Why read this? : We share how to create and use customer segment profiles to define and describe your target audience. Learn how and where to use these profiles to make your marketing story more relevant. Read this for ideas on how to make the customer the hero of your brand’s story.
One of the biggest decisions in brand strategy is which customers to target. This targeting decision shapes your brand’s identity. Your brand has to appeal to that customer type. That then drives your marketing plan, and brand activation.
The clearer your target, the more focussed and relevant your marketing activity.
Customers are more likely to choose brands which “appeal to people like me” over brands which “appeal to most people”.
Different customers have different needs. You need to choose which customers and which needs your brand will focus on.
Appealing to every customer isn’t practical. And it rarely works, unless you already have high awareness and a broad range.
But most brands have low awareness, and a narrow range of products.
Appealing to specific groups customers uses resources more effectively. There’s less wasted effort and more brand choice.
The targeting decision is part of the segmentation, targeting and positioning process you go through before you create your brand strategy.
Segmentation, targeting and positioning - the short version
This process helps you clarify who you’ll go after, and how you’ll do it.
First, you go from looking at “all customers” to identifying specific segments of customers. Then you analyse the segments to work out which is the most attractive. Then, you define your brand positioning to go after the most attractive segments.
You start with the total market of customers (also known as the ‘universe’). That’s everyone who could buy your product.
Segmentation is when you break this down into smaller segments.
These segments share common buying characteristics like demographics, occasions (where and when they buy), and needs and wants.
Targeting then evaluates each of these segments against a set of attractiveness criteria. For example :-
- How many customers in the segment?
- How much do they spend?
- What’s their frequency of purchase?
- Are there many competitors who go after that segment?
- Is there a competitor who already dominates that segment?
You use these criteria to give each segment a score. The higher the score in your attractiveness model, the more potential it has.
Once you identify your target audience, you next define how you’ll compete in that segment. You do this with a positioning map and a positioning statement. (see an example in our e-Commerce positioning article).
The statement defines your target audience, the category (also called the frame of reference), your key benefit, and your justification for that benefit (also called the reason why and reason to believe).
See our segmentation, targeting and positioning guide for the full process in detail. This article focusses on one specific part of the process – the customer segment profile.
Customer Segment Profiles - what are they?
The Customer Segment Profile is a single page summary which collates relevant information about your target customer. It should include demographic, occasion and needs-based customer facts you’ve found via market research.
It plays 3 key roles in brand strategy.
First, the customer segment profile forces you to spend time on customer understanding.
This is marketing time well spent.
To complete a profile, you need to do market research to collect facts about customers.
This is a good thing.
You also have to show empathy for the customer. You need to imagine life from their point of view and get into their heads. The profile forces you to describe what the customer thinks, feels and does.
These are also all good things.
Second, the customer segment profile creates a single definitive view of the customer. This means everyone who works on the brand has a common understanding of customers, and what they need.
You should share the profile with marketing agencies and across your marketing, sales and customer service teams. This helps build consistency and sets up common goals for your marketing activities.
Agency creative teams should use the profile to create more relevant advertising. Media agencies should use it to find the most relevant media channels.
Finally, the customer segment profile also helps you evaluate your marketing activities. You refer to it to check customer needs are being met when you review marketing plans and agency proposals.
Plans and proposals which don’t meet target customer needs won’t work. You need to re-do them, or find new customer segment profiles for those activities.
Customer Segment Profiles - How do you do them?
Because customer segment profiles are usually a single page, you have to be concise and decisive. But still make it inspiring. It’s a challenge to balance these different factors.
You start with a blank customer template, similar to the one from the customer experience process.
From there, there’s many ways to build out the profile. What you include depends on your market research, and your brand and category context.
So review all your marketing data. Look at what you already know about customers.
Then look at what you don’t know. Decide if you need more research. Filling in customer segment profiles often identifies research questions to go into your market research process. It usually needs specific segmentation research.
The main purpose of the profile is to bring the segment to life. You do that by personifying the segment. You describe a customer who represents the overall segment. It’s easier to visualise a single person than to visualise a group.
Include relevant facts about the whole group by all means – how many customers, and how much they spend, for example. But help people recognise the type of person the customer is. Help them understand their character. Be concise and specific.
There’s a great advertising copywriting rule, that copy sounds better if it feels like it’s talking to one specific person (the customer). Even if it’s really talking to a broader group.
You want customers to feel like you’re talking directly to them, so make sure your profile describes the customer as if they were a real person.
Customer Segment Profiles - Use images
Relevant images of customers (real or proxy) can also be a great way to bring the profile to life.
