I believe this new customer profile template is more useful than any other I’ve come across.
The reason I believe this is because it’s not only one of the more thorough templates I’ve seen, but more importantly, I actually show you how to get the information to do your customer profiling.
That part is incredibly helpful because many of the profile fields won’t just get filled in from your head – you need to find the information somewhere, and that can be tricky.
On top of that, I’ll be giving you several customer profile examples throughout the lesson, so it’s not just theory.
So what is a customer profile?
Here’s my own customer profile definition: a customer profile is a detailed description of a group of people (including who they are and how they think and behave) who will buy from you.
And why is it important?
Because a customer profile strongly influences the types of products and services you offer, and affects most of your marketing efforts.
It can really shape the course of your business and is a vital piece of your marketing plan.
Some small businesses may have only one profile, but I should note that you can have different customer profiles for different products and services, and a profile can certainly change over time.
In fact, I asked Lincoln Murphy of Sixteen Ventures for his thoughts on creating an ideal customer profile and he said not only can it change over time, but some small businesses should build that into their plan:
So remember, before developing your Ideal Customer, there are two major parameters that must come first: your goal and the timeframe for that goal.
Develop a timeframe – the next 90 days, 6 months, etc. – and then come up with a goal for that timeframe. That goal might be 100 new customers, 5 customers that will become advocates, $50k in new revenue, $10k in new revenue but with $40k in expansion potential, etc.
Each of those goals will put the emphasis on a different customer profile input, meaning without a goal and a timeframe in place, you can’t truly narrow down on an ideal customer that makes sense.”
People may worry that if they define their ideal customer profile too narrowly, they’ll miss out on customers.
But if we take the 80/20 rule (the Pareto principle) and apply it to your income, approximately 80% of it will come from only 20% of your customers.
And where it gets even more interesting is when we take the 80/20 of those customers, we find that a whopping 64% of your income will come from only 4% of your customers.
It follows that if we can serve that 4% well, we’ll attract even more people like them, and so we’ll grow our income far beyond what it would have been had we tried to reach a broader target market.
But first, we need to know who those 4% are. We’re going to make a big dent in figuring that out today.
And here’s the other side of that – if you define your perfect customer well and serve them well, many “non-perfect” customers will still want your solution.
For example, if you sell vegan donuts, it may make sense to create your marketing for hardcore vegan baked goods eaters, but still, many people who are mildly interested in veganism or amazing donuts will be happy to join the fun if your core customers are raving about you.
How To Find Ideal Customer Profile Template Information
Here’s the part that really matters.
Where do you find all this data?
First of all, I should say, you don’t need to force a detailed target customer profile right away!
Actually, I find I can often get a nice start just from brainstorming, without doing any research.
Here’s a customer profile I created from my head for myself if I were a personal trainer. I’d plan to get more detail over time, but this is a start:
When you get to filling out the customer profile template, I encourage you to start by writing down the few things you do know, make some guesses on a few other things, and then plan to gather the information over time.
And if you’re running a small business, always remember that YOU get some say as to who your customer is.
Want to work with the elderly? Good, as long as they want what you offer, that’s your customer.
Don’t like Facebook? Fine, even if your customers hang out there, they also hang out in other places, so you don’t have to be on Facebook.
Long story short, when you’re going through the template, some of the answers will be what the customer wants, but keep in mind that others can be what you want.
So to start filling out the customer profile:
- Ask yourself. The first step is usually to go through the questions in the template and make some educated guesses. For example, what age range do you think your product is ideal for? Do they have kids? Remember, it doesn’t mean people outside of that age range or people with or without kids won’t buy from you – it just means there are some people for whom your product is ideal, and as we’ve already discovered, it makes a lot of sense to let them know it.
- Ask your team. If you don’t have employees, virtual assistants or other contractors, that’s cool – you can skip this. But if you do, sit them down and ask them for their thoughts on each category in the template. Many will have something to contribute.
- Talk to people. On social media or in person, ask people any of the questions from the profile, like “what do you do for a living?” or “what is your greatest fear in life?” This gets easier once you have, for example, a Facebook group associated with your business, but even just chatting with friends can be helpful. Most of the poll and survey questions I list in the customer profile template can be asked casually on Facebook or at a dinner party.
