When your product or service is built around solving a problem that people face, you´re already starting from a good foundation to build your customer profile.
We will now work backward from there.
The goal is to create a customer avatar, that represents your perfect customer.
01. Who is your target customer?
Once this persona is complete and detailed, it will form the basis of your marketing efforts.
A customer avatar is like a template.
The characteristics of your perfect customer inform where you look for customers and what you say to the people that your search yields.
People who fit in the template are a good fit for your product or service.
When it comes to purchasing, people who don´t fit the template are a “maybe” at best.
It may make sense at first to try to reach and sell to as many people as possible regardless of whether or not they fit your customer avatar, but if you go down this road you will quickly find it is expensive and discouraging.
Reaching 500 people who have a burning need for the solution your product or service provides is always preferable to reach 5000 who don´t resonate with the problem who have a solution for.
An effective custom avatar is instrumental in finding the first 500 people. You can worry about the next 500 later!
Rather, it´s a way of stimulating your thinking about who your customer is and why they need your product.
Use the following questions to shape the way you think and uncover information regarding your company analysis:
You build your product or service around solving a problem.
Who has that problem?
The more aware these people are of their problem, the better.
Express your answer not in a literal spreadsheet of names and contact information but in a list of traits such as
- disposable income,
- and other characteristics
that are relevant to building your own customer avatar.
Let’s get this out of the way right now. You have competitors.
No matter how new or innovative your product or service may be, you have competitors.
You learn about the nature of competition, how to measure it, and how to think about it here, but for now, know that you have competitors and that your potential customers are already spending money with them.
Why you need competition
Frankly, your biggest fear should be that you truly have no competition.
Far from indicating a green field that only you can exploit, it probably means there is no market for your product.
Be particularly worried if other companies have tried to enter your market and failed.
Rather than being afraid of competitors, use them for the wealth of knowledge and insight they provide.
In addition to keeping an eye out for abandoned, failed, discontinued product lines that may have something in common with your offering, keep tabs on who your successful competitors are.
Keep an especially close eye on the ways that you differentiate your offering.
Remember, your new business will be unable to compete directly with an established competitor in a very broad market.
The place where startup makes its mark is by solving customers’ problems in a niche or targeted market.
The people who spend money on competing products are demonstrating a need for a solution to their problem.
They are also demonstrating that they are willing and able to pay for this solution.
The characteristics that define these people are helpful in constructing your own customer avatar.
What if there are numerous products that are similar to mine in one way or another that have been abandoned by other companies?
To be honest, that´s not a good sign.
If the core of your business is something that has been done before and has limited or no success, it may be time to head back to the drawing board.
On the other hand, if you confidently say that what sets your product apart is the basis for why it won´t fail, then it may be a real opportunity. If this is the case, tread with care.
The role of differentiation for the success of a new company is a common theme of this platform.
There are countless examples in the world of entrepreneurship that reinforce this focus, but one sometimes overlooked benefit of differentiation is that just saying why someone should choose you over your competitors means breaking down an aspect of your customer avatar.
It is easy for new entrepreneurs to overestimate their reach and assume that everyone will want what they are selling.
Take a step back.
Are your passion and experience informing your decision-making process, or are you relying on the feedback of real people you intend to target?
It may be humbling to admit, but starting with the assumption that you don’t know how your potential customers think and feel will ultimately encourage you to uncover the most helpful information to guide the success of your business.
The prolific and influential direct marketer Gary Halbert had a question he would pose to his copywriting students.
In the hypothetical scenario, Mr. Halbert and a student were running competing burger carts.
He allowed the student to have as many advantages as they could think of if they would grant him only one.
Students would pick advantages such as premium ingredients, busy locations, or flashy signs, and expensive carts.
Confident that his hypothetical cart would beat the competition’s every time, Halbert would select only one advantage—a starving crowd!
02. Building your customer avatar
Ultimately, your customer avatar should come to life complete with a name, face, and backstory.
It may feel silly to talk about a made-up persona if she or he is a person in the room, but the more realistic your avatar is, the more prepared you will be to craft a stronger connection.
And the better you are at solving the problems your avatar faces, the better you will be at solving them for your customers in the real world.
Plus, limiting your customer avatar to a single person or a couple of distinct people mean´s that you don´t go overboard trying to cram every statistic and demographic into your target audience.
In this case, less is more as long as the “less” is focused.
Let´s take a look at the characteristics you should define when building your own customer avatar, and we will run through an example to help you built it using the downloadable customer avatar template.
Your customer avatar should include the following aspects of your ideal customer:
- Product-related characteristics
Demographics are personal characteristics. They include physical attributes such as:
- personal attributes: education, income, number of children and homeownership
Interests encompass your customers´ psychographics – the ways that your customer avatar spends her or his time. This includes:
- lifestyle choices
- entertainment interests
- relationship and family habits
Behaviors are interests and habits that are exhibited as trends or tendencies.
Behaviors are particular interest to marketers because they often represent patterns and can, therefore, be predicted with some accuracy. Behaviors include:
- financial literacy
- spending and purchase behaviors
- travel habits
- digital fluency
An avatar product-related characteristics are the way in which your product or service is related to all the other parts of your customer avatar.
- How does your offering solve their problem?
- How does your customer avatar feel about the past, present, and future with no solution to their problem?
- What about when they become aware of your solution?
- What key triggers will push your customer avatar towards choosing your solution?
- Will they have used other solutions in the past?
- How do they feel right before purchasing?
- What about right after?
- What about 30 days after?
By the end of the customer avatar process, you have constructed a template that informs you on key aspects of the people you should be targeting.
Use this profile to find them on social media, construct better messaging, refine your products, and make better advertising and marketing decisions in general.
03. Download Your Customer Avatar Template
A customer avatar template brings you back to the real world by encouraging you to think about your customers not just as the profit margin of
the next transaction, but as three-dimensional people with wants, needs, hopes, and dreams.
Customer avatar example
The following is a functional example of a customer avatar for a customer profile that an upscale yoga studio might employ.
Meet Amy Avatar.
Amy is 35+ years of age, is married, lives in Nothern California, and has two school-age children. Her household income is over $100K and she has a part time job while her children are at school and her husband is at work.
Amy is busy and looking for time for herself. She also wants to connect with other moms in a casual setting. Amy is interested in health and fitness but puts her family first. With her responsibilities as a mother and at her part-time job, she isn´t interested in spending a lot of her personal time intensely. She spends her time on Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. Amy is okay with spending more money on products if they make her day easier or if they are of higher quality, but she budgets herself frugal and a savvy shopper.
Amy is interested in healthy food for her family but dos do not subscribe to a restrictive diet. She is also not interested in traveling too far out of her way to participate in her hobbies. She has a high level of digital fluency and relies on her smart devices to make her life easier.