What Is A Customer Avatar and Why Is It Important?

We all have a general sense of whom our ideal customer or client is, but have you ever taken the time to describe him or her in detail? The picture of your ideal customer is sometimes called a customer avatar. It can actually be quite revealing if you create a persona with attributes, commonalities, likes, dislikes, worries, frustrations and even a name. So how do you approach creating a customer avatar?

I use mind mapping to create my customer avatar, which captures core data about the customer. This mechanism creates a visual picture on a single page that allows me to manipulate different elements, until I have a clear definition about who my ideal customer is.

You will find that if you consider your top ten customers, that they will share many traits in common. Your customer avatar may in fact be a composite picture that does not match each one exactly, but instead, it hones in on the commonalities.

Creating your customer avatar and understanding the commonalities of your customers allows you to create sales and marketing campaigns that are specific rather than general. You are now speaking to a single well-understood customer at a time, instead of blasting out a marketing message that addresses nobody in particular and frequently misses its mark.

So what does a typical customer avatar look like? Take a look at the mind map below, which provides a skeleton of a customer avatar, to which you must add flesh. The mind map is designed to ask you a series of questions, which you must answer in order to define your customer avatar. Don’t rush it. Give it the time it needs and make it feel like a real person to whom you are going to be pitching your products or services.

Customer Avatar

There are six key elements to a customer avatar. Let us deal with each one in turn.

  1. List 5 specific, situational, use case results or outcomes that your typical customer wants to achieve. This involves seeing your customers’ problems from their perspectives and identifying the unmet needs that your products or services will satisfy for them.
  1. List the Top 7 irrational, idealised fears or frustrations that your typical customer worries and frets about. In general, it is fair to say that products or services are frequently purchased based on emotions rather than for purely practical reasons. Hence, you need to identify the emotions that your customers are feeling and the things that are causing them emotional pain or frustration. If you can craft your marketing message around allaying those fears or frustrations, then you will better be able to satisfy your customers’ needs with your products or services.
  1. Identify what or who is putting pressure on your customer in their lives to make them take action. Most of us have triggers that spur us into action. If you can identify the triggers that will mobilise your customers into action, you will find that you can coax them into purchasing your products or services, once they satisfy the customers’ unmet needs.
  1. List the the demographic or observable commonalities that your customers share. This is simply about observing common traits that your customers share such as age, income, sex, family, location or profession. There may be other traits specific to your customers that are not listed here, so do make sure to add them in.
  1. Describe the psychographic or personal commonalities that your customers share. These commonalities are different from the demographics listed in point 4 above. They are more to do with the belief system and life choices that your typical customer exhibits. These include attitude, personality, values, interests and lifestyle choices.
  1. If you were to combine all of the common traits of your average customers into one human, and then described that person, based only on those traits and leaving out everything else, who would they be? This harmonizes all of the attributes of multiple customers into a single person and allows you to create a real person in your mind. It also helps if you give this person a name so that when you visualize yourself talking to them, you are dealing with a real person with emotions, problems and life issues, rather than some abstract mannequin fabricated by your imagination. The customer avatar has to feel real.

If you are struggling through the customer avatar creation process, perhaps it will help you to see a worked example of the customer avatar mind map for one of my own businesses – GrowthOracle. The following pen picture was created while I was developing a software product that addresses the needs of small management and business consulting practices and their owners. It presents a fairly comprehensive picture of my typical customers and what drives them. You will notice that it follows every element of the blank model.

Customer Avatar GrowthOracle

There is an enormous advantage in having a clear and well-defined customer avatar and it even helps if you can assign a name to him or her. This makes it more tangible, and it will allow you to speak to an individual customer every time you consider or design a sales or marketing campaign, as you move forward with your business.

Niall Strickland
CEO HowsMyBusinessDoing.com