Throw out Your Ideal Client Avatar (and Use This Instead)

ideal-client-avatar-research

If I was a gambling kinda gal, here’s something I’d bet money on:

You don’t know your clients as well as you think you do.

(Ducks for cover - hey, I’m just the messenger!)

Which means your copy isn’t as compelling as it could be…

(Weaves and dodges)

Your website and online marketing aren’t converting…

(Hides under the table)

And you’re leaving money on the table.

(Can I come out from under here now?)

Today, I’m here to help you fix that. Consider this part two of our journey into crafting a message that sticks. (You can catch up on part one here.)

By the end of this blog, you’ll be clear on:

→ Who you’re speaking to (and selling to) in your business

→ How to speak to them, and

→ Which key messages you need to convey to them…

...in order to lead your audience towards a sale in a way that actually feels good - because we don’t do sleazy around these parts, folks.

Ready to make audience research sexy? Let’s do this.

Important thing you should know, #1:

IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU AND IT'S NOT ABOUT THE TACTICS

Effective copy, great marketing, and strong sales messages ARE NOT about how amazing you can make yourself sound, or whether green or yellow buttons “convert” better. Don’t skip to the tactics or the strategy before you’ve even built your foundation.

Every killer message - the kind that resonates emotionally, builds real connection, and moves people to action is built on a foundation of KNOWING your audience.

(Like, really knowing them.)

No copywriting formula, tactic or framework is going to help UNTIL you know these five key things about your audience:

  1. WHERE they’re stuck (their problems)

  2. HOW those problems look and feel, in their day to day lives

  3. WHAT they want (their desires and goals)

  4. WHY they want what they want

And finally… 5. any reasons WHY they might decide to NOT work with you, buy from you, or say yes to your offer.

So, maybe at this point you’re thinking - cool story, Nat, but I got this.

I already filled out an avatar worksheet.

I know my ideal client better than the back of my own HAND!

So um… here’s the thing. You probably don’t.

Because here's important thing you should know, #2:  

MOST IDEAL CLIENT AVATARS ARE SUCKY

There are two reasons why…

→ As Jen Havice explains in her book Finding the Right Messagemost people put together their ideal client avatar based on their “fairytale” version of the perfect client, who may or may not actually exist.

Ideal clients should look, feel and act like real people, not magical unicorns who float into your business with a wad of hundred dollar bills in their pocket, no objections and no barriers to buying from you.

 
Is your ideal client a real person or a unicorn who may or may not actually exist?
— A serious question worth asking yourself.
 

Not sure if you've got a "unicorn version" of an ideal client?

Ask yourself this: am I just making assumptions about what really motivates them and drives their behavior? Or am I working off real data and facts, about real people that my business serves?

(If your answer is yes to the first question and no to the second, don't fret. We're gonna fix that in a minute.)

Secondly... 

→ Even if you’ve based your ideal client on a real person (YAY!), there’s a good chance that you’re focusing on surface level traits - demographics like their age, their gender, their income and what kind of shoes they buy. It's time to dig a little deeper.

The most powerful information you can gather about your ideal client is psychographic - remember those 5 points we addressed above - things like their biggest fears, worries, desires and goals?

You’ve gotta know that stuff. You've gotta know the WHY behind their actions (and, importantly, inaction).

And, critically - you have to be specific about it. No more words like joy, satisfaction, fulfillment, or my favorite: “limiting beliefs”. If you don’t know HOW each of these things look and feel in the life of your ideal client, it’s time to find out. (Unless you're into sad and ineffective marketing - your call!)

So now that we've covered why knowing your audience is SO important, and why most ideal client avatars are woefully useless, let's do something about it:

STAGE 1: DEFINING YOUR TARGET

People have written entire books and built courses around defining your market and your niche, but if you're reading this blog, I'm going to assume that you already know who you serve in business, but might need a little help refining that picture somewhat. 

Here's a quick and dirty way to clarify your audience and how you help them: find the sweet spot. 

Answer these questions: 

  • What sorts of problems do I solve for my clients?
  • How do these problems manifest (or reveal themselves) in their day to day lives?
  • Why is this problem a problem for my clients? Why do they even care?
  • What is it that makes my clients decide to reach out for help, or look for a solution?
  • What does a "magic wand solution" look like for my clients? 

And then compare these answers to... 

