Design for Success.

The 3-Letter Formula for Defining Your Perfect Customer Avatar

The AB-Z method to defining customer avatars will clarify which audiences are most important.

What I would like to share with you here is my approach to making your marketing messages more targeted and impactful to your business.

But first, consider this:

As a business owner, what prompts you to buy a high-value service?

We’re not talking about things like bookkeeping, which are effectively necessary. Neither are we talking about $30/month software subscriptions.

At some point, you have (or will) spend thousands of dollars in order to do something important or impactful in your business.

Maybe it’s investing in a professional lead-generating website, or maybe it’s purchasing specialized equipment.

At some point you’ve spent a lot of money to achieve an important outcome.

What was it that convinced you to buy?

I wasn’t there so I can’t say for sure, but I’d be willing to venture a guess: You were their ideal customer, and their offer reached you through some sort of marketing vehicle.

What does this mean for your business?

If you’re in the business of offering a highly valuable service to your customers, then it’s quite likely that your customers will need to go through a similar experience in buying as you have.

You need to align your messaging with the people most likely to select your service.

This is not always easy, especially early in a company’s history. Even some of my most established clients still struggle with this, which is typically why they work with Clarity Business Design.

You’ve likely heard the expression, ‘define your customer avatar’. Though I typically refer to this as a ‘customer profile’, the avatar is supposed to be a representation of a hypothetical customer who typically purchases what you have to offer. Some go so far as to attach a fake name to a combination of psychographics and demographics – fancy words for who your customer is and why they choose you over everyone else.

Defining your customer profiles is crucial for long-term success. Even if you’ve done this at some point in your business, there’s likely more you can do to clarify your profiles.

Allow me to share with you…

How we define customer profiles at Clarity Business Design

In a process that I call the AB-Z Audience Exercise, we help our clients to define:

  • A – Ideal Audience
  • B – Secondary Audiences
  • Z – Audiences to Avoid

For each, we attempt to define the following:

  • Which service or product are they buying?
  • Where are they located?
  • What is their age range?
  • In percentages, how many are men and how many are women?
  • What roles do they hold at their company?
  • What industry do they work in?
  • What problem are they trying to solve?
  • What are they trying to avoid?

These answers may take various forms and there isn’t a perfect structure for the questions, however one thing that I must note is this:

Positive Definition (A+B Audiences) is important, but Negative Definition (Z-Audience) is critical.

It is easy to attempt to serve everyone, and by doing so reduce your impact. Focus comes from reducing the unnecessary and unpleasant. To that end, you are allowed to be blunt and hard-headed in your audience definitions. Niceties and political-correctness won’t serve your business if the goal is to thrive and provide quality service. You may reintroduce these on your marketing front, if you so choose – but for this exercise, please suspend them.

Let’s take a look at how to define each audience:

A-Audience: Your 100% Best Customer

If you’ve been in business for a couple years, when I say to “think of your best customer” then there will probably be someone who comes to mind right away.

My goal for my clients is to help them find more like that best customer, so we start by digging into why they are the best customer as we define the demographics I mentioned above. We explore questions like:

  • Are the services they purchase profitable to your company? (The answer should be ‘yes – the most profitable, in fact’)
  • Do they treat you and your staff well? (Great interactions are a must for the A-Audience)
  • How much of your attention do they require? (Time is money, this is related to the profitability question)
  • How long do they remain as a customer? (If possible, determine an Average Lifetime Value for this profile)
  • Would they recommend you to their network? (Obviously referrals are important for business growth, but this also speaks to your customer’s abundance mindset)

These sorts of questions should identify key factors of your A-Audience, and give you a clear picture of who is a no-brainer to onboard as a customer.

Pitfalls of the A-Audience

It is common for my clients to define the A-Audience too broadly.

To be clear, the A-Audience is exclusive! Do your best to define customers in the A-Audience as if they were a single person, with the limitations that involves.

Defining the A-Audience isn’t just about the customers.

You may take this exercise as an opportunity to narrow down your company’s services, hypothetically. Your A- and B-Audiences could be the same, yet the B-Audience would differ by purchasing a less profitable service or demanding more of your team’s time.

Try to approach the A-Audience with this mindset: “If we could only offer one service, which would it be?”

B-Audience: Good, But Not Best

Not every good customer can be an A-Audience customer.

Many of my clients identify facets of their B-Audiences during the A-Audience questions we ask them. It takes a little guidance sometimes to distinguish the two, which is there I tend to spend time when working with my clients initially.

While at first I attempted to make the B-Audience singular, like the A-Audience, over time the method revealed that the B-Audience was a fluid concept, not particularly bound to specific demographics or services provided.

As such, I encourage you to use the B-Audience as a ‘scratch space’ for your A-Audience exercise. That is, save your ideas from the A-Audience brainstorming that don’t quite fit, and revisit them in defining B-Audiences.

Pitfalls of the B-Audiences

As with the A-Audience, it’s not just about the customers.

Remember to distinguish B-Audiences by the services they frequently buy. This is an area where profitability may be lower, but engagement with these audiences is beneficial in the longterm.

