What is a customer profile? A complete guide (+ examples)
Leverage data to build rich customer profiles so you can provide more relevant, personalized experiences.
Published June 1, 2021
Last updated February 16, 2022
Customers want to feel seen and understood by the brands they know and love. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, 68 percent of customers expect all experiences to be personalized. One way businesses can meet expectations and deliver personalized interactions? Create a comprehensive customer profile for their target audience.
The most successful profiles contain more than just basic details, such as the customer’s name and contact information. They’re based on a wide range of data that showcase all the ways in which your target audience interacts with your brand.
To build a data-rich customer profile, you need tools in place to track customer information and data. We’ve got you covered with our guide on how to develop customer profiles so you can start providing hyper-personalized experiences for your buyers.
What is a customer profile?
A customer profile is a document or platform that contains key information about your ideal customers and their interactions with your business. It covers customer pain points, interests, buying patterns, demographic data, and more. These details can help your company understand how consumers engage with your brand and products, so you’re able to customize campaigns and provide personalized support.
Customer profiling is the process by which companies create customer profiles. The goal is to identify, describe, and segment customers based on numerous characteristics and variables.
B2B vs. B2C customer profiles
The data you collect for customer profiles will vary depending on whether you’re a B2B or B2C company.
A customer profile in a B2B context maps out the typical client company. It includes information like the company’s size, industry, location, revenue, and target audience. The profile may also cover the decision-makers at the client company.
A customer profile in a B2C context focuses on individual customers and features demographic data like age, gender, and lifestyle preferences.
“For B2B [customer profiles], you might be looking at the key contacts within that business, who you’re building relationships with, when their upcoming renewals are, and what their main issues are—and keeping track of those,” says Amy Lin, a product expert at Zendesk.
Customer profiling in marketing, sales, and support
Just like B2B and B2C organizations use customer profiles differently, your company’s various departments will also use them for distinct purposes.
Marketing teams can use a consumer profile to tailor their outreach or change their messaging. For example, if your marketing team knows which products your customer has already returned, they probably won’t send more information about those specific items. Similarly, a profile may tell your marketing team if a target customer opened an email about a particular product dozens of times. If they clicked on links and never made a purchase, it’s probably a sign the customer wants more information about similar items.
Sales teams can use profiles to determine how to approach a customer. The information in the profile may help a sales rep get a clear picture of whether a client might be open to an upgrade or whether they’re an unlikely candidate for an upsell. Customer profiles can also enable sales reps to find better prospects and close more deals.
Support teams can use buyer profiles to provide personalized customer service. Whenever a consumer reaches out for help, their details should be recorded so there’s an interaction history. This gives agents valuable information that they can leverage in the future. When agents have context on who they’re serving and what their experience has been so far with the company, they can cater to individual customers. For instance, if your agents can see exactly which solutions a customer has already tried, it will improve the quality of support they provide.
Everyone at the company is responsible for creating a positive brand experience, so a data-rich customer profile can make life easier for every department.
Customer profiling benefits
Personalization matters to consumers. Research shows that 43 percent of buyers want online ads to be personalized based on their interests, behaviors, and geography. And 29 percent are more likely to buy something from a personalized ad.
With customer profiling, you’ll have the data you need to offer the tailored experiences consumers want. From profiles, you can see what motivates buyers to make a purchase and what deters them from doing so. You can also gain insights into what customers value most when interacting with brands. This enables you to:
Create targeted content
When you know who your ideal buyers are, you can customize your content accordingly. Say you own a shoe store, and your target customers are millennials who enjoy an active lifestyle. In your next email newsletter, you can promote running shoes that are on sale or list your most popular hiking boots.
Provide superior customer service
With access to customer data, your team will know each buyer’s preferences, interaction history, purchases, and returns. This allows your support agents to answer questions and resolve issues quickly, making for a positive customer experience.
Drive customer loyalty
Offering personalized experiences is one of the best ways to build trust and foster loyalty. When customers feel like a brand understands them, they’re more likely to stick around. Leverage the data you have to engage with your customers on a personal level and form a connection with them.
By knowing exactly who to target, your sales team can identify high-quality leads more easily and customize their approach. As a result, they may close more deals.
If you create a strong customer profile, you’ll be able to attract and gain customers who actually want and need your product or service. This can help keep customer churn at bay.
With customer profiling, companies are set to offer the personalized experiences their audience desires by contextualizing customer data and acting on the insights gained from it.
