In this guide you’ll learn:
- how to 10x your marketing communication
- the process of doing research for customer avatar
- how to create an empathy map
- how to tie it all together into a customer avatar story
Do you know about the green heron?
This bird’s diet mainly consists of various fish. It does eat other small things (like insects, crustaceans, reptiles, rodents…), but her target market…I mean food…is fish.
It’s fascinating how the green heron hunts. It often drops food or insects into the water to attract fish.
Green heron understands it’s prey, knows what attracts the fish and that makes it’s job of catching one very easy. While other birds fly around, waste their time and energy to catch something, green heron sits back and lets the bait do most of the work.
Check the green heron in action. Warning, try not to go on one of those youtube runs like I did after watching this video.
Why do you need a customer avatar
A lot of businesses online are like those other birds, flying around, wasting their time and money on marketing that doesn’t bring any results. The problem is not the marketing channels/techniques they are using, but it’s more that they don’t understand what their potential customers really want.
If you are doing any sort of marketing without knowing who your target market is and what they really want, you are just shooting in the dark hoping you’ll hit something eventually. And that can end up being pretty costly. Remember, business that wins is business that understands it’s customers.
This is where customer avatar aka buyer persona comes in.
Customer avatar is the starting point of your whole marketing communication
Ever tried selling or just talking to someone without knowing anything about them? It’s hard!
Whether you’re doing email marketing, content marketing, ads, developing new product or just copywriting in general; it will be 10x more effective when you understand the emotional wants of your audience.
If you don’t, you are playing a guessing game, and guessing in business is for amateurs.
Every time I start working with a new client, creating a customer avatar is the first thing we do. It’s amazing how many insights you can get in this process. You’ll learn what your audience really wants and needs, where they hang out, what are the usual challenges they are facing. And you’ll also get loads of ideas for improving your business to better serve your customers.
How can having a customer avatar benefit your email marketing?
Just think, when you find out that you have 1 or more specific types of avatars in your audience, you’ll see that each has their own specific needs and challenges. This will help you better segment your list and personalize emails. So every time you send out an email, it will speak directly to that avatar, which as a result, brings way better results because it hit them on an emotional level.
And remember, we don’t buy with logic, we buy with emotions!
I want to show you an example how defining and understanding your target market rocks!
Ever heard of Nasty Gal? It’s an awesome story how it started as a small vintage eBay store and grew to an ecommerce giant making over $100 million in sales.
What made a big part of the brand success is understanding exactly who their target market was, making the brand talk directly to them and using online channels where they hang out.
To give you a better idea, here is what Sophia Amoruso (founder) said about who Nasty Gal is:
She’s in her late teens or early-mid twenties and super body confident. She knows how to dress for her shape and isn’t afraid of wearing makeup and short skirts and being sexy. She’s into fashion but her taste doesn’t just apply to what she wears: It applies to food, interior design, and travel. She wants to have awesome experiences and be the best-dressed girl around — without spending an arm and a leg. (source)
How do you create a customer avatar?
OK, so now that you have a better understanding why you need a customer avatar, let me show you how you can build one yourself.
This is what you want to know:
- Goals and values
- Fears, frustrations, challenges
- Where do they get information from
- Where do they hang out online and what they do in their free time
- What are the usual objections they have when buying something and what’s really important for them in specific product/service
First you need to get the data.
Start with general research, visit relevant blogs/stores and check comments/reviews, browse forums, join facebook groups. Here you do the detective work, pay attention to those things you need for creating your customer avatar. Also check with your customer service and find out which are some of the common questions they get.
Next you want to move on your audience, so we go to your email list and social media.
These are the people who are already interested in your brand/products, so the information they give you will be highly relevant.
Create a survey, you can use various survey services, but just basic google forms works good here. You can also offer some sort of incentive to get more people in.
These are the main categories you want to include in your survey (add/remove questions based on your business needs, but do cover the categories):
Gender, age, profession, income, etc.
Bonus tip: I also like asking here “Which best describes you” type of question. Either give few options if you have a good idea who your audience might consist of or just leave it blank and let people fill in. This is great for segmentation!
