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Guide to Creating a Customer Avatar

Vlad Falin

Blogger and Founder of CostOfIncome

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There's so much to do when you start your first — or fiftieth — digital marketing business. There's ad copy to write, landing pages to design, and of course, tons of ads to build from scratch. Sometimes people get a little bit lost in all of that. They start to create their online presence, forgetting about the main reason they are doing it in the first place: their customer. This is the point where every online business should start before moving forward. Many have heard about customer visualization, but only a few do it. In this post, we will answer how to create a customer avatar and start your digital business the right way.

What Is a Customer Avatar?

What is a customer avatar, you may ask? Customer avatars are single-person profiles or representations of the buyers in your market. You may have also heard them called buyer or marketing personas or customer profiles. 

They are a critical element to your marketing campaigns, creation of visuals, paid ads, and valuable addition to your marketing attribution models.

Customer avatar creation aims to make a single, fictional character who outlines your ideal marketing target. But keep in mind that this is not your average buyer — it's someone you'd like to sell to. In most cases, your ideal customer will offer loyal, repeat business, good referrals, and frequent purchases in return for high-quality goods and services. 

The purpose of a customer avatar is to delve much deeper than broad-scopes demographic data can. With these outlines, you not only define who your customer is, but what they expect from your brand, as well.

Note that you may have more than one customer avatar if your company is segmented in products or services. To give a simple example, imagine a salon that offers both men's and women's haircuts and spa treatments. In this instance, you may want to create both a male and female customer avatar. 

And don't limit yourself to just two — some businesses may have five or more. But to start, stick with three or fewer to save casting your net too wide.

When it comes to creating a customer avatar, there are a few essential components you should include, such as:

  • Defined wants, needs, pain points, and goals
  • A well-researched "history" and background
  • A detailed profile of not just who they are, but how they'll use your service or product

Why Is Customer Avatar Creation Important?

Creating a customer avatar may seem like a lot of time and effort to waste on defining a fictional person. And why would you? After all, your marketing probably has plenty of demographic data they use regularly. 

But this data is not definitive. 

That is, even though you know who may want your product, it still doesn't tell you who your ideal customer is. That's where fleshing out a customer avatar comes in. (Again, you may have multiple if you're a segmented business. But for this article, we're going to assume you only need one).

Creating a single customer avatar helps you narrow your marketing practices, improve your targeting, and enhance your personalization efforts, which is particularly important for marketing emails. Furthermore, you can improve your business from top-to-bottom by knowing who you do — and don't — expect to buy from your company. 

Learn more about increasing customer retention through personalized marketing.

4 Steps to Create a Customer Avatar

Customer avatar creation isn't an immediate process. You'll need to do plenty of research to identify your ideal customer profile (ICP) versus who you think you want as a customer. 

That said, the process doesn't have to be painful. In fact, there are only a few steps you need to know to get started fleshing out your first customer avatar.

1. Research demographics

Before you can know your ideal customer, you first have to know everything you can about them. This process is two-fold.

First, you'll want to research your ideal customer's demographic information. This will vary based on your product(s) offered, as well as where you live and your type of business. Data you collect should include:

  • Age and gender (if they're important for your product)
  • Family dynamics, such as a significant other and children
  • Place of residence or business 
  • Highest education attained
  • Occupation and income

One of the most critical pieces of data you'll want to collect is the challenges and pain points your ideal customer faces. Whether that's fear of losing their customers, inability to adapt to new technologies, or scaling upward, knowing the problems your demographic faces can help narrow or broaden your definition of the ideal customer. 

Second, you'll want to create a customer avatar to represent your ideal customer using the demographic information you collect. This includes giving them a name, age, gender, occupation, and income (for themselves or their business). 

You may also want to define your customer's background. You can do this by giving them a short backstory, such as where they grew up, their aspirations, or what impassions them in their work life. 

Furthermore, you may want to assign them a quote, something that they say or think that is indicative of their persona. This doesn't have to be an original statement, either. For instance, if you're marketing to the finance sector, your customer avatar may be a fan of Warren Buffet's famous quote: "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."

