Optimizing Your Initiatives Means Knowing Your Customer Inside and Out

Want better results? Create better customer profiles.

One of the most critical questions any organization focuses on is “Who is my target audience?” But one thing I’ve noticed is many business leaders don’t get down to the specifics in answering the question to create effective customer profiles. Data collected by most organizations reflect a partial view of the target audience limiting their ability truly optimize marketing and product development efforts.

Here’s the type of information that commonly exists in B2C and B2B organizations.

B2C – general demographics

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Affinity/general interests
  • Needs/problems (limited definition)

B2B – More geographic/demographic

  • Vertical
  • Revenue Size
  • Industry
  • Title
  • Role
  • Needs/problems (limited definition)

Yes, this data is valuable, but what’s fundamentally missing from customer profiles is more in-depth knowledge and insight around theirs needs, challenges, motivations and behavior. To craft the right message, develop the right product, or deliver whatever your intended business objective and subsequent goals may be, you need to include psychographic and behavioral data.

The two rationales I hear the most for not collecting this data are: 1.) “We don’t have the budget to do in depth research to learn about it” and 2.) “We don’t know how to get it.” With the countless free/cheap tools available today that make collecting information effortless, there really is no reason to not take your customer research to a more granular level.

What are the “right” questions to ask?

To collect information about your intended customers’ attitudes, motivations as well as behaviors, research questions can be organized into the “5 W’s and an H.”

  1. Who? Questions that help you to determine prospective audience(s) for your product/service. The data sets up your baseline recruiting criteria.
  2. What? Questions that clarify what people might be doing and what they are using (e.g. website, application or product)
  3. When? Questions that help you to determine the points in time when people might use particular products/services or technologies, as well as daily routines and rhythms of behavior that might need to be explored.
  4. Where? Questions that help you to determine contexts of use — physical locations where people perform certain tasks or use key technologies — as well as potential destinations on the Internet or devices that a user might want to access.
  5. Why? Questions that help you to explain the underlying emotional and rational drivers of what a person is doing, and the root reasons for that behavior.
  6. How? Questions that help to provide detail on what explicit actions or steps people take in order to perform tasks or reach their goals.

How do you get that information?

Gathering deeper insight doesn’t necessarily require a big quantitative study or a huge budget. You can find a lot of valuable data by searching the web alone, or tapping into an existing pool of resources.

  1. Qualitative:  Start small by gaining insights initially from those you who fall into your “target” customer segments and then expand from there. Send an email to a sampling of customers to recruit volunteers to participate in a short survey or interview.

  2. Quantitative: Cull through your existing customer data with a different lens. Instead of indiscriminately searching for trends in the data, first develop hypotheses for the questions above and look for information that can support or null your claim.

    There are also plenty of cheap ways to collect new data. Launch a series of small digital campaigns in which you A/B test messaging, imagery, product names, etc. to understand what stimuli your prospects respond to. You can use Facebook Audience Insights to look at information about existing or potential customers’ interests and online behaviors. Use Google Trends to understand what keywords people search for related to your product or service and how those terms have changed over time. Even a quick Google search for “free market research tools” will provide you with hundreds of platforms to collect information depending on your company’s needs. You just need to know to look for it.

What’s critically important is just having a strong foundation first and then testing and learning along the way. Whether your team is one person or 100, standardizing the questions that are asked can lead to a better understanding of the audience across the board. And a universal understanding of the customer between marketing, sales, product development, and executives is critical to delivering the right products, services and messages at the right time and moving your business forward.