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BRANDING, MARKETING  |  15 MIN READ

Customer Profile: The Simplest Yet Most Underestimated Way to Reach Our to Your Client Effectively

Marcin Rzymek photo

Written by Marcin Rzymek

Customer profile brainstorm

Let’s be honest developing a customer profile might be a pain in the ass sometimes, but we have to understand that it is one of the most important elements for our business success.

How otherwise we would like to generate sales when we don’t know who our clients are?

And it is a much deeper process than just knowing where do they live or work. 

To bring the most out of those slides, or pieces of paper (depending on which method you prefer to work with) we have to see the importance of each part. It will allow us to make it more smooth, bring better results and also be fun.

And even though as a brand consultant and creative designer I will focus on the customer profiles as a part of the branding and creative design creation process it is a core element that affects marketing and advertising as well. Generally, I’m not afraid to say that it can help businesses from every single industry as all of us try to attract some clients.

Top 12 Customer Profile Elements

Like every file, guide or report customer profiles consist of many details, without which it will be only a blank piece of paper. The most important parts of Customer Profiles are:

1. Name

2. Position

3. Age

4. Industry

5. Income

6. Picture

7. Story (Basic Info)

8. Story (Personal and Professional life)

9. Motivation

10. Life Goals

11. Challenges

12. Day in Life

1. Customer name

Let’s start with naming our ideal client. But wait a minute, you might say, why does it matter or how should I know what will be his/her name.

It’s all about psychology, which we have to leverage on our behalf, especially that in this process we won’t work with the client but rather alone or doing a brainstorm with our team members.

Coming back to the task, choosing a first and last name for our customers gives us a sense that we deal with a real person. It might be a strange connection but we all know that “If you don’t like to keep the cat, don’t give it a name” (apologies for cat lovers and comparing humans to animals:)). Although this part is less important for the outcome quality but more important for the whole process flow and a great starting point (let’s call it a warm-up) to open our mind and push our imagination to generate more ideas.

Doing so we shorten the distance in communication with them cause we begin to think of them as an individual, as someone different from a random stranger. Ask yourself how do you feel when you talk about someone who names you know. Isn’t it easier to pick the right adjectives or match them with specific events?

Ok but there are thousands of names to pick from. It is 100% true, but our brain uses to pick the names which are associated with positive emotions. It’s obvious that you won’t pick a name that belongs to someone who brought you sadness of any kind.

We are up to create the image of our ideal customer – so the person we would love to work with, work for or share our business with. You can be sure that after picking the name (both first and last) our sub-conscience will start generating an image of this person so it will be easier to describe it further in detail.

Farmer using Farmhouse consulting

Position: farmer / Photo: FarmHouse Identity project

2. Position

To understand our clients’ needs we have to know what position they occupy. Generally, the position provides us with information about their work type, duties, and responsibilities.

When we sell boots, for example, it will be good to know who will be the best target for us to reach better sales results. So if those are casual boots, it’s more likely that the restaurant managers would like to wear those, but the kitchen chef will rather pick something more comfortable because no one focuses on what he wears in the kitchen.

Getting an idea about the duties and responsibilities of our clients will help us understand what kind of challenges they face and may address our product or service as a solution to overcome those.

There are different groups of professions but let’s focus on the most important ones in this task – worker and decision-maker. Hm… not sure if those categories clarify what I would like to say now but let’s check that.

Our product or service is dedicated either to the consumer or business. It will be good to know if it is a person who makes the final decision about engagement with our company or purchasing the product. Providing B2B services we might want to aim specific positions on the company ladder though.

If you need help you can check this article listing 450 professional positions.

Young or old

3. Age

Like with real people (considering that we’re trying to create an image of an ideal customer), when we meet someone we usually can roughly determine how old this person is. The same matters for our goal, but this time it’s obvious that because we would like to get to our customers as close as possible, we have to be more precise about their age.

The age of our targeted customers should have a huge influence on our decisions when working on any type of design, developing marketing or advertising strategies. Why? Simply because we use to categorize people by age on the following groups:

There are a lot of differences between the individuals from each group, and as an example Baby boomers are the biggest consumers of traditional media like television, radio, magazines, and newspaper. This data helps us imagine what kind of life and professional experience they might have. It also tells us about the channels which we suppose to focus on our future marketing strategies and also to determine the design taste those people might have.

We might get a general idea of how long are they in a particular position or do they have experience or decision rights within the company.

4. Industry

Pretty small detail as we might point it already in “position”, but just to round it up or be sure we know which industry they work it’s good to include this detail. We want to know that f.ex does this “manager” work in a restaurant or car workshop, right?

It also tells us what kind of marketing strategies we might use in the future – advertising in specific media common for this industry – like newspapers or internet portals with business news.

