Creating your ideal customer profile is an important step in developing your marketing plan. It helps you develop your strategy for finding your customers and how you are going to market to them. For planning the content that you are creating, and the medium you are going to deliver it, I am going to recommend using what you learned about your ideal customers and using it in a mental exercise.
After creating your customer profile the next step is to actually visualize your customer’s day. Here are a few questions to help you along:
- What emails are waiting for them in their inbox in the morning?
- What is their ONE Thing for the day?
- What do they need to learn in order to accomplish their ONE Thing?
- When during their day are they going to have time to learn?
- What obstacles stand in front of them?
If your target customer is a sales executive at a major organization then her day might start with getting ready for work, getting the kids breakfast, and dropping them off at school before she even starts her work day. She gets to the office and has a few fires waiting in her inbox that need her immediate attention. A couple of those emails lead to scheduling some calls and before she knows it it is almost lunch time and she has not got started on her ONE Thing let alone had time to read any blog articles or ebooks.
Based on all of that this busy sales executive does not have a lot of time to consume content. Maybe she can squeeze in a podcast in the car on the way to the office after dropping her kids off. Or, she could read a blog post while having lunch at her desk. If she does end up seeking out content it will like be very practical in nature and that will help her accomplish whatever her task at hand is. A short how-to guide, an implementation checklist, or some sort of template would all be things that will make her day better by saving her time and moving her closer to her goal for the day.
This comes back to the truth that you cannot spend too much time getting to know your customers. Not only does talking with your customers shapes your product but it provides you the opportunity to learn exactly what kind of content will provide value to them.
I am all about engaging people for your business through email. (Literally that is what my book is about.) Throughout your relationships with your customers, prospective customers, and industry peers there are countless opportunities to reach out to someone and to push your relationship forward.
The problem with having so many opportunities is that it takes a long time to create all of those emails. Writing (and revising) a great email sequence takes time so to get a head start you can use email templates that sales and marketing masterminds have shared with us.
I have used each of the templates in this roundup in one of my businesses.
Educational Campaign Emails
Providing value to someone upfront is one of the best ways to turn them into a prospective customer. A great way to do that is to teach them something related to the product or service you sell. For example Home Depot does a workshop where they go over a different home repair each week. You can do the same via a webinar. However, an easier, and scalable, way is to create an email course around a topic.
The email marketing software Drip comes with a couple templates already set up for that: the “5-Day Email Mini Course” and the “4-Week Email Mini Course”. I like the daily course better for teaching a specific topic with the weekly course more when you are presenting more general content about your industry.
This is the first email:
Thanks for checking out my 5-day crash course on **TOPIC OF COURSE**
I’m **NAME**, the founder of **COMPANY**. My goal for this course is to provide you with new techniques and approaches for **MAIN BENEFIT OF THE COURSE**, while keeping them as actionable and succinct as possible.
And today, we start with a look at **TOPIC OF TODAY’S EMAIL**.
** PASTE YOUR EDUCATIONAL, NON-SALES CONTENT HERE FROM YOUR BLOG POST, WHITE PAPER OR EBOOK **
This email course will provide you with actionable tips on how you can **BENEFIT OF THE COURSE**. More on that later…
Tomorrow, we’ll be delving into **TOPIC OF TOMORROW’S EMAIL**.
If you have any questions in the meantime, please hit the reply button and drop me a line. I will respond personally to every email.
And if you’re ahead of the curve and want to get started, feel free to learn more about **PRODUCT_NAME** here.
Other email campaign blueprints they have are:
- Follow-up (Post-Demo)
- Follow-up (Sample Report)
- Follow-Up (Subscription Trial)
- Cart Abandonment Recovery
WIth their workflow feature it is easy to guide a customer through multiple email campaigns from the time they are a prospect to when they become a customer and to later upsell them based on their usage. Great for all businesses but particularly for SaaS businesses.
Steli Efti of Close.io has become something of a motivational speaker for startups. You listen to him give a talk and come out of it knowing that you can take the leap today and start selling. Key to his method are to stop procrastinating and to just start sending the emails, making the calls, and to never stop following up.
This simple cold email (his example is selling Dropbox to a law firm) can be modified for any software or service industry:
My name is [user.first_name] with [organization.name].
We help law firms store & manage all of their client data securely in the cloud. I wanted to learn how you handle data storage at [lead.display_name] and show you what we’re working on.
Are you available for a quick call tomorrow afternoon?
A great takeaway from the follow up emails is that you offer the lead a few specific times for a possible call:
Do you have a few minutes for a quick call later this week?
Wed @ 11 am PST
Thur @ 2 pm PST
Fri @ 3 pm PST
If you ask them to make the first move in scheduling a time you’re often going to wind up waiting indefinitely. Present them with a few times they can say yes or no to. If they come back saying that none will work then try three new times. And keep following up until you get that call scheduled!
A few more templates from Close.io that I use can be found here.
Customer Onboarding Emails
I love the “You’re In” Email from Groove as the first email in an onboarding sequence. I feel this one can be modified for use whether you are selling a product or a service. You’re engaging your new customer to learn a little bit about why they choose you which is very helpful when creating your customer profiles.
