Continuing with the three-parter on Leveraging the Power of an Ideal Client Avatar (your ICA), in the first episode I covered What is an ICA and Why You Need to Define Your Ideal Customer. Now part 2, I’m walking you through Creating Your Buyer Persona(with Exercise & Worksheet), let’s do this!
Hello everyone, hope you’re doing well and things are moving and shaking in your business. If not, then going back to some basics can be really helpful. And in this series, we’re looking at the power of homing in on your specific target market and in particular your ideal client or customer avatar – or ICA – and in marketing and sales terms, today we’ll be focusing on creating your buyer persona.
PREFER TO LISTEN?
Quick recap first off on what we covered in part 1, we set out the principles of what a customer avatar is and why it’s important to the success of your business – and trust me that’s not a lofty statement for the sake of impact.
If you haven’t listened to part 1 and really taken ICA work to heart as a key performance booster, then please do that. Otherwise, even if you do the exercise I’ll share with you today, your motivation to really do a thorough job won’t be as high as when you fully understand what’s at stake here.
Now in part 2, I’ll be taking you through an exercise to formulate your ICA – step by step… which is a big challenge if you’re on the move whilst listening to this as a podcast, so you might want to read it as an article too, download and print out the exercise sheets to fill in once you’re back at base.
Also, I don’t know where you’re at in your business building right now obviously – and I want to acknowledge that defining your avatar might be tough for some people, not least because it’s not something you crack in one go.
We’ll at least make a start, but it’s really a progressive and iterative process. I don’t want to set myself or you all up to fail here, but I hope to get you a lot of clarity on why you should spend time on it, and a process you can take away and work on in your own time after today.
In fact, even fleshing this out a little bit is going to give you a jumpstart on any lead magnets, content marketing, emails or other communication you’re doing with prospective customers.
Before we start creating your ideal client avatar, let’s just recap from part 1 what this can achieve for your business.
When your target audience is clear that you understand their needs, issues and situation, your messaging becomes more resonant. Your audience will understand why you are talking to them and what you want them to do. If your content resonates with them, they will be more trusting of you and your brand. With that trust, they will be more inclined to believe that your offer can help them with their pain points.
By targeting a specific group of people with your marketing, you save money on advertising. You won’t have to waste time and money marketing to people who are not interested in what you have to offer. If you were selling boats, you wouldn’t try to sell to a family that lives in the desert. When you are writing your marketing material, you want your audience to feel like you are talking directly to them. If your marketing material is written to speak to everyone, no one will connect with your content.
Close More Sales
When you know who your target customer is, it becomes much easier to close sales. You can tailor your sales pitch to align with what they are looking for and make them an offer that makes their pain go away. Since your message has established trust with your target audience, they will be more likely to do business with you. Closing more sales is often a result of resonating strongly with your target audience rather than reaching more diverse groups of people.
6 Essential Qualities of Your Ideal Customers
Right, so now we’ll cover off some of the foundations – the overarching ‘ideals’ you should be working towards.
There are what I believe to be six essential qualities you will want ALL of your customers to share, which is fundamentally what makes them ideal for your business.
At a high level, when you think about your ideal customer, here are the high level 6 essential qualities you should be looking for to ensure that you are targeting the right person for your business.
Remember, you should be segmenting your customers not just to identify their value, but also to determine how you approach them. Your target person should be a raving fan – which means they believe in what you are doing and are willing to pay for the quality products you are creating.
Is a raving fan – i.e. brand loyalty, sees & shares the benefits
Is accessible – i.e. easy to find, reach out & talk to
Is receptive to marketing – i.e. isn’t saturated in it
Has good spend value – i.e. buys high-margin core products
Has a relatively fast decision process – i.e. short sales cycle
Has a high lifetime customer value – i.e. built-in repeat purchase.
Let me take you through each one briefly…
1. A raving fan
The person that you are targeting should be a loyal, raving fan. They should immediately recognise the benefit and relevance of whatever the problem is that you are solving. And because of how you talk about it, and solve it for this person, you should be the best solution that this person can think of.
