Working with Sitecore, and doing consultancy with clients to help make the most of the Experience Platform, I spend a lot of my time explaining profiles. A fundamental aspect of Sitecore's digital marketing capabilities, it helps you truly understand who the customer is and more importantly shape the experience they receive accordingly.
However, it's not always the easiest framework for someone to get their head around, especially if you are not technical. There are lots of things to consider and lots of terminology to understand; profiles, profile cards, profile patterns and profile keys all need to be considered. Then there is how you use profiles to tag and measure content vs how you can use them to personalise. Lots to consider.
Coming from a creative background, I started my career as a graphic designer, then making that natural lateral move, or not, to business analysis. Although this has helped me immensely in doing my job, bridging the gap between two traditionally very different mind-sets, the more time I spend time with developers, the more I pick up technical words like variables, attributes or facets and expect everyone to understand. Inevitably, in trying to explain profiles to customers I found myself using these words and baffling my largely non-technical audience.
When I was younger I loved playing 'Guess Who'. I'm not sure I was particularly good at it but enjoyed the experience nonetheless. It wasn't necessarily the format of the game that appealed to me but everything that went around it, the illustration style, the sound each panel made as you discounted them and the satisfying nature of picking a good option and watching the other person begrudgingly slap down panels, one by one, showing absolute distain for your selection.
Of late I have started to see Sitecore profiles almost like a peculiar programmatic game of 'Guess Who' – Sitecore is the player, the profiles are the Guess Who cards. So, like the game (these would be things like brown or blonde hair in Guess Who), Sitecore is frantically trying to determine who the user is throughout their session by what they tell us about themselves while they browse the site. The questions to help determine the individual? That is the content you have on the site. You apply criteria to each piece of content that, when viewed, answers a question around what their interests are.
However, unlike Guess Who tactics, Sitecore profiles go beyond a simple process of elimination to show their true value. It intelligently builds a picture (or a pattern) of your customer and finds a best possible match for that picture, allowing it to flex should the customer's needs / behaviours change over time.
Sitecore profiles are, when used effectively, an incredibly powerful feature of Sitecore's Experience Platform and when it finally clicks, which it will, a clever and intuitive tool to apply.
If you would like to talk further about how to use profiles within your Sitecore implementation or what to use them for, get in touch. I would love to chat. Drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter if you';d like to keep in touch.