Consumer Profile: Defining the Ideal Customer

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Jed Share / Kaoru Share/ Bend Images Collection/ GettyImages

A consumer profile is a way of describing a consumer categorically so that they can be grouped for marketing and advertising purposes. By target advertising to a specific market segment, companies and marketers can find more success in selling a particular product and increase profits. As a short-hand way of talking about consumers, market segments are often represented by consumer profiles.

Creating the Ideal Consumer Profile: Category Basics

Before even starting to market a product to potential customers, it's important to take the time to carve out the ideal consumer profile for your products.

By defining your ideal customer, you can begin to notice patterns that may prove useful in target advertising.

To start, consumers can be identified by many different categories, such as:

  • preference
  • lifestyle
  • stage of life
  • attribute
  • trait

Thinking about consumers in terms of the way they are represented by categorical tiers can be useful. The first tier includes the most common categories for describing consumers, such as demographics, socioeconomic status, and product usage. The second tier extends the concepts of the first tier and includes psychographics, generation, geography, geodemographics, and benefits sought. Basic definitions of these concepts are provided below:

Demographic: Attributes related to age, city or region of residence, gender, race and ethnicity, and composition of household.

Socioeconomic: Attributes related to household income, educational attainment, occupation, neighborhood, and association memberships.

Brand affinity / Product usage: Attributes associated with product engagement on the basis of their behavior.

Psychographics: Attributes related to lifestyles, life stage, personality, attitudes, opinion, and even voting behavior.

Generation: Attributes related to a specific identifiable generation cohort group.

Geography: Attributes related to the geographical area in which consumers reside and work.

Geodemographics: Attributes that combine geography and demographics which may cluster into identifiable groups.

Benefits Sought: Attributes related to the benefits that consumers seek when they shop for products and services.

Market researchers may develop proprietary consumer profiles or they may use panels of consumers who have been classified according to their common attributes. Market research provider firms often make their consumer profiles available for discrete market research projects that are conducted for their market research clients at large companies. 

Some Examples of Market Research Categories 

By obtaining information from potential customers, you can start to get a clear picture of likes, dislikes, and buying behaviors. Some examples of classification categories that market research firms often use include:

ABC1. A common grouping strategy in the market research industry is based on the professional job role of an individual, a person designated as the head-of-household, or the main contributor of income to a family. This grouping strategy is typically referred to as ABC1, which is shorthand for the first three socio-economic groups in the taxonomy.

The grouping is as follows:

  • A = Senior or higher managerial, administrative, or professional
  • B = Intermediate managerial, administrative, or professional
  • C1 = Supervisory or clerical, and junior managerial, administrative, or professional
  • C2 = Skilled manual workers
  • D = Semiskilled and unskilled manual workers
  • E = Everyone entirely dependent on public support (Chronically ill, unemployed, elderly, disabled, and other reasons)

Lifestage and other special groups. Examples of these are mostly categorized according to proprietary consumer research or census-based research. Different countries associated specific percentages with each of the life stages groups. The standard taxonomy for life stage groups is shown below:

  • Pre-Family or No Family = People under the age of 45 who are not parents.
  • Family = People of any age with at least one child under age 16 still at home.
  • Third Age = People aged 45 through 64 with no children under age 16 still living at home
  • Retired = People over the age of 65 with no children under the age of 16 still living at home.

ACORN. The market research industry also uses a consumer group taxonomy known as ACORN. The basis of ACORN categories is geodemographic segmentation. Relying on census data primarily, the taxonomy uses residential areas to categorize consumers. Zip codes (postal codes) can be associated with specific ACORN categories. Because people who live in neighborhoods tend to share a good number of attributes, the ACORN method of classifying consumers may be more powerful than a more generic classification based only on demographic, economic, or socio-economic factors. The ACORN categories and their associated components are described below:

Wealthy Achievers – Category 1

  • A – Wealthy Executives
  • B – Affluent Greys
  • C - Flourishing Families

Urban Prosperity – Category 2

  • D – Prosperous Professionals
  • E – Educated Urbanites
  • F – Aspiring Singles

Comfortably Off – Category 3

  • G – Starting Out
  • H – Secure Families
  • I - Settled Suburbia
  • J – Prudent Pensioners

Moderate Means – Category 4

  • K – Asian Communities
  • L – Post Industrial Families
  • M – Blue Collar Roots

Hard Pressed – Category 5

  • N – Struggling Families
  • O – Burdened Singles
  • P – High Rise Hardship
  • Q – Inner City Adversary

Creating Personas: The Basics

Creating a consumer profile or persona is a much easier task once you have collected the above information from current and potential customers. Profiles that describe specific segments will allow you to envision a person interested in your product and give you a better understanding of what would motivate them to find your business. Start simple:

  • Describe your potential client(s) using the categories listed above and create a named persona
  • Create a specific profile for each client group identified in the categories listed above
  • Consider buyer behavior, preferences, and traits when creating each persona

Once you have a clear picture of the type of customers your business should be targeting you can create a marketing strategy. Your ideal customer profile will help you pinpoint the who, where and how to reach potential consumers interested in what your business has to offer.