Hint: its Ideal Customer Avatar is missing, presumed dead.
You don’t know your business til you know your customer.
That was a shower revelation I had when I first started my client outreach. One of those shocking sort of realizations that are so obvious once you’ve had them you can’t help but chuckle and resolve never to tell anyone it just occurred to you.
But there it is.
I didn’t know it yet but I was on the brink of changing over my whole website and process — because I hadn’t factored some real-life details into my business model and my dreamscape of how things would be.
I wasted so much time brainstorming and proposing services to prospects who couldn’t really sustain the kind of growth and longterm brand voice amplification I was offering. Their model kept them small, hyper local. Confined to the foot-traffic limits of their investment framework.
I realized I had to understand who I was actually trying to help. What kind of business would benefit from the brand narrative services I wanted to sling. So I put on my dusty old teacher hat and hit the books, putting myself through Ideal Client Avatar bootcamp — and distilling all that research into a simple tool to help me check all the boxes before my next round of business growth. More on that later.
What is an Ideal Customer Avatar?
The Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA) is a character profile created by marketers to uncover the benefits they’ll use to sell a product or service.
Marketing is character driven. Why? Because life is character driven. Your life is a tapestry of stories woven through space and time. So is mine. Copywriters don’t sell products — or even solutions.
Good copywriters sell a better version of life.
How can you write about a better version of life if you haven’t envisioned the details of the unimproved one?
Your ICA is the character you take on your customer’s journey. You’ll learn more about them as you teach them more about you — and the valuable solutions you offer for problems they have. Put your ideal customer avatar on a quest toward self improvement. As author and narrator, your job is to provide knowledge and tools to help them grow along the way.
Offer ICA character growth via:
Insightful blog articles
Data and evidence
Stories of those who’ve gone before
Your website’s words hold up a mirror showing visitors a reflection of truth. Your value offering shows them what that mirror would look like with a few tweaks here and there. How can you demonstrate the tweaks if you haven’t outlined the reflection?
You’re basically the god of your website’s world, looking down from Mount Whatever and steering the course of all who enter your realm…
But — maybe don’t think of it that way.
Don’t underestimate the power of putting pen to paper
It helps to actually write out your ideal customer avatar details. You’ll be amused by some of the revelations you have while translating what’s in your head into words on a page. And it will definitely help you hone your craft and activate the empathy you’ll need to understand what your customer gains by picking up what you’re putting down.
Allow me to lay on some anecdotal examples from my own experience copywriting for a wide array of clients. I’ve detailed a handful of ideal customer avatars for my own business— and each one has taught me a lot about how to help clients. And each client has helped hone my ICA process.
My clients include businesses doing medical product development, sex therapy, food & beverage publication, keto meal replacement — and the like. My ICA wants to make the world a better place. None of my avatars have a gender — but if I were copywriting a sales funnel for women’s hiking boots, that’s the first thing I’d write on my warm-from-the-printer ICA worksheet (which I still use every time as an exercise in marketing discipline).
Your ICA details might include age, education, financial status, family status, what they’re reading, location…whatever’s relevant to the solutions you offer to problems they have.
How does an Ideal Client Avatar help with marketing?
Remember how I said good marketing requires empathy?
When I started building my business I was gung-ho about putting together my freelance copywriting website, stacking up a portfolio, setting my prices — I’d gotten into a flow of producing my own content and brand voice, learning the ropes while chasing leads, imagining the day when I’d finally sign a client and start working on someone else’s brand narrative.
But as soon as I got my first prospect — not even client — I had to go back and reengineer everything, from process timeline to painpoints to price models…all while pitching my first stranger.
I’d neglected one crucial element.
I hadn’t used an ICA profile to sharpen my focus. The mismatches were glaring. I was getting responses — but none of them were a good fit. Despair wound tight with the ticking clock as my investment funds trickled dry.
Then I read about ideal customer avatars and something clicked in my storytelling brain. I knew what I had to do.
I tried a couple printable ideal customer avatar templates from Google — but none of them were really adequate. Fortunately I used to be an expert in crafting effective worksheets from my days as a teacher — so I did my research and created my own template.
And it worked!
Before long I was too busy writing for clients to work on my own marketing goals — which meant I understood my clients’ pain points even better.
Get the rest of the guide here.
With a sheaf of detailed ideal client avatars in hand, it’s time to sort your website experiences and begin segmenting your digital audience.
Your website pages should speak to a specific ideal customer. Know what they’re looking for…and then tell them more about it and the best way to fix the problem.
How you map that out is a matter of style and investment. Funnels, automations, powerful email sequences — tools abound. But that’s a lesson for another day.
Ultimately though, marketing is a numbers game. Even the best copywriting only converts a certain percentage every step of every marketing strategy. The more ICA leads you attract and the more ICA-specific your customer’s journey, the more people will make it through to peak value and better lives.
Can you have more than one Ideal Customer Avatar?
Most businesses have more than one ideal customer avatar because most products and services aren’t that tightly niched — but effective marketing is. Like anything else, it’s a spectrum.
The more details you can compile for your ICA the better. Sometimes that means sending a survey or another opt-in incentive for segmenting. Sometimes it means serious market research. Always it means empathy and nurture.
Every business with human customers should be able to write a hero’s journey story with their ideal customer avatar as the main character. At the end of the day, that’s what website marketing is:
An illustrated narrative of self improvement
Available for the low, low price of…