How Customer Profiling is Becoming More Granular

by Shantal Erlich
Blog Post

You’ve probably heard of customer profiling, perhaps you already use it in your own business.

Buyer personas, customer profiles, or whatever your preferred term is are excellent tools for narrowing down who you want to be marketing your product or service to and what you need to do to get their attention.

Within SaaS these days, there is a growing trend for getting more granular with customer profiling. This means going deeper, getting more specific about those profiles and developing extremely honed messaging.

Let’s take a closer look:

SaaS going “Amazon”

It’s probably one of the most frequently raised examples of astute customer profiling, but Amazon has been developing and honing their precision customer targeting for years. There is one thing that Amazon has access to a lot of and they make the most of it – customer data.

Almost every element you see from Amazon is highly personalized, based on customer behavior. They deliver relevant, engaging messaging through every channel. If you look at your own home page on Amazon.com, you have targeted upsell products, a tab for [Your Name’s] Amazon, Your Lists, Your Prime and quick access to your recent orders. Your email inbox will feature personalized offers from Amazon and suggestions for Prime shows or movies to watch based on your viewing history.

Have you noticed that, the longer you have an account with Amazon the better and more relevant those targeted offers, upsells and suggestions become? Amazon makes an effort to get to know each customer very well, utilizing their vast resources to make maximum use of the data they gather.

It’s a strategy that SaaS can follow, even though you may not have resources of the size and extent of Amazon. Customer profiling is at the heart of Amazon’s strategy from the first day that you sign up. Their messaging always seems to be personalized to the customer and they automate at scale, unlike any other company. A big part of this success is their progressive profiling, which is where SaaS can emulate them and start to get more granular.

A move to progressive profiling

How does Amazon know so much about their customers? They gather information incrementally, which is the basis of progressive profiling. As a SaaS, this is something that you can set up no matter what the size of your resources. It involves gradually gathering data on demographics and customer preferences, using a longer period of time and as many customer touchpoints as you can.

While most SaaS will start out with some kind of customer profiling to kickoff their marketing, it’s important that those customer profiles don’t become set in stone. Everyone starts out with very few customer interactions, so you do the best you can to make educated assumptions about who your customers are. However, as you progress, every new customer interaction has the potential to deliver new insights. As Salesforce puts it:

“The main goal of progressive profiling is to add information to customer profiles over time — without overwhelming them and turning them away.”

Obviously, Amazon has many possible touchpoints for each customer, allowing them to gather progressive data automatically. As a SaaS, you usually have fewer touchpoints, so the key is to make the most of them. How can SaaS perfect progressive profiling? Here are a few points:

  • Prioritize what information is most important for you to gather and when. For example, one way of gathering information is on your signup forms, but we know from studies (including this ConversionXL piece), that reducing the number of form fields you require has a correlation with more signups. This means figuring out the most relevant things that you need to ask first, perhaps by collaborating between sales, marketing and customer service.
  • Find ways other than forms to gather data and use them incrementally at opportune moments. For example, as Salesforce suggests, you could include a multiple choice yes/no answer question in your emails to customers, allowing you to gather more insights about preferences over time. This could allow you to gradually build more in-depth customer segments as well, for further honed targeting later on.
  • Monitor your results from attempts at progressive profiling. If you’re finding that you experience noticeable drop-offs after certain activities or stages, perhaps you’re asking for something that people are either unwilling or not ready to provide.

Particularly in the early stages of the customer journey with your SaaS, you’ll find that as a B2B company, while your product is for companies as a whole, you need to think about how to specifically target the decision-makers for those companies. Who makes the purchase call for your product? Who makes the request to someone higher up to make the purchase? As you build more granular customer profiles, this is where account-based marketing comes into the picture…

Enter account-based marketing…

Account-based marketing as defined by Marketo is:

“…an alternative B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account.”

You could look at is as targeting individuals, much like an ecommerce business might do. Your marketing becomes honed to specific needs or attributes of the account (or the person who makes the purchase decision for the company).

Your progressive profiling gives you the data you need to pull off account-based marketing, meaning you can send personalized messaging to those key accounts. As Martech puts it:

“Develop content that solves problems and creates solutions for each specific target segment. Content messaging should be meaningful at the account level (solving the overarching business need) and at the individual buyer level (solving a person’s or department’s need). Remember that you are selling to people, not just the business at large.”

While with traditional approaches, you might try to target broadly, account-based marketing is extraordinarily narrow. For example, you might take your ideal customer profiles and use them to create a list of specific companies that fit the profile and that you’d like to target. These might be say, the top 25 or the top 50 companies in your region whom you’d love to have as a client.

You would then figure out who those key decision makers are (if possible) and deliberately set out to interact with them. For example, you might respond to their company social media or connect with them on LinkedIn. You’re not trying to push your stuff on them, but the idea is that you want them signing up to your list and becoming genuinely curious for more information. If you respond thoughtfully to posts for example, it might be enough for them to think “I wonder what else this person/company has to offer?”

As a further option, you might ask for an introduction from a friend or mutual connection, although it tends to be preferable to let the prospect come to you first! You could target them with specific social media advertising for example, enough to get your business in front of them and hopefully, have them opting in to your list.

Final thoughts

SaaS have known about and been using customer profiles for a while now, but more recently the trend has emerged to become even more granular with those profiles. It makes sense – in a highly competitive and maturing market, SaaS need to find new ways to give themselves an edge.

Amazon, while technically not a SaaS, is a leading example of how profiling can really go to the most minute levels. While SaaS might not have the same resources, they can certainly use techniques such as progressive profiling to hone their targeting.

With more honed profiles, SaaS can also expand to using account-based marketing as a strategy to target individual accounts and the decision-makers for those accounts. After all, sometimes just a few key accounts make a huge difference to bottom-line revenue.

Koombea develops high-performing software for SaaS. Talk to us about how we can help you today.

 

by Shantal Erlich
Blog Post