- Use PickFu. For $20, you can post a simple question at PickFu.com and 50 people will choose either your A or B answer (with accompanying comments) within a couple of hours (you can spend more money to get more answers if you want). You’ll also get data on gender, age, race, income, and educational level. For example, if you ask “do you use software to do your personal taxes?” you can see if more men or women say yes, which age ranges say yes more, which income levels, etc. You could also use a more robust survey service for this such as Survata, Google Consumer Surveys or SurveyMonkey if you want to ask more than one question or more complex questions.
And this is just the beginning. I’m going to share my other favorite methods in context down below…
The first part of the profile is demographics.
Demographics are the quantifiable characteristics of your customers.
Remember, even if you have a product or service that almost everyone buys, like toothpaste, it’s still very useful to figure out who buys most, and to focus on them.
That doesn’t mean you’ll have an answer for each of the demographic questions, but generally, the more, the better.
If you have an existing website that gets traffic and has analytics software such as Google Analytics installed, you can get a bit of demographic data: gender, age and their broad interests.
Same goes for your analytics from your social media channels like Facebook and Youtube.
And whether or not you have your own analytics, some of this data is online from your competitors. I’m going to create a whole separate lesson on competitive analysis in November 2015, but for now, I’ll give a couple of sites that help tremendously with demographics.
- Go to Alexa and enter your competitor’s website. At the bottom of the page you’ll get the site visitors’ gender, education, geography, browsing location (home, school or work) and the top 5 sites people visit before coming to the competitor’s site, among other search data.
- Even better, for some websites you can go to Quantcast and search for them there to get age, gender, children, income, education, ethnicity, interests and occupation. Most sites don’t have this data, but it’s worth finding a competitor that does have it (usually the bigger sites) just to get this data as a starting point.
- And you can also go to Google’s Display Planner (you need an Adwords account, which is free) and enter your competitor’s website into the landing page field to get their age ranges, gender and interests there.
Click below to see examples of this data:
Here are the demographic categories I like to consider. I may not use them all, but I at least think about them:
- Gender. Is your market more men or women or fairly equal? There are many implications for this. For example, men and women shop differently. Women tend to enjoy the shopping experience more than men, so if your product/service (whether online or offline) is aimed at women, you may want to give them an experience, whereas if it’s for men, you’ll want to help them get through checkout as efficiently as possible. But even at a more basic level, if your marketing is aimed at men or women, it just gives them a clear sign that your solution is for them.
- Age. If you’re a barber who cuts men’s hair, you could decide to cater to people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, or above. Each would call for different marketing, barber shop aesthetic, music, etc. If you decide to cater to men in their 20s, you’ll still get older men who feel (or want to feel) youthful, but you’ll especially attract the younger crowd because you’ve made it clear that your shop is for them.
- Marital status. Are they single, in a relationship, married, separated/divorced/widowed? Marital status influences how people make buying decisions. For example, married people have a certain threshold of spending over which they’ll generally chat with their spouse. It’s usually unwritten, but it’s less than you’d think – maybe even a hundred bucks for many types of purchases. Single people make more decisions on their own or with the help of peers. So if your ideal customer is married, that may affect your price point, or it may mean you have to convince the spouse, too.
- Children. Do they have kids? Having kids often shifts spending from wants to needs, to more budget-conscious purchases and time-saving products and services. So if you have a meal delivery service, for example, it will be worthwhile to figure out who would use it more – parents or non-parents.
- Culture, ethnicity, religion. In some cultures, negotiating is standard, while in others, it’s rude. For some skin colors and types, sunscreen is important, while for others, it’s hardly necessary. In some religions, the LGBT community is rejected, so if that’s the community you service, a religious message isn’t going to resonate.
- Education. While customer education level has never been important for my businesses, it’s worthwhile to think about for some. It can have an impact on customer decisions. I tend to think more about occupation, which is next.
- Occupation. If you can narrow down the types of professions in which your perfect customers are employed, you know a little more about where they get their information, what their income is, who their peers are, etc.
