You’ve just started your own Online Marketing “Side-Hustle” which if executed properly will replace your 9 to 5 job and give you the financial freedom you’ve always dreamed of.
The problem is that it could take years of trial and error and wasted resources before your business starts cranking out the results you want.
Unless you work smarter.
Here’s a relevant quote that Keala often shares with students:
“If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln.
In other words, the more time you spend preparing for a task or project, the easier it will be to get through it and accomplish your goal.
This article will show you how to cut through some of the trial and error of digital marketing by building your first “Customer Avatar”.
A clear, detailed Customer Avatar (also called a Buyer Persona) helps take some of the guesswork out of marketing so you can focus your resources on the most effective Audience, Messaging, and Customer Journey.
More sales. Less time.
Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to building your first Customer Avatar.
What is a Customer Avatar?
A customer avatar in simple terms is knowing who your prospect is, how old they are, what hobbies they may enjoy… etc.
Knowing this type of information is kinda like walking a mile in your customer’s shoes so you know what they like, dislike, and most importantly… how they buy
“A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”
Once you’ve gathered all the information you need, you can use it to create a character who represents your ideal customer.
You can create multiple avatars (or personas) if needed so that you can have a good representation of different types of customers that may buy from you.
We’ll talk about what to do with each avatar in a moment…
Just know that each one will give you a clear view into your buyer’s mind which is invaluable in your marketing efforts.
How to Create a Customer Avatar:
In order to start building your first customer avatar, you have to collect some information about your ideal buyer’s.
Doing research, collecting surveys, and conducting interviews are some of the most effective ways to do so.
For this article, we’ll be focusing on conducting interviews because it’s the easiest way for beginners to get access to the information they need.
Plus, the interview allows you the flexibility to dive deeper into what’s going on with your buyers.
And you get to avoid any costly research or survey tools and sorting through tons of complicated data.
Also, interviews can be done at little to no cost.
Once you have the info you need, you’ll want to compile and review it for any defining patterns.
Then you can organize this data into a Customer Avatar and use it to make your marketing more effective.
Follow this step-by-step guide to build your first Customer Avatar:
Step 1: Identify Sources
Source #1 – Customers
Your existing customers will be your #1 source of information when it comes to creating a clear customer avatar.
They have purchased and used your product and therefore will represent your ideal buyer well.
Plus, you may not need an incentive to get them on the phone for an interview.
Many customers simply like to be heard and feel like they are a part of the brand they bought from.
Don’t just reach out to happy customers though…
Unhappy customers can provide a wealth of helpful information as well.
For one, unhappy customers are more likely to be brutally honest with you instead of giving you answers that make you feel good.
They can also reveal other problems that you may not be solving for them which can help you optimize your offers.
Getting feedback and information from both happy and unhappy customers will give you a well-rounded view of your customer avatar.
Source #2 – Prospects
Prospects (potential customers who have not made a purchase) represent another great source of information while building your customer avatar.
These include email subscribers or social media followers who have not yet bought from you.
These folks can give you a more broad perspective on how your brand is perceived vs your competitors.
You may be able to spot new opportunities to position your brand and widen your customer base.
The downside is that it may be hard to get them on the phone, and you will likely need to offer them something in exchange (keep reading for ideas).
But if possible, tap into your prospects to get a wider view of your customer avatar.
Source #3 – Your Personal Network
Suppose you just got your business up and running.
You don’t have any customers or even prospects yet,
But you need to get a clear view of your customer avatar so that you can start bringing them in.
Tap into your networks to reach people who may fit your customer avatar.
Maybe you have a few people in your contacts or friends list who might be interested in your product or service.
Reach out and see if they’d be open to a quick interview to help you out!
You can also ask for referrals from contacts as well. If they don’t fit your customer profile, maybe they know someone who does.
You may not get a lot of people on the phone, but the ones you can interview will give you tons of valuable nuggets because of the personal connection.
Don’t be afraid to use your network to build your customer avatar, especially if you’re just starting.
Step 2: Get the Interview
Customers and contacts are often the most willing to provide you with interviews.
But that doesn’t mean that it will always be as simple as asking and getting a yes.
Time is valuable, and people may be hesitant to jump on the phone and commit their time to help your business.
Here are a few things you can do to sweeten the deal get more interviews while building your customer avatar:
Throwing in a small gift is an easy way to get an interview.
Gift cards are probably the easiest way, but if you don’t have the budget, try offering a lead magnet like an e-book, worksheet, or mini-course to provide value in exchange for an interview.