Z-Audience: The Negative

Put frankly, these are customers that you want to avoid or definitively push away from your business.

Unless you’re just starting out, you’ve almost certainly had a bad experience with a customer.

You know as well as I do that these are toxic to your business in the long term – do not allow more of these to happen if you can prevent it!

I feel that our culture today is far too focused on inclusivity and serving everyone. There are 7+ billion people on this Earth, there is somebody out there better suited to serve the people you don’t serve well. In fact, this approach holds an opportunity for you to find out who those other service providers are and refer your poor-fitting prospects out to them. This is an easy way to serve as a resource, and turns what probably would be a tense and frustrating customer relationship into a brief, valuable win-win for you, your customer, and your network.

Pitfalls of the Z-Audience

Are you afraid of offending someone?

These days, it’s easy to stress and worry about offending people and being ‘cancelled’. We don’t want this, but we also want to hold true to our beliefs.

The Z-Audience is designed to clarify your A-Audience in the extreme. Language is powerful, and I find that it’s equally important to know who you don’t want to attract when you’re crafting your marketing messages. Use the information from your Z-Audience to remove vague or open-ended language from your A-Audience messaging, and feel confidence in knowing that you are doing this not just for your benefit, but to avoid wasting the time and energy of your Z-Audience.

In Summary

The AB-Z Audience Exercise is just the beginning when it comes to clarifying your brand messaging, but it is a powerful foundation that I believe will benefit you greatly.

I encourage you to get your advisors together and attempt to run through the ABZ-Audience Exercise as a team. An open and candid conversation in the privacy of your effective boardroom is a step that will make it easier to find more of your greatest customers in your marketing efforts.

As the quote from Bruce Lee goes:

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”

Now go and give the AB-Z Audience Exercise a try!

Has this helped you?

Please consider sharing this article with a friend or colleague who may find it useful. Leaving a ‘like’ or a comment will also help us share this content with others who need it.

If you’ve found this approach useful, and would like to use your AB-Z Audience Exercise to develop a strong brand presence online and generate more business, then I’d love to speak with you. Schedule a consultation with Clarity Business Design so we can chat about what we may be able to do together.

Every Brand Needs Good Website Design – Period.

I say it frequently: A website is the core to a good marketing strategy.

But why is a website the core to a good marketing strategy?

It’s really quite simple, and can be summed up in the word ‘control.’ In order for a marketing strategy to be effective, it must establish control over an audience or an industry. Sinister? Not exactly.

If you have any experience in networking your business in a local community, you’ve heard this justification for spending time in networking circles:

“The reason you network consistently in our group is to become top of mind when our members need your services (or goods)”

I served as the captain for a leads group for two years that repeated this message. It’s not inherently wrong; in fact, that’s the point of any marketing strategy. But read that statement again and you’ll realize that it’s about control – specifically, control over the correlation in your network’s mind between your industry and your brand.

How does control factor into website design and marketing strategies?

Your website is the one place that anyone can access where you may communicate 100% who your brand is for, what it stands for, what it looks like, and why people should do business with you. Nowhere else do you have this type of control:

  • Your storefront is likely shaped how the designers wanted it or your city dictated, not as you designed. Furthermore, access to your location is limited to the people who live nearby or travel to your location.
  • Your social media has your name, your imagery, and your content, but all of that is encapsulated in Facebook’s brand, or Instagram’s brand, or LinkedIn’s brand. Worse than that, if at any time, for any obscure reason they disagree or dislike what you post, they can take down your content or page at any time. The point is that they own their platform and control access to your content.
  • Your printed brand materials are not accessible from anywhere, no matter how widely distributed they may be. This is why newspapers now publish their articles online.

Imagine being unable to unleash your brand’s unique and creative approach to its industry, being unable to say what you want, when you want, as much as you want. Take a moment, really think about that. Now go get a website.

For your marketing strategy to succeed, you need to own your web presence.

Here’s how:

  1. Register your domain! This should absolutely be the first thing you do when starting a brand. I like NameCheap.com for this, but GoDaddy works if you absolutely must (personally I find all of the other products they’ll try to upsell on you subpar). For more on choosing domains, check out SEO specialist, Moz. Do this for yourself and NEVER let someone register a domain on your behalf – it is your most important piece of intellectual property online.
  2. Hire a website designer. Can you design a website yourself? Eh… sure. If you say so. As a professional who has designed websites for a number of years, I’ve seen many people struggle to design the website they want with DIY solutions such as SquareSpace (or the afore mentioned subpar services from GoDaddy). Save your valuable time and hire a pro. Your designer will become a key member of your marketing team, even if the only other member is you.

Now that you have your website, you can connect everything to it.

Business cards. Social media pages. Articles. Vehicle wraps. Direct mail flyers. Radio and TV. The list goes into infinity of what you can connect to your website, in both the real and virtual worlds. This fundamental concept is why your first steps in a marketing plan should include website design.