- Income. On the whole, people who earn more money will spend more money on a given solution. Shocking, I know. This section doesn’t have to take much time to figure out, but if you’re selling a higher end solution, you’ll want to get it in your head that you’re catering to a higher income bracket (which is especially worth noting when you’re starting out, not making money yourself, so probably not living with the mindset of a higher income person). You don’t have to be specific up front (e.g. “I serve people who earn $70,000-$90,000”), but you can come up with something. It’s also worth thinking about income because, for example, while a spa for single moms who homeschool their kids may be a nice idea, perhaps they don’t have the income (or time) for that (I still kind of love the idea though – would make a nice gift).
- Geography. Where do they live? In the U.S.? In New York City? In the countryside? Even for my organic gardening website, I sometimes send different emails to different countries.
So that’s demographics.
Now, let’s say you offer a service, like coaching, consulting or personal training. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “I love working with people of all ages, both genders, married or not, kids or not. I don’t care where they went to school or what they do for a living or how much money they make.”
And hey, that’s cool with me. I don’t like to force things too much when it comes to a customer profile. Instead, you might spend more time in psychographics and behavioural characteristics down below. That’s fine.
That being said, if you love, for example, the idea of helping middle-aged, professional women get fit, you do have an opportunity to write (and say) “I help professional women in their 40s and 50s to get strong, fit bodies that match their strong, fit minds.” rather than “I help women get strong, fit bodies.”
The former has a LOT more punch to a 40 or 50 year old women, while the latter doesn’t mean much to anyone.
Again, don’t force it – you can also focus on the categories below – but keep in mind that when narrowing down your customer profile feels good to you, it’s usually a good business decision.
Psychographics are more about how your prospective customer thinks.
It’s more qualitative than quantitative, and the answers are a little harder to come by.
But it’s worth it – the data you get here is often more useful than demographics.
Actually, I asked Matthew Turner of TurnDog for his thoughts on developing a customer profile and he agreed:
And I bet you can make a good guess on a couple of them right now and then plan to collect more data over time.
The way to do that is by running polls and surveys on your website and on social media (terminology note: a poll is a multiple choice question while a survey generally asks for more open-ended answers).
I call this technique Profile Polling.
People like interactivity, so it’s not a bad idea to always have at least a poll running near the header or sidebar of your website, asking any question that might help you with your customer profile, like “which social media platform do you use the most?” or “who are you voting for this election?”
On SmilingGardener.com, when I was considering developing a course on container gardening, I thought I’d better first run a quick poll asking them “Where are you gardening?”:
As you can see by the results, over 90% of them are gardening either on their own property or someone else’s – but either way – it’s in the ground, not in containers:
It doesn’t mean I couldn’t develop a container gardening course, but I’d need to find a whole new audience for it.
If you’re on WordPress, Ninja Forms is a great free plugin for polls and surveys. On Joomla, I use Skyline Advanced Poll. On Facebook, My Polls is a solid app for polling your friends or followers, although just asking a question on your profile works, too. Many of the online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey also allow you to embed your surveys right into your site.
I’ll give example Profile Polling questions down below.
And again, remember, you don’t have to figure out all the following data. A national brand can spend the time and money to get it all and make good use of it, but if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you might just care about a couple of items from this list.
So here it is:
- Beliefs. What do your potential customers feel is true, whether or not it can be proven to be true? Do they believe there’s a universal consciousness we all tap into? Do they believe in life after death? Are they religious? Superstitious? Scientific? This can highly impact your marketing. Example poll questions: Do you believe more in science, faith or both about the same? Do you believe organic food is important for your health?
- Values. What’s important to them? Highest quality, or best price or fastest service? New or traditional? Customized or mass-produced? Design or function? Adventure or security? Liberal or conservative politics? More big implications here for your offerings and marketing message. Ask any of these in a poll.
- Desires. What do they want most of all and why do they want it? Money? Health? Love? Adventure? This ties in with values above and fears below, so you don’t have to answer them all, but sometimes it helps to look at these issues from different angles. Example poll questions: Would you rather earn $25,000/year from a job you love or $100,000/year from a job you strongly dislike? Would you rather be a millionaire, divorced and in poor health – or financially poor, but healthy and happily married?
- Fears. What are they afraid of? This is sort of opposite to ‘Desires’ above. Are they worried about money troubles? Illness? Relationship problems? Safety? Boredom? We all may worry about most of these at some point in our lives, but your customer may be worrying about some more than others right now. Example poll question: Do you worry more about money or your health? Example survey question: What’s your greatest fear in life?
