Audience Profile vs Customer Persona: Pick Your Fighter

Christy Walters


September 20, 2022 (Updated: November 2, 2023)

six red game pieces clustered to the left of the frame and one lone black piece to represent audience profile vs customer persona

Communication is key in marketing. If what you’re saying doesn’t appeal to your audience, they won’t take the time to engage and understand. They’ll move on to the next brand they think knows them better. So how do you get your audience to stop, look, and listen to your messages in the sea of digital content? By using the right profiling tools to shape your campaigns. Today, we’re looking at which tools are most effective for learning about your audience by studying the similarities and differences between an audience profile vs customer persona:

What Is an Audience Profile?

An audience profile is a collection of data gathered and sorted to represent the behaviors and patterns of your overall target audience. A profile also includes the messaging, engagement, and monitoring tactics you use to share information with your audience and connect with them based on these patterns and behaviors.

Audience profiles tell you what your customers do when interacting with your brand to help you pinpoint the most ideal candidates for your marketing efforts. When you group segments of the target audience together, you can create personalized campaigns to appeal to each one.

What Is a Customer Persona?

Client, customer, or buyer personas are individual semi-fictional representations of the greater audience that interact with your brand. We say that they’re semi-fictional because they’re based on real data sourced from your audience. But your strategy team makes up the people in your personas to represent characteristics of a larger group. Customer personas tell you why your customers do what they do. They explain how people make purchasing decisions and what factors in their lives influence those buying habits.

Related: How To Use Your Buyer Persona To Create Targeted Content

Differences Between an Audience Profile vs a Customer Persona

Though you may use them for similar purposes, audience profiles and customer personas are not the same things. Here are a few ways these marketing tools differ:

Profiles Are Many, Personas Are One

Audience profiles look at the many groups within your overall target audience. Each segment has its own list of characteristics that marketers pair with corresponding messages and distribution channels. But all of these segments exist within a profile. You only create one profile that you can use again and again as you prepare campaigns for any of the segments.

In contrast, a customer persona looks at and represents an individual segment. Instead of having just one profile for all the segments, you have a specific persona for each one. That means you’ll have at least one persona per segment, and you’ll use each one at different times throughout your campaign to create the content you need.

Personas Are Qualitative, Profiles Are Qualitative

It’s like the age-old debate in marketing: which data is better, qualitative or quantitative? Qualitative data is the open-ended, self-reported information from your audience. You collect this data from things like online reviews, testimonials, or customer service calls. This type of data helps you understand customer feelings and experiences with your industry and when working with your brand. While qualitative data gives deeper insight into the minds of your audience, you also have to contend with the sad fact that people lie.

In contrast, quantitative data is all about numbers. It’s the information you collect from analytics programs about customer behavior on your digital channels, the number of sales you make, or any data you can back up with numbers, charts, and graphs. Unlike people, analytics never lie. But they also don’t always give you the full picture of a marketing situation because they ignore fluctuating and unpredictable elements like human behavior.

In most marketing situations, it’s important to have a healthy balance of both qualitative and quantitative data to make your points. Thankfully, with customer personas and profiles you get both. Profiles rely heavily on quantitative data thanks to the emphasis on campaign performance measurement. Personas rely more on qualitative data because they care more about the customer journey and human behavior to tell the story of how your customers go from brand awareness to purchases.

Personas Have a Fictional Side

As we said before, personas are semi-fictional. When you develop a persona, you’re creating a fictional character based on the information you’ve learned about your audience. If this person was real, they’d be one of your most qualified leads. But your team uses fictional names, stock photos, and hypothetical situations to represent the interests of your audience rather than sharing clients’ or customers’ real-life experiences.

Personas are fictional partially for the privacy of your real audience members who are willing to share their experiences through market research and reviews. But the technique also helps you represent the largest and most common needs of a segment with just one persona. In contrast, customer profiles don’t take this audience analysis to an individual level, eliminating the need for combining the information to form one character.

Profiles Have More Stages

Audience profiles have four stages to help you better understand your client base and apply what you learn about them to your marketing messaging and content analysis. These stages include:

  • Segmentation: Sorting customers into groups based on demographics or behavioral characteristics
  • Messaging: Creating marketing content, copy, or other messages that appeal to each segment
  • Engagement: Sharing your marketing messages with the segments on a channel or in a way that’s most appealing to each one
  • Measurement: Tracking the success of your marketing messages and engagement strategies for each segment to influence future campaigns

While creating a customer persona does take multiple steps like research and analysis to get the information right, and the persona itself has multiple segments with information, it’s not the same as the stages of profiling. The three later stages of profiling work directly with campaign creation and implementation to create marketing content and messages, share them with the audience, and track results. Information from personas can influence the choices you make during these steps, but the persona creation process doesn’t include components directly related to campaign creation.