This is actually the most important thing. If your avatar loves you and what you do, then everything else becomes easier. They will convert more easily, they are more likely to come back again and again, and refer other people to you. Every step after this becomes relatively easy. So, focus on this one first.
2. Easy to reach & connect with
Your avatar should be someone that you could easily get in touch with. For example, if you provide cleaning contract services you could choose a target person who is the head of operations in a good-sized corporate company, or you could choose the person in charge of operations at a school. Which one do you think is easier to reach out to?
It would probably actually be much easier to contact someone in the corporation – they are in a position that is designed to be contactable. You have to carefully consider how difficult it is to actually get in touch with your potential avatar, and factor that into your decision on a marketing and sales process.
3. Receptive to Marketing
Your target person should also be really open to looking for solutions in terms of engaging with the marketing you use. Going back to the cleaning contractor example, while it is easier to get in touch with someone at a corporation, they are less likely to be receptive to marketing.
Corporate heads have marketing constantly thrown their way, while a school is less likely to get as much and will probably be more receptive. Sometimes, your avatar may not be that receptive to your marketing – that is ok. The point here is to compare between your different avatars and, ideally, choose one that is more receptive.
4. Relatively Short Sales Cycle
This is another one that is more about comparison than absolute value. You want someone where the time to go from lead to purchase is minimised. You may ask, “How short is a short sales cycle?” and really, that depends on your business.
What you need to focus on is choosing the target person among your choices that has the shortest sales cycles.
5. Good Spend Value & Margin
Is your customer coming in and buying products or services from you that actually deliver value? Are they buying your products that actually have a high margin?
Or are they only purchasing your peripheral products rather than your core ones? Do they only buy from you when you give them offers or put things on sale?
6. Built-In Repeatability
You want your target person to be the kind that buys from you over and over again. This may not be the case for every business – some services are one-time only. However, with most businesses, it is a waste of your marketing spend if you are incurring all costs to get a lead and they are only buying from you once.
Your marketing budget should be an investment, not a “spend” – and so when you make that investment, you want it to give you as much return as possible by increasing the number of transactions that a single converted lead makes.
This increases the lifetime customer value or LCV, which if high can decrease your acquisition costs dramatically.
Your Avatar is Already a Client!
Often, as we run through the above 6 essentials for choosing a strong avatar my business consulting clients often say, “Ok, let me create my avatar.” But here’s the key lesson: You do NOT need to create your avatar from scratch.
The strongest buyer personas are based on market research and insights you gather from your actual customer base.
Go through your existing data methodically:
- Research– First gather as much information as you can. Good places to start are your email lists, contact databases, lead capture pages and through interviews. Research online too, to understand where your customer is shopping in your industry.
- Analyse– Next thoroughly analyse your research. Can you see any themes emerging? Any universal truths that jump out from your research? For example, job titles, location, age, gender… anything that allows you to segment your audience into clear groups.
- Brainstorm– Now for the fun bit. Create rough audience groups, give them a name and start brainstorming any facts you can about them. Based on what you know, imagine who they are and what their life is like, and start to shape an idea of your ideal customer from each group.
- Assess– Finally, look at your personas and see if they feel right. Do you have enough detailed information about them? Do they seem genuine? Do you believe them? Are they distinct groups? Do any cross over? A good number to end up with is between three and five different buyer personas.
Part of the fast-track exercise we’re going to go through in a moment – is something I do with my clients – and that is to take the list of your customers and go through them one by one. Categorise them and assess them based on the 6 essential qualities I just shared. Make sure you choose not just the customers that paid the most but the ones you like! Would you want to have a coffee or a drink with them?
Another way into this – to get a quick sense of your ideal customer avatar – is to pick a character from a movie or series you like. People align with TV or film characters because they’re RELATABLE. So pick one that truly resonates with what your avatar is all about, and who you’d want as a client, ideally.
Danny Iny refers to this as the ‘Casting Method’. It’s pretty surface but can be a fun way into the character at the heart of your avatar.
