Customer avatars: know your target audience

Written by Adam

May 11, 2020

target audience

A great marketing strategy always takes a customer-centric approach—this means learning to see the world through the eyes of your target audience. By understanding what they really want or need, you can design your product and/or service to fit.

Designing for your target audience

It’s an approach which turns the old idea of building something cool first and then telling people why they should want it on its head. Instead, it asks what the customers want first and then builds the brand around those needs. 

The basic premises goes like this. To sell more to your customers means understanding what they want > means understanding what they’re like > means understanding who they are. 

Of course, many businesses already have a service and product line, so starting from scratch doesn’t make sense. It still stands, getting to know your audience means you can shift your offering or product design towards their real needs.

“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.”

—Don Draper, fictional Mad Ad executive

Mapping the stakeholders

A key thing to remember about your audience is that it doesn’t only include your customers. It encompasses every person, business, community or organisation that has an impact on your brand and that you can influence through your marketing. 

In social marketing, we talk about looking ‘upstream’ when seeking behaviour change. For instance, when looking to educate children on the importance of recycling, rather than market directly to them, we might start with parents, teachers or even policy-makers. In this way, our marketing approach is aimed at multiple audiences, using different approaches and messages for each.

A stakeholder analysis will look at four types of people, which lets you understand how to approach your communications to them. They are those with:

  • Significant influence and importance (manage closely)
  • Significant influence but little importance (keep satisfied)
  • Little influence and significant importance (keep informed)
  • Little influence and little importance (monitor)

A stakeholder map will guide your communication strategy by identifying who to talk to, how often and what you tell them. It will also help you to identify who your most important audience is. Clearly, customer types will fall into this list (primary audience), but there could also be a number of intermediaries (secondary audience) who are just as important.

Target audience analysis

Once you have identified your audience types, it’s time to get to know them better. To understand how your audience thinks you have to dig deep. Start by making a list of your key audience types. 

Audience segmentation

The aim is to segment your audience into just 3-6 types. This should include your key customers and stakeholders. Each segment should embody a specific group of people with similar traits and goals. 

For example, my primary audience segments include:

  • MDs/CEOs/directors of SMEs in Sheffield
  • Marketing Managers/HR Managers of SMEs in Sheffield

And my intermediary audience segments include:

  • Digital and creative freelancers
  • Small digital and creative agencies

Segmentation allows us to understand the different characteristics and needs of our customers. So when it comes to marketing, we won’t be wasting their time with irrelevant content, we’ll be tailoring our approach in a way that resonates with each segment.

Back to the spreadsheets

Once you’ve identified 3-6 target customers, it’s time to get under their skin. Here, those surveys, interviews, focus groups and observations are essential.

Too much for right now? Start by asking team members who are familiar with your customers for their opinions. Work together to answer questions on them regarding the below topics:

  • Profile: what is the demographic profile of your customers?
  • Awareness: how aware of your products, services and brand are they?
  • Understanding: what do they really know about your offering?
  • Experience: what has their past experience been like?
  • Opinions: what do they really think about your offering and how can it be improved?
  • Marketing: how did they hear about your brand and what media do they consume?
  • Characteristics: what are their day to day challenges and motivations?

Yes—I have created a Target Audience Analysis template to help you get up-close and personal with your customers.

    Audience Avatars

    Take a second to pause, close your eyes and imagine each target group as a single real person. Do you have someone in mind? If so, great, you’re well on your way to creating your audience avatars.

    Give each audience segment a name, an age, a background (social, education and career). Try to visualise how they look, where they work, what their personalities are like, what makes them tick and what they truly value in life. Draw a picture of them and list their personality traits.

    Take all this information and create a profile sheet for each segment which you can refer back to. When developing brand messages and personalised content, having a clear image of who you’re writing to will help you tailor your approach.

    Not sure?

    Think about how you’d catch up with a good friend and what you’d discuss. Would this same venue and conversation work as well with an old auntie? Probably not. The better you really know someone, the easier it is to adapt your personality to them. This will help you innovate exceptional customer experiences when you come to develop your marketing.


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