Thoughts and ideas from SHAKE Marketing Group

Ideate Your Best Customers to Develop Customer Profiles

The Confident Marketer Playbook: Step 4

We've discussed becoming a more confident marketer by establishing the right mindset, finding unique market opportunities, and gaining new insights into your industry.

Now it's time to focus on who you are marketing to: your customer. To successfully sell to your customers, you need to know who they are and what they want. You need to go beyond their demographic data and understand who your ideal customer is at a granular, personal level. Because the truth is, it's only possible to create confident, effective marketing if you know who you are talking to. To do this, start by ideating your best customers by creating your ideal customer profiles.

Incredibly, though, many B2B companies I work with fail to use customer profiles and buyer personas in their marketing strategies. According to my latest research, 43% of businesses do not have an ideal customer profile. Of those organizations that made profiles, 85% admit that they need to be using them effectively in their content marketing.

But if you aren't targeting your marketing message at specific customers, you are aiming at nothing. And as everyone's favorite sales guru Zig Ziglar says, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time."

If you've been unfocused with your marketing content, it's time to re-aim using stronger, more effective customer profiles. These aren't generic demographic breakdowns stating that your target customer is middle-aged, middle-class, and in middle management. That sort of profile is a shortcut to nowhere. Instead, you need detailed, specific, and methodically researched customer profiles to give you a well-defined target.

So let's look at an ideal customer profile, why you need it, and how to make them for your organization.

What is an Ideal Customer Profile?

Not everyone wants to buy what you are selling. But someone does, and those are the people you need to be marketing to. An ideal customer profile is a detailed, thoughtful analysis of that target audience. These profiles shouldn't focus on demographics as much as they should focus on aspects that can drive your marketing strategies, including:

  • Their motivations. Why do they want to buy a product or service?
  • Their pain points. What problem are they trying to solve?
  • Their role in the buying process. Are they the decision maker, or do they influence the decision maker?
  • Where are they on the buying journey? What stage of the buying funnel are they in?
  • What marketing format are they most interested in? Do they prefer social media, print, email, or other marketing formats?

When you know this information about your customers, you can generate relevant and focused marketing materials targeting their needs and pain points. Companies that focus on building their customer profiles around these critical points generate more annual revenue than companies that focus on demographic data. So this is a project that can pay for itself many times over as you continue to shape your marketing strategies year after year.

Why Do You Need an Ideal Customer Profile?

Because without one, there is a good chance you are wasting your money. B2B companies waste around $958 million on ineffective marketing tactics yearly. With more companies tightening budgets and looking for ways to save, you have to make every dollar you spend on your marketing efforts count. Ideal customer profiles give you a target to aim for by defining whom you are marketing to, what they want, and how you will reach them.

I regularly hear from B2B clients that when it comes to marketing their products and services, they feel that doing something is better than doing nothing. I can tell you that's never true, and it's why there is so much irrelevant, unfocused, and unnecessary marketing content out there. You end up wasting your time and money on marketing that will not appeal to anyone and fails to convert sales. Defining your target becomes a win-win for you and your customers because you market to people who want your products, and your customers find solutions to their problems.

Challenges in Creating Customer Personas

One of the biggest obstacles you'll face when creating your ideal customer profile is research. Some marketers feel that talking to their sales team will be enough to make a well-thought-out and complete customer profile. While they may be able to offer helpful insights, this should only be one part of the research you do. You'll need to also talk directly with your customers to get a more detailed picture of their motivations, pain points, and buying habits.

On the other hand, some marketers go overboard in their research, creating details for their personas that aren't useful to the marketing team. Details matter, but only when they are the correct details. Understanding what details you need to sell effectively to your target customer is essential. Some marketers also spend so long researching their customers that they never get around to creating the profile, leaving their marketing team spinning their wheels.

Research isn't the only obstacle. Many marketing departments struggle to get organizations to see the value in customer personas in the first place. You may have difficulty getting teams to incorporate the personas into their work, and there was no qualitative data to measure their effectiveness when they did.

You can overcome these issues by creating more effective ideal customer profiles with proven results. With the proper research and details, these personas can become essential tools in your marketer's toolbox.

4 Steps To Creating Ideal Customer Profiles

These four steps will help you create and fine-tune a customer profile effectively and efficiently.

1. Interview Customer-Facing Employees

The employees who talk to your customers every day are going to have great insight when it comes to building an ideal customer profile. They'll know what customers are looking for, what prompts them to purchase, and what problems they are trying to solve. Your sales team is a great place to start for this information, but interview other customer-facing roles, such as customer service and product management, to get a fully-fledged picture of your customers.

2. Conduct Online Customer Surveys

Next, go directly to your customers. Surveys are a great way to learn more about the people who have already purchased from you, giving you data on who will likely buy from you in the future. You don't have to reinvent the wheel to get this done, either. Use your social media profiles to ask questions, or use platforms like Quora to get customer feedback.

3. Conduct 1:1 Customer Interviews

Once you have a general overview of your target customer, it's time to get more information at a personal level by conducting one-to-one interviews with customers. These interviews can expand on insights gained in previous steps and may reveal some exciting discoveries about what prompts your customers to make a purchase. If you can, have a neutral third party do this on your behalf. Their neutrality will help prevent your own biases from swaying your customer's answers.

4. Observe Customers for Hidden Motivations

With the data you have, the final step is to observe how your customers behave in their natural environments. Look for motivations that they may not have revealed in one-to-one interviews. Watch for circumstances where customers make purchases they may not have otherwise anticipated. This step of the profile-building process is a long-term one, and you'll need to be patient as you observe your customers and fine-tune your profiles based on those observations.

Remember, there will always be outliers when it comes to your customers. That's okay. You can't target everyone who might make a purchase. The point of a buyer person or customer profile is to help you target the people most likely to make a purchase. This also means you may need to go through some trial-and-error before you get your profiles right. But even an initial customer profile can provide you with a solid starting spot to launch a more effective, targeted marketing strategy.

Ready To Start Ideating Your Best Customers?

When you create effective customer profiles, it can transform your marketing strategies. You'll have a target to aim at, making your content much more effective and able to reach the people most likely to make a purchase. Without this knowledge, you are far more at risk of wasting your marketing budget on wheel-spinning tasks that go nowhere and do nothing to build your brand or business. So spend some time building those profiles, then put them to work.

Once you've done that, you'll be ready to move on to the next step of becoming a confident B2B marketer: aligning your brand to your mission.

If you'd like more information on this or any other step in The Confident Marketer Playbook, reach out to me or join the Soar marketing society to connect with other B2B marketers.

← Read Step 3: How to Gain New Insights to Grow your Business

→ Read Step 5: The Key to CEO Buy-in How to Align your B2B Marketing Strategy with Business Goals

An abstract image of two people and all the elements that make up their customer profiles.