You should be fond of your avatar, and they should be – I will say it again – your raving fan. I can guarantee you, if you do not skip this step and tightly identify your target person, you will be amazed at how easy a lot of your marketing will become.
It also helps you say no to clients, saying no to people who aren’t a fit for you or your business.
Writing your content, defining your channels, figuring out the design of your website or marketing material – all these decisions will become so much easier once you know exactly who your avatar is.
Your Avatar may not necessarily have blue skin and pointy ears, but as you define your marketing plan, you should be able to clearly visualise them and understand what would and would not work for your perfect person – or appropriate organisational contact if you’re B2B. You should be able to place yourself in their shoes – walk around a bit – and get a good sense of what would drive their decisions.
5 Steps to Defining Your AVATAR
Before you can promote and sell anything effectively, you need to understand and align with:
WHO your ideal customer is
WHERE they’re hanging out online, and
WHAT their challenges are
But how do you actually do all that?
Well, there are a few steps you need to take. And at first look, it will seem like a lot, but it’s iterative – we’ll just make a first start today. Once you get into it, it’s really quite good fun!
The goal isn’t to know or conjure up every last detail about your one perfect person’s life – it’s to home in on the things that are most top of mind, priorities and relevant to your business and your ideal customer or client.
By narrowing down and defining your ideal customer, you can ensure that your marketing is tailored perfectly to the people who will actually buy and love your products or services – and enable you to reach more of them. So how can you identify them and get to know them better?
The 5 steps are Research, Analyse, Create, Test, and Refine.
Your avatar starts to take form from your market research – where you’re gathering data on your target market; analyse – where you’ll be drawing ‘ideals’ from your existing customer base, and looking at your analytics, as well as your competitors.
Now, you’re set to complete the other three steps where you create your buyer persona based on your best insights about demographics and psychographics, then test your assumptions, and refine.
You’ll repeat these steps until you have a clear & accurate picture of your ideal customer avatar.
In a moment, we’ll go through a fast-start exercise to get you actually creating your own avatar. If you’re starting from scratch and haven’t done any research or analysis, this may feel hard – you’ll go on tacit knowledge for now. Just be imaginative, get curious…. It’s just a first stab at doing this – and I’m going to guide you through it – you won’t land it right away, and even if you did build out something quite detailed, it’s unlikely to be spot on right away – you’ll need to test and refine a few times before you have it fully dialled in.
Let’s go through each step again in more detail so you learn exactly what to do, in a practical sense.
1. Conduct market research
Start by gathering data on your target market. This may include demographics such as age, gender, location, income level, and education. You can also gather psychographic information, such as personality traits, values, interests, and lifestyle choices.
Great places to get this is from book reviews or online groups that your ideal client is likely to read or contribute to. This research will help you understand the needs, interests and preferences of your potential customers.
For a more detailed look at things, you can line up interviews and run focus groups or surveys to understand your customers. Here, you have the advantage of customising your questions, so you get answers that provide the info you’re after.
You can also use a semi-structured interview approach, such that you have a set of key questions yet are equally open to taking the conversation in whichever direction the participant leads. This can help you avoid ‘leading the witness’ so to speak, and putting too much emphasis on your own assumptions or bias, and have the findings come up more organically.
If you haven’t yet found any particular patterns in your market research so far, using this looser structure is a great way to open things up more. So, make sure you’re asking open questions (that is not yes/no or short answers that don’t give you much depth)… if you get short answers, keep going, You can use ‘tell me more’ or ‘can you say more about that … ‘ and again see where the conversation naturally goes.
2. Analyse your existing data
The first place to grab customer data is from your website analytics – you’ll need to have google analytics set up on your site and google search console. So if you’re not sure about that, search ‘how to set up google analytics’ or ‘how to set up google search console’ and you’ll see a tonne of free guides, step-by-steps and videos at your disposal. Or you can ask your web developer or site host provider.
From your site analytics, you can get decent insight as you can see what your web traffic is clicking on. This gives you some good signals as to their interests, goals and aims.
