Customer Avatars: What are they and why are they important?

How well do you know your ideal customer? I mean, really know your ideal customer?

If you’re like many small business owners, you may have a vague idea who your target customer is.  You might have even written it down once or twice, and then filed it away and forgotten about it. You might even think that everyone and anyone is a potential customer.

Good small business owners will have identified their target audience. They have a reasonable idea of who they want to attract and target with their marketing. 

Better small business owners may have segmented their target market into smaller groups (or niches). This helps them to improve the quality of their marketing decisions.

The best small business owners go that extra distance. They really want to know their customer and take their marketing communications to the next level. To support this, they create Customer Avatars or Personas.

As small business owners, we must take the time to understand what our audience wants. What issues, problems, or roadblocks are they trying to navigate? It’s not about what YOU want to say.  A crucial first step is creating an ‘Avatar’ of your ideal customer.

You can’t do effective marketing without truly knowing who it is you are marketing to.  Avatars go a long way to help alleviate this.  

Read on to find out exactly what Avatars are, how to create your own, plus how to put them to work.

What are Customer Avatars?

Customer Avatars are an incredible tool that makes it easier for you to visualise your target customer.

Your customers have a variety of needs, goals, motivations and behaviours. They will use your products or services for a variety of different reasons. Customer Avatars allow you to create fictional characters to represent these individuals.

They help us to understand the emotional and behavioural triggers behind each customer.

Our Know Your Customer workshops take small business owners through creating their own Avatars. This helps them to be crystal clear on who their ideal customer is. From here, they can produce highly relevant messaging in their marketing. Messaging that cuts through the noise and connects with their prospects.

It is important to note that Avatars are not a single person. They are a representation of the different segments of your target market.  They are depicted as a person, but they are not a real person.

Types of Avatars/Personas

As you’ll read below, there are different types of Avatars. Here we will focus on the Customer Persona.

The Avatar that you use will depend on what you are doing. For example, a UX or Web Designer would use a UX/Web Avatar. A UX/Web Avatar helps designers understand what the different users of their website are going to be doing throughout the user journey. This helps them design a website that is user-friendly and intuitive. This can convert more visitors to customers (or whatever the goal of the site/application is).

Small Business Owners can map a Customer Avatar’s journey through a sales funnel or Customer Value Journey. They can identify how to communicate with and nurture their prospects through each step.

TypePurpose
Customer PersonasHelps with developing marketing strategies and messaging
Web/UX PersonasWeb designers use Avatars to get a better understanding of who they are designing for. This includes the wants, needs, and motivations of various types of site visitors. The creation of Avatars is necessary to build user flows that improve the user experience and website results.

What information do you need for your Avatar?

Avatars generally include the following information:

  1. A fictional name
  2. A short description
  3. Demographics (age, gender, income, education, employment, etc.)
  4. Psychographics (activities, interests, opinions, etc.)
  5. Wants and aspirations
  6. Frustrations and fears
  7. Goals and desires
  8. Brands that they use
  9. Books they read
  10. Websites and blogs they visit
  11. Value statement

For UX/Web Avatars, you would also include:

  1. Web experience, device (desktop, tablet, mobile), usage location, usage frequency, social media sites, favourite sites within and outside of the category
  2. The goals of their visit and tasks they are attempting to complete using the site
  3. A quote that sums up what matters most to the Avatar as it relates to your site

A Customer Avatar will be a one-to-two-page document including a photo. It will also include the above information, plus a few fictional details to make the Avatar realistic. Don’t use too much fiction though – you want to use as much real data as possible when creating your Avatars.

How many Avatars should you have?

How long is a piece of string?

It is likely that you will develop a few Avatars for your business.  Generally, 3 – 5 Avatars are enough to represent your audience. These can reflect the different stages of product, application or web development. Or they may represent the various stages of your sales funnel. 

For example, a prospect that is in the ‘research’ phase is going to be quite different to someone in the ‘buying’ phase. Not only will their goals be different, but they will seek different information from your website.

Are Avatars really that useful?

I hope you’re starting to see the power that Avatars can provide a small business owner. By communicating effectively to your prospects or customers, you can deliver relevant information at the most opportune time. This is going to have a significant impact on your conversions and bottom line.

Marketing is all about conversations. So being able to have the right conversation at the right time is critical.

Avatars were once the secret of large organisations. But, as the online marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, savvy business owners are starting to adopt them.

This is because when they’re done right, they work.

Anyone who’s done Facebook advertising will be familiar with the level of targeting that is now available. Even on a small budget, your marketing can be targeted to customers within specific locations, age brackets, genders, and much more. You can see how useful Avatars are going to be for you here. No more guessing. You can create highly targeted campaigns with different messages for your different Avatars.

Benefits of Using Customer Avatars

Small businesses use Avatars to consider the goals, motivations and limitations of customers. They guide many decisions about your products and services. They define your marketing communications and help design user journeys on your website. They are effective for objective, not subjective, decision making. You can base your decisions on data instead of assumptions.

For Small Business Owners

Customer Avatars help small business owners visualise their ideal customers. This is helpful for:

  • Writing blogs and social media posts
  • Crafting targeted advertising campaigns
  • Developing marketing strategies
  • Achieving consistency with your marketing communications
  • Giving your team a better understanding of your customer’s needs, wants and desires
  • Getting a clearer understanding of where your customers are spending their time. You can craft content marketing strategies using this knowledge.
  • Creating Customer Value Journeys that move your prospects from strangers to raving brand advocates

Avatars will help retain visitors longer and encourage them to convert into customers.

