Who is your ideal customer? This is a question every business owner needs to ask themselves, but too often they don’t bother — or worse — they answer with, “everyone.” The problem with this is your customer can’t be everyone, nor can you focus your marketing and advertising efforts on everyone. It just won’t work. This is where a customer avatar comes in.
A customer avatar is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It is someone you know inside and out who represents your target audience. An avatar isn’t something you make up. It’s based on extensive research to ensure the avatar truly represents your ideal customer. To create a well-rounded and accurate avatar, you’ll want to identify your customers’ demographics, wants, needs and challenges/problems that you have a solution for, also known as their pain points. Information you’ll want to gather includes age range, gender identification, location, education level and occupation, relationship status, household income and size, lifestyle elements and interests beyond pets, values, morals and personal goals, shopping habits and pain points.
I was able to identify avatars from the podcast I have for pet parents. It’s a spinoff of my nonprofit animal rescue’s mission of educating the public about pets. I’ve discovered, through analyzing the rescue’s social media, that I have two primary avatars represented.
The first avatar is a 28 to 32-year-old woman I’ve named Ashley. She has a college degree, at least one “furbaby,” and a good income. She wants to spoil her furbaby, participate in group activities with other pet parents and spend time doing outdoor activities. She’s frustrated by her long work hours, and the fact that she doesn’t have a lot of expendable income left after paying her rent/mortgage, bills and student loans.
The second avatar is a 48 to 60-year-old woman I’ve named Linda. She has a cat/small dog who she considers her companion. She’s retired, or close to retired, and is an empty nester. Linda wants to travel more, socialize with other animal lovers and be active and healthy. She’s frustrated by inconveniences and bad weather that impacts her activities.
If you pay close attention to who comes into your business, you’ll start seeing avatars appear too. There’s going to be a certain type of person who is drawn to your business and who keeps coming back and whom you want to keep coming back to get the more detailed information about them like I’ve gotten for my avatars, you’re going to have to do some research.
The demographic information provided by your social media accounts is a starting point to identifying avatars. If you have a good point of sale (POS) system, it also will be gathering information about your customers such as age, gender and location, so you can start creating a picture of a person that represents your customer. Finally, you can survey your customers to get lots of information about them and start analyzing the trends you see.
Once you’ve identified your avatar, you’ll have critical information about who your ideal customer is, what it is they want and need and how your goods and services can meet their expectations. This knowledge will help better serve them while increasing the sales of your goods and services. You’ll also have the data you need to strategically find and attract more people that fit the avatar(s), effectively streamlining your marketing efforts.
What do you do with an avatar? For the sake of discussion, let’s say that Ashley and Linda are your avatars for your business.
Avatars help you communicate more effectively
Being able to customize your communication means an increase open rates in your emails, read rates and conversion rates of any of your communication campaigns. The first thing you should do is segment your email list so that you can create different email campaigns for each avatar. Ashley and Linda don’t want the same things, so you’ll want the option to be able to send them more targeted email content. You might send an email campaign to Ashley advertising the new dog hiking gear you’re carrying or a customer hiking experience you have planned. For Linda, you might invite her to a seminar about caring for senior pets. Again, it’s not that you won’t have email communication you’ll send out to both avatars, but the importance of customization can’t be over-emphasized. Even if you wanted to invite both Ashley and Linda to the seminar on caring for senior pets, you might focus on preparing for your pets’ aging in Ashley’s email and focus on “now that your pet is older,” for Linda. Additionally, your avatar information will help you craft your message’s language, benefits and goals.
Avatars help you tailor your customer experience
Customization in retail and services is a key factor customer are looking for, especially Millennials and Generation Z. In addition to showing the need for custom communication, the scenarios I’ve given above also show the importance of creating tailored customer experiences based on your avatars’ wants and needs. The special hiking event for Ashley and seminar geared toward Linda are examples of how you can draw those audiences in more consistently and attract more people like them. Creating events and offers that include bringing a friend is also a way to gain new like-minded customers. Ashley’s friends who hate hiking aren’t going to come with her on the special hike you’re coordinating, just the ones who do like hiking with their dogs – and those are the customers you want. Linda’s friends that don’t have pets aren’t likely to join her for the seminar either. If you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to events and experiences, ask your avatars. While you’re surveying your customers to get their demographic information, ask them what types of events, programs and experiences they’d be likely to participate in.
Avatars help you identify products and services your customers really want
Finally, knowing your avatars will help you identify the products and services you need to focus on in your business. Ashley may be more interested in products that create opportunity to spend time with her dog outdoors, such as hiking booties, portable water bowls, life vests for boating, etc. Linda on the other hand might like products that allow her to comfortably travel with her pets, or products that can keep her pets occupied while they’re staying home with a pet sitter or while boarding. Ashley will likely be more interested than Linda in day care or summer camp for her pet, while Linda might be more interested in boarding opportunities for when she travels. Thinking about adding a self-service dog washing station or grooming to your services? Can you guess which avatar is most likely to take advantage of each?
If you take the time and do the homework to create accurate customer avatars, you’ll be able to better serve the real people who come through your door every day and meet your goals for growing a successful business.
Amy Castro is a business and leadership expert who speaks, trains and consults with pet businesses that want to build best-in-show teams that deliver a Five-Star Customer Experience. She’s also the host of the Starlight Pet Talk podcast, where she interviews pet industry experts and others to give advice and information for pet parents to help their pets live long, happy lives.