Similarities Between an Audience Profile and a Customer Persona?

For all their differences, customer personas and audience profiles also have a few things in common. These include:

Having Roots in Research and Data

Both profiles and personas rely on large sets of accurate and timely data about your business, audience, and competition to make them beneficial tools for your marketing team. Without data, you wouldn’t have a basis for either tool. While personas have a fictional aspect, they’re not completely made up. You base these on real-world data, reports, and observations of your audience.

If you made up the data for either profiles or personas, it wouldn’t be helpful for your marketing efforts. Having multiple streams of data to influence these tools is helpful. Run reports from your analytics programs regularly and collect reviews from around the internet and information from your customer service representatives. With all that information in storage, when it’s time to create your profiles or personas, you’re prepared.

Providing Answers to Similar Questions

Though used for slightly different purposes, both personas and profiles help answer similar questions about your audience for your team. Market research exists because brands want to know more about the people they serve. The more you know about your audience, the better you understand them. And when you better understand your audience, you can provide what they need in a way that’s enticing to them. But you can’t do that without answers to the right questions. Here are some of the big marketing questions both of these tools use:

  • Who is our target audience?
  • What is the overall perception of our brand?
  • How does the audience interact with our brand?
  • What demographic characteristics do our audience members share?
  • What behavioral characteristics do our audience members share?
  • How does our audience like to get their information?
  • What content and social media channels does our audience use?
  • How does our audience make purchasing decisions?
  • What does the customer journey look like for each segment of the audience?

By answering these questions, both profiles and personas help your team determine the best ways to engage with your audience at any step of their journey. This makes personalized marketing easier and more effective and can lead to more conversions and sales.

Making Personalization Easier

Plain and simple, personalized experiences make your audience feel good. People like it when others listen, pay attention, and remember small details about them. And it’s not just for friends and family. Your audience expects this kind of attention from brands, too. According to a study from Epsilon Marketing, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. That personalization starts with marketing.

Using audience profiles and customer personas is the first step to getting to know your audience on a deeper level. When you discover their needs and pain points, and how they like to browse, shop, and engage with brands, it’s much easier to personalize your campaigns in an appealing way. You can use both tools as a reference throughout campaign creation to make sure you’re hitting all the right touchpoints and ideas to maximize your chance for conversions and sales.

Related: Hyper-Personalization Marketing: Cute or Creepy?

When Should You Use an Audience Profile vs a Customer Persona?

Most times, you’ll use profiles and personas for slightly different marketing tasks. You use personas most often to inform your team and stakeholders about how your audience interacts with your brand. For example, content writers use personas to guide their angles and tone to reach the right members of the audience with each piece of content.

The best times to use audience profiles are when you’re trying to figure out which audience segments to target and how to best get your messages across to them. Profiles are also helpful in defining the value of specific customer segments and discovering where and how to find new leads for your products and services. Despite some of their individual applications, you can also use an audience profile to create your customer personas and profiles to influence the later stages of profiling.

The segmentation you do for profiling highlights different audience groups that could benefit from a customer persona. Once you’ve created personas, you can use them to influence the messaging and engagement phases of profiling. Personas often tell you things like the channels where your audience segments get their information and what they’re looking for from communications with a company. When you use these two tools together, you maximize the chances you have to really turn your content into what your audience wants and needs. That insight leads to more conversions and sales.

Get Your Persona and Profile Data from CopyPress

Data drives your personas and profiles. Be sure you’re getting the information you can trust about your audience, content, and competition by requesting your free content analysis report from CopyPress. Inside, you’ll explore how your content is performing online and how it compares to your top three industry competitors. The keyword and topic filtering features help you discover what your audience is looking for online and which segments you can target.

To get started, simply fill out the form below. You can complete your report today or save your information and finish it later. After you’ve shared a few business details with our team, you can expect your report in your inbox in as little as an hour.

After you’ve looked over the results, schedule a virtual meeting with our strategy team. They’ll help you understand each section of valuable data and how to apply it to create customer profiles and personas for your content marketing strategy.

“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”

Kevin Doory

Director of SEO at Auto Revo

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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