Don’t Sell Them:
Be clear that your interview is NOT a sales call.
Most people are damn near hardwired to say “NO” to anything that feels remotely salesy.
Make sure potential interviewees know that you are just looking for their feedback to help serve your customers better.
Make it easy:
If you want someone to give you their time, then you’ll want to make it as convenient as possible.
Offer a specific range of time so they are aware of the commitment upfront (20-30 minutes should be plenty)
Be flexible so they don’t feel like they have to cancel or reschedule other things in their life,
But also make a few suggestions so that they don’t have to check their calendar and come up with a proposed time.
Then, put them on your calendar and send an invite so you both have a reminder for your interview.
Here’s an example of how you might approach someone so they don’t feel like it’s a sales call:
I’m just getting started in business and want to continue improving the overall customer experience for past and future customers. Would it be too much to ask for a quick 15-minute call where I can ask you some questions and get your real honest feedback about the product? If you’re okay with it, I’d be happy to gift you a $10 gift card to your favorite store for your time!”
Taking these small steps can make it easier to get a ‘yes’ when asking for interviews.
Step 3: Ask the Right Questions
You’ve got a few folks on your calendar and you’re ready to conduct some interviews and gather data.
Here are some examples of questions you will want to ask in order to build an effective Customer Avatar:
Goal Questions – get clear on what people are trying to achieve by purchasing your products.
“What does the ideal outcome of purchasing this offer look like?”
“What problem are they looking to solve with this offer?”
Challenge Questions – Identify any possible objections or roadblocks they have faced
“What’s stopped you from having solved this problem already?”
“What’s the biggest obstacle between you and this goal?”
“What other products have you tried that didn’t work for you?”
“Why didn’t they work for you?”
“What was different about our product that DID work for you?”
Personal Background– Find patterns in the customer’s background to shape your messaging accordingly.
Here are a few things to start with:
You may want to dive deeper into other areas that may be relevant to your offer as well, like education, hobbies, career, exercise & diet, savings & investments. Etc.
Buying Preferences – Identify the ideal buying experience for your customer
“Walk me through a recent purchase. What made you want to make the purchase?”
“How did you evaluate the purchase?”
“How did you decide on which product or service to buy?”
“Do you often purchase things online, or do you prefer an in-person experience?”
The Most Important Question: “Why?”
Asking “why” is more important than any question you will ask.
Your goal is ultimately to better understand your customer’s behavior and motivation.
Asking “why” will help open up the conversation and reveal the underlying patterns that are motivating your customers.
Use this as a follow-up question at each stage of your interviews.
This information is PRICELESS for anyone trying to build their business.
Additional Interview Tips:
Find the emotion.
Remember, buying is an emotional decision, so keep that in the back of your mind when asking these questions.
Try to sense the emotions that your customers may be feeling when they are looking to reach a goal or solve a problem.
Gently ask probing questions to dive deeper and gain a clear understanding of how they want to feel during and after an ideal buying experience.
Ask these questions to get the info you need to build a clear and detailed customer avatar
Don’t be afraid to go off-script.
There are certain details you need to collect during an interview.
But if people are willing to open up and share with you, sometimes it pays to simply let them talk and ask questions about what comes up.
One of Keala’s favorite follow-up questions when speaking with customers is “Okay. Tell me more about that” or “Can you expand on that for me?”
People then go on to reveal the deeper motivations behind their answers.
This type of raw conversation will give you powerful insights you might otherwise miss.
Check out this article for a list of 20 questions to ask during your interviews:
Step 4: Identify Patterns
Now that you have some first-hand info to work with, it’s time to compile your information and look for patterns.
Things you may want to look out for are:
Demographic Clusters – people with similar backgrounds who may be attracted to your offer.
Common Problems – people trying to solve similar problems with your offer.
Common Goals – people trying to achieve a similar outcome with your offer.
Common Why’s – people sharing similar motivations.
Common Emotions – people having a similar emotional experience.
Once you’ve identified some common patterns in your potential customer base, you’re ready to create your avatar
Step 5: Building the Customer Avatar
Now that you have some clear patterns that identify your ideal customer, you can organize it into a customer avatar.
Start by organizing them into categories, such as
Goals and Desires
Pains and Problems
Interest and Hobbies
Obstacles to achievement
Ideal buying experience
Then, “fill in the blanks” based on the strongest patterns revealed by your research.