Source: Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

5. Income

Yes, yes we will talk about money guys! Our goal is to push our or someone’s business higher, but to do so we need to get in the shoes of the customers and get an idea of how much income they have. We need to know if they can afford our business. We need to know what kind of brands they can generally afford to be sure what are they looking for. Is it more about getting something at an affordable price, or the price doesn’t matter cause they focus on quality.
If we sell a luxury product or service, so not the one which solves daily needs but rather is a “want to have a thing” we might want to know how much money our customers have after paying their bills.
Try to imagine in what situation are you right now. Having sustainable income do you look first at how the product looks like on the shelves or at the price tag? Talking about services do you ask about the details or ask for a quote first to get an idea of how much will it cost? Are you more or less willing to try a new brand and take a risk of not being satisfied with your spending? 

If you have no idea what might be the income of your client on a specific position check this website (although you might have to register an account there).

Customer profile images - polaroid shots

6. Picture

But why to bother about the image when the customer profiles are created mostly for internal use?

Good question. Sometimes we work in teams alone. If we have that privilege to work with a team it will be soo good to prepare the brief for what they’re gonna work on, so when we include the images aside the text it will be easier for them to imagine what do you mean. It matters as well when we are solo-worker. Why? Because, primarily we might not have enough time to read the whole copy (especially for the second or third time), secondly the image is worth a thousand words.

“Sure man but why do we have to waste time for searching for the right photo?”

Believe me, it’s not a waste.
Even when we know all that we have already prepared (listed above) it’s still hard to talk about a person which we didn’t see before.

Don’t you think that our eyes deliver a lot of information?

Take a moment and try to say a few words about an imagined person, now have a look at a random photo and do the same. Isn’t it easier?

You can also try to describe a farther member of your family (which you don’t see a lot, barely remember his/her name and know only from “grandma’s stories”) and later take a picture of another one and do the same. Much easier, isn’t it?

When we have some idea of what are the basic details of our customers, finding an appropriate picture will definitely help us with building a coherent story about this person.

There are a lot of data in the images, take the face expression as a first example. It tells us a lot about what personality they might have. Another example is what they wear. The clothes could bring us closer to understand what kind of brands and styles they like and feel better with. Even though we focus on the customer (as a main aspect of the photo), the background brings us closer to the environment they live or work in. It may also tell us if they like spending time with nature or feel good in the corporate world. More we have, the better it is.

Some image resources:

7. Story (part 1 - basic info)

We have indeed pointed out a lot of information already, but putting it all together in sentences is a great warm-up before the deeper analysis and building a real story.

Start it from introducing our customer. “Jeff is 32 years old…”. Write about the place they’re living in – is it a city, small town, village. Maybe it might be appropriate to know what home type they live in: apartment, condo, maybe huge mansion. This data provides interesting insights about the environment our customers spend time in. Write something about their family status – single or married, as well as having children or not. It’s not the most important info so do it short.

Different people, different statuses, different life choices, duties, and point of view on specific topics. Nationality or ethnic group might bring us a lot of useful data – everyone indeed has been raised in some culture, has some traditions, etc. This element might also bring us very interesting insights or ideas about symbols or images they know and associates their world with. 

Follow that with a sentence or two highlighting the most prominent character trait. That will definitely help us understand the customer’s taste and be a great start for 2nd part of the story.

8. Story (part 2 - personal and professional life)

It’s time to become a writer for a short period. But don’t be afraid, it’s not about the word choice, not this time at least. We have to be able that we already know our customer a bit and try to say a few words about how their life looks like. Let me list a few questions you might ask yourself which may definitely help:

  • How does their life look?
  • Where does this person work?
  • How do they travel to work?
  • What do they in free time?
  • Where do they grocery?
  • What brands do they love?

I guess that writing it for the first time might be a strange experience, but no worries after you will get use to that you won’t be able to start any project without it. And more of that your clients will be surprised when you’ll ask them to participate in this task (if you’re providing them with your creative services) or when they will see that your product or service really match their needs and fulfills their needs (when you do it yourself and use the customer profiles to bring the most out of your product or prepare marketing strategies).

Ok, a few words about above listed questions. Why is it good to know how your customer life is looking. You won’t believe how many ideas might pop-up from writing a simple story about your ideal client. Imagine you wrote: 

“Mark lives in San Francisco, he works close by in the local restaurant. He travels to work in his Toyota listening to business podcast. He picks up his friend on the way to his work”

What does it tell us about Mark? 

  1. He affords to have a car – Toyota. Something had to push him to pick this particular brand. He can listen to podcast, radio and see billboards on his way to work.
  2. He picks up his friend on the way – that means his friendly and helpful. He doesn’t have a problem with sharing his personal space with others. Likes to talk before work, even though spending travel time (or part of it) on learning something – through business podcast.