The second place to find existing data is your current customers and identify the ones who are most engaged and profitable to your business. Determine what they have in common, such as demographic or psychographic characteristics, and use that information to create a profile of your ideal customer.
And thirdly, you can go back to your notes or recordings and transcripts of your discovery calls and sales conversations where you will have asked questions about any concerns, challenges, or lifestyle points. And now you will need to analyse, codify and consolidate the patterns and themes emerging from that set of data.
3. Develop buyer persona
Based on your market research and analysis of your existing customer base, you should be able to develop a fairly detailed marketing persona for your ideal buyers.
Your persona should include information such as the customer’s name, age, job title, goals, challenges, pain points, and buying behaviours.
4. Test your assumptions
Once you’ve created your buyer personas, test them by reaching out to potential customers and gathering feedback. Having a cup of coffee with your “ideal client” is a great and effective process to share your avatar – stay focused and you’ll uncover deep truths. Ask them if they can relate to the persona you’ve created, and if not, what changes you could make to improve it.
5. Refine your customer avatar
Based on the feedback you receive, refine your customer avatar until you have a clear and accurate picture of your ideal customer. Use this information to tailor your marketing efforts and create products and services that meet their needs and preferences.
Overcoming Mental Blocks to Avatar Work
I know that some entrepreneurs have a mental block about narrowing their audience, or get stuck trying to perfectly define their niche and ideal customer – and I find that it helps to not think of your niche or ideal client simply as a set of demographics or characteristics, it’s way more nuanced that that. Instead start by thinking about (a) the essential qualities of a great customer or client, mentioned earlier, (b) the common challenges they face, and (c) the typical transformations or outcomes those people are seeking, that you’re well equipped to help them with.
You should spend a fair amount of time on the psychographics of your ideal customer and you should start to see a character appear – where you can actually visualise them!
1. Look at Your Current Client Base
Rather than take a wild guess, take some time to work out the people you currently work with. If there are certain people you don’t enjoy working with, exclude them from your list. Take some time to look at their gender, age bracket, industry, location and income level. Ask them what drew them to working with you. This can quickly give you a good overview of “who is your who.”
2. Consider their Current Habits
Digging a little deeper, ask yourself what is it that your ideal client reads. What do they Google? What information are they searching for? Where are they searching for this information? Do they use Android or Apple? Are they always on a mobile device or on a computer? Do they hang out on Facebook or on Linkedin? By knowing where they are and what they are looking for, you are able to reach them with ease.
3. Identify their Goals & Aspirations
Knowing what your ideal client aspires to achieve can be key information for putting together suitable marketing content. If, for example, you are a fitness trainer who targets brides-to-be, knowing that your ideal client has a goal of dropping two dress sizes ahead of her big day will instantly appeal to her and have her listening to what you have to say.
4. Identify their Hopes & Fears
People often make a purchase for one of two reasons: They have a desire they would like to be fulfilled or they have a problem that they need to be solved. If you can identify a challenge your ideal client currently faces and “bridge the gap” from their problem to a solution, it’s likely you will find yourself in high demand.
For instance, if you find yourself feeling like you have aches and pains, you are likely to seek the services of a physiotherapist. If you find your vehicle running low on fuel, you would visit a fuel station in order to fill up.
5. Identify how they make their Buying Decisions
People make purchases in different ways. Some purchase impulsively. Some take the time to research, read reviews and look at alternative options within the market. It’s important that you know the purchasing habits of your ideal client so you can ensure they have the right resources there to make a purchase.
If, for example, your ideal client purchases impulsively, ensure that you have a website with a card payment facility. If your ideal client likes to research and gain assurance from other customers before they invest, then ensure you have an online facility where people can leave reviews and feedback. This will be key for your potential clients who are making a purchase decision.
6. Ask Yourself Who Would You Like To Work With
It may seem obvious but if you enjoy working with someone, the process is often much easier and the results obtained are often much better. You need to be excited about who you work with. If it doesn’t excite you, then it will make your business unsustainable. If you could work with one demographic every day, who would that be? What would you help them do and what value could you deliver?
