Ideal Customer Profiling: The Process of Identifying your Most Profitable Prospects

How to Profile your Ideal Customers

There are literally hundreds of ways to promote a tourism brand, which is why so many tourism operators get completely overwhelmed at the thought of where to even start with their marketing strategy.  It’s because of this that Rebecca and I often get asked by industry…

“With so many opportunities, how do we know what marketing activities to invest in to get the most bang for our buck?” – said everyone…!

The answer is simple.
Before you choose your marketing activities, you need to know who your customers are.

Identifying your target market is Marketing 101, but, with so many ways to communicate to potential customers in their buying cycle, tourism brands have to be super clear on what marketing activities will engage their most profitable customers to achieve the best return on marketing investment.

Your customers have changed, and you need to too…

As the number of marketing channels and competitors grow, businesses have to get smarter. As you may have already learnt in my article on Micro-Moments, mobile internet has enabled a more astute and confident customer, which has ultimately changed the way they purchase tourism product, and therefore tourism brands need to adjust their messaging and marketing mediums to suit their needs.

Achieving cut-through in our hyper connected, content dense, competitive online (and offline) market is overwhelmingly hard for most tourism brands. However, it can be made a great deal easier if tourism brands have a laser focus on attracting customers who will bring them the most profit.

 

The Process of Profiling your Ideal Customer

The process of understanding who your most profitable customers starts with understanding who your current customers are.

So the first question you need to ask yourself is:
Are you currently getting the customers you want through your door?

The common answer to this is, yes and no – yes, there are a few fantastic customers who love their experience with you, and then there are some customers you’d prefer stayed at home.

To attract more of the people you want, you have to intimately understand the traits, dispositions, and emotional reasoning of a single person who represents your ‘fantastic’ customers as it relates to how they experience travel. which is a process called ‘Ideal Customer Profiling’.

What does an Ideal Customer look like?

Generally the people who you want to be attracting to your business:

  • Spend the most and never ask the question about price
  • Don’t whinge, leave bad (unwarranted) reviews on TripAdvisor
  • Love you, your product, your region… everything about what you offer
  • Are your biggest fan, and brand advocate – they are proud to associate themselves with you and your business, and want the world to know about it
  • Make you want to get out of bed and go to work for

How to identify your Ideal Customers

Identifying your Ideal Customers is more or less a brainstorming exercise – a very important one at that. Customer Profiling starts with focusing on one of your current customers (or someone you know of that fits the above criteria – which is absolutely fine too) and then drill down the characteristics of that single person.

You will need to find answers to the following in order to paint a clear picture of the persona of your Customer, and also how they purchase tourism product.

  • Exact Age, Sex, Income, Marital Status, Location, family status
  • What books they like to read, what TV shows they watch, their favourite food, their past times/hobbys
  • What keeps them up at night, what gets them excited, what they value in life, why they value it
  • Who they travel with, why they travel, what questions they have when planning travel, what emotions they have when planning travel
  • What questions do they ask during the stages of travel? (Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Pre-Travel, In-Destination, Post-Travel (refer to our post on Micro-Moments to learn more about this!)

Once you have the answers to the above, you will know exactly how to engage them in your brand, which will not only help you to achieve engagement and cut-through, but also create more bookings / sales for your brand.

NOTE. This process may seem a bit challenging at the start, and note, that there are no right or wrong answers. This persona might be someone who is already a customer of your business, or it could be someone who you want to attract in your business (haven’t served them yet) – it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they represent someone who you want to see more of in your business!

 

Marketing direct to your Ideal Customers

Going into this extreme level of detail is a critical task, as it has a huge impact on the choices you make about your marketing investment. Why?

Because, if you have identified this single person as being your most profitable prospect, then you ONLY need to be communicating with them, where they are listening, and what they want to hear or know.

This means that the content you create in your Content Marketing Plan needs to only be directed at engaging with this one persona. Similarly, with the tactics that you deploy. So, if your Ideal Customer is not on twitter, then you don’t need to invest time in Twitter; and if they’re not reading and being influenced by your regional visitor guide, then you shouldn’t invest in advertising in your regional guide.

Without going through the process of identifying your Ideal Customer, you could be spending time and money targeting those who are not necessarily interested in your product/service, or you may be targeting those who we don’t really want to work with. If you aren’t specific with your messages, then you aren’t optimising your chances of making as many sales as you possibly can!

 

Common Questions…

Can you have more than 1 Ideal Customer?

The answer is yes. Most businesses who only have 1 offering will find it easier to stick with 1 Ideal Customer, whereas if you manage a hotel apartments, which also has conferencing facilities and a restaurant, then you may have 3 different Ideal Customers. So when you are planning your marketing investment, and communication messages, you will consult your relevant Ideal Customer as it relates to which product offering you are promoting at any given time.

What about your other customer segments?

They will still come, as they will still be attracted to your business based on your basics of your offering – and if they don’t, then not to worry, as you will be attracting more of the people who you know will bring you the best business you can image.