How to Create your own Avatars

If you’re still here, that’s great! You can see how useful Avatars are going to be to your business.

So, let’s get stuck into creating your Avatar.

I have created a Customer Avatar Template for you that you can download and fill in. This is part of The Lab Workshop and can be downloaded here.

If this is your first time creating your Avatar, you might not have all the data that you would like available to you. This is especially true if you’re a new business.

If that’s the case, don’t worry too much. Your Avatars will evolve with time. So, while you will have to be more fictional than is ideal, you will be able to update them as you collect more data.  For Avatars to be effective there needs to be some relevant and real data used. They can be as basic or complicated as you like, but they need to illustrate what drives the different buyers of your products or services.

Questions to ask yourself when creating your Customer Avatars

What do you want from your business?

This question is often overlooked.  I assume you do want to enjoy your business? 

For some small business owners, it might be about money, which is 100% fine.  Some business owners spend a lot of time with clients and customers, so it is important that they enjoy working with them.  You don’t want to attract a tonne of high-maintenance, squeaky wheel type customers.

Give your Avatar a name. This can be anything you like, for example, Small Business Sam.

Write a short overview of your Avatar. This can be high level but touches on where they are now and where they want to be.

Sam is a small business owner who dreams of becoming successful so that he can support his family and take them on the occasional holiday. In fact, truth be told, Sam would be happy just being able to have a sleep-in every now and then.

Currently, Sam’s focus is on understanding who their perfect customer is. Sam wants to build a predictable system for driving sales and growing the business.

Ultimately, Sam wants to build a successful small business that provides financial security. A business that allows him to leave the laptop at home on the family holiday.

This is who your Avatar is.  Write down their age, gender, location, occupation, their (estimated) income, if they are married, education level, etc.

Finding information to help to build your Avatars

Check out your CRM (Customer Relationship Manager)

If you are already using a CRM, there is a good chance that it already has some segmentation built in. This will enable you to break your contacts down into different categories.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics https://analytics.google.com/ is a great information resource for learning about people who frequent your website. Within your Google Analytics console, you will find information on demographics, interests, language and locations.  Within your Google Analytics account, select Audience on the left-hand side, in the dropdown you will see options for Demographics, Interest, Behaviour, Technology and more.

Google Analytics will also inform you of what keywords are used to find you, time spent on your site and what devices they used.  This information can reveal the motivation behind what led them there.

Social Media (Facebook/Twitter, etc.)

If you have a Facebook page, you can select ‘Insights’ located at the top of the page.  The first tab will display a summary of activity on your page. Down the left-hand side you will see a menu with options that provide more information. For example, the People tab gives you an overview of age, gender and location of your page fans.

You can also utilise your social media accounts to listen to what your customers are saying. It is also the perfect platform to ask your fans and followers some questions.

If you want to take Facebook a little further, you can use Facebook Search to delve into your fans interests. Try the following 6 Facebook search queries (just swap out the words in capitals):

  1. Favourite interests of people who like PAGE NAME
  2. Pages liked by people who like PAGE NAME and PAGE NAME
  3. People who work at PLACE and like SOMETHING
  4. TYPE OF BUSINESS in LOCATION visited by people who like PAGE NAME
  5. Brand pages liked by people who like PAGE NAME
  6. Pages liked by GENDER who like PAGE NAME

Surveys

Services like SurveyMonkey https://www.surveymonkey.com or Google Surveys https://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys enable you to create surveys to send to your mailing list. When creating your survey, be sure to use open-ended questions. The goal is to understand what your customers are thinking. Giving them yes/no questions limits the feedback you’ll receive.  We recommend asking 5-10 questions – too little and you won’t have enough feedback, too many and you might not get any feedback.

  1. When did you realise you needed a product/service like ours?
  2. What challenge does our product/service solve in your life?
  3. What concerns did you have before buying our product/service?

You can also ask your customers by picking up the phone and having some conversations.  Again use open questions and let your customers speak.

Customer Persona Example

The following example is Leanne, a small business owner running a law practice in Sydney.

How to use your new Avatar

Now that you have your new marketing Avatars, here are five ways you can put them into action.

  1. Check your marketing communications to make sure you are using the same language your Avatars use.
  2. Segment your contact list into Avatars so you can send out more targeted messages.
  3. Review your online advertising and ensure they are specifically targeting your Avatars.
  4. Optimise your landing pages to suit your Avatars. Again, look at language and imagery.
  5. Develop your Content Marketing Strategy around your Avatars. Ensure you are delivering relevant and timely information to them.

Conclusion

Hopefully, I have been able to illustrate the power of using Avatars and how they can help improve your marketing efforts.  They can provide insights into how to create better user experiences, persuasive copy, or pricing models. 

By improving the way you communicate with and understand your customers, you will improve your conversion rates.

The key is to create them out of actual, relevant data as soon as you can.

What is most important is to remember your Avatars should reflect real people with real motivations, desires, and concerns. 

Now it’s over to you. Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet and try creating some Avatars for your business.  I am positive they are going to change the way you communicate with your audience.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this post, so leave any feedback or questions in the comments below, and please feel free to share!

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