TLDR: Protect your brand. Take the time and invest the energy in ensuring your customer avatars are accurate and properly explained to your sales team. And then adhere to the definition when qualifying customers.
How did you decide who to target as prospective customers? Did you start by sitting down at your desk and figuring out who would pay for your products or services? And did you take that to the next level and create a Buyer Avatar, upon which you now base your marketing and sales programs? If you did, this blog is for you because you may be doing more harm than good to your brand. It’s not actually the avatars that are hurting your brand. It’s how you may have created and using them to approach prospects.
Let’s start with your process for creating – and validating – the avatar. Did you create a definition of a good fit customer, or the best fit customer? And did you make sure to include the most relevant factors for not only predicting the likelihood of a purchase but also for the ability of the prospect to benefit from your offerings to the maximum extent possible? Did you also include the characteristics that would make an ideal customer voluntarily become part of your referral channel? Your avatar should be based not only on the characteristics that make a prospect a good fit for you, but also those that make you a good fit for them and others they know who are like them.
Do you have a negative avatar? Most companies that have an avatar for their ideal customer do not have a negative avatar – one for the prospect that is least likely to be a fit. And even if they do have that negative avatar, they may not be sharing that with their sales team, or the sales team may not be paying attention to it. I always suggest defining at least three avatar types: the ideal customer, good customer, and non-customer. When you create these avatars for your company, think about the qualities that make your ideal customer different from your competitors’. This will make for a better definition of your customer, one which is more closely aligned with your company and USP and that can be used as a guide for qualifying prospects.
Next, consider how you are using it in your marketing. Is your message tailored according to the avatar? Are you treating everyone you meet as if they are a prospect? That’s not as uncommon as you may think. Many business leaders create avatars but then inconsistently apply them in practice. I’ve seen cases where the message is not aligned with the defined ideal customer, which won’t help you attract those prospects. Then there are the leaders who do not share the avatar with their sales teams in a way that helps the team qualify – or disqualify – prospects. And lastly, there can be an issue with sales teams that are looking for the best fit customers, but tempted to try to close a sale with a prospect who is not a best fit but is not far off. The problem with that is that some parameters in the avatar definition are more likely to impact the relationship than others.
Are you communicating the relative importance of each characteristic to your sales team to empower them to make better qualifying decisions? If not, you could experience a second potential issue: the sales team may oversell the product or service due to either a lack of understanding of the best fit customer. In cases such as this, you could end up with customers who are dissatisfied because the fit was not good. Even if they are satisfied, they will be less likely to be repeat customers or become part of your referral channel. Make sure your sales team is aware of and knows the reasons for the avatar characteristics, and don’t create a sales model that encourages them to ignore the fit of prospects in favor of closing a sale.
If you have not created your avatars with a truly market-focused process, misalignment is a bigger risk. And that can lead to more customer service complaints or even bad reviews. Customer complaints may contribute to a bad reputation, but they also can contribute to higher operations costs and deficits in the quality of your customer service. All of these things can, ultimately, contribute to the development of a bad reputation, which impacts your brand.