How to narrow in on your dream audience
by Brittany Taylor
published January 14, 2016
updated May 30, 2018
¶ There are two ways to form a business: 1. starting with a customer problem, which you solve, or, 2. starting with a solution, and looking for potential customers.
If you’re the former, grab a cookie and take ten—you know exactly who your customer is, and that’s great! This spring on SeeBrittWrite, we’ll be diving deep into audience-customer differentiation. Coming soon: a guide for small business owners looking to broaden their scope and figure out who their customers could be.
If you’re the latter, grab a cookie and take a seat. We’ll figure this out together. Ready? Cookie in hand? Let’s do this!
Have you ever had a yard sale, or been to a yard sale, or seen a sign for a yard sale and thought, “Oh, I’d totally go to that, but it’s supposed to rain on Saturday”? I’ve done all those things (if you haven’t just nod along until this weekend, then go find a yard sale and capture the full experience).
Not targeting your customers is sort of like holding a yard sale: You put out all your wares. You let people know they’re there (some signs being better than others, of course). Then you sit there and wait for you customers to come and buy your stuff. Or not.
The “or not” is what happens with most yard sales. If you’re in a community of fervent yard-salers, you might get lucky and sell out before dark. But if you don’t, you’re just hoping the right person will come along.
That’s fine. If the weather’s nice—and you’re trucking along at a full-time job during the week—then you don’t particularly need to move product. You can just sit out and enjoy the weather. But if this is it, you can’t just leave it up to the right guy driving by at the right time on the right day and happening to stop and finding something he likes enough to open his wallet for. That’s a lot of “ifs” to contend with.
You don’t want to leave your business up to chance, right? That’s why targeting your customers is essential to effectively market and sell your products and services.
Answer: All the things.
A customer avatar, or persona, is a snapshot of the person you want to sell to.
Chances are, you’ll start with a few different customer avatars, and those avatars will change as your business changes.
Let’s dish more on this notion of an avatar being like a snapshot. Remember snapping Polaroid pictures way back when—or maybe earlier today, if you’re playing around with one of the newer models? After you press the button and the shutter opens and closes, you’re left holding a funny white square. It doesn’t look like anything, not yet, anyway. But the more you flap it in the breeze and the longer the film has to expose, the clearer the picture becomes.
That’s exactly what happens with your avatar, minus the shutter and the film and the flapping in the breeze. The more questions you ask yourself about who your ideal customer is, the clearer that persona becomes in your mind’s eye.
An avatar, then, includes all the details that comprise a customer’s physical and psychological being.
There are 80 questions on this list. No, I’m not joking. Eighty. These aren’t nearly all the questions you could answer about your customer, and all of these won’t apply to the product or service you want to sell. They’re a jumping-off point, the low-dive at the public pool that you can totally tackle.
These questions are straight-forward. They’re all fact-based, and lots of them are yes-or-no. These questions aren’t intended to give you insight into your customer’s psyche. Instead, they’ll give you a snapshot view of them. What do they look like? What does their life look like? What do they do?
These are the answers you’ll get from digging into this section.
These questions are more complex. They’re based on emotions and the impulses behind wants and needs. They get to the motivations of your customer. Why would they invest in whatever you’re selling? Because something is going on internally that makes your product—and the problems it solves—compelling to them.
As you answer these questions, I want you to visualize an ideal customer in your mind. Just one person. Fill in the details—hair type, skin color, what they're wearing. Then picture them in their life. Pick a job and an industry and a location. Give them a car and a domicile. Sketch in their family.
Next, I want you to conjure up what they're doing and how they're feeling when they might use your product or service. What problems are you helping them solve? How are you making their life better?
Finally, I want you to watch them solve those problems. Feel how they feel once they’re solved. Now, write down those emotions. Write down everything you’re seeing and experiencing.
This is your avatar, this person who exists only to you in your mind. You can make them real through your branding and your content, and one day, if you do it right, they’ll become your customer.
The next step: Develop your mission statement, your vision, and your brand story.
My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.