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As is often the case, the topic of this week’s episode is top-of-mind for me and the current state of my business.
I have heard of the idea of an “avatar” many times throughout my entrepreneurial career. An avatar is a conceptualization of your typical customer.
The purpose of the avatar is to understand what your typical customer is like. Who are they? What do they do for a living? What do they like and dislike? What does their average day look like?
I never thought having an avatar for my business seemed very important, but I’ve lately begun to come around to the idea due to the results I’ve seen from hiring a copywriter (as detailed in Episode 39).
When you have a good understanding of who your customer is, then you know what kind of audience to target with your ads. You also have a better idea what kind of language you can use in your ads that will resonate with your audience and convince them to take action.
Let’s begin by discussing how an avatar affects the business decisions you make.
The Avatar as a Lens
Carter argues it’s very important to
have some kind of avatar, and points to the example set by Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. At every board meeting, Bezos leaves one seat open and considers it to be the “customer’s seat.”
When you know your avatar, you can use it as a lens through which to ask questions relevant to your business and get answers. This is easier to do if your avatar is well defined.
For example, you can ask yourself: “If I’m a 35-year-old married guy with two kids who listens to podcasts on my drive to and from work, am I going to do X, Y and Z? Am I going to open an email with this subject line? Am I going to take this upsell? Am I going to invest my money and time in this product?”
You can use this process to make business decisions that will be appealing or beneficial to your avatar.
Here’s an idea: find a photo of someone you think looks like your avatar. Every time you are going to make a decision that will affect your customer (hint: almost every decision), look at the photo and consider how that person would react.
How Do I Create an Avatar?
After I decided I needed to find an avatar for my business, I was confronted with the obvious question of how to do so.
I am currently reading the book Ask by Ryan Levesque in order to answer this question. The book is all about how to determine who your customers are, and Levesque recommends running a series of surveys to find out.
The first survey is called the “Deep Dive Survey.” I am working on putting this kind of survey together to use for my business.
Begin by posing an open-ended question to your audience (which could be the people on your email list or your list of customers) in the following format: “What is the number one thing you are struggling with right now with respect to _____.”
For my business, I would fill in the blank with “programming.” Carter would fill it in with “SEO” or “business growth.”
It is better to ask your audience what they are having difficulty with than to ask them what they want, because people often don’t know what they want. It’s not uncommon for someone to say they want one thing when they really want another thing, and they just don’t realize it.
After asking what they are struggling with, follow up with questions based on what you think is important to know–your gut feeling with respect to your industry and business.
Some of my follow-up questions are, “What is your current level of expertise with programming?” and, “Why are you learning programming?” These questions create good buckets into which I can separate my respondents.
Your goal when reviewing your responses is to find the hyper-focused and hyper-responsive participants who fill out the whole survey and are very descriptive. This shows interest, and therefore these are the people who will be your best customers.
This survey will teach you a lot about your customers and will help you divide your audience.
Other surveys detailed in the book focus on getting more information out of your respondents, as well as determining where your best customers lie and what products they want. This first one will help you create an avatar based on feedback from real people.
Things You Can Do with your Avatar
Discriminated Targeting and Advertising
Once you have created your avatar (or your avatars, if your customers fall into two or more distinct groups), you can tune your advertising and sales to match it.
Tailor your copywriting specifically to your avatar. If you have multiple avatars, try setting up multiple channels for prospect acquisition.
For example, I might target two avatars: people who are retired and want to learn programming for fun, and students learning programming in school who want supplementary material.
I can create two different landing pages–one for people who are retired and one for students–and use copywriting on each page that will specifically appeal to one group or the other. Then I can funnel my leads to the appropriate landing page and increase my conversion rates using discriminated advertising.
Evaluate Business Partnerships
If you do a lot of work with or for other businesses, you can create an avatar of your typical business client just as you would for your typical customer.
Carter came up with this idea after realizing his SEO company sometimes invests a lot of time and resources evaluating a potential client business only to discover they are not a good fit.
Carter and his team have already set up an intake survey to assess goodness of fit, but he wants to take this a step further and determine his avatar business. He will then direct his marketing, networking events and general message toward this avatar.
So, what if you don’t have customers yet? You can’t figure out who your typical customer is until you have some, after all.
There seem to be two main approaches entrepreneurs take when they are just starting out:
- Start generating revenue and then step back to determine who your customer is
- Determine your customer first and build your business around them
Both strategies work, though you may save yourself the trouble further down the road if you know who your customer is from the start.
You may be concerned that narrowing in on one type of customer means leaving a lot of potential customers on the table. However, it’s important to remember that if you’re marketing to everyone, then you’re marketing to no one.
People like to believe you’re speaking specifically to them, and for this reason you should focus your marketing around your avatar.
But in order to have an avatar you must first have a customer list, or an email list at the very least.
It really isn’t that hard to acquire an email list. As I mentioned in last week’s post, SumoMe.com offers a suite of free tools you can use to collect leads. Examples include the “Welcome Mat” and “List Builder” tools. Use them on your website and start collecting emails!
You can start creating your avatar from your first few customers and go from there. In order to gather more information, try contacting your customers via email or phone.
Promise them upfront that you won’t try to sell them anything, and explain you just want to talk and learn how to improve your product. You can learn a great deal about your customers and what they want out of your product by simply talking to them.
Book and App of the Week
Book: Ask, by Ryan Levesque, as discussed above.
App: Zoom Meetings is the video conferencing software that Carter and I use when we record this podcast. It records your video, compresses it, and converts it into any format you want and allows you to download the file.
The software also creates a separate audio-only file and is great for editing purposes because it balances audio levels automatically. The Pro version costs $15 per month and supports up to nine hosts at once. There is also a free version, but it limits each meeting to 40 minutes or fewer.
That does it for our conversation on avatars and the importance of knowing your customer. Remember, you do yourself a huge disservice if you don’t know to whom you are selling your product. If you know who you are selling to, then you can figure out what they want and how best to market to them.
If you learned anything from this episode, or if you have your own advice about avatars, please leave a comment! We always love to hear from our listeners.
Take care, and happy learning!
Ask by Ryan Levesque