8 Creative Ways To Profile Ideal Customers

Who is your target audience? Who is your ideal customer? Here are 8 ways to answer those questions.
July 18, 2011

Who is your target audience? Who is your ideal customer? How can I recognize them?

If you want to be in business and make money, you cannot get around these questions. Yet, many small business owners (me included) have made the mistake of not adequately profiling a target audience for their products or services. It doesn’t seem logical to narrow your this audience because you want to sell to as many people as possible, but in fact, the opposite is true: when you narrow your message and audience to a group who values what you are selling, then the rest of your marketing system becomes obvious and easy to implement—not to mention the fact that you’ll save tons of money by only investing in tasks, tools and resources your ideal customers appreciate.

If you’re among those who wish you had a better customer profile, here’s a list of profiling techniques guaranteed to yield results:

1. Use demographics and psychographics

There are several terrific sources for descriptive demographic data. Try Nielsen’s PRIZM database which contains consumer segment data, each with its own page that outlines demographic traits, lifestyle preferences and consumer behaviors. This is really worth exploring, but make sure you give yourself time—you can get sucked in for hours.

 2. Describe them as characters in a story

On the complete opposite end of the profiling spectrum, consider describing your ideal customer as if they were a character in a story. Get inside their head and spend time understanding what makes them tick. Maybe you describe a day in their life or maybe you focus on how they think. One of the best examples of this customer profiling method is actually practiced by best-selling Amazon eBook author, John Locke in his new book, How I Sold 1 million eBooks in 5 Months.

Locke combines hard numbers with character traits such as "The people who love my books love everyday heroes. They root for the underdog...a surprising number are professional men and women over the age of 50." Locke gets even deeper into the lives and emotions of his audience. He's focused the bulk of his marketing efforts on catering to his targeted audience and showing them he understands who they are as people. This is a critical component of how he achieved his outrageous book sales in such a short time.

3. Create a magazine cover

If you're better with pictures than you are with words, consider creating a magazine cover featuring your target audience. Head over to the magazine rack, select the magazines that your target audience reads. Go through them and select pictures of people who look most like your audience. Then create headlines that speak to their emotional triggers and around what's important to them. (Be sure to include any statistics that you find that describe them more fully). You'll start to see a pattern in graphics, words and emotions and be able to create a sort of composite representative of your audience. This will help you visualize them and focus on delivering what matters in a way they will appreciate.

 4. Analyze past success

Craig Elias, author of Shift: Harness the Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers recommends doing a "won sales analysis." Simply go through and analyze the sales events for your favorite customers and note what it was that triggered them to choose you? What happened just before they purchased from you? What changed in their business or their life? What triggered them to start searching for the solution that you provide?

 5. Look at your financials

If you fall on the analytical side of the spectrum, take a look at your sales and profitability figures. Run a financial report that includes your most profitable customer and product combinations and see what patterns pop up for you. Focus on your most profitable customers and then analyze the details behind the sale: profile the demographics of the customer, what triggered the purchase and how your company fit into the solution. For more information on doing this well, take a look at Steve Wilkinghoff's book, Found Money, where he gives excellent how-to strategies for this kind of analysis.

6. Analyze complaints

If you've done some market research or collected customer satisfaction data, some of the pains your customers are having will be found there. Customer complaints are a terrific resource for pain points. When you think about it, a complaint actually uncovers what your customer is "committed to" or is trying to do but doesn't succeed. So if you uncover complaints about late deliveries, you have customers who are have tight time commitments and that is a powerful profiling attribute.

7. Analyze your Web traffic

You would be amazed at what you can find out about your audience from their Web searches or their behavior on your website. Google Analytics is extremely powerful, but you may have to get some professional help in understanding the data. Another tool that gives you an audience profile is Alexa.com. Simply enter your website address and then check out your audience profile.

 8. Research Facebook Ads

With several hundred million people sharing their personal information and preferences daily, Facebook is about as good and cost effective demographic and psychographic profiling that you’re going to get at any price. Simply go to the Facebook Ads section and start clicking away at the profile options. The system will tell you exactly how many users fit that profile.

If anything, I hope that you’re inspired to use all of these methods to better identify, profile and target your ideal customer better than ever before. If you’re feeling confused about which marketing strategy or tactic to take, you can be sure that the core of your confusion comes from not having a tight enough customer profile.

How did you profile and find your ideal customer? Share your secret here!