7. What Do They Need
If you run a Facebook advert and are targeting everyone the social platform can reach, I can guarantee the return on investment would be poor. If you are selling pushchairs and your advert is showing up on a 24-year-old single male’s Facebook feed, the likelihood of making a sale is slim.
If you already have a product or service, make a list of the reasons why people would need what you offer, including the changes it can provide in someone’s life as opposed to just listing the features.
If your efforts are to serve everyone, you will actually end up serving no one. There are people out there who genuinely need and value what you offer and are ready to buy from you now.
While most business owners usually know the answer intuitively, they are still not focusing closely on this as a component of their marketing strategy creation. I’ve found that following a step-by-step process to defining an ‘avatar’ for your business, invariably leads to greater clarity and a more focused marketing strategy.
The most common first question I get from my business consulting clients when we start this process is, “How do I identify the target market?” or “How do I identify the target audience?” The mistake they are making here is that they are thinking of whom they are targeting as a “target market”. As I have explained before, target markets don’t work. The first thing you need to do is think of targeting a person not a target audience.
The next question is, “Well, how do I select this target person or avatar?” This is a valid question, and actually requires more structured thought than you might initially think. You want to focus on the characteristics that are most relevant to what you do and what you help people with. You don’t need to know if someone loves animals unless you sell pet products or pet trainings. You really don’t need to know what they like for breakfast if you’re an accountant. But you would if you are a health coach.
Think about questions that have most relevance for your business. Some broad questions that are useful to most of us are questions like: What does your ideal customer do for a living? Why do they buy from you? What behaviours are they driven by? Are you servicing all of their needs or just some? What are their preferences, habits, needs, responsibilities and favourite resources that relate to what you help people with?
Most businesses have more than one marketing persona. For example, if you’re a florist, your main customer groups may include:
- Businesses who regularly order displays for their lobby or offices.
- Husbands buying bouquets for their wives for events like Valentine’s Day or their anniversary.
- Families ordering wreaths and flowers for funerals.
- Brides looking for bouquets and displays for their weddings.
As you can see, each of these groups is completely unique. Their motivations for buying, and what they are looking for is very different – and as a result you would target your marketing for each group equally differently.
Each of these groups would have a different persona that would help you understand how to talk to and reach them. For example:
- Your persona for businesses may be Sue, a 35-year-old PA to the managing director who loves lilies and spends her lunch break on Facebook.
- Your persona for husbands may be John, a busy, stressed manager. He likes to be reminded to buy via email so he doesn’t get in trouble for forgetting important days.
- Your persona for bereaved families may be Sheila. She was married to her husband for 40 years and is looking for a compassionate, understanding florist who makes suggestions. She looks through the ads in the local paper.
- Your bride persona is Charlotte. Her wedding planner recommended you, and she loves that you’re knowledgeable about the latest bridal trends and can source unusual blooms.
The ABC Fast Track ICA Exercise
Now let’s go through this fast-track ICA exercise together here, where you’ll take a rough cut through creating your avatar. You can it in real time as you listen or read and see how far you get just brainstorming it, and later you can download the worksheet and start deepening the layers.
A = Actual + desirable clients
B = Building out the blueprint
C = Congratulations! Now what?
When you’re ready, open up your notepad, paper or digital whichever you have handy. if you approach this with an air of curiosity, you should find this a fun exercise. It’ll be a bit rough and ready, but hopefully it will get you going in the right direction.
We’re going to condense things quite a bit, and you will have lots of gaps … so i’ll talk about what you can do after this session to dig deeper. If you struggle on some of the steps and the information. I’m asking you to write down, skip it for now, and move forward. By the time you finish each question, you at least have some kind of draft to work further from.
Opt in below to download the ICA worksheet for this.
Great work – keep going with this in your own time via the worksheet.
Start by building a single avatar—but don’t stop there. Your business almost certainly has more than one ideal buyer. Sometimes people have more than one ICA so we build out a multi-customer persona and look for where they cross over.