2. Identify goals, values, and fears

Every customer has a goal in mind, backed by values, fears, likes, and dislikes. From the mother of two who quilts for her Etsy store to the teenage boy who lives for promoting his favorite skateboard brand, there's a personal and professional goal in each of us. 

That includes your brand. As a business, you want to make a profit by improving consumers' lives. As for your customers, they want services that meet their needs at an excellent price. 

Due to the juxtaposition, then, you must define your customers' goals, not yours. To help kickstart the process, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What does your ideal customer want?
  • What does your ideal customer need?
  • Is your ideal customer working within a specific budget or timeframe?

Additionally, you want to make sure that you identify and stick to the values your customer base may hold. If you're going to sell to Catholic parents, peddling devil-imprinted socks won't be a good look for your brand. 

To help identify customer goals, you'll need to turn to your demographic research. Once you have that in hand, you can ask yourself important questions such as:

  • What goals do your customers have in mind? (Use your answers from above here!)
  • What are your avatar's personal or professional values and commitments?
  • Are there any values or goals that your customers view as dealbreakers? 
  • Remember that what a customer doesn't value can be just as telling and meaningful as what they do!
  • What steps and means will your customers employ to make their values meet their goals?

Once you have this combination of goals and values in mind, you can attach this data to the customer avatars you've already started to round out. 

Learn more about customer segmentation techniques.

3. Understand the decision-making process

Once you have your ideal customer-defined and fleshed-out, so to speak, you'll want to spend some time considering their decision-making process. It's important to understand that no business has a 100% perfect product or service. That is, no company can truly offer a "one-size-fits-all" solution to every customer on the planet. 

Thus, we come to the decision-making process. When a potential customer is looking at your company, they will have several factors that influence their decision. For instance, they may have a limit on how much they're willing to spend for your service. Others may be willing to overlook the price if the product's quality or return is worth the cost. 

Additionally, time is often a significant factor in a customer's decision-making process. Are they shopping around now to make a purchasing decision later? Are they on a compressed timeframe? Do they need the product immediately?

Anticipating how these questions play into the decision-making process will help you circumvent concerns and have ready answers when giving your pitch. 

4. Use a template

If you don't feel comfortable listing all this stuff on paper (or in Google Drive), you may want to use a template. Customer avatar creation templates can range from simple to detailed. They often incorporate many of the factors we discussed here, such as a customer's:

  • Goals and values
  • Likes, dislikes, and fears
  • Pain points and business challenges
  • Their role in the decision-making process
  • Background, education, and income

Uses for Customer Avatars

One of the most important uses of a customer avatar is in marketing to your target audience. Rather than shooting scattershot into the void and hoping your ideal customers will bite, you can target the most profitable segments. 

This also means you can shave off unnecessary costs upfront. Rather than spending money on emails, banner ads, and billboards that won't see a return, you can focus your efforts on the strategies and locations most likely to be worth your ad dollars.

You may also create a customer avatar for a specific purpose. For instance, if you want to start marketing on Facebook, you may make a customer avatar of your ideal online profile. While you'll also plan out the person's age, goals, and interests, you may want to consider other factors, too. These can include how much time a person spends on social media and their preferred accounts.

But there are other ways that creating a customer avatar can be profitable and beneficial for your company. For instance, knowing what your audience needs can help you make important changes when it comes to product development. But it also allows you to discern between helpful customer criticism and unhelpful customer complaints. 

And at the end of the day, customer avatar creation also improves the user experience. If you're developing for and marketing to your ideal customer, then you're more likely to improve in ways that are great for your business and your target audience. That's a win-win for everybody.  

For more information on building customer loyalty:

Being in the Know

Many people neglect the creation of a customer avatar as they think they know who their customer is. Even if that would be so (and frequently it is not), do your closest subordinates know? Do other departments know? What about outsourced people? Do they know who they are creating content and visuals for? 

Chances are, they don't. And this is why this customer avatar creation guide may come in handy.

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