- Expertise. What is their level of knowledge about their problem? And about your solution? If they need help diagnosing their problem or understanding your solution, it means the marketing/sales process will be longer, and more education will be necessary – not an ideal situation, but important to know up front. Example poll questions: Do you have bad breath (Yes, No, I Don’t Know)? Were you aware that hormonal imbalances are the most common cause of acne?
I’ll reiterate here that maybe it’s just a couple of these things that are relevant to you. For example, maybe you know your target market believes strongly in alternative healing and is correspondingly afraid of conventional medicine. That means you may want to discuss in your marketing the upsides of preventative health and the downfalls of conventional medicine.
But as you gather more information, you might hit on something that can have an even bigger impact the core of your marketing message.
For example, maybe a big desire for your target market these days as they get older is to slow down the aging process and have enough energy to feel good all day at work and home.
You may have thought your customer wanted to lose weight to get back her young, 25 year old body, but maybe when she’s 50, what will resonate more is a message like:
“Need more energy to make it through the day? Twenty minutes of exercise with a qualified personal trainer will do more for your energy level over the next 48 hours than all the coffee or soda you can drink (and on top of that, it makes you look younger instead of older).”
Once you’ve collected this info about your market, some of it may seem like common sense. But other times their preferences will be the opposite of what you had figured, which is why it’s good to back up your guesses with research.
And even for the parts that are common sense, if you take the time to put them into a customer profile and place them in front of you whenever you’re working on your business, it will help you focus so much more on any tasks that would benefit from you feeling connected to your customers.
There’s also a behavioral component – a little more about what they do than how they think.
This is determined first by guesses, then by Alexa and Quantcast (to determine people’s interests, where they spend time online and where they buy online) and then by Profile Polling.
Let’s have a look at behavioral characteristics:
- Lifestyle. What is their life like on a daily basis? Relaxed or frantic? Work or play? Happy or sad? Exciting or boring? If they have more money than time, they may want you to solve the problem for them. If they have more time than money, they may just want a little help solving it, or a solution they can implement themselves. Example poll questions: On a scale of 1-10, how stressful is your day to day life? How much time do you have for preparing meals each day? Example survey question: What’s usually the most exciting thing about your day or week?
- Hobbies. What do they like to do for fun? If they like to watch a certain TV show, you may bring examples from that show into your blog posts or advertise on fan pages of the show. If they’re into meditation, you may offer a guided meditation download. If they’re into salsa dancing, you may post a photo of a salsa couple with your own caption written on it. Example poll question: What would you rather do – read a book? play a board game? go for a walk? play a sport? Example survey question: What are your favorite hobbies?
- Socializing. Where do they spend their time online? Facebook? Instagram? LinkedIn? Snapchat? Forums? Where do they spend their time offline? Meetup groups? Conferences? At a local cafe? This can help you decide where you spend your time. Also, your prospect’s friends and family influence their buying decisions, and there may be a way we can reach those people. For example, if you offer a high end coaching program, you could offer a free session with a friend or family member of your prospect to help with the decision. Example poll question. What’s your favorite social media site? Example survey question: When you go out alone or with friends, where do you go?
- Buying. Where and when do they shop and how do they pay for it? First, where do they shop? If it’s Amazon.com, how are you going to beat the beast that is Amazon? When do they buy? Do they buy before the problem shows up (to prevent it), or after it shows up (to solve it)? Do they buy regularly, meaning a monthly package could be worth implementing, or irregularly, only when they need it? Do they buy seasonally, meaning you may want to find something else to offer them in the off season? How do they pay? Is PayPal enough or do you need a merchant account? Example poll question: Where do you shop online? Example survey question: Where do you buy your lipstick?
- Product and brand preferences. What other types of products do they use? Which brands? This can be useful for things like product giveaways and brand partnering (even if you’re local, you can poll customers about local companies and partner with those companies). Example poll questions: Which local cafe is your favorite? Do you use only shampoo, only conditioner, separate shampoo and conditioner, 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, other?
Behavioral data can affect your market message, and it also affects your operations – where, when and how you sell.
