Branding & Design
Creating customer profiles as the best way to understand your clients!
CUSTOMER PROFILE: THE SIMPLEST YET MOST UNDERESTIMATED WAY TO REACH YOUR CLIENTS EFFECTIVELY
Developing a customer profile might be a pain in the ass sometimes, but we have to understand that it is one of the most critical elements for our business success.
How otherwise would we 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.
We have to see the importance of each part of your customer profile. 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. Generally, I’m not afraid to say that it can help businesses from every industry as we try to attract 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. Essential parts of Customer Profiles are:
- STORY (BASIC INFO)
- STORY (PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE)
- LIFE GOALS
- DAY IN LIFE
- 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 their name.
It’sIt’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:)). However, this part is less important for the outcome quality but more critical for the whole process flow and a great starting point (let’s call it a warm-up) to open our minds 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’tIsn’t it easier to pick the proper 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 it to decide the names associated with positive emotions. You won’t choose 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. After picking the name (both first and last), you can be sure that our sub-conscience will start generating an image of this person, so it will be easier to describe it further in detail.
To understand our clients’ needs, we have to know what position they occupy. Generally, the occupation provides us with information about their work type, duties, and responsibilities.
For example, when we sell boots, it will be good to know who will be the best target 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 instead 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 professions, but let’s focus on the most crucial task – worker and decision-maker. Hmm, 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. So 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. By providing B2B services, we might want to aim at specific positions on the company ladder, in any case.
If you need help, you can check this article listing 450 professional positions.
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. Of course, the same matters for our goal, but this time, it’s evident that we have to be more precise about their age because we would like to get to our customers as close as possible.
The age of our targeted customers should have a massive influence on our decisions when working on any design, developing marketing, or advertising strategies. Why? Simply because we use to categorize people by age on the following groups:
- Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)
- Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (38-53 years old)
- Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (22-37 years old)
- Post-Millennials: Born 1997-Present (0-21 years old)
There are many 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 we suppose to focus on our future marketing strategies and determine the design taste those people might have.
We might get a general idea of how long they are in a particular position or do they have experience or decision rights within the company.
It’s a pretty tiny detail as we might point it already in “position,” but to round it up or to be sure we know which industry they work in, it’s good to include this detail. For example, 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 types for this industry – like newspapers or internet portals with business news.
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 customer’s shoes 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 they are looking for. Is it more about getting something affordable, or does the price not matter cause they focus on quality.
If we sell a luxury product or service, not the one that 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 you are in right now. For example, having a sustainable income, do you look first at how the product looks 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 the risk of not being satisfied with your spending?
If you have no idea your client’s income might be in a specific position, check the payscale (although you might have to register an account there).
But why bother about the image when the customer profiles are created mainly for internal use?
Good question. Sometimes we work in teams alone. If we have that privilege to work with a group, it will be good to prepare the brief for what they’re going to work on, so when we include the images aside from the text, it will be easier for them to imagine what to do you mean. It matters as well when we are solo-worker. Why? Because, primarily, we might not have enough time to read the full 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 searching for the right photo?”
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 we didn’t see before.
Don’t you think that our eyes deliver much 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 their name and know only from “grandma’s stories”) and later take a picture of another one and do the same. So much more manageable, isn’t it?
When we have some idea of our customers’ basic details, finding an appropriate picture will help us build a coherent story about this person.
There are many 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 primary 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. The more we have, the better it is.
SOME IMAGE RESOURCES:
7. STORY (PART 1 – BASIC INFO)
We have pointed out much information already, but putting it all together in sentences is an excellent warm-up before the deeper analysis and building a real story.
Start it by introducing our customers. “Jeff is 32 years old…”. Next, 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 colossal mansion. This data provides exciting insights into the environment our customers spend time in. Finally, write something about their family status – single or married, as well as having children or not. It’s not the most crucial info, so do it shortly.
There are different people, statuses, life choices, duties, and points of view on specific topics. Nationality or ethnic group might bring us much useful data – everyone indeed has been raised in some culture, has some traditions. This element might also get us interesting insights or ideas about symbols or images they know and associate their world with.
Follow that with a sentence or two highlighting the most prominent character trait. That will help us understand the customer’s taste and be an excellent 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 help:
- How does their life look?
- Where does this person work?
- How do they travel to work?
- What do they in their free time?
- Where do they groceries?
- What brands do they love?
I guess that writing it for the first time might be a strange experience, but no worries, after you get used to that, you won’t start any project without it. Additionally, your clients will be surprised when you ask them to participate in this task, especially if you’re providing them with your creative services. Finally, it will ensure you that your product or service matches and fulfills their needs.
Ok, a few words about the above-listed questions. First, 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 a business podcast. He picks up his friend on the way to his work.”
What does it tell us about Mark?
- He affords to have a car – Toyota. Something had to push him to pick this particular brand. Mark listens to podcasts, radio and sees billboards on his way to work.
- Mark doesn’t drive alone. He picks up his friend on the way – that means he’s 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 a business podcast.
Are you convinced enough that it might bring us many insights?
Think about what you will know after writing more. What do your customers do in their free time? Is it time spent outside, any sports, or unique hobbies? Maybe they go out to eat in a restaurant? Imagine what do you think about people who have a similar life. Perhaps we can write something about the place they do grocery or what kind of products they buy and what modern technology or gadgets spend money on.
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. Instead, think about how your ideal customer will look like, and it will 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.
Learn first about different types of motivation if you find it difficult to get an idea about what might motivate your ideal customer.
10. GOALS IN LIFE
In short, what are they trying to achieve in life? Is there any particular 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 your company’s ones or 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 a more extended explanation makes sense.
Now we’re talking! Like the 10th point, this one is significant. We both want to know what our clients would like to achieve and what stops them from achieving that. Again, there might be many answers to this. But determining a specific response about their challenges, we might see the patterns and 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 show it from a different perspective and point their helpful nature to our customer’s life, our results might rocket sky high. It’s like planning our steps to achieve what we chase in life. And 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 find out what stops our customers, it will be easier to show them we understand and are here to help them.
12. DAY IN LIFE
Describing a day from the life of our customers always brings some objections. “Why do we need to know that”? Especially that it might be tough to figure out if it all happens regularly or is every day different. More or less writing some details about their life, in chronologic order might also bring us many 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 do they eat for breakfast?
- How and when travel to work?
- What car/phone uses?
- How approach their work?
- How communicate?
- Does each day look similar?
Please focus on the things that will matter for our company, but consult with someone else after this. 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 will help us determine such things as which marketing channel to use, what colors to use to be more legible and visible, if they will use our product/service in addition to something, or focus 100% and count on it in specific situations.
We know what interactions they have with friends and family daily, which tells us if someone might affect their buying decisions. So we will see that we can also target the people they’re surrounded by to increase the chance for our success in attracting this client.
As you can see, building a customer profile is an intense process and takes much effort. But what we have to keep in mind that we don’t have to touch upon every detail. How precise we will depend totally on the reason we build those for.
Sometimes a smaller amount of data might be enough. However, we need to ask ourselves first which details might influence our project.
Suppose we work on different projects as packaging design, brand identity, or preparing marketing strategy to launch new services. In that case, we need other data, or at least some of the points aren’t important for us.
When working with the clients and creating the profiles for their company, we might have not enough time to dig into soo many details, especially that the 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 these details are guessing rather than research base data, we are allowed to do so when we create an ideal customer. Especially when we are at the startup stage, we don’t have any base for it within our previous clients (or have not enough to base on). On the other hand, if your business has some customers already, you can extract the details. 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.