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Marketing / Business marketing

Market research: How to create a customer profile

To create more successful marketing campaigns you need to understand who your customers are, and what motivates them to do business with you.

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Creating a customer profile is an essential part of any market research activity. Knowing who your customers are helps you to:

  • Create advertising messages that appeal to your current customers and attract new ones.
  • Recognise up-sell and cross-sell opportunities among your current customers.
  • Identify which advertising media to use to target potential customers and therefore increase advertising return on investment.
  • Develop new products and services to better meet customer needs. 

Profiling questions

The first step in creating a customer profile is to gather information about your customers. The easiest way to do this is by sending a customer survey, ideally via email. You can also try doing this at the point of sale. Offering an incentive to answer the survey, such as a free service or discount, will help encourage responses. 

In your customer profile survey, questions to ask include:

  • How did they find out about your business?
  • What motivates them to buy from you?
  • How do they buy from you? (if you have more than one purchase channel)
  • What need does your product or service fulfil?
  • What other needs do they have that your product or service does not fulfil?
  • Which other providers do they use for products or services such as yours?
  • How do they find information about products or services such as yours?
  • What media do they consume? (What newspapers do they read? Which websites do they visit?)
  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live? (town, city, state)
  • If they are a business you do not need to ask their age, but ask them about the decision-making process. Who is involved and who are the end users of the purchased product? What are the needs of the business decision makers and the end users? 

Want more articles like this? Check out the business marketing section.

Segment your customers

The next step is to divide your customers into groups (or segments) that have similar needs. There are many different ways of segmenting your customers. Three of the most common are: 

"Segmenting customers is important because it helps you to identify the different needs of particular groups."

Demographics – age, income or family make up.

Geographics – city, state, country, or regional or urban areas.

Buying habits – what products or services they buy and what channels they purchase through. 

If your customers are other businesses then you can use Firmographics to segment them, which involves sorting by company size, by the nature of their decision-making process or how often they buy from you. 

Segmenting customers is important because it helps you to identify the different needs of particular groups. For example, let’s say you have two very distinct age segments, such as the 35–49 bracket and people over the age of 50. You may find that each age group reads very different publications, or has very different needs when it comes to purchase channels; therefore you will need very different communications skills to target each group. 

If your customer base isn’t large enough to segment, it is still important to profile your customers to understand their needs and motivations. You may even know your customers by name; therefore you may be able to speak to them in person about their needs and buying behaviours. 

By profiling your customers you can redirect your marketing budget into strategies you know are going to effectively reach your target market. 

How well do you know your customers’ profile? Do you know how your product or service fulfils their needs? 

Sara Dobson

is a market research professional with a passion for helping small businesses and entrepreneurs run their own research projects.

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