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Every business in the world has 2 important things in common. First, a product or a service, and second and the most important – A CUSTOMER! We often see businesses winding down because of lack of customers. This is a universal truth, irrespective of the fact how great a product or a service a business may have.

Throughout my career, I have met hundreds of professionals who have similar problems. Problems that are seemingly different yet have the same root cause:

  • I have spent my entire budget but my cost per acquisition is way too high!
  • Wish i knew where my next wave of customers is.
  • I have spent millions in branding but still have very low recall.
  • My engagements rates are very low. Am I doing something wrong?
  • I thought my product was great. Everyone would want it. But……..
  • Is there something wrong with my product? Does it really need an upgrade? HELP!

“The truth is, it’s not about you, your company, or your product. It’s about the buyer, their problems, and their desired outcomes.”

The truth is, you need to know your CUSTOMER! Better.

And I will share the magic tool to help you solve this conundrum – Customer Avatar.

What is Customer Avatar?

Customer Avatar is your ideal customer; the customer you would want to sell repeatedly, in other words like spinach to Popeye, a Yoda to Skywalker, a Batman to Gotham, your ‘best case scenario’.

Customer Avatars are generalized representations of your customer that details out everything about them without any bias. These fictional avatars are usually given a name and help us understand our customer better, communicate with them and build a powerful relationship.    

Just imagine an artist sketch his muse on a blank canvas, constructing his masterpiece one feature at a time. A customer avatar is built exactly the same way, one attribute at a time. And guess what, I will make it easy for you.  

But is this just another jargon that will fade? Not at all. Customer Avatar is a marketing tool that is often used before marketers launch their campaign. It has been the bedrock of science known as marketing since ages. Customer Avatar is interchangeably called as a buyer persona or target market.

Why do I need a Customer Avatar?

“You could have the greatest product on earth, but if you’re trying to sell it to the wrong person—you’re never going to hit your sales numbers.”

Having a deep understanding of your customer avatar is akin to building a relationship with your customer. It will help you know what makes your customer tick.

Basically, it will help you personalize your content, drive product development, sales and even post purchase strategy. So no matter what stage of product lifecycle your customer is, you will always have a targeted content or an offering for your customer.

Let’s take an example of a customer for a suitcase manufacturing company. Considering the avatar to be that of young, single, straight out of college passionate traveler, the avatar would be inclined to purchase a light weight, budget friendly, stylish backpack. Pre and Post purchase messaging to the same customer will vary and targeted content suited for the avatar can be served.

Simply put, this will go long way in increasing customer satisfaction, retention and further sales.

Is there something known as Negative avatar?

Absolutely.Negative avatars are nothing but segment of customers who are just….bad bet. No matter how hard you try, they won’t buy your product or service. Say like kryptonite to superman or veggies on cheese loaded pizzas. While you put in a superhuman effort to make your campaign successful make sure to build a few negative avatar as well. They are relatively easy to make and will help you save tons of precious dollars.  In short lower your cost per customer and increase ROI.

For now lets keep this aside.

When should you add customer avatar to your strategy?

Customer avatar when added will strengthen your strategy. It will help you achieve better acquisition rate per customer, higher engagement and even better brand recall. Think of it this way, the earlier the better. So even if the customer is at the later stages of product lifecycle, sharing appropriate personalized information will not hurt. For example, if your customer has already bought a backpack, sharing him the latest list of top places to visit this year will only add delight to the customer.

As you go deeper into your market study, you will realize multiple avatar would be required that will help serve multiple segments. Example overnight travelers might require same backpack as your earlier segment of wanderlust traveler. 

However, here are some pointers when you might want to add avatar:

1. When your existing strategy has none

Marketing is a cost center. If they are promoting a message, at least let it backed with some data. By having a customer avatar incorporated, there will be sufficient backing to market to the most frequent, profitable and loyal customer. You might even go backwards and ask the sales team to refine the avatar. This will further help in sharpening the messaging and targeting the sweet spot. 

2. When there is a change in pattern anticipated.

A marketer must always be in sync with the needs of the customer. Quite often the buying pattern changes over the period of time both for the customer and the product. Example, an overnight traveler might start choosing a lighter hard luggage, cabin baggage instead of a backpack or a backpack might start getting more in demand with brighter colors instead of the regular fast moving color. 

Hence an always-on tracking mechanism should be in place. With the new data in hand, the customer avatar would need to be modified.

It might take more than few seasons to see the change. This can also help in product development and upgrades and desirable inputs can be communicated back to your target market.

3. When your existing avatar base is not enough

You might have a successful niche following that is both loyal and profitable. However, we should always be on a lookout for more micro niches where our product might be a decent churner. In this case, we would merely add additional customer avatar and target this base with efficient marketing channels. Who knows, your product might resonate better with the new niche. Example duffle bags were used by customers who would travel short distances – 3 to 4 hr journeys. A whole new segment of fitness geeks adopted this efficient product overtime.

