Why you need a customer persona or avatar now!

Stop the press! Customers are people. Sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it.
Well you might be surprised to discover how often businesses and even marketers seem to forget this little gem.

Marketing 101 tells us that we must identify our target market or audience. 

We need to classify our customers by demographics such as age, gender, income, geography – you get the picture.

We build wonderful facts, figures and percentages about our customers, then use this data to inform our marketing activities.
Yes, we start to see our customers as a bunch of facts and figures, instead of real, actual people.
These days, clever marketers and businesses are creating customer personas or an ideal customer avatar, so they can better connect with their target market.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that when we engage with our customer base as a “person” rather than a “data-set” we will make better connections. Customers are people and want to be engaged as a person.
Now before you throw your marketing textbook out with the trash, I would like to point out that it is still important to understand the demographics of your target market.

What I am talking about is using your demographic information and data on your target market to build a customer profile and create a buyer persona or ideal customer avatar.
What are personas and avatars?
I have seen marketers refer to these customer profiles by several terms including buyer personas and ideal customer avatars. Everyone has a slightly different approach or definition but for the purposes of this column I will refer to them mainly as personas.
I first came across the term “buyer persona” in the New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. He explains that a persona will describe everything from a buyer’s aspirations and lifestyle to interests and fears.

The Buyer Persona Institute says buyer personas are examples of the real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. “They are a tool that builds confidence in strategies to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor or the status quo.”
“Buyer personas should reveal how, when and why your buyer makes the decisions you want to influence… insightful buyer personas readily inform strategies for persuasive messaging, content marketing, product or solution launches, campaigns and sales alignment.”
The idea behind buyer personas is that you create people who represent your major customer groups.
Business strategist Marie Forleo encourages business owners to identify their one most important customer and build a customer avatar around them.
Forleo says most target market identification fails to drill down to one specific person, which is vital if you want to sell anything.
“The biggest and most common mistake people make is that they think they already understand everyone and know what they want.”

A buyer persona or customer avatar is an individual with a name, a picture and specific demographic and other characteristics. An avatar is not a real specific person; it is a composite of characteristics of many real people. It needs to be specific.

Business blogger and trainer Shae Baxter expands on this. 

“Your avatar needs to speak to your ideal customer in a way that when they do come upon your website, it’s almost like you’ve read their mind. You’ve identified their pain points, fears, frustrations, desires and dreams.”
Once you have gone through the process of creating your persona or avatar you can use this information to target your messaging, marketing materials and activities.

How to create a persona or avatar

You are going to create a customer story. 
A story about a person. List all of the common traits of your ideal customer (including demographics) and use that as a starting point to create one specific person.
You should be give your person a name, age and occupation. Now ask questions about the person, such as:

o   What is their lifestyle?
o   What do they do in their spare time?
o   Where do they go in their spare time?
o   What do they aspire to?
o   What are their dreams?
o   What is their preferred communication style and channels?
o   What type of language do they use?
o   What entertains them?
o   What else do they like?
o   What social networks do they use?
o   When and how are they most likely to use social media?
o   How much time would they spend on social media?
o   When are they most likely to use social media? And using what device(s)?
o   Who is their favourite celebrity?
o   What kind of car do they drive? What kind of car would they like to drive?
o   Do they live by themselves or with friends/family/partner?
o   What television shows do they watch/books/magazines do they read?
o   What are their biggest life challenges and fears?
o   Why would they want to connect with your brand?
o   What problem do they have that you can solve?
o   How can you link your brand to their dreams and desires?
Delve into your brand’s persona – this is the fun bit. Imagine your brand as a persona and ask yourself the same kinds of questions. Look for overlaps between your brand and customer persona and use the commonalities to better connect to your persona.
Build a picture – pull together what you have learnt in images and words.
Your story may start to look something like this:
Jen is 23, single and works as a project officer. She works long hours and usually has her lunch at her desk. She has a lot of disposable income and goes to the gym a few times a week. She has an active social life and enjoys catching up with girlfriends, fine dining and going out to nightclubs. She is happy with her current life but would like to settle down and think about marriage in the next 3-5 years. She likes to read Vogue magazine and buys a lot of her clothes from Review.
The above information is much more useful than our target audience is professional women aged 22-27-years-old.
Based on the above persona we can start building a picture of what kind of content might connect with Jen.
You can create several key personas to represent your most profitable customers. The information can be quite detailed – in fact the more detailed the better, but it is for internal reference only.
Tailor your content and approach – now that you have a persona, you need to ensure your content is tailored to your persona and packaged and delivered in a format, style, frequency and timeframe most relevant to them.
This is true target marketing.
So what’s your customer persona? 
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Kylie Fennell
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