What Is Audience Profiling and How Can It Benefit Your Business?

When launching a new or existing product/service into the market, you need to know exactly who your potential customers are. Promoting and marketing to everyone will be an ineffective use of time and resources, instead, get the most out of your marketing by focusing on one or few ‘audience profiles’.

An audience profile is made up of a list of characteristics that differentiates your prospects from other profiles – this could be age, gender, location etc. Audience profiles can also be segmented into groups with similar behaviours, enabling you to tailor your marketing activities to reach the audience that is going to deliver biggest return on investment (ROI).

A strong and well though-out audience profile can help you build up a relationship between you and your prospects, in turn gaining sales and returning customers through brand loyalty.

Once you have defined your target audience successfully, you are able to monitor their buying behaviour. You can then target each segment/audience differently with the best messaging for each persona, giving you a stronger chance of a good ROI.

When you fully understand who your audience is specifically, the world is your oyster:

  • You can look to solve your audience’s problems.
  • Build up a relationship with your audience and develop brand loyalty.
  • Understand their problems and tailor your marketing to what they want and need.
  • Grow your brand with customer testimonials and a reputation that sells itself.

Why Do We Profile?

When time and money is involved, you really don’t want your marketing to be a stab in the dark or a matter of trial and error. There are many reasons for why we create audience profiles, here are a few:

Audience profiling is good for ROI. However much time and money you put into your marketing, you will be rewarded highly.
Keep up with your competitors. As technologies become increasingly more intelligent, your marketing opportunities will expand. The digital world is ever-evolving so staying on top of your game and ahead of your competitors is important – you need to be seen as a leader in your industry and your marketing.
Customers are always expecting more from brands. If you can understand who your customers are, you’ll have the answers to their queries and problems.
Thorough audience profiling is reliable: Profiling is a reliable method of gathering insights for brands to define profile groups.
Allows you to create 3D insights: Strong audience profiling will allow you to understand the attitudes, desires and behaviours of your audiences.
Improve your customers: As people are becoming lazier, marketers can’t afford to be. You now have to work harder to getthe attention from your customers, it’s in their heads.

4 Key Steps of Audience Profiling

No matter how simple or how complex you need your audience profile to be, there are four sections to break it down into to help identify your overall audience profile more easily.

  1. Segmentation – Divide a market of potential customers into groups based on characteristics.
  2. Message – What are you trying to tell your audience? Is the message different for different audience profiles?
  3. Engagement – Figure out where, when and how to reach your audience, so that you can contact them using their preferred contact channel.
  4. Measurement – Optimise your marketing for next time, what you can change to better reflect your audience. This is quantifiable data that allows you to identify the positive and negative, so you can continue to strengthen your marketing activities.

Customer Specifics

A key aspect to audience profiling is demographics. These can be split into two different levels:

  • Valuable: age, gender, race, location – this is just the basic level.
  • In depth: education, lifestyle, interests, income, cars they drive, employment status, home ownership, marital status, if they have children etc. – from these you can work out their previous and predicted buying behaviours.

These different demographics and characteristics allow you to have an understanding of what may influence your audience to buy your product/service and when they are most likely to engage with you. This understanding enables you to target your audience accordingly, in terms of when and where to market to them.

Considerations When Audience Profiling

Although there are many reasons for audience profiling, it is important to look at the potential drawbacks that creating the profiles could have.

  • Stereotypes are said to be outdated, people rarely conform to these.
  • Your audience is not always the perceived audience – if anyone can buy your product, it is likely to be relevant to more than one group, so therefore significant customers could fall through the cracks if you don’t create multiple profiles. (Although, ideally, a large amount of your customers will fit the profile.)
  • If you’re a smaller company, it could be expensive to drive results, as you’ll need more data from a larger market than just your customer data in order to get an accurate representation of the market.
  • Audience profiling can be very time consuming, depending of the nature of your marketing activities, business and products/services, you may think that your time is more valuable somewhere else.
  • Some may see ethical issues with audience profiling, as it could been seen as exploiting customer data in order to only target certain people based on incomes or other demographics. However, providing your data subjects have given clear, unambiguous consent and you have been transparent about your data processing activities, your audience profiling activities will be GDPR compliant.
  • Commonly, cookies are used to track users online, however, often many different users make use of single device. This means data and predicted behaviours might not always be accurate.
  • You have to ensure you know what competition is in each specific audience segment, as this could lead to higher costs and less profit for your business.
  • Issues could arise if you are launching a new product, especially if there is no provided research/data to base the segmentation on. Although, you might have data from similar products, they aren’t the exact concept. Despite this, in time you can revaluate your audience profiling with more of your own more accurate data once the product is launched and you have built up a customer base.

There are, however, many ways to overcome these issues:

  • By using your existing customer data, you can build accurate profiles based more on facts.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) uses algorithms to optimise impressions on ads. From this, it provides analysis and decides which advert the user is most likely to engage with. This software not only can tell you what type of ad your audience will engage with, but also at what time they are most likely to engage.
  • Listen more than you speak. If you listen to what your audience is already telling you, you can find out their problem and empathise with them on an emotional level – rather than guess or speculate.
  • Align your brand to meet your customer’s needs, speak their language and be relatable.
  • You cannot create a need for your product, it might be simply because your product is not marketable. No matter how extensive your research is and how good you are at marketing, your product could be letting you down.

GDPR and Audience Profiling

Ultimately, profiling is allowed under GDPR, you just have to ensure you are transparent about your activity so customers are informed. If people aren’t given the opportunity to inform themselves that you are using their data for profiling, then you are breaching the new data protection regulations.  You must ensure you are always aware of the legal basis for the data you hold, and remember, people always have the right to object or withdraw from your profiling activities.

Profiling shouldn’t be too much of a worry for most businesses, as most data collected by audience surveys is not classed as ‘personal information’. However, treat all data with extra care just to be safe!

The new GDPR laws give people the ‘right to be forgotten’, if an individual requests this then their data has to be destroyed and subject access requests make data available for access by that individual. As long as you comply, there is nothing to worry about when GDPR is concerned. Only focus on the data you need and avoid holding any unnecessary data.