People find it easier to visualise customers when they can see their faces. This image doesn’t have to be an actual customer. You can look through online stock images or people images in magazines.
It’s more important you can point to the image, and say “that’s what the target customer looks like”.
If they’re happy, show them smiling. If they’re angry, show them screaming.
You can also include other relevant images if you have space. For example, other brands or products they might like or use. If you’ve done qualitative research, you might have images of actual customers from that research. Use them in the profile.
For example, we’ve seen food brands use images of people eating, cooking or even storing the product to bring the profile to life. What people keep in their fridges and pantries reveals a lot about them.
Look for the images which most bring your profile to life.
Customer Segment Profile - Give them a name
It also helps to give the segment a name. Something creative beyond a basic Segment A, Segment B etc.
Naming the segment gives them more of an identity. It makes the segment feel more like a real person. Ideally, the name should also help articulate what they want or need, or how they do things.
Sometimes, a segment name jumps out from the market research. Other times you may need to fill in some or all of the profile first, before you find a name.
Try to be creative and have fun with it. The name needs to sum up the segment, but also be memorable and distinctive. It’s common to use alliteration in the name like Cheerful Charlie or Luxury Loving Louise. We’ll share more examples later.
Customer Segment Profiles - Who they are; what they think, feel and do and why
What goes into customer segment profiles differs between brands and categories. But, broadly, we’d expect to see a mix of demographic, behavioural and attitudinal information.
Demographic information covers factors like age, gender, household income, family status and, if relevant, information about their living and working arrangements.
Not all these factors will be relevant to the buying decision. You don’t need to include them all. But try to include enough to help the reader visualise the target customer.
For example, in the alcohol category, age and gender influence what people drink. Think about what, why and how women in their 20s drink, for example, compared to say men over 50.
Occasion-based information includes when and how often customers buy. For example, the time of day or day of the week for regular purchases, (like food items). Or time of year for more infrequent purchases (like insurance and holidays).
It can also include where they make decisions. In alcohol, for example, what people drink at home is often different to what they drink in a bar, or at a restaurant.
Finally, customer segment profiles should also include some attitudinal information. What do they think of products in your category? What motivates, or inspires them at a broader level? Which needs and wants are most relevant to the purchase decision?
You should also include any other information which brings the customer to life. Be specific and creative.
For example, information on their media behaviour. Say, which channels and shows they watch. Action movie fans will be different from those who like documentaries. What about what they do in their spare time, such as hobbies and pastimes? People who play rugby will be different from people who play chess. What people do gives you an idea of who they are.
Customer Segment Profiles - What does it need to do?
As you fill in the customer segment profile, keep in mind how it’ll be used, and who’ll use it.
Remember, the profile is there to make you think about the customer. It builds a single view of the customer. And you use it to to validate your marketing plan and activities.
The profile needs to be a clearly written summary to do these jobs. To write the customer segment profile, you need strong writing skills and know how to tell a good story. The profile is basically the story of the customer on a page.
Create the hero of your brand’s story
Our brand storytelling guide shares that every brand’s story should have the customer as the hero / heroine. The hero (customer) always faces a problem or unexpected change. That’s where your brand steps in. This is how storytelling adds value to your marketing.
Think about the story of the customer segment profile as if you were creating a hero character for a movie or book. Except the movie or book is actually your brand’s story.
In fact, it’s worth looking at how movies and books create great characters. These professional storytellers create characters for a living. You can get inspired by what they do to create great customer profiles.
These are fictional characters, but the creators make them feel real. They give them depth of character. You can learn from how they do that.
Think about particularly memorable and relatable characters from movies and books. Which ones stand out for you? Can you use them as inspiration to tell the story of your customers?
To prompt your thinking, let’s have a look at some examples. These are customer segment profiles inspired by fictional characters. They’re a mash-up of actual customer segments, with a Hollywood inspired spin to add more colour to the descriptions.
Segment profile example 1 - Lonesome Lukas
Our first segment profile is for an adventure holiday business. You know the type of thing. Wild water rafting. Bungee jumping. Generally going places sensible people don’t.
But lots of businesses offer that.
So, let’s say we’ve developed a unique position where the holiday’s also linked to a higher purpose.
Each holiday also involves getting involved in some sort of charity work. Adopting aardvarks in Angola. Building beach houses in Bali. Constructing communes in Cuba.
You know the sort of thing.
We’re looking at a target audience which likes adventure, but also wants to serve a higher purpose. Let’s call this customer segment profile Lonesome Lukas.
He’s a young man, bored with his current life. Life’s passing him by. He feels the need for adventure. He’s looking for excitement.