 

Why Marketing or Advertising “Doesn’t Work”

As a representative for my business, I frequent several networking groups in my community. Usually these groups consist of independent business owners, sales reps for small and medium-sized businesses, and multi-level marketing affiliates of various industries. These are the types of people and businesses that my company works well with, people with growing businesses and some establishment with their customer base. Many are relying on word-of-mouth marketing and referrals, which is why they or their employees are attending these events.

When I tell people what I do, which is website and brand design, most people ask me how I got into the industry and whether or not websites, social media, and SEO are really necessary. These are good conversational questions that I enjoy answering, however from time to time I’ll get a response something along the lines of:

“Marketing doesn’t work.”

This seemingly abrasive and generally assumptive statement, while not the most pleasant thing to hear while speaking about one’s line of work, brings up an excellent point; It echoes a sentiment that some may be too polite to voice, especially in a manner which interrupts a professional’s statement, but still turn over in their minds as they listen to marketing professionals talk about their services.

“Why pay someone to tell me how to market my business?”

When I encounter a statement like “marketing doesn’t work,” I usually detect something deeper – a past experience, perhaps, or the experience of a colleague or relative where an advertising budget yielded little to no additional profits. A situation where someone got burned.

Let’s break down what marketing really is.

mar·ket·ing

noun

  1. the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

Like most things, success in marketing can be attributed to two fundamental building blocks: time, most importantly, and money. A small business starts with more time than money available for their marketing, and if they are successful the balance shifts to eventually favor money instead of time. These results can take months, even years to change, though, and therein lies the problem for a small business which has an 80% chance of failing within the first two years: marketing needs time, and small businesses don’t have it.

So what is a small company to do when both time and money are in short supply? Here are some ideas:

Define Your Brand

Your brand is more than just your mark (the name and/or logo). Your brand is who your business is. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What values does my business espouse?
  • How does my business speak to its customers? What is the tone, the language used to create a connection with the customer?
  • What problem is my business solving for the people it services? Business to Consumer (B2C) companies clearly deal with people directly, but owners of Business to Business (B2B) companies must remember that what they offer affects the people at the center of the businesses they are selling to. Business always comes down to people.
  • Why should customers buy from my business instead of my competition?
  • Who, exactly, is the ideal client for my business? Create a profile of your best customer, in as much detail as you can imagine.

The answers to these questions should give you some initial guidance into your marketing strategy, although this is simply the tip of the iceberg.

Assemble Your Brand Look

With your brand defined, you can assemble your Brand Style Guide. This should include:

  • Your brand name (and any variations)
  • All acceptable variations of your logo (black & white, full-color, vertical layout, horizontal layout, etc.)
  • The colors your business will use for the logo, the website, business cards, and all other visual media representing the brand
  • The font/typeface choices the business will use for print and digital media

The Brand Style Guide will give you a basic template for your creative team to work with to create a consistent message to your customers. This is important because…

Consistency Breeds Trust

Think about the brands you buy from every day: Starbucks, for example. When you visit a Starbucks, no matter where you find one you can expect a similar experience each time. You find consistency in the taste, the atmosphere, the menu options, and the service. Whether you consciously realize it or not, if you’re a frequent customer of Starbucks, when you see their iconic green and their logo cross your Facebook feed, or when you drive by one of their signs, your mind connects that brand identity with the perceived quality of their services. This is true for other massive brands, such as Nike and Apple, however it is equally true for local businesses you interact with and buy from regularly. This is the type of connection your business must make with your customers in order to survive.

“But What About Advertising?”

I like to think of advertising and marketing as a bridge between potential customers and your business. What kind of bridge are you building with your ideal customers? Is your brand strong and consistent, clearly projecting with its logo and voice a quality product to create a safe and stable, steel and concrete ‘bridge’ to the new relationship? Or is a cheap design and incoherent stream of thoughts, riddled with grammatical errors, creating a shaky and questionable rope bridge with missing planks?

Without a clear and trustworthy brand as a destination, advertising is time & money down the drain.

You can spend hundreds, or thousands of dollars in your local paper, Pay-per-Click digital marketing (PPC), or membership in your local business organizations, but if you don’t look like you can do the job, someone who doesn’t know you will chose someone who does – and those advertising dollars and effort will go to waste.

Good News: Marketing CAN Work For You!

To the business owner who has lost confidence in marketing professionals and advertising techniques, I say this: Your efforts are only as good as the quality they project.

If you have a quality product or service, you can clearly communicate its values, and your ideal customer has been thoroughly identified, then you stand a much better chance of making any of your marketing efforts successful – whether you spend money on them or not! What matters most is setting your brand up for success at the very beginning, allowing you to leverage every dollar, every moment, every breath you spend to spread the word about your company.

Find that clarity today, and watch your business succeed.

Homework:

  • Set aside an hour today to answer the questions listed above, and reflect on the answers every morning this week.
  • Write out your value statement in a post on your business Facebook. Share that post with your personal Facebook to your social network. Include an image to improve your exposure!
  • Get coffee with a graphic designer, copywriter, or brand strategist this week to inspire your vision for your business voice and brand style.