Goals and values
What they desire and aspire to? What they really want? And so on…
Use these when communicating about your product/service (if they are true of course) and use them for content creation.
Fears, frustrations, challenges
What they dislike? What keeps them up at night? What is their biggest challenge with X?
Pay special attention to answers here, these are pure gold.
People usually don’t know what they want, I like the quote (whether it’s real or not) from Henry Ford here that says:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
But they sure as hell know what they don’t want. And that’s what you want to use in your communication, content creation and product development. Just look how you can help them solve these issues.
Where do they get their information from?
What books they read? What blogs they follow? Conferences, gurus, magazines, youtube channels, other?
These will help you to better understand how they digest their content and who you should keep track of (what they do, what kind of content do they deliver etc.).
Where do they hang out online and what they do in their free time
Which social media channels are they on? What they do for fun? What they like to do to relax and so on.
Knowing where your audience hangs out will save you loads of time and money when doing ads. Understanding what they do for fun/to relax will help you nailing down and personalizing communication (when you use X product, you’ll have more time to do X).
What are the usual objections they have when buying something and what’s really important for them in specific product/service?
I love these too.
You just need to listen, and your audience will tell you exactly what objections you have to address on your sales page and on which things you need to really focus on.
I also like throwing in a general “If we could improve one thing, what would it be?” type of question.
I don’t need to explain why this one is valuable. And if you see there is a trend here and you actually do it, your audience will love you for it, because you actually listen to them!
If you want to dig even deeper, try setting up a number of interviews with your customers.
Bonus tip: when creating these surveys/interviews, start with the end in mind.
Think what specifically do you want to find out here. Are you looking for ways to better segment your list? Or you have a course you’re working on and want to make sure you are providing a solution to their problems? Something else? Once you know what you specifically want out of these, you’ll have easier time creating questions.
Now that you have the data, it’s time to sort it out.
Create an empathy map
Empathy map is a tool which is used to better understand your avatar. It’s basically putting all that data down on a blank sheet split into 4 categories:
- What do they think and feel?
What is really important to them? What are their emotions, their hopes and dreams?
- What do they see?
What is their environment? How does it look like? What kind of offers are they seeing? What are their day to day problems?
- What do they say and do?
What is their attitude? What are they saying to others? Pay special attention to what they might say and what they truly think.
- What do they hear?
Who influences them and how? What are their friend and family talking?
- And you also add in the Pain and Gain segments
What are their daily obstacles and frustrations? What are their risks? What do they really want in life and how they measure success? What strategies are they doing to accomplish their goals?
It’s very important to do this from their perspective, not what you think should be, but what they think and feel. Of course, when you’re starting out, you can fill these in with your assumptions, but once you get the data from your audience, update the map.
You can download the template here. (made by xplane.com)
Or you can draw this on a whiteboard and have it visible for everyone.
Take note that you’ll most likely end up with few different empathy maps here, unless you are very very niche oriented.
Combining it all together into a customer avatar
Now it’s time to create that avatar story. Look at your empathy map and look at your data from surveys. Find out or filter the most common things that stand out for each of the categories.
Just like with empathy maps, depending on your business, you may end up with multiple customer avatars.
I like to first filter by age or gender and go from there. It comes down to a lot of filtering and observing which things stand out as common, that way I can connect the dots and develop few customer avatar with common traits. Some data experts might have a more efficient ways of doing this.
Now narrate all those most common data variables into a one short story about that avatar. Give it a name, give it an image. I suggest doing a story rather than just putting down raw data, our brains respond better to stories (you will always remember and connect more with a good story). You want to make it as real as possible, this will help you better connect with that avatar and your audience.
I just go through those categories of things I wanted to know from survey. Use real answers from survey to structure your sentences, this will make it easier for you and you’ll also get the feel about their voice.
Here is an example how a simple customer avatar looks like:
Creating your customer avatar is one of the best things you can do for your marketing communication and your business. It may take some time to develop this, but it will pay off tenfold in the long run. You may think you know your audience, but you don’t!
Having a clearly defined customer avatar(s) will help your:
- Email marketing
- Website copy
- Content marketing
- Product development
Don’t be like other birds, be like the green heron and understand what makes your target market tick.