Profiling customers in an inbound world

High definition Accurate profiles ensure the campaign manager knows the correct context, the rational and emotional benefits.   -  ImageFlow/shutterstock.com

How can B2B firms define their customers better?



Customer profiles are a basic requirement for today’s B2B firms. SMEs that use digital marketing for growth are increasingly interested in getting a granular profile of their target customer. This trend is driven by the need for a cost-effective marketing campaign to generate quality leads in a competitive marketplace.

Need for definition

Most of the CEOs we interact with believe they know their customer based on data capture tools. Some have also reached out to select customers via phone or e-mail as well. Additional inputs from demos and anecdotes seem to round off their knowledge.

As a result their customer description ends up sounding like ‘CMO of a large organisation that focuses on Tier II markets’ . This sort of definition is sub-optimal in today’s digital world, where reams of data is available with some targeted effort.

From an outside perspective, it is evident that many campaigns are sub-optimal because they are targeted at an amorphous mass and not at a sharply defined customer profile.

B2B customer profiling works best when it covers elements such as educational qualifications, work experience, job description, responsibilities and type of company. If we can get a glimpse of life-stage and some personal drivers, it’s an added bonus.

For example, an IT start-up in the managed services space wanted to lower the cost of customer acquisition. A quick review indicated it referred to its customer as the ‘CTO of an IT firm which was looking for process efficiency’. Close analysis revealed the customers were founders of smaller firms in the tech space looking for a cost-effective solution. Once the firm moved away from the designation to the person, their cost of acquisition dropped significantly.

Sharper profile, right context

As any marketer will know a sharp consumer profile leads to an impactful campaign. Profiling ensures the campaign manager knows the correct creative context, rational benefits to plug and emotional pay-offs. With clear markers, creative guys are able to make campaigns that are engaging and effective at lead generation.

The marketing head of a new media company was attempting to make her offering more relevant. Several high-gloss advertorials and glitzy event sponsorship built awareness but limited sales traction. A quick review of the professional background of her target client base revealed more than half had a quantitative research background.

The firm shifted focus to a data-driven use case campaign which would appeal to people with an analytical frame of mind. They also started sharing extensive data on product usage patterns with clients. Over a period of time, they found higher traction and larger share of spends.

More relevance, more converts

When dealing with limited budgets, smaller brands need to play smart. Creating widespread awareness is great, but it is necessary to create awareness amongst people who are likely to be interested in our offering. This will lead to higher conversion.

Several firms routinely send generic emails to purchased databases. These efforts are sub-optimal as they are rarely customised and often erroneously addressed. Invariably the emails are junked with a low open rate and even lower click-through.

A thorough review, detailed scrubbing of names based on past performance and fewer, well thought out communication would be more effective than spray-and-pray methods.

New-age profiling tools

In a digital world, there is a lot of user-generated data available about prospective clients. Plus there are several tools and service providers who can help make sense of the same. While working on a brand strategy assignment, it is best to use a tool like netnography for granular user group profiling.

This digital tool is one of many that helps brands develop a sharp understanding of their customer profile-based social media generated by them.

To run a successful campaign we have identified a few B2B user group profiling markers which are likely to enhance effectiveness:

Identify business-relevant user groups: Based on data shared by prospects and clients, it helps to define useful groups such as loyal users vs aware non-triers.

Profiling of users as per ABC classification also helps determine lucrative segments. For example, Amazon uses customer data to trigger specific, targeted messages. For the customer this e-mail would likely be a list of recommended products based on a recent purchase.

Profile each user segment: Profile user segments on the basis of customer-generated social media data. Analytics help profile the groups in terms of demographics (age, professional qualifications, job description, key result areas, company profile) and psychographics (life stage, peer comments, values and beliefs) and much more.

In most cases, it is possible to throw in a collage of profile pictures and other images to help the creative team visualise what works for this group.

Autodesk is a B2B firm dealing with 3D design, engineering and entertainment. Their biggest challenge was to figure out how to get people to use their trial more, as data revealed people who used the software at least three times in the 30-day trial period, were more likely to purchase.

Influenced by this data, they decided to create missions for people to interact with the software and be rewarded with points and achievement badges. Post-gamification there was a significant increase in online trials and adoptions.

It is easy to devise targeted, effective communication. Geberit India creates visibility for itself in the competitive B2B works though a series of outreach programmes. While it works with premium architects and contractors for sanitation solutions, the company also conducts a series of plumber training programmes across the country. By up-skilling plumbers who make up the ecosystem, the firm gains the goodwill of key influencers across multiple projects.

Create targeted communication linking the brand promise to user profiles. Marketing managers need both broad-based marketing platforms for brand-building and sharper targeted communication for activation.

Once they have an overall picture of the people who are interested in their brand promise, it becomes easier to create a common platform that will appeal to all user groups. The team can also work on activation campaigns along the line of targeting loyal users, “signed up but not activated” or even ‘installed and then uninstalled’.

Rini Dutta is Co-founder & Principal of Centric Brand Advisors

Published on July 28, 2016
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