I really appreciate you joining us at Groove, and I know you’ll love it when you see how easy it is to deliver awesome, personal support to every customer.
We built Groove to help small businesses grow, and I hope that we can achieve that for you.
If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love it if you answered one quick question: why did you sign up for Groove?
I’m asking because knowing what made you sign up is really helpful for us in making sure that we’re delivering on what our users want. Just hit ‘reply’ and let me know’
By the way, over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sending you a few more emails to help you deliver awesome support to your customers. We’ll be sharing some tips, checking in with you and showing you how some of our customers use Groove to grow their businesses.
I now use the “hit reply and let me know a little about you and/or your business” in most of my email campaigns. Not everybody responds but you learn so much when they do.
This sequence of onboarding emails from Baremetrics is great for SaaS companies to use throughout a trial period. Days 1,2,3,5, 12, and 14 specifically. Some of the other days are pretty specific to their app. I also hesitate as it is a lot of emails over a two week period of time but you can check open, click through, and response rates and find what works best for your business.
Failed Payment (Dunning) Emails
This one is for SaaS or other businesses that bill a customer’s credit card monthly.
Patrick McKenzie (Patio11 on the Internet) gave a talk at MicroConf Europe 2013 titled, “Building Things To Help Sell The Things You Build”. In it he brought up “dunning emails” which are the emails that a user receives when their credit card charge fails which usually happens when somebody gets a new card but forgets to update their billing information.
He brings up the point that when a charge fails the language in the notification email needs to be gentle. Use terms like “pausing your service” rather than “cancelling your account”. From Christoph Engelhardt’s notes on Patrick’s talk:
- Everyone gets 3 dunning emails
- Get to the point ASAP
- Prominent link to capture updated CC data
- Extend a 3 day grace period, try daily within grace
- Don’t forget a “You didn’t update so we took the liberty of pausing your account” email
This post by Richard Felix shows what Drip itself does with their dunning emails. They use a series of three emails as Patrick recommended. You can see from the first email in the sequence that they don’t place any blame on the user (the card might have expired), use language that puts the blame on Drip (“will let you know if it’s still not working”), and don’t mention the possibility of disabling the account until the second to last sentence.
From: Rob at Drip
Subject: Uh oh, credit card fail – your emails will stop sending soon…
It appears we’ve run into a problem charging your credit card on file at GetDrip.com. We’d love to keep sending emails to your subscribers – so let’s get you back on track!
The most common two causes of card rejections are that your card has expired, or that your bank has rejected the charge.
So first, visit your billing settings to double check that your card has not expired (and just for kicks, go ahead and update it to see if that fixes things). We will attempt to charge again in 48 hours and will let you know if it’s still not working.
If you hear from us again about this, the most likely explanation is that your credit card company is rejecting our charge. Please call the number on the back of your card and ask them to allow charges from GetDrip.com moving forward.
As of now your account is still active, but it will be disabled if we aren’t able to get your card working. So let’s get your account back on track and serving up more tasty email goodness!
The Drip Team
Networking (Influencer Outreach) Emails
A quote I love from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones (a motivational speaker) is:
“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
Networking is a great way to learn and grow both your business and as a person. For many people it requires stepping outside of your comfort zone and reaching out to people with more experience than you and whom you respect.
I recommend creating a plan to reach out to ten people a month that you follow on Twitter, read their blog, heard them on a podcast, or are in your network on LinkedIn (or are one removed and you can ask somebody you know for an introduction). When you have a list of ten people for the month then drop them an email.
Number two and three of Groove’s email templates (they really do share a lot of great content) are emails you can use to reach out to influencers in your industry or people in your network (look at their profile for articles they have written, organizations they are a part of, and charities they support):
I loved your post about [subject + authentic reason].
I wrote a post about [compelling teaser]. I know you’re an expert on this, and I’d really appreciate your feedback.
Do you mind if I send you a link?
The Underdog Action Plan
Use one of these templates to create a new campaign of at least three emails for one of these stages of the customer relationship:
- New customer
- At-risk customer (somebody who is paying for your product/service but isn’t using it)
If you are struggling for ideas just drop me an email (will at the domain) and I’ll help you brainstorm.
Remember, at the end of the day, the more great content you have created the more you will be able to engage your audience and convert them into happy customers.
People respond much better to targeted marketing than they do to general marketing. Imagine being able to talk to each potential customer directly! We’re a little ways from that but with a combination of tracking, big data, and A.I. improvements I think the future is hyper-targeted marketing.
Until that utopian future (if you are a marketer) or dystopian future (if you don’t like being marketed to) we will have to settle for other methods to target our marketing messages and customer onboarding processes. In order to do that you need to be able to effectively segment your customers in order to tailor your message.
The upside to creating a series of customer profiles (also known as buyer personas) is that your blog content, mailing list emails, and ads will convert better. This is particularly helpful if you place ads on Facebook. The downside is that creating separate content for each segment is a lot more work. But it is work that will pay off in the end.
