It lumbers into your business, ugly and mishapen, takes your content strategy and crushes it into an amorphous, useless mess.
Enter the Frankenavatar.
This deadly bastard is what I call situations when you have several different segments in your audience and, because you’re not sure how to write to them, you create and use your client avatar (which is useless anyway), you try to include the various characteristics from all of these segments in an attempt to appeal to all of them all at once. And just like the real Frankenstein’s monster, the Frankenavatar will absolutely fuck you up.
As I’ve said many times before, if you’re trying to appeal to everybody, you’re not going to really appeal to anybody.
You have to be very deliberate with your audience, because only then can you really get to know them, which is the only way that you can know how to talk to them in a way that resonates and converts.
And you know this — you can’t go five minutes on the online smallbiz space without someone shrieking at you about niching. But what’s the answer when you have a really disparate audience?
Most people will tell you the same two (wrong) answers:
1. Just choose one niche. If you think your audience has several segments, then choose the one you like best and forget the rest.
2. Segment your audience and then create totally different content for each segment.
As I said, wrong.
Here’s why: both of those solutions are predicated on pretty one dimensional understandings of the people in your audience. Most examples of client avatars are like this, which is why they’re ultimately useless and should be killed.
See, while there may be some very different people in your audience, it’s almost certain that they have some important characteristics in common. I mean, they’re all there, voluntarily listening to you, so there’s something that’s pulling them together.
Once you understand that, the problem goes from being “How do I position my stuff to appeal to all these different people?” to ” What’s the common thread?”
Hint 1: It’s almost always to do with perceptions of identity.
Let me lay some science on you. As humans, we make decisions using two primary models: the consequences model and the identity model.
In the consequences model, we think “What will happen if I do XYZ, and am I OK with that happening?” For instance, if you’re (consciously or unconsciously) making the decision to litter, in the consequences model you’d be thinking about something like whether you would get a fine or not, and that would be the deciding factor in your decision.
But in the identity model, we think “Does the kind of person that I am do XYZ?”
Taking the same example of littering, if you were making the decision to litter or not, you’d be thinking, “Am I a litterer? Is that the kind of person I am?”
And while you might think that we respond more to consequences — after all, they are much more visible and often out of our control — we are actually influenced much, much more by our perceptions about our identities.
How you think about your identity is a much stronger factor in your decisions than the possible consequences of those decisions — so much so that you will even act against your self-interest as long as that action is in line with your perceived identity.
And the same goes for the people in your audience. They all have their own versions of their identities, and if you can figure out what “I am” statement is drawing them to your business, that’s probably going to be a really powerful common thread among them. So who are your people? What common threads of identity tie them together? Are they all rebels? Environmentalists? People who need to sell, but hate selling? What identity do they all have that transcends their differences?
Hint 2: You’re your own best clue.
OK, so let’s say that you’re totally stumped on the identity thing. All these people seem to be completely different, you can’t figure out what identity they share or what belief is resonating with all of them. In that case, look at the one common factor between all of them: you.
You’re the one thing that they’re all guaranteed to have in common. So what is it about you and your business that’s attracting them? Is there something that you do, or say, or have that’s different from the other businesses in your area? Is it a stylistic thing, a pricing thing, a geographical thing, a belief that you have? Or is it the things that you aren’t? As in, are people attracted to you and your business because you’re not like the other ones in your industry? If you can pick away at these types of questions until you figure out what parts of you and your business are attracting this disparate group of people, you can usually keep pulling on that thread to figure out some other commonalities.
OK. But what if you do all of this and you really, truly do have some totally different segments?
It happens — often because you’ve either got your business structured with services that appeal to totally different people, or because your business has changed over time and you’ve still got some people hanging on from the old version.
The way you tackle this is going to depend on your business, but here are three approaches that might come in handy:
1. If your audience is so segmented because they’re each attracted to very different products or services you offer, that might be a sign to look at your business structure. Are you trying to cram in too many things under one brand?
2. Sometimes, you can shift the people from one segment into another one — for instance, when they’re separated by degrees of knowledge or history with your ideas. If you’re in this situation, think about ways that you can guide the people from one section into another one. This does NOT mean create separate content from scratch for each segment. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel like that. Instead, just scale what you have up or down to fit each segment.
3. When it all comes down to it, you may find that you have a segment of people that just don’t fit your business anymore. In that case, don’t bother trying to appeal to them — instead, try directing them to someone else who’s a better fit. And I know — gasp, OMG, the money’s in the list, don’t lose people — but it really is OK to cut the dead weight. Remember, quality and engagement win out over quantity any day.