Who is your Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA)?
If you haven’t answered this question yet, or if you wonder “what the heck is an Ideal Customer Avatar?”, my next few posts are for you.
WHO IS THE CUSTOMER?
I was on a meeting with my boss, the product developers, the marketing director and category manager back in my package design job. We had a very important home décor product that was going to be sold at Costco. I wanted to understand what the target market looks like, so I can design a packaging that the customer loves.
I asked: “Who is the customer?”
“Costco” – said the sales manager.
“No, I mean, the final user. Who is going to take this product home?”
“The Costco Client. You know, middle class women, 28 to 55 years old. Anyway, what matters is to please the buyer from Costco. She knows what the end user wants.”
I opened my mouth to ask more questions but stopped… I realized, that they didn’t understand what I wanted to know. I wanted to know, who our ideal customer avatar was.
That weekend I went to Costco to see “The Costco Client”. There were all kind of people: all kind of age, ethnicity, hair color and both genders. People proudly wearing Hello Kitty sweaters and grumpy men wishing to come on a weekday instead.
I doubt they want the same things in their life. I doubt they want to decorate their home the same way.
“The Costco Client” happened to be a very wide category that I couldn’t grasp design wise.
We could push through that project and it was fine. But I wonder how much easier it could have gone and how much better it could have turn out if we define the ideal customer first…
WHAT IS AN IDEAL CUSTOMER AVATAR?
An Ideal Customer Avatar or ICA is a person you define either by imagining the perfect customer or you base it on real life people who you loved working with in the past.
It’s not just the target market. It’s a specific person, who would appreciate what you do and it would also make you excited to work with her.
Your Ideal Customer Avatar is your One Perfect Customer.
Every business should have at least one ICA, and you can even define separate ICAs for each of your product categories.
But don’t even dream of not defining an ICA! It would be like having a business without legs to stand on. Yes, your business stands and depends on the customers, not the brilliance of your product, nor the quality of your service. The customer comes first, then the rest.
THE 5 ADVANTAGES OF DEFINING YOUR ICA
#1 – HELPS YOU CREATE THE RIGHT PRODUCT / SERVICE
When you define an Ideal Customer Avatar, you get more clarity on what she needs, what problems she is facing and what would be the desired solution for her problems. You’ll stop wondering if she will like your offer because you’ll know that she NEEDS that product or service.
#2 – HELPS YOU CREATE AUTHENTIC CONTENT
When you define a detailed Ideal Customer Avatar, you’ll start seeing her as a person, not just numbers.
Instead of asking “What would 25 to 55 years old women like to read on Instagram?” while staring at your blank social media schedule, you’ll say:
“My ICA, Sarah, loves baking healthy treats for her two kids, let’s inspire her before the holidays.”
Even better when you can align it with your niche. A productivity coach can say:
“My ICA, Carrie feels bad that she binge-watched Black Mirror last week. Now she wants to figure out how to keep a limit on her Netflix time. Let’s write a blog post on this.”
Your content becomes more personal, more human, more authentic. You’ll feel like to talk to a real human, not just to the WordPress Blog Editor.
#3 – HELPS YOU DECIDE
It’s always hard to make business decisions.
Cutting off a product line can feel like cutting off your own arm. Hiring someone or outsourcing a task are tough decisions that can keep you awake in the middle of the night.
When you define an ICA, you’ll be able to start seeing your company from her point of view. Does she need that product? Does she need extra customer service I can’t provide on my own anymore?
Your Ideal Customer Avatar will always be on your side to give a feedback when you can’t decide.
#4 – Helps your team serve better
Have you ever visited an Anthropologie store? I really love their home décor and stationery section and every time I’m in downtown Toronto, I have to wander in and browse among the cute journals, decadent candles and lovely tea mugs.
My experience in their stores are always the highest quality. This can’t be just solved by wonderful store managers. This consistency requires a team effort.
One can simply say that the management picks the right staff and pay them well. But this is about more.
Anthropologie sales people all know the company’s vision, values AND its Ideal Customer Avatar. They know what their ICA loves, how she prefers products to be displayed and even know what scent she would like to smell when stepping in to the store. This way, they can consistently provide a unique shopping experience – no matter which Anthropologie store you visit.
If you want to get a good picture on how Anthropologie defined its ICA, read this article on FastCompany.com.
#5 – GIVES YOU COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Remember my intro with the Costco product? There are hundreds of businesses like that. Businesses filled with great people, but who forget about the end user and only focus on the overall numbers or the buyer from a major retailer. If they happen to meet a talented buyer, she’ll help them better align the product to the end users. But if not, they most likely lose money and won’t even understand why.
Instead of putting the stakes in an outsider’s hand, why don’t you do everything YOU can?
This way you can get ahead of your competition who choose to skip this crucial step. The customers who feel misunderstood and confused will come to you for a clearer, more personalized service and brand experience.
How to Define Your ideal Customer Avatar?
There are several methods to define your Ideal Customer Avatar and I’m going to go in more details in my upcoming posts.
Make one up
When you are just starting out in your business, and you didn’t have clients (or clients you actually loved working with), you can imagine an Ideal Customer Avatar. Like J.K. Rowling made up Harry Potter, you can create a person and go into as many details as possible.
Avoid focusing on just the demographic data. Hardly any thirty-something women wants the same things and lives the same way. I’m pretty sure about this as a 32-year old woman myself.
Interview past customers
If you have a few years of business under your belt, you can also interview past customers. Choose those who you loved working with.
Ask them about their challenges regarding the industry you’re in. Ask them about their favored outcome, the dream solution. And don’t forget to reward them for their time spent on answering your questions.
As I mentioned, I’m going in more details on how to define your ICA in my next blog posts, so stay tuned.
What stops you from defining your Ideal Customer Avatar?
So there you have it. The ICA is nothing more than your One Perfect Customer. She’s one of the most important building blocks of your business.
Before you go, I’d like to hear from you. Share in the comment, what is your biggest struggle when you try to define your Ideal Customer Avatar. I’m going to answer your questions in my upcoming blog posts so don’t hesitate to share them.