It’s time to get intimate with your ideal customer

If you don't have a crystal clear persona etched into your brain, you're probably missing out on customers.


3 Big Ideas

  • A customer persona defines the ideal customer profile who will remain loyal to your brand.
  • In B2B industries, your customer persona is your ideal business' buyer or key decision maker.
  • Creating a data and survey-driven customer persona is key to empathizing with your ideal customer's motivations.

Whether you prefer to call it an avatar, a customer persona or your ideal customer, getting to know your target customer really well lies at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Digging deep into exactly who your ideal customer is, where his pain points are and how your company can solve your avatar’s biggest problems impacts every area of your business — from R&D (what new products or services will your customer need down the road) to the type of content you produce across different social media platforms to where you’ll get the highest ROI for your advertising dollars.

What Exactly is a Customer Avatar, Anyway?

A customer avatar is a representation of your perfect customer, the one who will stick with you through thick and thin. They’re the one that buys the most, most often, and raves about your product or service. He’s the one who posts five-star reviews when he is happy and takes the time to let you know when something needs improvement. When you release a new product, accessory or premium subscription plan, your perfect person will be first in line to sign up.

In other words, they are your DREAM CUSTOMER.

When we talk about creating an avatar or ideal customer profile, we are talking about getting very specific, going well beyond ‘a guy in his 40s’, or ‘moms’. By homing in on that perfect buyer, your entire team will be able to focus on what will keep that customer coming back year after year. In fact, completing a super-detailed customer persona will change the entire way you do business. There’s a reason why customer LTV (Lifetime Value) is such a useful metric. Courting devoted customers who will return time and again is far more useful that in the long run than selling to someone who may purchase only once.

Is a B2B Target Customer the Same as a B2C Target Customer?

While the general principles are the same whether you are a B2B (business-to-business) or a B2C (business-to-consumer) business, there are a few differences that are important to understand.

If you are in the B2B space, at one level, your ideal customer profile is another business that needs the product or service you offer. However, within that business, you will actually be dealing with a living, breathing human being and that individual is the person who, ultimately will either control or influence the company’s buying decision.

In a B2C scenario, you may need to go beyond the obvious answer to get at the real customer. If, for example, you produce high-quality wooden toys for children, the ideal customer is not a five-year-old girl living in Washington, DC. The end user may be a child, but the purchaser is more likely to be his mother, grandmother or perhaps a favorite uncle. If you are a manufacturer (we’ll stick with the toy example for now), you may have two divisions — one that sells directly to consumers through Amazon and another that provides wholesale distribution to toy shops and tourist boutiques (for your line of miniature wooden tourist monuments). Each of the buyers represents a different avatar.

In this post, though, let’s focus on how you would develop one ideal target customer profile in a B2C scenario.

Note: The ideal customer target is so important, it’s the first thing you address when completing The Marketing Canvas™ (our secret weapon when creating high-performing growth strategies). The beauty of using The Marketing Canvas is that you can repeat this process for various avatars and then plug them into a successful marketing strategy designed to help you maximize your ROI and, ultimately, grow your business.

What does an Ideal Customer Look Like?

Let’s have a look at what you need to know about your target customer and how to build a comprehensive (and useful) ideal customer profile.

Consider this scenario:

  • Bookstore Owner: What book would you sell to the next customer who walks in?
  • New Employee: Um, Harry Potter. I loved that book.
  • Bookstore Owner: Who cares?
  • New Employee: So… what would you recommend?
  • Bookstore Owner: Whatever book the customer is going to love.

Too often we get so excited about our products and services we fall all over ourselves telling the world how great our offer is. Effective marketing is all about putting the right product in front of the right customer at the right time. There’s no point in telling the next customer who walks into the bookstore all about Harry Potter when what she is looking for is a book about managing diabetes.

While the bookstore example may seem like an obvious one, too often businesses waste a whole lot of time and effort designing fancy logos and gorgeous-looking ads before they have nailed down who their ideal customer is, what problem they need to solve, and why your company can provide the perfect solution.

When you are thinking about your ideal customer, ask yourself who is likely to stick around, even if there’s a dip in the economy. Who is most likely to keep buying products and services? Who is going to ascend your value ladder when you roll out new products and services in the future? Obviously, a loyal, die-hard client is much more valuable than someone who buys once and is never heard from again.

