We’ve heard it referred to as a number of things within our own marketing circles: some call it a buyer persona, some an ideal avatar. Some blur the line a bit more with terms like “customer avatar” or “target market.” They are all correct, but none of them really help you understand what the concept means.
Most marketers and business owners think they know their market. The problem is, the market is always in flux. Different things are going to appeal to people at different times. Different visual and emotional triggers will motivate people to click through. It can be difficult (read: “impossible”) to manage an “all things to all people” approach to marketing, but you keep hearing that you need an ideal avatar or buyer persona.
“All right, but if the market is always in flux, won’t the details of my ideal avatar change over time?”
Let me ask you this: do people – individuals – change over time? Of course they do. Age, experience, life in general… all of these things do force changes in how you approach the customer.
The point of an ideal avatar is not to be an etched-in-stone sculpture of your customer, but rather an anchor to the essence of who that person is. Without that, your advertising will be bland and boring because no one – and I mean no one – appreciates being “talked at”. This is why it’s so important to keep it real and keep it interesting when it comes to developing an ideal avatar.
An Ideal Avatar Is a “Real” Thing
The key to always aiming your marketing in the right direction is in knowing the market’s effects on your avatar at all times. Once you have the perfect picture of the customer with whom you would most like to do business, it is important to understand his or her thought processes and how life in general may be treating them lately.
You will need to take a different approach when the economy is robust than during a recession. If there is an employment deficit in your avatar’s market, your advertising should reflect your understanding of the situation and drive how easy it still will be to do business with you through the storm.
To accomplish all that, your ideal avatar has to be real to you. Once you decide on all the things that make that person the one you want as a customer, you can’t then go back and start manipulating them to make marketing to them easier. It’s a trap too many marketers and business owners fall into – they try to mold the avatar to their ideal instead of the avatar’s. Does that make sense? Here’s an example:
Tom and Sam have an IT startup, and they are hoping to build a strong customer base with a number of local, commercial clients. They do their research about the local market. They learn what they can about the people who make the decisions to hire contractors and start developing content and advertising around those qualities.
At one point, Tom decides that it is just going to be too difficult to hit all the points necessary to get through to their avatar, so instead of adjusting their approach, they adjust the avatar. They keep doing the same things with the same results while forcing attributes onto (or arbitrarily taking them away from) their ideal client, all in an effort to not have to back to the ol’ drawing board with their marketing plan.
Pure and simple, this is a big mistake.
You need to have a deep understanding of your customer and you have to be willing to let them have a persona that is all their own. When you accomplish this, it will do a number of things for you, including:
- Helping you determine which of the major social platforms they use most frequently
- Allowing you to reach better potential customers with your advertising
- Stretching your marketing dollars and helping you spend them better
- Facilitating better connections with your customer because you understand them
- Developing and delivering better products or services based upon your markets’ behaviors, needs, and concerns
Developing Your Avatar
Now that we understand the importance of having a clearly defined customer avatar, one important question remains: “How do I create one?” While the process is very thorough, it is also not that complicated when you have the right map.
There are a number of templates out there that will help you by presenting you with leading questions or concepts that you should be integrating into your avatar. I am going to show you a number of inclusions and explain how to lay out the details momentarily.
As you create your avatar, keep a few things in mind:
#1 – We aren’t talking about cinematic avatars. What you are developing here is real. It is not virtual. It represents an amalgam of all the most favorable qualities of your ideal customer. Your avatar isn’t a fictional representation of one customer; it is a factual representation of all of them.
#2 – You need to know your avatar on a deep emotional level. Develop it in a way that allows you to befriend it. Frame your business inside its head as the only viable solution to whatever pressing problem you exist in its life to solve. Get as deep as you can. Read its virtual diary and craft a persona around the brutal honesty you find there.
#3 – Be invasive. Find out everything you can about your avatar. What are its biggest pleasures? What are its biggest fears and worries? How are you going to pull them out of fear and worry and bring on the pleasure of doing business with you?
The methodology here is critical to doing this right so don’t back off even if certain things make you a little uncomfortable. If you run a mortuary, you have to envision your ideal client having hit emotional rock bottom before ever even calling you. If you are a travel agent booking dream vacations, your avatar is going to be much more excited and positive.
An ideal avatar has several key characteristics:
It has a name and gender – It seems rather basic, but you would be amazed at how often these details get skipped.
It has a headshot – Yes, you can use a stock image that fits the overall persona, but I recommend selecting this after everything else is on paper.
It is part of a specific demographic – Remember that this persona is going to be a visible, nearly tangible representation of your target market. This is the person you most want as your customer and he or she is the most likely to remain a brand loyalist over time.
It has a life – That means you have to know about every aspect of it: education, work, interests, hobbies, activities – you name it. The more you know about this person, the better.
The details need to be very specific – Do not use sweeping generalities or broad statements in your description of your ideal avatar. Make every word and description personal. Don’t let your avatar wander away from itself.
If you can do this right, your actual ideal customer will feel like you already know him (or her) when they walk into your business or click through to your website. You have successfully identified the pain, the fears, the frustrations, the desires, and the dreams he or she has. Every customer you reach should feel a sense of commonality with you as if they’ve known you for years and have no reason not to trust you implicitly.
Information to Include
It is time to bring together all the facts and create your avatar. At this point, you should have at least given a thought to the things I’ve already mentioned. Ideally, you already have an arsenal of important details at the ready. If not, what follows should help with the brainstorming process.
Start by asking these questions:
- What are the physical attributes of your ideal avatar? This includes race, hair color, eye color, weight, and age.
- What is your avatar’s current relationship and career status? If married or in a committed relationship, give the spouse an identity, too. What are things like at home for your avatar? How about at work? Does he or she have any kids? If so, how many, and what are their names and ages? What are some of the kids’ interests?
- Are there any phrases, quotes, or philosophical concepts that would appeal to your ideal avatar? Knowing this can answer a huge number of questions about his or her personality.
- How would you describe your avatar’s normal emotional state? What makes this person happy, sad, angry, fearful, etc.?
- What are your ideal avatar’s core values? Is he or she religious? If so, does this person practice or just identify as a specific religion? What are his or her political views? How is the avatar’s lifestyle a reflection of these values?
- How does your ideal avatar best interact with technology? What methods of advertising will be most effective? Should your aim be more visible on social media? Should you be focusing in on email? What about print?
- What kind of social and cultural activities does your avatar enjoy? What would be his or her ideal day out? What about vacations and other leisure time pursuits? Is this person a social drinker? If so, how much and how often (of either)? What about smoking?
- What are this person’s biggest worries and fears in life? How does he or she feel about life in general? Are those worries and fears keeping this person’s life goals out of reach? How can you help with that (or, is your product or service supposed to help with it)?
- What are this person’s biggest sources of happiness and satisfaction? Is it being a parent? Is it being more of a free spirit? Is it with work or with some hobby? What puts and keeps your avatar in a good mood?
Bringing the Story Together
Once you have all of the above details mapped out, it’s time to develop one, concise composite of who your ideal avatar is. Go through all of the information now and, section by section, actually write this person’s story.
If you don’t think you can manage the task, there are loads of professional copywriters whose emphasis is on marketing and who know how to put the details together the right way. Still, this is your ideal customer, so don’t discount your own ability to give it life too soon. If you need more help, there are some great resources out there that will give you talk points and templates you can use to create the most thorough, honest, and effective avatar possible.
What challenges do you encounter to develop your buyer persona? Please let us know how things are going for you. Feel free to leave a comment on the website or on our closed Facebook group. Looking forward to your feedback!