Common types of customer profiling (+ a customer profile example)
Customer data privacy should be top-of-mind for all companies building customer profiles. In a recent survey by The Conference Board, over 20 percent of respondents said they reduced or abandoned their use of a brand or company due to data privacy concerns. So, be transparent about what data you gather and how you plan to use it and store it. Always allow your customers to decide whether or not they want to share their information.
Collecting—and protecting—consumer data is just one aspect of creating customer profiles. You also have to decide which type of profile you want to create.
This customer profile type describes the consumer’s qualities and traits. It covers:
- Demographics: age, location, gender, marital status, ethnicity, income, Internet access, job title, homeownership, education level
- Lifestyle: hobbies, activities, interests, values, attitudes, opinions, and talking points (politics, religion, human rights, etc.)
This customer profile focuses on what drives the consumer to interact with you. It defines the customer by their motivation type:
- Need-based: customers who buy only what they need
- Deal-based: customers who look for discounts and care most about price points
- Impulsive: emotionally-driven customers who spend based on feelings and impulses
- Loyal: customers who consistently buy from you and promote you to people in their network
Loyal customer profiles commonly identify these brand characteristics as being important:
- Convenience: You make it fast and easy for buyers to do business with you.
- Personalization: You’re able to appeal to them on a personal level. They recognize that the experience you offer is tailored to their specific wants and needs.
- Belonging: They feel like they’re a part of a community. They connect with other customers, pay close attention to reviews, and regularly interact with you.
Customer profile example
To get a sense of what a customer profile template might look like, here’s an example of a customer profile for a company that sells search engine optimization (SEO) software.
Anne – Marketing Manager
Key demographic information: 43 years old, female, married, mother of two, lives in San Francisco, MBA in communications & PR, currently in middle management and eyeing an executive position
Job: Coordinates marketing team members, spearheads the implementation of marketing strategy, reports to VP of Marketing
Internal influences: VP of Marketing, SEO specialist, CFO
Attitudes: Leadership, tech-savviness, tech evangelism
Typology: Need-based and deal-based. Looking for the best tool that fits her team’s budget.
Pain points: Uses many SEO tools. Looking for one holistic solution to cover all bases (analysis, reporting, etc.), but her budget is low ($100 per month)
Fears: Making a bad purchase decision, tarnishing the team’s reputation
Information sources: Google, LinkedIn, Twitter
Preferred methods of engagement: White papers, live demos
Starting as a buyer persona, the customer profile continues to expand throughout the customer journey as you learn more about them. Each interaction between you and the customer is an opportunity to build a richer and more specific profile. The key to creating a detailed customer profile is having the right tools and knowing what data you need.
10 tools you can use to collect customer profile data
Consumers give companies their data in dozens of ways every day. Potential customers can browse your website, engage with your brand over social media, call customer service, and so on. Each interaction gives you the chance to capture customer details. But that information is only useful if you have access to it, and ideally, you have access to all of it in one place.
Collecting customer data through the following tools will help you develop a single view of your customer that will inform the work you do with them.
Lead capture forms and surveys collect the data that make up the building blocks of your ideal customer profile. They can also give insights into customer loyalty and engagement.
1. Lead capture forms: Embed a sign-up form into your website and ask site visitors to fill it out with their contact information. In exchange, they’ll get access to something, such as a special discount code or a white paper. You’ll learn which products or subjects each visitor is interested in while also gathering basic information about them.
2. Surveys: Send surveys to customers who’ve used your product or service (and/or interacted with your support team) to understand what they like and dislike about your offerings. You can use that valuable customer feedback to make improvements and build stronger relationships with your audience.
Information collected from communication platforms can show you exactly how consumers are interacting with your brand.
3. Email marketing platforms: Capture data directly from your customer email interactions to inform your targeted marketing. For example, if a client clicks on an email about a specific product they haven’t purchased yet, it might be a sign that it’s time for an upsell. Email marketing platforms can also integrate with your CRM software to give you an overall picture of a customer’s engagement level with your brand.
4. Social media: Are your clients following your social media channels? If not, then it’s time to think about how to attract their attention. Have they liked a lot of your Facebook posts or shared them with their friends? Do they regularly respond to your tweets? If so, you know they’re loyal fans. All this information can be merged into a CRM for your marketing team to use.
5. Conversational data: Conversational data can provide information about what your customers want and what they like or dislike. Live chat and messaging apps or voice assistants can be used to engage with customers and further improve their experience.