Let’s Create Your Ideal Customer Profile

When the time comes to brainstorm with your team and create your avatar, keep these basics in mind.

Get Specific

Be as detailed as you can be as you go through this process. Give your dream customer a name, address, and a job. Is she married? Does he have children? A pet?

  • What’s your avatar’s annual income? What car does she drive?
  • What does your avatar want out of life? And, what’s stopping him from achieving that goal?
  • What are your avatar’s biggest challenges and problems, particularly relating to the products and services your company sells?
  • What influencers does your target customer listen to? Who does she trust? What books does he read? What shows does she watch on Netflix? What social platforms does he use (when, how, and how often?). Does she read blogs? Listen to podcasts? Which ones? How often?
  • Why does your ideal customer love your company and your products? What keeps her coming back? What makes her mad? What is something you might do that would send him running for the door with no intention of ever coming back?

Find a photo of your avatar and print it out. Stick the photo at the top of the whiteboard when you and your team get together to brainstorm about your next ad campaign.

Ultimately, the goal of going through the exercise of creating a target persona is to remember that you are always selling to a real person, not some nebulous ‘customer’ and not an entire business. The most effective avatars are those we could imagine taking home for Thanksgiving dinner. They are as real as a well-developed character in an epic story. In fact, they are your company’s brand hero. Think Luke Skywalker, Frodo, Neo, and Harry Potter.

Don’t Guess

Sometimes we think we know who our customers are and what they want, but make sure you aren’t basing your marketing decisions on wishful thinking. Get the data. Ask your sales team. Analyze the metrics.

Hard Data

Data collection has never been easier. With tools like audience insights in Facebook (and the equivalent on other social media platforms), Google analytics, the data you collect from your CRM — we know more today about buyer behavior at every step along the customer journey than has ever before been possible.

Knowing the data is out there and knowing how to interpret it are two different things. It’s beyond the scope of this post to dig deep into the data parsing tools that are out there but don’t ignore the hard facts when you go through the avatar-creation exercise.

Soft Data

There’s nothing like going directly to the source when you want to learn the truth. Tempting though it may be to rely entirely on the data you collect through various automated tools, never forget that ultimately, the source of that data is a real person.

Your customers and potential customers can provide answers to all kinds of questions if you take the time to ask them. Surveys (conducted at different points in the customer journey), the content of comments on a social media post (not just the quantity), focus groups and listening to your front line sales team members when they report back on what your customers are saying are all invaluable sources of information. Take what you learn and adjust your customer avatar accordingly.

Rinse and Repeat

Remember, too, that an avatar — just like the real person she represents — is not static. The time of year, her state of health, what else is going on in her world, from passing a passing a milestone birthday to taking on the care of an ailing parent — these will all impact her needs, challenges, and how she will interact with your brand. Even for the same avatar, you may need to make adjustments based on considerations like how far away Christmas is when the kids need to be thinking about heading back to school (or, off to college).

What Will Your Target Customer Tell You?

Gaining a deep understanding of your avatar’s goals, values, challenges, frustrations, and fears enables you to develop a deep empathy for her and to adjust what you are doing along every step of the customer journey. You’ll know where to find your avatar, what hooks, stories, and messages are likely to grab her attention, and what is most likely to get her to engage with your content.

You’ll know what she can afford and when she will be ready to buy. You should know your avatar so well that you’ll be able to predict what she’s going to need even before she knows she needs it and you can make sure your company will have the next product ready when she’s ready to purchase. When you have truly nailed your avatar, you’ll know because that is the same customer who will share your posts, tell friends and colleagues how great your company is, and will, in fact, become a de facto member of your sales team.

It all begins with knowing who that ideal buyer is. Again, that’s why “Target Customer” is the first step in The Marketing Canvas™ framework. Taking the time to go through this exercise to create an avatar for each of your ideal customers pays off because no business gets far without knowing all about their number one ally — their hero — in the marketplace.

It’s time to get intimate with your ideal customer

If you don't have a crystal clear persona etched into your brain, you're probably missing out on customers.

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