He also has a strong sense of duty to do the right things by the people he cares about.
He’s skilled with machinery and equipment, and loves anything that goes fast. Though he has some family issues, the opportunity to form new alliances and reach for the stars appeals to him.
There’s a lot a copywriter could do with this character / customer description. For example, you’d really focus on key emotional elements like “seeking adventure”, “doing the right thing” and “reaching for the stars”.
Our mix of adventure holiday and charity work would be a great fit for Lonesome Lukas. In fact, it wouldn’t be hard to force our communications on this target customer.
Segment profile example 2 - Defender Dionne
Different category and business now. Let’s imagine we run a new perfume brand, which is positioned to bring out women’s inner strength.
(we know that may sound far fetched to some, but just go with it. It’s the sort of thing many perfume brands talk about).
Defender Dionne epitomises the empowered and strong woman.
She has a strong sense of right and wrong. She steps in and protects those who can’t defend themselves.
Dionne’s a selfless defender of good causes, women’s rights and truthfulness.
Her interest in Greek mythology, antiquities and role as a museum curator give her a unique insight into the world around her.
Clearly, she’s a good target audience for our perfume brand.
(Alternatively, if we were being less tongue in cheek, she’s a good target for our feminist political movement. But perfume brands always seem keen to jump on any female empowerment bandwagon going, so let’s stick with that).
From her lifestyle choices, clearly fashion and exercise are big parts of her life. There’s obvious ideas for creative messages, which our brand could use in its advertising, media and public relations activity.
There’s an opportunity to appeal to her need to make people feel safe and protected. Our marketing could aim to help with her obvious pain points of ahem, evil, criminal, sexist bullies.
Maybe we could turn our perfume bottle into some sort of jewellery which could also be used as a weapon, for example?
Like some bracelets. Or a tiara.
Of course, we’ve got to make this segment feel more approachable. Not everyone’s a super hero after all. That’s why our segment profile includes more fun stuff like running an Etsy store, and her like of cosplay.
With this profile, you’ve a clearer picture of this woman, and no longer have to wonder what she’s like.
Segment profile example 3 - Jaded Julian
Final category and customer segment profile. For this one, let’s jump into the enthralling, hectic and all-action world of financial services.
Jaded Julian is at a crossroads in his life. His mid 40s are proving tough.
He’s a master at his job. But it just doesn’t fulfil him the way it used to. In fact, he epitomises the guy going through a mid-life crisis.
He’s wondering what’s left for the rest of this life. He doesn’t want to end up like some cliched character out of a pulp fiction book.
Clearly, now’s the time to sell him on our life insurance and retirement plan offers.
(Though dry cleaning and car valet services would also be relevant categories).
Julian knows how to tackle awkward situations. To some people, he seems intense and has anger management issues. But, really, underneath he’s a caring and philosophical kind of a guy.
Like most people, he has weird quirks. He likes eating burgers for breakfast, and drinking other people’s tasty beverages, for example.
He has a low tolerance for people who don’t get what he says. The customer experience on our insurance forms, for example, would ideally have short questions. It wouldn’t ask him to repeat information. That would make Julian angry. You don’t want to see that.
Julian’s also hates people who take things which don’t belong to them. But he also realises life is tough. There’s plenty of unfortunate bumps in the road. Life can get messy.
Though his attitude, and his wallet might suggest he’s a bad mother f*cker, he’s really a spiritual guy. He’d swear on the bible, his goal in life is to be a shepherd to help others along the path.
And he’ll strike down with great vengeance and furious anger anyone who gets in the way of that.
Customer segment profiles - Conclusion
Customer segment profiles are a key part of the segmentation, targeting and positioning process. They help you describe your ideal target audience.
These profiles force you to collate facts, ideas and thoughts about your target. From these, you craft a clear summary so there’s a consistent, collective view of your ideal customer.
That reduces arguments and differences of opinion. You use the profile to check your marketing activities are relevant for the customer.
Customer segment profiles are a mix of images, a meaningful and relevant segment name, and key demographic, occasion-based and attitudinal facts and statements which bring the segment to life.
Think of customer segment profiles as describing the hero from the movie or book of your brand. The most compelling heroes have depth of character. They feel like real people, with all the good and bad stuff real people come with.
Check out our segmentation, targeting and positioning guide for more on customer segment profiles. Or, see our storytelling guide for more tips on how to bring your customer hero to life. And of course, get in touch if you need help with either segmentation or brand storytelling.
Woman peeking out from bush : Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Coffee cups : Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Angry Man : Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash
Superman hero figure : Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash
Pie segmentation : Photo by Dilyara Garifullina on Unsplash