Web analytics illustrate how your customers engage with your business online.
6. Google Analytics: This tool provides deep insights into customer interactions on your website, so you can identify what’s working and what’s not. You can see the most popular pages, learn about your audience’s interests, and get a sense of how visitors engage with your site.
7. Customer accounts: A customer’s registered account on your website or company platform offers basic information (such as name, email, or preferred method of communication). If a customer is logged in to their account while they’re browsing your website, you’ll be able to see how they interact with each of your products.
Core business tools
Use these tools to facilitate interactions with customers, learn about their purchases, and gather and house consumer details.
8. Ecommerce platforms: Tools like Shopify collect information about how a customer makes purchase decisions. They also obtain key data like what your customer purchased, how much money they spent, and how frequently they place orders.
9. Billing systems: Your company’s billing system gives you visibility into a customer’s spending habits and patterns.
10. CX platforms: Open, flexible platforms allow you to integrate all your data from different sources into your CRM, giving you a complete picture of the customer. When you have the information you need in one place, you’ll have a better idea of how you can build a great customer experience.
Even if you use these types of tools, you don’t necessarily need to integrate every data point into a CRM at once. You can choose what to include based on your company’s objectives.
Regardless of what information you obtain, the centralization of data will help your team provide a consistent customer experience.
What data is necessary for creating a customer profile?
You now know why a customer profile is important and what tools you might use to collect the information to build it. But exactly which data points should you be tracking?
Consider the following types of data to identify the information you’re already tracking and what you want to start monitoring to understand your customers better. For each data point, we’ve mentioned which tool to use to gather the information.
You wouldn’t market to a 20-year-old social media manager in New York City the same way you would to a 45-year-old banker in Tokyo. Instead, use demographic data to tailor your messaging so it’s relevant for each customer.
Geographic data: Use lead generation forms to collect a customer’s location information. You’ll want to know what city, state, and/or country they live in.
Age: Learn a customer’s age from their account on your website, from surveys, or from feedback forms you might ask them to fill out.
Income: Get this information from surveys and other forms. Then, you can strategically promote high-end products to customers with higher incomes and more affordable options to lower-income customers.
Hobbies: Ask customers about their hobbies through surveys, forms, and social media. Or, learn about their interests through web analytics.
Customer sales data
Sales data provides a peek into a customer’s past purchasing behavior so sales team members know how to approach them with recommendations.
Loyalty status: Every company will have its own way of scoring a customer’s level of loyalty based on the ways the customer interacts with the brand.
Service-level agreement (SLA) terms and conditions: Your team can use SLAs to deepen their knowledge about what a customer expects from your company’s services. This information can be found in the contract and can be stored in a CRM.
Buying patterns: Knowing what a consumer bought—and when—is essential information for addressing their problems. This data can be gathered in online customer accounts and then integrated into a centralized platform.
Warranty info: This will tell you how long ago a customer made a purchase, so you’ll know when to follow up on renewals. The warranty information is included in a customer’s account or contract.
Customer support data
This data provides valuable insights into what a customer needs from your business and when. With this information, your support team can personalize their interactions with individual customers instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach.
Conversational data: Form a detailed record of why consumers contact your support team and how your team assists them. Your CRM should also track past support tickets for every customer.
Returned items: Use this information to ensure your marketing team doesn’t try to sell the customer those products again. Your support team will also understand what didn’t work for the customer previously. The data will be stored on your ecommerce platform.
Customer lifetime value: This helps teams recognize whether they’re dealing with a VIP or a first-tier customer so they can treat them accordingly. There are numerous ways to calculate customer lifetime value based on previous sales and purchases.
Customer satisfaction (CSAT) score: When sent out after a support interaction, a CSAT survey indicates whether or not the customer’s needs and expectations were met. Again, different companies can come up with their own ways to measure customer satisfaction, but it will help to have all your information in one place.
Every phase of the customer journey produces data that can be used to create customer profiles. For companies, it’s critical to know what data is most relevant and to have the right tools to obtain, analyze, and act on that data.
Use your customer profile data to personalize experiences
Building data-rich profiles will help you improve your marketing, sales, and support by anticipating what customers need. When you have all that data, you can start making predictions about how to approach things next.
A comprehensive profile helps you know who your customers are and what they want before they’ve even asked a question. Your customers will likely be more loyal to your brand because they know you can solve their problems and provide positive experiences.