How to Identify a Customer Profile

There’s a saying that if you are serving everyone, you are serving no one. As a business owner, you may be tempted to believe that widening your customer base will allow you to profit more than if you niche down, but you would be wrong.

Stephanie Geisler shared this advice and personal examples in a recent workshop through the Lassonde for Life program, which is open to all University of Utah alumni and provides free, lifelong entrepreneurial support. She discussed how identifying a customer profile has led her to own and lead successful companies, generate effective and powerful marketing, and understand how to solve her customers’ pain points. Find highlights and takeaways from her workshop below.

Geisler is an executive coach for CEOs and other business leaders in Salt Lake City. She has experience as a company founder, growing a startup to $25 million in annual revenue in the third year. She has owned four different companies, served as chief operations and customer officer at a local tech company, and led the full-time MBA program at the David Eccles School of Business for five years. She has expertise in culture-building, executive coaching, strategic planning, employee retention, change management, and product management across many industries including technology, medical, higher education, direct sales, manufacturing, and marketing.

Who do I want to serve, and how?

The first step to identifying your ideal customer profile is to understand what you want to do and what value you can provide. Geisler shared her experience as a coach who works specifically with CEOs of companies. Her unique experience of understanding their role and how lonely it can be led her to focus her business on their needs. Given her unique experience and approach, she understood the value she could create for them. Geisler encouraged others to narrow their target as well, and said, “It is very tempting to stay broad but the power of narrowing and focusing is huge.”

Why identify my customer?

Geisler asked the audience to think of a brand that they are loyal to and answer the following questions: “Does the brand understand you and your needs, do they resolve your pain point, and is it clear who their customers are?”

Often, the answer will be “yes” to all these questions. Well-established and successful brands consider who they are marketing their product to, who will respond best, and how they can serve that person. Identifying how to add value or solve a problem for that key audience is critical and prevents businesses from trying to be everything to everyone. Geisler said, “Focus is going to make things happen and distraction is going to prevent a lot of great things from happening.” While researching and selecting the right customer profile may feel tedious, she encouraged owners to be agile and focus on the discipline of the process.

7 Steps of Identifying Your Customer Profile

1. Define your product or service.

Rather than build your product around your customer, consider what unique value you bring to a market or industry, and identify your customer based on who you can best serve.

2. Conduct market research.

Once you have identified your product or service, conduct research to validate your concept. Your research can be very involved or can include talking to people and learning more about them. Be aware and open to feedback, including information you may not want to hear or that does not fully support your narrative. This process will allow you to understand the viability of your product or service.

3. Analyze the competition.

If your research validates your product or service idea, pinpoint gaps in the market and make sure you can fulfill any outstanding needs. Your product or service needs to differentiate itself for the customer and be something they are willing to pay to purchase. Geisler shared a question she uses to engage her CEO customers and solicit raw and honest feedback: “What are you pretending not to know?” Her ability to be direct and candid with customers is one of her strengths and differentiators.

4. Create customer personas.

Based on what you learned, Geisler recommended generating a fictional profile representing the different customers you can target and suggested staying narrow. Your persona can define your customer’s demographics but also their psychographics and lifestyle information. She asked questions: What do your customers believe? What is important to them? What social causes are important to them? Then she suggested using the answers to refine your product or service

5. Validate customer personas.

If you’ve narrowed your customer base to your ideal persona, the next step is to confirm your hypothesis. To understand if this persona accurately represents your target customer, repeat some of the earlier steps in your research, such as surveys, focus groups, and interviews.

6. Refine customer personas.

Geisler suggested taking what you learned from the validation process to refine your customer persona. She cautioned that we should not “ignore the bad news” or the feedback that may not align with our personal narrative. It’s important to understand true interest and willingness to pay.

7. Use personas in marketing.

Once you’ve refined your personas, begin to create and market your product or service to your customers. Be agile and leverage your minimum viable product. Accept that your product, marketing, and technique will evolve over time. To test your strategy, market a message that speaks to your ideal customer. Identify a measure for validating that you’ve selected the “right” persona and monitor it for further refinement.

Why should I identify a customer persona?

Geisler shared her experience that “it’s more wasted time and money to not identify your customer.” She cautioned that the following may happen if you don’t take the time to research your customer persona:

1. Develop the wrong product or service.

Without a clear understanding of customer preferences, willingness to pay, or interest, you may develop something that doesn’t sell.

2. Ineffective marketing.

Geisler explained that if you are marketing your product or service to a wide population and trying to appeal to everyone, you may need to use watered-down language and your message is not going to resonate with anyone.

3. Misaligned pricing.

Pricing research can prevent you from overcharging or undercharging for your product or service. If your product or service is priced too high, your ideal customer may not be able to afford it.

4. Poor customer experience.

Your customer experience is built around the details listed above and may be negatively impacted by a lack of true understanding of your customer.

5. Missed opportunities.

Selecting the right customer may help provide information or feedback about pricing or preferences that you can use to be more successful. It may also help you reveal unmet needs over time that you can target in your product line.

Geisler ended her presentation with one final analogy of “pin the tail on the donkey” and emphasized that if someone plays without a blindfold, they are bound to win. As we begin to develop and market our product or service, research about our customer profiles can offer the clarity and focus needed to be successful.

Learn about the next Lassonde for Life workshop and about the program at



About the Author:

Mellanie Page Mellanie Page is a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA), leadership coach, and graduate instructor who has worked for over a decade with children with autism. She is passionate about advancing the field through the lens of organizational operations. Mellanie is an MBA student at the David Eccles School of Business. Learn more and connect with her at

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