6 images of avatars male and female

The Customer Avatar Myth

This is a totally controversial one, but I have to be honest and admit that I have always found it quite difficult to write for ‘a customer avatar’. I feel it is actually a bit of myth that it helps with consistency, voice or formality.

What about you?

In this blog, I explain what a customer avatar is and the idea behind using them to help with messaging…and then I’ll give you an alternative approach that I use.

What is a customer avatar?

When you have done work around your target audience and slimmed this down to an ‘ideal client’ or ‘ideal clients’. A common device is then to create a customer avatar…or two…or more…which is a profile which builds an imaginary person that encapsulates all of this detail. The profile can include a stock image type photo and the list key personal information and demographic details, such as:

  • age
  • gender
  • family and/or marital status
  • place of residence or business 
  • education
  • occupation – job title, type and income
  • income
  • preferred social media platforms
  • TV/films/magazine preferences
  • interests and hobbies
  • values
  • pain points

As a marketeer, the idea is that you then imagine this person and write for or create content for them – an imaginary figure.

What do you mean by customer avatar myth?

The above sounds sensible BUT for I know that many find it really difficult to truly imagine this person. Even if they do the work to create the avatar (which many don’t even get around to), they struggle to really digest and get a feel for who they are and what they will be interested in. I know some people find it really hard to truly believe in and buy in to who the ‘fake’ or ‘avatar’ person really is and the details they have assigned.

If you have never written one, it is not always the easiest to create either.

What happens next? It can leave you feeling quite lost. You over analyse what to write or create because, in truth, you can’t really visualise this imaginary avatar. The over analysis can even extend in to lots of very different styles or ‘feel’ of content, as you try to cover all bases.

However, it is really important to be ‘on message’ and it is essential, I believe, to know exactly who your audience is for any piece of content and hence who you are creating it for.

What can I do instead?

In big corporate businesses this may not work so well, but for small businesses I have the most non-revolutionary solution (!) …instead of a made up customer avatar use a real person…someone who you know.

At the privacy of your own desk, imagine that person who you LOVE working with….that person who you LOVE that buys from you. Because for most of us, that’s who we want more of!

If you don’t have that one person yet…consider two…and pick their best features! You can then use the list above to create a profile (and you can even change their name if you want, if you are worried about someone seeing it) but trust me I think it is so much easier to write and create content for someone you know.

If you don’t have the ‘perfect person’ for all sections of your market or if you are simply a start up or new business and not quite there yet, then you can use someone you ‘dream’ of working with. No matter how new your business is, I bet there is someone you would love to snag!

This alternative approach can also be a lot quicker than trying to ‘make up’ all of the answers to the above listed sections. Most of them you probably know already…you are actually just recording facts.

Depending on your relationship with the individual, you could even ask them to help you.

Why does it work?

For me (and this is my personal experience), when I work with clients who have a made up customer avatar, I instantly try to “map” it on to someone I know, who is very similar in real life. It is so much easier. I am lucky that with a wide network of people and a bit of life experience, there is often someone I have met that fits closely enough or I can use a combination of a couple of people.

Then, when I am writing I have really clear vision in my head of THAT exact person reading what I am writing. I can imagine (and sort of ‘hear’!) their responses as I start drafting something. I’ll “hear” criticisms too like “Well I don’t know what that means?” or “Why are you telling me that?” …as well as compliments “Oooh that’s useful!” or “now, I didn’t know that” or “where can I buy/invest/find out more?” .

Ok…I sound a bit crazy now, I know, but I hope you get the sense that using this ‘real life person’ gives me real clarity of who I am writing the content for, their level of knowledge, the reason for their interest, their potential intent, and also what the call to action should be.

Your real-life ideal client

If you have been struggling with consistency, messaging or feeling like you don’t really know who you are trying to reach, give this approach a try.

I would love to hear how you get on. Has it made it easier? Does your content creation feel freer? Is it flowing more?

Identifying our key messages and who our content should engage with and appeal to is an important part of what we do in The Content Club. Fancy joining us?

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