By Lewis May
What is an Avatar?
Building an avatar is the depiction and description of an imaginary person with all of their demographics, interests, and psychographics. Doing this well will give you enormous insight when designing marketing that gets your prospect taking action. This can be a person that you have done business with or a person that you should do business with. Why? Because of an identifiable reason like serving people you enjoy being around or profitability. This article is about how to build a customer avatar and what to use it for after you build it. We will discuss market segmentation, building an avatar, and what to do next.
You want this description to be as detailed and realistic as possible. It should be the description of a real person, not a generalization. It is not a person who has had the triggering event that leads them to need your services. To reiterate, this is not a market segment, this is an individual.
Why do we take part in the practice of building a realistic avatar?
We build avatars so that we can understand how to change what we say when talking to different people.
We also want to learn when our communication should change. What do we say to remain in context before, during, or after their moment of relevance? What about their emotional needs? What do we say to adapt to what stage of the awareness spectrum they are in.
This means that the same person needs different communications depending on their situation. Where they are in the buying cycle? What stage of life they are at with their psychological needs? Where they are in relation to awareness of your company, and what value it provides.
These stages describe different time periods in reference to an event. That event triggers the need for a product or service, what we call the moment of relevance.
It could be the “change oil” light coming on in a car triggering the owner to look for or schedule an oil change. The event could be a copy machine breaking down, a boss asking their manager to get quotes on business services, or a water pipe breaking in a home. All of these events trigger the activity of searching out and choosing a company that provides this service or product.
These time periods include; the time prior to an event that triggers a need; the period of time directly after the event; after the event but where the prospect has had a significant time to research; the following period of time when they are making a decision; the time after they have made a decision; and the time after which they have received the product or service.
Each of these time periods represents a different stage along the moment of relevance. We do this to understand if we are relevant with our product or service.
To look at their needs, we run this person, or “avatar”, through experiences they might have. What does our company or our offer sound like when a similar person is experiencing different psychological needs?
Next, we take the same point of view with respect to your company and brand versus other companies and brands. In other words, do they know who you are?
When we empathize with an avatar we learn how their inner needs affect how they respond to communication.
We build avatars so that we can speak or communicate with them from the perspective of their needs.
Each avatar has multiple replicas with similar demographics and interests that exist in the real world. We want to be learning which is the most receptive to our strongest messages.
While all of their demographics and interests are exactly the same they will be at different points in their life. This means they will have different psychological, emotional, or even physical needs.
Examining an avatar lets us understand how we would communicate differently to a person who is more concerned with financial consistency versus a person who is interested in obtaining more love and connection.
Similarly, two identical versions may exist but be in different stages in the buying process.
This should be obvious but it isn’t. The same person is receptive to different messages before, during, and after each stage of the buying cycle. Remember to take this into account when designing a message.
Another exercise is called “A needs analysis”. We can specifically change the benefits of our product or service and how it meets their need through the description. We simply must understand the prospect’s possible needs.
If you are a business owner who is looking for more control in the process of obtaining new clients and employees then our brand-building formula will help you find people that fit your culture.
My online course called Build a Brand For The Digital Age, webinar found here https://branding-course.hammersportmarketing.com/ will give you the framework needed. The formula will help you to develop and create a solid foundation and build a well-developed brand.
Doing this will give you a significant amount of control over your messaging and marketing. You will attract the customers you need to feel fulfilled and achieve significant profits.
Our brand development course will increase your hiring capabilities. It will be easier to find employees and team members that fit into your vision, purpose, and company values. It will enhance your culture allowing for faster growth and decreasing employee turnover.
For a person who is frustrated with their lack of control, this message may catch their attention. For a person who desires to express their own individuality, this message could be entirely ignored.
Building a message that a mass-market, (one with very broad demographics), engages with is an elusive and difficult challenge.
Customer avatars are a great way to gain insight towards messages that are effective for this, “mass market” traditional or terrestrial marketing.
The last reason discussed here is this; we build different avatars in each very specific market segment across a broader market segment. Then we can understand where a specific message might reach multiple market segments.
Often, a 26-year-old single male will need a significantly different message than a 45-year-old married with children female. During the analysis of our avatar, we may find some similarities. There may be a case where they both are extremely receptive to the same message. This might happen because of their positioning on the awareness spectrum or their similar point in life with similar emotional needs. If we find messages that multiple avatars are receptive to, our marketing costs can go down.
Now that we understand why we do this, how do we do it?
You need to define your market, your market segments, and your avatars and personas. Do this by making assumptions using your intuition and experience. Then test and change until you get the results you are looking for.
There are a human element and an arbitrary nature to this exercise. It is helpful to do it with a group that is familiar with your industry and your company. This high-level marketing process. Any attempt and effort are far better as an individual or a group is far better than none at. It will give you a starting point to examining and empathizing with your prospect.