Customer profile details
For creating profiles I like this character development outline that I used in my college playwriting class. It is called Character Bone Structure and is from Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing. I’ve used it not just for creative writing but for creating buyer personas for my marketing efforts.
- Height and weight
- Color of hair, eyes, skin
- Appearance: good-looking, over- or underweight, clean, neat,
pleasant, untidy. Shape of head, face, limbs.
- Defects: deformities, abnormalities, birthmarks. Diseases.
- Class: lower, middle, upper.
- Occupation: type of work, hours of work, income, condition of
work, union or nonunion, attitude toward organization,
suitability for work.
- Education: amount, kind of schools, marks, favorite subjects,
poorest subjects, aptitudes.
- Home life: parents living, earning power, orphan, parents
separated or divorced, parents’ habits, parents’ mental
development, parents’ vices, neglect. Character’s marital
- Race, nationality
- Place in community: leader among friends, clubs, sports.
- Political affiliations
- Amusements, hobbies: books, newspapers, magazines he reads.
- Sex life, moral standards
- Personal premise, ambition
- Frustrations, chief disappointments
- Temperament: choleric, easygoing, pessimistic, optimistic
- Attitude toward life: resigned, militant, defeatist.
- Complexes: obsessions, inhibitions, superstitions, phobias.
- Extrovert, introvert, ambivert
- Abilities: languages, talents.
- Qualities: imagination, judgment, taste, poise.
(You can bet the door-to-door salesmen of yesteryear would attempt to learn these about a customer within moments of the door opening.)
Obviously this goes into a great deal of detail and some of it you definitely don’t need (but let the data tell you what you need and don’t!). You can probably make things a bit simpler to start with. If you are targeting consumers you can start by using the following four variables or even less:
- Age (brackets of ten years)
- Marital status
2 options for gender * 5 options for age (20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, over 60) * 2 options for marital status * 2 options for income (keep it simple with over/under an income figures such as $50,000) = 40 different possible customer profiles.
You can see that the more variables you use vastly increase the number of profiles. So, start with just a few variables that you deem important and work from there. And don’t be afraid to repurpose content or create content that spans profiles. Depending on your product somebody married in their 30s is not going to be all that different from somebody married in their 40s.
When selling to small businesses a few simple variables to start with might be:
- Role (owner or employee)
This is not a substitution for picking up the phone and talking to customers. The more you talk to and engage your potential customers the more you will learn about them. Whenever you are in doubt about something in your business talking to customers will go a long way towards helping you find an answer
Creating customer profiles
Here are a few steps to help you being filling in your customer profiles:
1. Identify the data you already have
You might already have some data on your customers but might not know it. If you use a CRM system for sales it likely has some data in there about your customers. (If it doesn’t you should definitely add some custom fields in order to start recording things such as company size, industry, current solutions they use, and any personal details about your contact that they mention.)
Where you definitely have some hidden data is in your email. Most business people use email signatures which typically contain a few good pieces of information you can use. Here are a few things you can probably glean from a signature and then supplement by looking them up on LinkedIn (a great task for a virtual assistant):
2. Go to where your customers hangout
Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and Twitter are all places you can look at to find people talking about the problem that your product or service solves. Look at the discussions they are having and the people that are having them. You should be able to fairly quickly identify a few buckets that your potential customers fall into.
As an experiment (the Underdog Action Plan for the week) create and write down three basic profiles and then try to put twenty people into the bucket that you think best fits them. You’ll probably get most of them, particularly if you did early customer development, but you also might find that the most vocal people online are not potential customers but just people with too much time on their hands. Reach out to the twenty people you assigned to a bucket and see if you can ask them a few questions.
Pro tip: 44% of U.S. consumers go straight to Amazon to search about products. Read the reviews people leave on books and products related to your industry to learn about your potential customers.
3. Ask your customers directly
It is always best to pick up the phone and talk with a customer directly. However you can also leverage technology to get their feedback at various points throughout your relationship such as when they visit your website (I’m sure you have been asked to fill out a survey on a website), when they become a customer, and later after they have used your product or service. This is an example for a questionaire for a new customer.
Using Google Forms you can easily create a customer feedback form and ask them to fill it out. From “Start a New Form” select the “Customer Feedback” form. You might need to click on “More” in which case you will find it listed under the “Work” forms.
Click on the “Feedback Type” question and then click on the trashcan to delete it. Now click on the “Name” field followed by the plus icon on the right. Add in questions about the customer that you can use to create profiles:
Don’t add too many or you risk people not responding. Ideally it should take somebody just a minute or two to answer all of the questions.
After you have finished click on “Send” in the upper right and then click on the paperclip icon to get a link to send to your new customers. As the results come in you can view them from inside forms or, even better, view the data in Google Sheets so that you can analyze it.
Customize and convert
Knowing somebody’s background and ambitions can really change the language you use when describing your value proposition. Appealing to your customer’s interests is imperative to generating sales. It is going to require experimentation and learning to do so will be the key to your growth engine.