4. When a New Product or Service Is Launched

New product is generally developed with a specific customer in mind, after a good data to back its existence. However, the common mistake by most marketers is to target a broader audience during the launch, which is expensive and can break the campaign backbone.

However, it would be really smart to make multiple customer avatars and use data to back your campaign.

You can start by talking to existing customer of a similar rival, your sales team or even a survey to existing customer base about your product. If required, conduct interviews. Look for patterns and recheck.

Where can I apply my knowledge about your customer avatar?

Honestly, a customer avatar can help drive your entire business. Right from product creation to post purchase services, from a suspect phase to customer advocacy phase. Knowing your customer and taking things backwards is the only way for long term success.

So consider your avatar to be a young professional with frequent one day travels.

Going back to drawing board, the product team would want to create a light weight cabin baggage with enough space for 2 days travel, may be even with a build in portable charger.

Copywriting team would want to describe offers that speak to them on traveling solutions.

Similarly content marketing team, email marketing, social media and even paid marketing team would generate videos, blogs, podcasts that may appeals to the avatar at various stages.

Imagine sales team would probably have a sales pitch ready even before avatars shares pain points at the store.

All these activities are interconnected in broad unified strategy.

5 Simple steps to make customer avatar:

So let’s gets started with these 5 simple steps.

As an example, I will build an avatar for luggage industry with product – budget trolley bags.

Step 1: Download the customer avatar worksheet.

The worksheet is divided into 6 major components:

  1. Avatar name and photo
  2. Demographic Information
  3. Sources of Information
  4. Goals and Values
  5. Challenges and Pain Points
  6. Objections and Roles

The worksheet is just one page. And that all that is needed.

buyer persona worksheet

At this stage you are actively choosing a customer you are willing to work with. The information you will be collecting will be broad. In fact you would be tempted to add a lot of assumptions. You can assume but make sure these can be validated later.

The best of the avatars are made keeping the existing customer in mind that perfectly fits your business.

Step 2: Data collection

Now that you have seen the worksheet, we need to gather data to fill in. Data can be collected through a small market research. You can use one of the following techniques:

  1. Talk to your sales team – These are people on the ground actively working with the customer day in and out. Keeping their personal bias aside, see if you can generalize information given by them. Sales team often tends to put customers into different buckets from experience.
  2. Customer feedback – see if you are allowed to get in touch with your existing customer base. Shoot them a small questionnaire. A happy customer usually would reply. May be you can offer a small incentive.
  3. Your own database – Check through your contacts if they can provide assistance. Usually we may have up to 500 unique email IDs in our saved list.
  4. Interview your prospects – This is one of the most important methods of data collection. You can either phone or meet in person.

Important thing is you ask the correct questions. Ask why, why, why. Go as deep as you can. To fill the above worksheet, here are sample questions you can pick up.

Don’t be afraid to ask some pointed questions.

Here are sample questions you can ask in your interview/questionnaire.

TIP: Purposely add questions that can help invalidate the customer (this will also help build negative avatar).

So what is the ideal number of responses that is required? There is no correct answer for this. Larger set typically helps to uncover patterns, get more ideas. You might even need to weed out invalid entries (yes, quite a few people might not be true while sharing data).

This is the sample survey used to create customer avatar.

Step 3: Look for patterns

At this point you are ready to form image of your customer avatar.

Start by grouping similar responses into a bucket. This bucket will serve the starting point of multiple avatars.

Pick the bucket you think would be that of an ideal avatar first. Start adding the basics in the worksheet. As your collection set increases so will the data you need to go through. Start looking for patterns, invalidate responses if required and look for commonality.

Step 4: Add a name to the avatar

It is very important to add a name to the avatar. This will help you bring things into perspective as it will humanize the avatar.

Example: The data collection done is for a luggage manufacturing company. After going through the data, 3 distinct avatars were found. The primary and the most profitable one has been shared below.

Step 5: Review the ideal avatar

Great job! You are almost done.

Showcase customer avatar to your friends, colleagues and ask for a feedback. Have a debate.

Update and keep revising at regular intervals.

Now you have the true mantra to crack the code.

Customer avatar for luggage industry

Conclusion

Customer Avatar is your ideal customer; the customer you would want to sell repeatedly. Customer avatar when added will strengthen your strategy. It will help you achieve better acquisition rate per customer, higher engagement rates and even better brand recall.

Start with building one core Customer avatar and build from there. Multiple avatars should be distinct and will help you have a one to one relationship over multiple segments. Build negative avatars and exclude them from targeting to save budget.

Actively update avatar over the period of time and keep reviewing avataars with colleagues, friends and even competitors.

Bonus: ABCs of Customer Avatar

ABCs of customer avataar
ABC of customer avatar
abc of customer avatar
ABC of customer avatar
customer avatar, buyer persona,
customer avatar, buyer persona
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