For example, if you know your customer is a busy professional woman, struggling with low energy but eating fast food due to lack of time, shopping at the organic farmer’s market on Saturdays but rarely having time to actually cook from scratch, surfing Facebook at work during her breaks, happy to pay good money for a fast, healthy energy-boosting solution, and comfortable buying online…
Then you may want to help her out by selling her a box of your homemade, local ingredient, whole food energy bars.
Maybe your energy bar slogan is even something like “The local farmer’s market – in 7 tasty, organic bites.”
Of course you’ll want to place a Facebook ad for these bars that runs in your city during the afternoon when she’s feeling low energy and surfing for inspiration at work, with a landing page that makes it quick and easy to buy in just a couple of clicks, and then the product should arrive on her doorstep the next day (or be couriered to her right away).
Customer Profiles Vs. Customer Personas
A customer profile is an overall look at your target market, while a customer persona is one specific, ideal customer you create, usually fictitious – a visualization of your perfect customer.
A customer profile is ‘them’ as a group, while a customer persona is ‘he’ or ‘she’ as a person.
In my view, it’s important to create a customer profile, and whether or not you go into the detail of creating a customer persona is up to you. It’s not much work once you have the profile data, so I like to do both.
The customer profile is useful for capturing some general characteristics of your customers/clients. It will help you make business and marketing decisions.
Customer profile demographics example: Male, middle-aged, middle class, white collar job, married with kids, lives in the U.S.
The customer persona, on the other hand, is useful for creating a specific marketing campaign or piece of marketing content – you imagine you’re creating the content specifically for this person, which makes it much more powerful.
Customer persona demographics example: John, 42 years old, income $45000, graduated from his local college as an electrician, works Monday-Friday as an electrician, has a wife and 2 kids, lives in Philadelphia.
As you can see, this customer persona is far too narrow to be the only type of customer you sell to, but he’s really great to have in mind when you’re writing a blog post or magazine ad because it helps you focus.
And while the broad customer profile is great for understanding your market, it can be a little tricky to create content for because it’s often quite vague.
So again, both can be useful, but doing the customer profile is the most important part.
For any given project, product or service, you start with the customer profile and if you have some information that feels worthwhile to put into a persona, go for it.
If you want, you can develop several customer personas to deepen your customer segmentation (I say a maximum of four is good, but more is okay if you feel a need).
To create a customer persona, you can make a copy of your customer profile and just narrow it down to a specific person.
Give her a name and maybe even a photo if it will help you get into the proper mindset when creating anything for her. Some people say that step is a bit much, but if it helps, I say go for it.
How Does This Relate To ‘Minimalist Business’?
On this site, I write about how to run a minimalist business, which really just means how to simplify your business so you get to spend more time doing things you enjoy and less time feeling overwhelmed.
Developing a customer profile fits into that because it allows you to focus on a core group of people you serve, which means:
- You know where they hang out (e.g. Facebook, the movie theatre, conferences), which means you know where you should hangout, and you don’t have to feel overwhelmed about the hundreds of other places you could be hanging out.
- Likewise, you know what they’re interested in, i.e. what they want from you. It’s not nice going to bed at night not knowing who your customer is or what types of things they’re thrilled to pay for. It is nice going to bed with a firm picture of them in your mind and a clear plan for how you can serve them.
- And if you’re clever, you’ve picked a customer who you enjoy serving, which means work is more fun.
Summary For Creating An Ideal Customer Profile
- You create a customer profile by determining the characteristics of an ideal group of customers, including demographics (like age and gender), psychographics (how they think) and behavior (how they behave).
- You get this information from your own experience and by researching analytics websites, talking to people online and offline, and doing Profile Polling on your website, social media, and perhaps through other online surveying services.
- With this customer profile, you’ll have a much better feel for who you’re serving, what you should offer them and how to market and sell to them.
- For bonus points, you can turn this information into one or more specific customer personas, which helps you focus even more on creating a unique marketing message.
Although this article has been quite comprehensive, creating a customer profile doesn’t have to be a huge production.
You can put together a nice little profile from your head in less than an hour, and then plan to get a seek out a little more information over time.
Here you can open my customer profile template in Google Docs or download it in Microsoft Word: