Launching a new product? You’re filled with excitement, hopes, and maybe a few nerves too. But before you dive into marketing, there’s one crucial step: getting to know your ideal customers inside and out.
Who exactly are you creating and selling this product for? What pain points and desires are you hoping to address? The better you can define and visualize your target audience, the easier it’ll be to tailor your messaging and connect with potential buyers.
So how do savvy ecommerce marketers “meet” their customers before launch? They create detailed buyer personas and avatars. These fictional representations help you stand in your customers’ shoes so you can provide the awesome experiences they’re craving.
Intrigued? We’ll walk you through exactly how to research, build, and use customer avatars and personas to maximize the success of your product launch. Let’s do this.
What Are Buyer Personas and Avatars?
You’re probably familiar with the idea of developing fictional representations of ideal customers. But let’s quickly define both personas and avatars so we’re on the same page:
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your target customers based on real data about customer demographics, behaviors, motivations, and goals.
Customer avatars take the concept one step further by bringing your personas to life as specific fictional characters with names, photos, backgrounds, and stories.
Both are created through extensive research into your existing customers and audience. The difference is that avatars add deeper perspective by visualizing personas as actual people.
For example, you may have a persona called “Billing Manager Becky” who cares about accuracy and efficiency. Your avatar would flesh Becky out as Rebecca Thompson, a 35-year-old billing manager at XYZ Company who gets frustrated wasting time on manual processes.
As you can see, avatars add the human element. And we all know people prefer doing business with other people, not faceless companies.
Why Are Avatars Valuable for Product Launches?
Focusing on detailed avatars offers a slew of benefits as you prepare to promote a new product:
- They help you deeply understand your target customers - their pain points, motivations, and buying criteria.
- They ensure you’re solving real problems for real people, not just what you assume customers want.
- They enable you to create messaging and content tailored to connect with specific customer segments.
- They make it easier for your entire team to align around your audience and develop empathy.
- They keep you focused on your customers’ experience rather than just features.
- They help you identify where your product may not perfectly align with your personas’ needs so you can evaluate and pivot if needed.
Bottom line? Avatars provide immense clarity and focus regarding WHO you’re talking to and WHAT they care about. When launching a product, that insight is priceless.
Let’s walk through how to research and create standout avatars and put them to work.
Conduct Thorough Audience Research
The best avatars stem from in-depth research into current and potential customers. Here are smart strategies to learn all about your audience:
Analyze Your Existing Customer Base
Your existing buyers offer a goldmine of demographic, behavioral, and other customer data. Analyze their:
- Job titles and industries
- Which products or features they use
- What content they engage with
- What marketing messages attract them
Look for any meaningful patterns or segments you can define. For example, maybe one cluster of customers skews millennial while another is 50+ years old. Keep an eye out for any shared pain points or interests too.
Review Competitor Customers
See what types of buyers your biggest competitors attract. Sign up for their emails, engage with their site as a customer, and follow their social media. Get a sense of their target audience and messaging.
You can learn a lot about your own ideal audience by studying their customer base. If very different from yours, you may have an opportunity to attract an untapped segment.
Interview Existing Customers
One of the best ways to deepen your audience understanding is having real conversations about their experience and needs. Interview current customers about:
- Their role and company
- What problem they needed solved
- How they heard about your business
- Why they ultimately purchased
- What frustrates them about current solutions
- The key factors driving their purchase decisions
- Their goals and challenges
- Where they go for related advice and information
Look for potential avatar candidates and segments to emerge from these conversations.
Send Out Surveys
Well-designed surveys are another way to gather intel from existing or prospective customers at scale. You can pepper these surveys throughout your site, social media, email lists, or advertisements.
Ask about demographics, buying preferences, pain points, goals, and perceived value of your product. Structure questions to further define your target audience and guide your avatar creation.
Run Focus Groups
Want more direct customer interactions? Focus groups allow you to lead an in-depth discussion with a small group of existing or potential buyers. This gives you a chance to ask open-ended questions and dig into their worldview.
Focus groups also reveal how customers interact with each other, providing insights into cultural norms and behaviors of different segments.
Monitor Support Conversations
Your support team talks to customers every day. They have invaluable insights into common requests, complaints, misconceptions, app feedback, and more.
Spend time listening in on or reading through support conversations to identify needs, desires, frustrations, and anything that will help you build realistic avatars.
Search Social Media
Take to social media to learn more about your audience interests and which brands or influencers they follow. Create customer journey maps showing how they interact with you and competitors online.
Social listening offers a trove of demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data to inform your personas. Just plug relevant keywords into a social listening tool like Hootsuite to monitor conversations.
Notice any themes? Differences across audience segments? Key insights help refine your avatars.
Conduct Market Research
Beyond existing customers, widen your research lens to gather data on your total addressable market. Estimate its size and growth potential. Learn about the industry’s landscape, trends, and developments.
Third-party market research reports from sources like Forrester provide excellent national data to understand your ideal customers.
Get Team Input
Don’t create avatars in a silo. Ask colleagues in sales, support, product development, and other departments for input about observed customer needs and behaviors.
They may suggest valuable avatar attributes you’ve overlooked. And getting buy-in from the start increases adoption as you implement the avatars across your customer-facing teams.
Fill Out Your Avatar Templates
With ample background research completed, it’s time to start structuring and defining your avatars. While you can create them in Word or Google Docs, it’s handy to use a template. Here’s a sample:
Photo: [Stock photo or AI generated photo reflecting demographic traits]
- Job title & industry:
- Income range:
- Education level:
- Marital status:
- Household status:
- Where/how they typically make purchases:
- Brands they use and trust:
- Key software tools and apps:
- What information sources they rely on:
- Who influences their buying decisions:
- What social platforms they actively use:
Goals & Challenges:
- Their strategic goals and KPIs:
- Pain points and daily frustrations:
- Gaps they need filled:
“Something summing up their worldview”
Flesh out each avatar with a name, photo, descriptive background, relevant demographic traits, key behaviors, goals and challenges, and a quote summing up their personality and perspective.
Make them detailed 3D people your team can visualize interacting with your product. The more realistic, the better!
Create Avatar Alignment Maps
With initial avatar drafts complete, you can create visual maps to align them with your product’s solutions and strengths. This helps confirm you’re targeting the right customers and enables smoother positioning.
Alignment maps have the avatar on one side and your product features or messaging on the other. Draw lines connecting where they match up to show:
- Which features address which pain points
- What messaging resonates for each avatar
- Where potential gaps exist between their needs and your offerings
These maps provide an invaluable cross-check to ensure your avatars match your product’s sweet spots. If not, you may need to expand your reach or refine the product.
Validate and Refine
With draft avatars ready, avoid making assumptions. Go back to customers to validate you’re on the right track.
Share the avatars with your customer advisory board or interview target customers. Ask:
- Does this avatar ring true for you?
- What resonates or feels off?
- Would you characterize any traits differently?
- Are we missing any key attributes you’d include?
Make any tweaks needed based on their feedback to ensure your avatars reflect real customers.
Prioritize Primary and Secondary Personas
Odds are you’ll develop multiple potential avatars spanning different customer groups. Now prioritize the primary and secondary personas to focus on.
Who does your product most directly address? Who represents the largest, most profitable segment? Who has the most potential to grow? These should be your primary avatar targets.
Then identify secondary personas who also fit your audience but may have slightly different needs. Keep them in mind but tailor your messaging primarily for your primary personas.
For example, a B2B company’s primary avatar could be “Director of Operations Danielle” while their secondary one is “Small Business Owner Samantha.” Both are potential buyers but Danielle better represents the core target.
Name Your Avatars Memorably
Give each avatar a specific name beyond just their job title. It makes them more tangible for team members than “accounting manager avatar.”
Aim for names that cue key attributes but also have a catchy, memorable ring like:
- Productivity Pro Pam
- Quality Manager Quincy
- Order Obsessed Oliver
Fun names help ingrain avatars in everyone’s minds (and makes referring to them in meetings more entertaining).
Bring Your Avatars to Life Visually
Don’t just describe avatars. Represent them visually so they feel like real people. Stock photos of models can provide general illustrations but get creative too.
Some brands design avatars as illustrated characters or Legos. Team members can even dress up as avatars in photos!
Visualizing helps personalize. You could include these graphic elements:
- Stock or custom photos reflecting their demographic traits
- Their name and job title
- Logos of relevant brands they use
- Key quotes or snippets of their voice
- Photos of their workspace, lifestyle, family, etc.
- An email or social media excerpt
Make them engaging, relatable people who your team can’t help but understand and remember.
Share Avatars Internally
With well-researched avatars ready to go, spread the word across your entire company. They’ll guide everything from product development to support to marketing.
Share avatar one-sheeters and alignment maps with any customer-facing departments. Set up a page on your intranet or wiki so everyone can reference.
Host a lunch-and-learn where team members can walk through the research and provide input. The more visibility, the better.
Some teams even print photos of key avatars for display in meeting rooms and the break room. This keeps customers top of mind and baits conversation.
How to Use Avatars and Personas for Product Launches
You’ve done the hard work to build avatars that reflect your ideal audience. Now put them into action as you prepare for launch.
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Guide Messaging and Content
Avatars provide the litmus test for your messaging and content. As you shape websites, ads, emails, social, video, and other marketing collateral, view it through each avatar’s eyes:
- Does this resonate and speak to their pain points?
- Is the tone, format, and channel a fit?
- Would this motivate them or fall flat?
- Does anything feel off-base or confusing?
Then tweak messaging until you can clearly envision avatars responding, “Yes! This is for me.”
Avatars even inspire specific content formats and topics to attract each one based on their traits. Use them as your creative muse!
For example, if Trisha the Team Player loves case studies, create a launch series featuring customers like her own company. And target it on LinkedIn where she spends her time.
Refine Product Positioning
How you position your product – the way you describe and frame its value – can make or break a launch.
Avatars provide a clear checkpoint. Can you explain the product’s benefits in a way that directly links to their goals and pain points?
If there’s a disconnect, you may need to revisit how the product is defined and marketed. Smooth alignment pulls in customers.
Prioritize Channels and Campaigns
With limited time and resources, you can’t be everywhere at launch. Avatars indicate where to focus your energy for the biggest payoff.
If social media is where Abigail the Agency Owner lives, make it a priority for influencer partnerships and organic content. If Nick the IT Nerd reads trade publications, focus your early ads there.
double down on the platforms, channels, and campaigns that resonate most with your primary avatars. Meet them where they are.
Who's most likely to buy at what price points? Avatars provide the clues for more accurate financial projections.
Maybe Amelia the Accountant will spring for the higher-priced monthly plan while Sam the Small Business Owner opts for the annual deal.
Assign potential conversion rates and price points to avatars as you forecast sales. They steer you away from wishful thinking.
Shape Sales Conversations
Hand avatars off to your sales team so they can anticipate questions, objections, and concerns. When able to ask “How would this pitch resonate with Productivity Pro Pam?” they can adapt for success.
Reps can even reference or quote avatars in calls and demos to show they get buyers’ perspectives. It builds rapport fast.
Prioritize New Features
Who is avatar Edmund the Efficiency Expert going to ask for next? Use avatars' motivations and challenges to predict the product enhancements and new features they’ll find most valuable.
Does Claire the Construction Manager need mobile functionality? Does Social Susan want more integrations and sharing tools? Roadmap development teams will thank you.
Guide Support Conversations
Share avatars with support teams and encourage them to reference when talking to customers. The better they understand each avatar, the faster they can empathize, troubleshoot issues, and even upsell.
For example, when Henry the Harried Head of Marketing contacts support with a question, they’re prepared to walk through options exactly as Henry would need them presented.
Reflect Their Voice and Language
This one’s simple but critical. Use your avatars’ actual words, phrases, and tone of voice throughout your content and conversations.
If uptight Oliver says “utilize,” don’t market to him using hip lingo (as tempting as trends can be!) Stick to language that resonates. Authenticity matters.
Track Campaigns Results by Avatar
Tie your avatar research into campaign measurement so you can see which marketing resonates most with each one. This reveals who to double down on if needed.
For example, if a video campaign performed well across avatars except Product Manager Pamela, re-evaluate how to better speak to her preferences. Data-driven refinement pays off.
Evolve Your Avatars Over Time
Don’t keep initial avatars stagnant. Revisit and expand them as you gather learnings from real customers.
Notice new trends and behaviors? Have feedback your messaging misses the mark? Update avatars to stay aligned with your audience. They’re ongoing assets.
For example, Wayne the Weekend Warrior Chef may start caring more about easy cleanup after buying your cookware. Tweak his bio so your content better matches his needs.
Avatars Take You from Assumptions to Action
There you have it – an in-depth walkthrough of why avatars matter, how to create them, and tactics to maximize their impact, especially when launching new products.
Without the rich insights avatars provide into your customers’ worlds, you have to make guesses about your audience. And there’s nothing worse than misaligned messaging that falls flat.
By investing the time upfront to research and define avatars, you head into launches confident you have the full picture of your target buyers. No more waste and guesswork.
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So don’t launch that amazing new product before getting to know the real people you’re aiming to serve. Let their avatars guide the way to marketing success.