Customer Profile Template 3
    Customer Profile Template

    When the customer profile is ready, you can always broaden or optimize it. Don’t forget to update the created customer profile with time to capture the up-to-date situation. Share the result with your colleagues and invite them to cooperate.

    Tips & Tricks to Build the Most Accurate Customer Profile

    1. To get a holistic view of your audience, use both quantitative and qualitative approaches to customer research. 
    2. Avoid creating idealized profiles. Those should be as real as possible. If you don’t have some information, continue research instead of making it up. 
    3. Personas must be and feel real. Get creative with scenarios you put them in (e.g., you can speculate on how your customer will act in a certain situation or how you want them to perceive your product or service), but any sensation must be designed for someone who does exist. 
    4. Do not use pictures and names of famous people. It’s confusing and not very ethical.
    5. Effective customer profiles are based on the research of your real customers and users. Do not try to assume this or that information. Made-up facts won’t do any good to your future strategies.
    6. Take your time. Creating a customer profile is not an easy task. Make sure everyone in the team working with you understands that too.
    7. Gather and engage a team. Identify the key stakeholders, involve people from various departments (marketers, customer success agents, salesmen, etc.). Run internal workshops.
    8. Mind the setting. If you design for an online buyer persona, focus on the online channels. 
    9. You should update your customer profiles regularly, especially when your business goes through changes that could affect your personas (e.g., a new product release, new prices, etc.).
    10. Use more behavioral patterns, fewer demographics. It’s not a target advertising campaign, you are trying to understand your customer and improve their experience.

    Conclusion

    So, now you know how to build an actionable customer profile, what approaches are best to use and why, and how to combine different methods. It will not only help you run successful marketing campaigns but create relevant content and develop your product or service in the right direction. 

    For more inspiration material, check out UXPressia’s ready-to-use templates. Happy mapping!

    References & Sources

    1. Commence: What Are the 3 Methods of Customer Profiling?
    2. Referral Candy: How To Make A Buyer Persona
    3. Hubspot: 8 Easy Steps to Creating a Customer Profile
    4. SuperOffice: Customer Profiles
    5. UXPressia: Сustomer journey map and personas templates

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is a customer profile?

    A customer profile is a document with a fictional persona that represents a group of your customers with similar needs, pain points, motivations, background, interests, skills, goals, and so on. Such profiles help to deeper understand your audience and approach each group differently.

    What is the best method to do customer profiling?

    There are many ways to create a customer profile, but the most accurate ones are usually based on behavioral traits. The behavior-based approach means that you conduct research, identify behavioral attributes and scales, put the answers on the scales, look for patterns, and thus get material for customer profiles.

    Where can I create customer profiles?

    You can use a) pen and paper, b) online documents (it’s more convenient for remote collaborative work), c) professional tools that turn your data into designer-quality customer profiles (such as Make My Persona, UXPressia, Xtensio, and so on).

    What is the difference between customer profiling and segmentation?

    Customer segmentation divides your audience into groups by demographics, interests, goals, and other characteristics, but, unlike customer profiling, this method doesn’t go further. It helps to frame and target the right people, and sometimes it’s enough (e.g., for target advertising). Customer profiling approaches customers from another angle, focusing on their behavior and identifying patterns. This method turns data into an actionable file that feels like a real person, evokes empathy, and provides insights into improving customer experience. m.

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