Lose Your Ideal Customer Avatar (And Adopt This Approach Instead)

If you’ve been part of the online entrepreneurial community for a while, it’s highly likely you’ve come across the Ideal Customer Avatar exercise.

Simply put, this involves creating a profile of what your ideal customer looks like. Some even go so far as to suggest giving your perfect customer a name.

Of course, having a good understanding of your target customer is clearly a good thing. But the problem with customer avatars is that they encourage you to think in stereotypes.

Even when the ideal client avatar is based on a real person, there is typically too much emphasis on surface level traits such as their age, their income and what kind of shoes they buy, which results is a static, fictitious character that is wholly unreachable.

So what’s the alternative?

The tapestry approach

In my book Marketing to Mums: how to target Britain’s most powerful consumers, I outline a strategy that I have found works particularly well when trying to get clients to think more deeply about their ideal customers.

The idea is simple. Instead of focusing on a single imaginary buyer persona, think about your most loyal customers collectively (or if you are just starting out, think about your nearest competitor’s most loyal customers).

Next, think of each individual customer in this group as an intricate tapestry, with each thread in the tapestry representing a different identity, experience or preference. The threads from which your customers choose to weave their tapestries might be similar, but the final result will always be unique to them.

As marketers and sales people, it is our job to pinpoint which threads are relevant to our brand, and identify the tapestries in which these threads are most prominent. The tapestries comprise our target market, but it is our recognition and understanding of the component threads that will enable us to formulate a marketing strategy that resonates with our ideal customers.

But how does one go about identifying the common threads that comprise our target market?

The best way is through research. Instead of making assumptions and generalisations about your target market that may not be true, try running a survey of your existing customers. Spend time talking to them and finding out what makes them tick. Visit the places where they hang out. Read what they are saying about you and your competitors online.

Once you have figured out what your biggest and best customers have in common and identified what attracted them to your product or service in the first place, then you are able to start building up a profile of your ideal customers.

Expanding our tapestry analogy, try to focus your attention on those who weave their tapestries in strong and vibrant colours that are relevant to your brand. The people who weave their tapestries in wishy-washy shades of pale cream and grey are not your target audience. That’s not to say they never will be – social identities are not static and mums are continually weaving their tapestries. People can add threads, alter the colour of their threads, and weave different colours and designs into their tapestries to reflect the dynamic nature of their identities, likes and dislikes. As they progress through their parenting journey, some threads will become more prominent than others, while others will slowly disappear from view.

For now though, you want to concentrate on those who have already identified themselves as being a good fit for your product or service. Recognise that there is no such thing as one perfect customer. But equally, understand that you will never appeal to everyone.

Thus rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, fine tune your campaigns based on the threads that are most commonly used by your target market. This will give you a huge advantage over your competitors and enable you to position your product in such a way that it truly stands out in the mind of your customers.


Jessie is a marketing and insight expert, specialising in selling to mums. To book a consultation with Jessie, click here.