Digital marketing requires more than just technical know-how.
Packing your website with SEO keywords, setting your demographics on Google Ads, finding all the right hashtags… Playing the numbers game and getting eyes on your stuff is just a small part of a much bigger picture.
Effective marketing also requires empathy, creativity, and human connection – streamlined through storytelling.
Good marketing portrays a hero’s journey to a better life, starring your audience (embodied by your Ideal Customer Avatar).
Every word on your website should be for them. Their concerns and doubts, their hopes and dreams, the things they struggle with day to day, the things they don’t yet know they always needed.
It’s on you to tell that story in a way that connects with their lives.
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. Which means top-quality copywriters don’t sell products – or even solutions.
The best 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 ICA on a quest toward self-improvement. As a guide and narrator, your job is to provide knowledge and tools to help them grow along the way.
Enhance your potential customer’s journey via:
- Insightful blog articles
- Free resources
- Data and evidence
- Entertainment value
- Stories of those who’ve gone before
Your website’s words hold up a mirror showing visitors a reflection of truth. Your value proposition 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 initial 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.
What to include in your Ideal Customer Avatar
What info to add to your ICA profile depends on your type of business, the complexity or sensitivity of the issue you address, the nature of your marketing outreach, and other factors.
You’ll want some basic demographic details, especially when it comes to targeting relevant leads. Anything you can do to narrow the field will help. This step may require some actual research and outreach (like the survey template included with Paul Blumer's Brand Story Hero ICA guide).
Ideal Customer Avatar details might include:
- Financial status
- Family status
- What they’re reading/watching
Basically, your ICA profile should include whatever’s relevant to the solutions you offer for problems they have.
Don’t waste time on extraneous details – but the more you know about them, the more connections you’ll be able to draw between your brand and their life, as you develop your brand-story digital marketing.
Pro tip: It helps to actually write out your ideal customer avatar details by hand. 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.
How do you use an Ideal Customer Avatar for marketing?
Wherever you’re activating your brand voice, it should be tuned toward your ICA. As if you were having a one-on-one conversation with them in a comfortable, public space.
Whether using your Ideal Customer Avatar for website development, SEO content creation, social media posting, email marketing, or anywhere else – keep in mind their struggles and hopes and dreams. Empathizing with what someone’s going through helps you discover deeper benefits that actually matter in their life.
Building out your ICA gives you something to focus on, as you engage your storytelling brain to develop your website and digital marketing. It embodies an attentive audience to imagine and address, as you write about how your business helps people.
Many copywriters and digital marketers use an Ideal Customer Avatar profile like the one below, as a reference tool for organizing their brainstorms – especially when working with a team, or on multiple different products/services.
Your website pages should always speak to a specific ideal customer. Being too general means you won’t catch the eye of the most promising leads. Their searching eyes will flit right past you. Instead, know what your target audience is looking for – and demonstrate that you understand it deeply, and also know a great unique way to fix the problem.
Ultimately though, despite the power of compelling storytelling, marketing isn’t magic – it’s momentum. Even the best copywriters only get a small percentage of click-through and/or conversion rates at each step of the AIDA process (a marketing term meaning Attention, Interest, Desire, Action).
Top copywriters do their damnedest to draw out compelling elements of their Ideal Customer Avatar’s life, to get the best possible conversion rates – but they still have to play the numbers.
Knowing your audience at every human level will help you narrow the field of that numbers game, to connect more deeply with the highest-likelihood prospects. But you still have to get it out there. The more ICA leads you attract and the more ICA-specific your customer’s journey, the more people will make it through your marketing funnel to peak value and better lives.
Can you have more than one Ideal Customer Avatar?
Most businesses have more than one ICA because most products and services aren’t that tightly niched. But effective marketing is tight like that. So like anything else in digital marketing, how many Ideal Customer Avatars you need falls along a spectrum.
For example, if you’re selling women’s shoes, you may have one Ideal Customer Avatar representing someone actually wearing the shoes – and an additional unique ICA for someone buying the shoes as a gift for someone in their life.
Those different but related Ideal Customer Avatars may each deserve their own campaign – especially around the various marketing holidays. In which case you’ll definitely want to lay out individual ICA profiles for each.
The more details you can compile for each specific 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.
Whatever their technical specs though, 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 digital marketing is – an illustrated narrative of self-improvement.