Here is the process in a nutshell. Define your market in broad terms. A DWI or DUI defense attorney would identify their broad market as people that drink alcohol and also drive vehicles. The next step is to begin to segment this broad market by using demographics and threshold points within those demographics. We would make the logical decision to target middle class upper middle class and high-income earners versus lower middle class and low-income earners. The demographic is income, and the threshold point is between the lower middle class and the middle class. Do this with age groups segmenting them into generations. Go from the least age to the maximum age of your market.
Do this with every demographic to determine your market segments. If you see that there are a lot of possibilities then you are doing this exercise correctly. You want to have an absurd amount of desirable combinations to market towards. We build the avatar to find messages that work on more then one at a time.
This presents the reason for some assumptions and shortcuts when building out your market segmentation results. Work on segmants that your experience and knowledge tell you could be extremely profitable. When you dive deeper into this process start to think outside the box and creatively as possible. This is a creative exercise to ask questions and find answers you’ve never thought of before.
Now begin to add interests to your demographics. This will create even further market segmentation. In theory, all 23-year-old to 28-year-olds who drink and have access to an automobile could potentially be a client. Logic tells us that a person in this demographic but with an interest that keeps them from drinking alcohol often or in large volumes has a significantly less chance of being charged with a DUI. Do not pursue messages towards people that aren’t part of your sweet spot. Shorten the process so that you don’t create avatars that obviously should not be included in your marketing messages.
During this market segmentation process, you do not need to include every demographic or every interest possible. Only create market segments based on the demographics or interests that affect the need or desire for your specific service product or industry.
You’ve identified specific market segments, now it is time to build an avatar within each segment.
This is where you choose a specific demographic within the segment you have created.
Next, you add all of the other specific interests and demographics that you did not use during your market segmentation.
Keep in mind that while the goal is to identify every single cohort or every single avatar, this is difficult work that consumes a lot of energy. It is important to not try to do too much at one time. If you do you run the risk of wearing you and your team out. Then you will not utilize the creativity that is important and needed to have objectivity while being specific.
When creating avatars, be specific with every interest and every demographic. Realize that not every answer matters but being specific does. Now we will consider this avatar as a real person who is alive and has human problems both physical and psychological.
You’ve identified your customer avatar’s demographics, interests, and behaviors. It’s time to use these “people’s” unique features to think about them moving through real-life situations and emotions.
Work towards an understanding of the specifics of the physical and emotional needs of this imaginary person.
Remember the goal. We are doing this to understand how to best communicate our marketing messages to this specific person. A general message falls on deaf ears. A specific message spoken to a group is heard by individuals because they each feel as if the message is being spoken directly to them. We are not faking this message, we are learning how to speak to this person.
The next step in this needs analysis is to understand what emotional needs are more likely for this specific person to have and which ones does your solution i.e. your product or service solves.
How would you speak to them if they were most interested in more consistency versus variety? More love and connection versus significance? And which one of these problems does your solution solve?
Another line of thinking is is this person becoming more individualistic or becoming more group orientated? How would you speak to this avatar if they were looking for more control or self-expression versus more recognition, belonging, and or care from others? Which one of these things does your product or service solve? Once again, remember don’t do all of these things for every avatar. Start with the ones that will help your business the most.
We’ve built the avatar and thought about their emotional needs and which one of them you can solve best. It’s time to begin crafting marketing messages towards each specific need of each specific avatar. Do this for each specific time along the moment of relevance. Look for the triggering event that creates the need for your product or service. We also analyze where they are on the awareness spectrum with respect to your industry and your company specifically.
The moment of relevance is the factor that helps you to decide if your message to an audience that needs your product now or later. Consider how educated this prospect is about your company. Do they know who you are? We strategize how to get the attention and keep the attention of the people we want to do business with. This is why we built the avatar.
You’ve built the avatar, or avatars, it’s time to walk a mile in their shoes and look at life through their eyes. Empathy is required. Begin to examine this person in their current life situation with respect to different needs that are possible for this possible or likely end or likely for this specific avatar.
What needs desires and dreams is this person moving towards? How and why? What fears and frustrations are they moving away from and are they real or imaginary. You have created detailed real avatars. You’ve thought about the common events and looked at how this person could better their lives by utilizing your company to meet their needs. Now be in their shoes and go find those specific life events that would drive them to be even more receptive to your messages. Design many ideas, write and test everything.
I hope this article gives you some insight into the reasoning and making of an avatar. Brand development, branding, and marketing get a lot easier because of it. This is the most powerful part of building a brand and I believe that any and all effort here is well worth it.
If you ever want to discuss this service or you have any questions please sign up for an appointment with me click here.
I welcome questions and comments, so please leave them.
All the best.