Convinced enough that it might bring us a lot of insights?

Think about what will you know after writing more. What they do in the free time, is it time spent outside, any sports or special hobbies? Maybe they go out to eat in restaurant? Imagine what do you think about people who have similar life. Maybe we can write something about the place they do grocery or at least what kind of products they buy daily. If they use modern technology, gadgets etc. 

Source: Content Pixie on Unsplash

9. Motivation

Ooooh yeah, everyone is motivated by something. It will be good to think about what motivates our clients to wake up every morning and do what they do. What motivates them to take action. Maybe there is nothing and they struggle with that. Maybe they’re depressed and our product solves this problem. Think about what motivates you and how does it affect your life choices, what do you do to be more motivated? Now change the perspective and think about your customers.

Try not to focus on your business now. Think about how your ideal customer will look like and it will definitely help you see how to turn your product or service to match their expectations. How to boost their motivation even more, or motivate them if they’re having problems with that.

If you find difficult to get an idea what might motivate your ideal customer check this article explaining different types of motivation.

10. Goals in life

In short, what are they trying to achieve in life? Is there any special purpose for what they do? Is it more about legacy, money, family?

Why does it matter? People use to associate with the brands they like and follow. They usually want to be a part of a tribe. If their life goals match the ones your company has or if your vision resonates with their goals it will be easier for you to get their attention. If we figure out how to translate our brand message to help your customers understand that they need us (or our product/service) to reach their goals faster –  they’re on board. That only confirms how important this part is and I don’t think that writing longer explanation makes sense.

11. Challenges

Now we’re talking! Like the 10th point, this one is extremely important. We both want to know what our clients would like to achieve, as well as what stops them from achieving that. There might be many answers to this. But determining a specific answer about their challenger we might see the patterns and try to adjust our strategy to show that “without us” it will be much harder to move on. Even when we’re selling a luxury product, when we will show it from a different perspective and point their useful nature for our customer’s life, our results might rocket sky high. It’s like planning our own steps to achieve what we chase in life, the same works for our clients. They are humans too. Like we know what we need to achieve our goals, we know what stops us, when we will find out what stops our customers it will be easier to focus on showing them we understand and are here to help them.

Weekly planner

12. Day in life

Talking about how the day in the life of our customers looks like brings always some objections, “Why the he** do we need to know that”? Especially that it might be very difficult to figure out if it all happens regular or is every day different. More or less writing some details about their life, in chronologic order might also bring us a lot of insights on when they might have contact with our business.

Try to think about:

  • What are this person’s daily scheduled activities? (in details)
  • What does he/she eat for breakfast?
  • How and when travel to work?
  • What car/phone uses?
  • How approach their work?
  • How communicate?
  • Does each day look similar?

Of course, focus on the things that will matter for our company, but after this consult that with someone else. Limiting our point of view only to our perspective might kill some ideas that will naturally appear when we know something more.

By knowing our ideal customer daily routine (or guessing) we understand if f.ex. they will see our brand in the daylight or evening. It might help us determine such a things like which marketing channel to use (social media channels, tv ads, billboards, etc), what colors to use to be more legible and visible, if the will use our product/service in addition to something or focus 100% and count on it in specific situations.

Knowing what kind of interactions they have with friends and family on daily basis tells us also if there is someone who might affect their buying decisions, so we will know that we can also target the people they’re surrounded by to increase the chance for our success in attracting this client.

Final words

As you can see building a customer profile is a very deep process and takes a lot of effort. But what we have to keep in mind is that we don’t have to touch upon every single detail. How precise we will depend totally on the reason we build those for.

Sometimes a smaller amount of data might be enough. We need to ask ourselves first which details might have an influence on our project.

If we work on different projects as packaging design, brand identity or preparing marketing strategy to launch new services, we need different data or at least some of the points aren’t soo important for us.

When working with the clients and creating the profiles for their company (as a help for us to be sure our project is aiming our customer’s customers) we might have not enough time to dig into soo many details, especially that a people you work for have to provide most of this data. In the end, those are their customers, not ours. So they might not have enough time to spend with us soo many hours to develop the proper client persona. It all depends on what they do in the business and what is the scale of our project.

And while most of this details are guessing rather than research base data, when we create ideal customer we are allowed to do so. Especially when are at the startup stage and we don’t have any base for it within our previous clients (or have not enough to base on). For companies which have already some customers, remember that we can extract some details from those, or if you have any problem with using your imagination and experience to build the customer profile, what stops you from jumping on a call with one of your good clients and ask them for help, by interviewing them?

I hope this article brought you some value, expanded your knowledge in some ways or opens your eyes to the importance of customer profiles in the strategic approach of creative work.

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