  • Who do I love to work with? 
  • Who am I best positioned to help? 
  • Who is willing to pay me for the work I do? (Seriously, don't forget this one.)

As you answer these questions, you might start to find some interesting overlaps between who you love to work with, how you help people, the problems you solve AND the types of things your clients are willing to pay you for. This is the juicy stuff that needs to start going into your copy and marketing, pronto. 

P.S. Emphasis on problem solving here! If there's one thing I want you to walk away with today, it's the power of talking about the types of problems that you solve in people's lives. That alone will completely transform your marketing.

After you've answered the questions above, try distilling it down into: 

I help {x} to do {y} by helping them {z}

Where {x} is your target market, {y} is the problem you solve and {z} is how you do it (your process, unique approach, or method).

See? Quick, dirty, and wildly efficient. Now that we know who you're talking to and how you help them, let's dig into the research. 

STAGE 2: LEARN ABOUT YOUR PEOPLE

There are 3 approaches that recommend if you're just starting out. I’ve ranked them here, in order of most to least powerful. Each type of customer research below definitely deserves a place in your business.

 Conduct client interviews - over the phone or in-person.

→ Send out an email survey to your existing customers and subscribers.

→ Get your lurk on.

Hint: I’ve also got a free resource to share with you that will make figuring out this information way less painful. You can download it instantly, right here:

Client interviews - get inside your audience's head (and write copy so good they'll think you're reading their minds)

Whenever you're creating a new offering or service, I recommend using customer interviews to shape and position your offer. One of the biggest mistakes I see business owners making is building a thing that they THINK their customers will want - without actually checking whether that hunch is correct.

(Cue crickets come launch time.)

So ask your customers: What are their problems? What have they tried before? What was the most powerful aspect of working with you? Having real conversations with your subscribers and your clients gives you the opportunity to probe deeper, ask clarifying questions, and gather some incredibly rich data about how you can help them. 

Again, Jen Havice goes into great detail about how to do this research in her book, and it's definitely worth the read. My good friend Michaela from Beachside Studio also introduced me to Buyer Personas by Adele Revella, which goes even deeper into how to conduct customer interviews.

SURVEY YOUR SUBSCRIBERS with a short and sharp email

If you have an email list, I recommend checking in with them at least every 6 months or so with a survey. The great thing about surveys is that you can reach a lot of people with a single email, and with a couple of smart questions, you can learn a lot about your subscribers (past, present and future customers!) and what they need from you. 

Pro-tip: keep your survey as short as possible - the fewer questions, the better - and focus on open-ended questions to make sure you get as much information as you can. 

WHEN IN DOUBT: LURK, LURK, LURK

The beautiful thing about the internet is that its very likely that your ideal client is hanging out somewhere online AND talking about their problems while they're there.

Even if you can't speak directly to your ideal customers, you CAN go to where they're already hanging out, and start compiling information about how they talk about their problems. 

Think about online forums, Facebook groups, and other watering holes where your ideal clients might be hanging out online. Also, consider looking at amazon reviews for products, books or resources similar to your offering. See how people talk about it - what they like, the features they wish it had, and what they hated about it. There's a goldmine of information out there just waiting to be tapped into. 

STAGE 3: COMPILE YOUR STALKING (ERR, RESEARCH) INTEL & DATA

We're on the home stretch! Now that you've gathered information about your market, their problems AND how they speak about them, it's time to pull that information together and start taking action on it. 

I find that the best approach is actually to carry out steps 2 and 3 at the same time. I have a system that I use to categorize and sort information as I find it, which makes analyzing key messages so much easier. 

I've got a worksheet for you below that contains my exact framework for bringing everything together (and it's totally free) below, but here's the crux: you want to be sorting the information you gather into broad categories like "desires", "core problems" and "hesitations around buying". Check out the template below if you'd like to see how I pull all of my research together - it has 7 different categories you can use to sort the intel you gather:

And hey, look at that! You're all done. I'm hi-fiving you through the screen right now.

The incredible thing about knowing your market well is that you will NEVER have to wonder how to sell or speak to them again. When you understand how THEY experience and talk about their problems, and understand how to speak to them in their own language, every piece of copy you write won't just be more effective - it'll come together a billion percent (scientific estimate) faster, as well. 

I'd love to hear from you - have you tried to research your audience before? What was that like for you? And if you haven't - where are you feeling stuck?