My news, views and opinions

The importance of customer profiling - how well do you understand your customers?

Category: Marketing | Date: | Author: Sarah Fielding

A lot of start-up businesses make the mistake of kick-starting their marketing with a shiny new website and a beautifully designed flyer or advert before they’ve given proper consideration as to who their customers are. If you don’t know who you are talking to, then how can you hope to include messages in your marketing that attracts their attention and resonates with them? I really can’t stress enough, the importance of completing a customer profiling exercise before you invest any time and money in sales and marketing activities.

Most start-ups and small businesses that I come across haven’t got a clear or effective marketing strategy. I can quite understand why – you have an idea or an opportunity to start a new venture and you want to get it up and running as quickly as possible. However, a scattergun marketing approach of launching a new website, putting some flyers in strategic places and immersing yourself in a social media frenzy will only get you so far.

Even if you can’t be persuaded to produce a fully documented marketing strategy, then at least invest some time in profiling your customers. That way, when you come to create your brand and logo, and to brief your web or graphic designer and write your website copy, you can make sure that all the tools in your marketing toolkit appeal to your target audience. And by the way, if your designer or copywriter doesn’t ask you about your target audience before they set to work, then proceed with caution.

How do you profile your customers?

It’s very likely that your business will offer various products and services, each targeting a slightly different audience. For example, an osteopath might offer pre and post natal treatments, baby and infant care, sports injury and sports massage, and general osteopathy. How you communicate to the different audiences and where you promote your services to them will vary considerably. A one size fits all marketing approach isn’t going to be half as effective as more targeted campaigns. And when it comes to targeted marketing, the devil is in the detail – and you get that detail from your customer profiles.

What your customer profiles look like will depend very much upon the type of business you are running. By the end of the exercise you need to be as familiar with what makes them tick as you are with your nearest and dearest's loves and hates. If you’re a business to business outfit, then you need to know what sort of department they will work in and what sort of business title they will have. You need to know whether they’re predominantly male or female (or a mix), roughly how old they are likely to be, what budgets they might have, what challenges they are likely to be facing that your product or service could address, and what reasons they might have for not purchasing from you.

If you’re going to be targeting consumer customers, then you need to think about their age, their sex, their salaries and spending habits, the sorts of products and brands that would appeal to them, how they like to shop or be approached, what they might read and where they might go. I know of a well-known food brand that goes as far as giving names to their customer profiles. For example, Caroline is a professional woman and busy working mother, she likes high end brands, drives an Audi, shops on line and is happy to treat and reward herself. She buys the food company’s luxury brand range. Debbie is the same age and also has a family, but works part time, drives a Ford Focus and does one big weekly shop in-store and is likely to be swayed by offers. She buys their mid-range products. And so it goes on!

That food brand creates pricing, packaging, promotions, PR and advertising to appeal to Caroline and Debbie. If they come up with a new consumer profile, they expand their range and create a new product and marketing strategy to target them. So, if you have a generic, one size fits all approach to marketing, then you’re missing out on big opportunities. Find out who your customers are - then and only then can you start thinking about what you’re going to say to them and when and where you are going to say it.

Find out more about my marketing services for small businesses and start-ups here