As a core part of the Data HQ team since 2004, David is an expert at unravelling complex data and making sense of intricate client requirements.
On the face of it, creating buyer personas and carrying out customer profiling might sound like the same thing, but they are in fact two distinct processes, and both are an important part of the marketing process.
What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are commonly described as “semi-fictionalised representations of your ideal customer(s)”. In other words, they’re detailed customer stereotypes that you create on purpose.
They’re informed by data you’ve gathered about your existing customer base, and by market research you’ve carried out – ideally both, because that means there’s more detail. The idea of having buyer personas is that it gives you a clear view of who you’re targeting your marketing towards, and what will motivate them to buy from you.
How many should you have?
There is no minimum or ideal number of personas to aim for.
If your offering is hyper-specific, you might well have just one or two personas. If it’s broader, you could have as many as 10 or more. It depends entirely on the complexity of your business.
As long as you’re representing every different ‘type’ of prospect, you’ll be on the right lines.
When constructing your personas, you first need to choose the criteria you’ll include. Go as granular as you like, but make sure each criteria is genuinely relevant and helpful from a marketing perspective. There’s no point recording trivialities or irrelevancies.
Example b2b persona criteria
- Job function/responsibility (or specific job titles)
- Main objectives within their role
- Long-term career goals
- Common pain points, obstacles and challenges
- Salary bracket
- Company size
- Favoured communication channels
Example b2c persona criteria
- Age bracket
- Hobbies and interests
- Taste in music, TV, film, books
- Brand affinities
- Role models and influencers
- Amount of disposable income
- Relationship status
- Parental status
- Preferred social media platforms
Choosing the right criteria
Notice how age and gender weren’t included in the b2b example, and how job function and industry weren’t included in the b2c one. Only the potentially relevant criteria were. Jot down all the potential demographics you could collect, and then cull the ones that are unimportant in the context of your offering.
Each piece of marketing you create – whether it’s one email in a larger campaign, or a whole two-minute branded video – should be targeted towards a specific persona (sometimes a few personas, although ensuring relevance to all of them can be difficult).
What is customer profiling?
Customer profiling is a process whereby you examine your database to understand exactly who your existing customers actually are.
It involves ranking your contacts on their likelihood to take a specific action (what we call propensity modelling), such as engage with an email, certain types of content offering or some other call-to-action (CTA). With this insight, you can identify the best prospects to go after in the short term, as well as any new audiences to pursue in the future.
Why do it?
Profiling usually confirms what you already know, but it can also uncover nuggets of information that prove extremely lucrative.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re a seller of electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) systems, and you think your core audiences are restaurants, cafes and bars. A profiling exercise might reveal that you’ve been overlooking or even disregarding certain smaller audiences – such as hairdressers and barbers, who also need EPOS systems.
As such, customer profiling serves two main purposes:
- Customer acquisition – comparing your customer data against the ‘universe of data’ that’s out there, helping you to find lookalike audiences and viable new audiences.
- Customer retention – analysing your entire list of contacts to calculate which of them are most likely to churn, so that you can then devise campaigns to specifically retain them.
In any case, profiling adds extra detail and granularity that you can use to create more precise marketing material for your customer base.
Why persona-building and profiling are both important
Buyer personas give you a strong preliminary base to form your marketing approach on. The process of persona-building gives you a broad, generalised idea of who you’re selling to and why, which in turn guarantees a certain level of accuracy.
Customer profiling, then, can be viewed as a way to test how accurate your original personas were – but, more importantly, it’s about seeing how your customers are really reacting to what you’re sending out. If your customer data tells you that a certain persona (or entire audience) is far less interested in your offering than you thought (or hoped) they would be, you know to focus your attentions elsewhere, or adjust your approach in some way to better engage that particular segment.
To get the most out of your data, you have to continuously measure performance and reevaluate your approach accordingly. Customer profiling is a key part of that.
Further reading: Data HQ's complete guide to customer and prospect profiling
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