Also, being specific with your messaging, you may also find that you will attract people who aspire to work with your business – for example, Southern Ocean Lodge has a very specific Ideal Customer, and they only invest in marketing activities that are relative to attracting more of those customers. Although I probably don’t fit into this Ideal Customer persona, it doesn’t mean that I don’t aspire to one day stay in their luxury accommodation.

Does Ideal Customer Profiling apply to destination marketing too?

Ideal Customer Profiling is the foundation for all tourism marketing including destinations. Every destination is different, which means that every destination will have different Ideal Customers, and should definitely invest in this process to ensure stakeholder funds are spent in the most strategic way.

 

We can help you profile your Ideal Customers…

OMP Facebook Post ImageIf you’re ready to ramp up your marketing for your tourism business, we provide indepth training and templates to help you identify your ideal customers, and then how to create and share content to attract more customers to your business, so you can stay in business! We’d love you to take a look at our Tourism Marketing Academy + Mastermind in more detail >

 

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Last Updated: October 2016
This post was originally published in August 2014, and has been updated several times since then to maintain it’s accuracy 🙂 

About the author, Paige Rowett

Paige is the co-director of Tourism eSchool and a Tourism Marketing Consultant (www.paigerowett.com). Paige is passionate about working with tourism destinations & operators to create sustainable marketing strategies, specialising in marketing strategy, customer advocacy, customer experience, content marketing, website strategy, search engine optimisation & blogging.

Want to know how to market your business to guarantee growth + sustainability?

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  • Ben Barton

    It’s got me thinking. I have marketing plans gathering dust on my bookshelf. The article has come at a good time as i struggle with a proper id of my ideal customer. Being a one man band there are not enough hours in the day to indulge in the social media aspects of marketing and to run the business. I’m not sure if I can get a handle on my ideal customer but will try. Tks Ben 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Ben! We speak to so many operators who are in the same boat as you, being the ‘be all and end all’ in your business. I know from my own experience as a small business and from working with other tourism businesses, that the process of identifying your customer really does bring clarity and focus to your marketing – especially as it relates to making decisions about all of the hundreds of opportunities that come across your desk. Give it the process a red hot go, and let us know how you go implementing!

  • Les Wright

    But if the region identifies a totally separate “Ideal Customer” to myself, (and hence only markets itself to that type of consumer) and then that ‘Ideal’ consumer starts to look for services within my region, I will miss out. How is that good for me?

    • Thanks for your comment Les. As I explained in the post, you will have other customer segments that you will need to address, and one of those might be aligning your messaging with your region’s messaging to attract a common customer, and taking advantage of promotional opportunities for that market as they arise. Identifying your Ideal Customer is not about being totally exclusive, its about redirecting resources to your most profitable customer in a planned, concious way!

  • Renese Johnson

    I’m a consultant and have been advising clients for approximately 10 years now. I love your article but you never actually once said the Step for HOW to locate your ideal customer. I realize that may have been a marketing strategy and that’s find (just like your honesty) but I have to say in finding your ideal client in my experience , Survey and pyschographic data (in whihc the survey typically leads to be able to identify your main pysfchorgraphic groups which companies like Neilsen, can tell you down to the zip code where these people are living!) is exactly how you do that, especially if its something totally new concept and you want to gauge, HOWEVER, if the very beginning you banished these techniques as wasteful soooooo I REAAAAAAAALY curious as to how you proposed to obtain the data you suggest above (which I agree without) without use those processes? I really really love to hear back, if you are only sell on some school/package. AT the end to the day to be clear, my goal is to help client find ideal customers AND locations there are in for potential future development.

    • Hi Renese, thanks for your feedback and dropping by. Re the actual “How” of profiling your Ideal Customer, it all comes down to understanding the “psychographics” of your customer. We have a multipage worksheet all of our clients work through which is simply a series of questions they have to answer about their customers, which by the end gives them a really clear profile of their specific ideal customer they are profiling. We work mainly with businesses/destinations who already have a good idea of their “Target Audience” so they already have a a good understanding of their demographics. So the profiling is takings it to the next step and helps them understand the motivations, aspirations, challenges and needs of their customers. For our clients, many of them are are interacting on a daily basis with their customers and so we find they can all complete this Ideal Customer profiling process themselves easily. Many also do the questionairre individually amongst their team, and combine their results for a more robust profile. I trust that helps answer your question. For those news to business, they may have to invest in more demographic research to support their decision on who to profile, however in tourism industry, our national and state tourism bodies have a lot of this demographic research available free of charge.

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  • Uuuumm thank you so much for the information. It was quiet breathtaking. I am working on a project of destination marketing in Zimbabwe. There is a destination i picked that has not been tapped and explored for a long time and would really want to market this destination. I am a destination consultant by proffession. The information above has been really helpful and l would really want to learn more. you should post more often. I have been looking at your online mentoring progams, they are quiet relevant to me but the fees are a bit steep though. Posting nuggets more often will be really helpful for me personally

    • Hi Glenda, thanks for dropping by. We’re glad you have found the blog posts helpful. You may be interested in our Tourism Marketing Academy + Mastermind which is also relevant for destination marketers (we have had students from other African countries before in similar role to you). Otherwise do keep with our blog posts, as they have lots of free marketing advice!