Any lucrative market segment with a distinct set of goals, information sources, pain points, etc. is deserving of a customer avatar. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start churning out multiple avatars representing the different segments of your market.
Use the momentum gained from this quick run-through and keep going, dive deeper. Add in layers from your market research, from your customer assessment to solidify the answers to create a story around your ideal customer avatar.
What problems did you think Client 1 was facing, and what remedies did you have to give them?
What were the goals of Client 2? Talk about how you can support them in this process.
What were your ideal clients’ various objections and road blocks? These will come up most often in your discovery calls. Well, now you have already identified the questions, you can answer them in advance and share your solutions before the questions are asked, because they are the most common questions you will hear.
With this knowledge, you will be conversing directly with your ideal client avatar!“If someone buys something, there’s a reason behind it.” You never make a purchase on a whim, with no prior thought at all. This is essentially what the psychographic information tells you; why is your customer behaving in this specific way?
This knowledge is also crucial for content marketing and social media posts, and can help you stand out. Write a series of Facebook posts or Tweets using the responses to these questions. You won’t be writing general material any longer; instead, you’ll be helping the people you want to do business with.
You’ll also need to determine your avatar’s role in the purchasing process.
• Are they the primary decision maker?
• Are they a decision influencer?
If your avatar is NOT the primary decision maker, you’ll need to come up with a strategy to appeal to whoever that person is.
Here’s a BONUS from this exercise that you can implement right away…
Take your answers and build out the psychographics into a set of questions you can use for discovery calls!
As you’re going through the discovery call with your potential new client, or as you’re creating your new content to reach them, you’ll be able to address their questions in advance!
Now Bring Your Avatar to Life
Take the time now, no matter what stage your business is at, to identify your client avatar, so you’re not wasting your time marketing to a generic client. (By the way, “Generic Clients” do not exist, so they are not going to work with you or buy your products! Just saying …🙂)
Every aspect of your business is dependent upon knowing exactly who you are marketing to. From your product creation, services offered, content platforms, messaging, email marketing, all the way to the look and feel of your branding, everything should all be focused on your client avatar. What will appeal to them, how can you help them, what will attract their interest and solve their problems?
Where you market is dependent upon your client avatar too. If you are spending all of your time marketing on Facebook or Instagram and your client avatar is solely on LinkedIn, then you’re wasting your time and not being seen; possibly you’re feeling this in your struggle to gain more clients and grow your business right now.
With avatar work, what you don’t want is to end up with just a document of words, you want to be able to clearly visualise your ideal customer. Think of your avatar as creating a character. If they are female, you’re going to determine:
• Her characteristics
• What makes her tick
• What she loves
• What scares her
• What excites her
You get to tell this avatar’s story – create your own little story – it’s a lot of fun! But, this isn’t a bestseller novel you’re writing … it’s a customer avatar, so you need to define the characteristics your ideal customer is going to have.
Based on the work you do in the ICA exercise, you’re going to decide your avatar’s:
• Demographics – This is the bones of your avatar. Give her an age, income, gender, marital status, education, and where she lives.
• Psyche – Get in your avatar’s head and describe her family life, her job, her habits, desires, fears, goals, attitude. Give her a personality.
• Pain points and challenges – What keeps your avatar up at night? What’s her deepest darkest desire? What’s getting in her way?
• Role in the purchasing process – What’s stopping your avatar from buying your product? What’s she looking for that would cause her to buy your product? Who’s the ultimate decider in purchasing?
• Reading habits and media use – Where does your avatar get her information? Where does she hang out? Does she use social media? Which ones are her favourites? What magazines and books is she most likely to read?
The data you’ve gathered will help you determine your avatar’s personality and existence for your business. Take a look at your data and then start narrowing down those traits and build your avatar.
Based on the work you do in the ICA exercise, you can really build a wonderful character that depicts your ideal customer.
There are some fun tools that help you create a visual depiction of your avatar.
In the next episode, the final third instalment, we’ll move into application – how to use your ideal client avatar to inform and drive all of your content planning and copy.
Here’s the ICA worksheet exercise again … speak soon.