Who knows your customer best?

As an elderly businessman, I’m best suited to understand what’s going through the head of a young mother, aren’t I?

Struggling to understand who your customer actually is?...and what motivates them?
Use this FREE Customer Avatar Worksheet to develop your marketing activities with a specific person in mind and ensure you know what to say and where to say it - Download it now!

by | Feb 11, 2020

“It looked crappy…”

I recently had a conversation with a potential client about their email marketing which was very enlightening.

He’d contacted me because he’d ‘had a go’ at email marketing before and it hadn’t really worked very well. He was unhappy with the process, unhappy with how the emails looked, and ultimately unhappy with the results he’d generated.

In our discussion, I probed him on why he felt it really didn’t work for him… what was the one thing that made him stop.

“I didn’t like the way the emails looked” he said, “the images didn’t show up when I tested it and I reckon if everyone else had the same experience, it wouldn’t work very well”.

I asked what system he was using to review the emails and he said “Outlook”, to which I asked, “Do you know the email systems your customers use to read emails?”


“I don’t use Facebook…”

Another recent conversation with a different client focused on the different routes they had to market their services.

We’d already got email up and running, but needed to drive some traffic to his landing pages to capture some details, and so I suggested that Facebook might be a good route.

I could tell from the face they pulled that it was something they didn’t feel good about.

“I don’t think Facebook would be any good for us” I was told… “It’s just full of cat gifs, what people ate for dinner and adverts for get rich quick schemes”.

I paused for a moment and asked… “Do you know if your customers use Facebook?”


“I’m not a video person…”

In discussion with one of my oldest clients we were looking for new ways for them to broaden their appeal.

Up to this point, they had steadfastly refused to do any sort of video content.

I decided to probe again and ask them why?

“I don’t really like videos, I don’t feel good being filmed, and I don’t understand how we’d use them.”

I then asked “How would your customers view your videos?”


 A Huge Roadblock

In each of these instances, my clients had fallen into a trap… and it’s a trap I see almost every day.

As they considered the best way for them to market their business, be it emails, facebook or video (or any other tool for that matter), they immediately defaulted to statements like  “I don’t like it, so it won’t work” and “I don’t get it so I won’t be doing it”.

…and a potentially very valuable marketing asset was put to the side to focus on stuff they liked and were familiar with.

They fell into a thought process that is extremely damaging for any business – and one that, as a marketer, I battle daily.

In all of these instances I used exactly the same words to get them to open their eyes and their minds.

“You are NOT your customer”


Easy to think, harder to do

In all three instances, the business owner had fallen into the trap of thinking that their own experience and knowledge replicated what others (i.e. their customers) would experience.

The owner who didn’t want to do email thought every one would have images blocked and use outlook – whereas most systems don’t block images and are viewed on a completely different set of systems (Mailchimp actually shows you how your audience views your email, so you can design accordingly!).

The owner who didn’t want to engage with Facebook because of their perception of what was on there didn’t understand the powerful targeting available… and that their customers were most definitely using it.

The owner who didn’t like video because they didn’t understand it or like it, when the personality of their business would shine and resonate powerfully with their customers via video.

It’s a very easy trap to fall into, but one that if we’re to succeed as marketers and business owners we need to overcome.


Why? Why? Why?

Why is it that business owners fall into this trap so readily?

It usually comes down to a few things:

  1. A belief that they are a great example of their customer!
    When we start out as a new business, it’s very easy to limit your understanding of who your customer is, and believe that your own experiences are going to be the same as everyone else’s, when in fact the truth is completely the opposite.
  2. A lack of understanding
    When faced with something new, that they don’t understand, people prefer to stay in their comfort zone and what they know, then to try something new – even if that ‘new thing’ is a great way to get new customers.
  3. A belief that it doesn’t matter
    Worryingly, some business owners are so focused on what they do and how they do it, that they forget to realise that it’s the customers that need to be put first, not them.
  4. Focused on Media and Message first
    One of the most used concepts in marketing is “Market, Media, Message” i.e. Who is your market, what media should we use to communicate with them, what should we say. I’ve seen countless businesses start with Media or Message and get in a muddle.  The statement “should we use Facebook to market our business?” needs to be changed to “Do our customers use Facebook?”, because it doesn’t matter what you think as much as whether it’s right for your audience.

…but with awareness comes the opportunity to challenge these incorrect assumptions and start to develop a customer focused business that will succeed.


Don’t fall into the trap

It’s easy for us to believe we know what’s best for our customers. Some of us even start our businesses serving people like ourselves (e.g. a nursery owner who started because they were a mother who had no local places for their children, and marketed to other local mums).

…but the further along our business goes, the further we may move away from our customer… and that’s deadly.

Start talking to your customers regularly to make sure you know what makes them tick, what they like (and don’t like) and how they want to interact with you.

Start learning about things that could work for your business (or find an expert who can deliver for you), not because YOU want to learn about them but because your Customers would benefit.

Stop ruling things out because you wouldn’t do it.

…and keep repeating the mantra to yourself whenever you are thinking about marketing.

“You are not your customer”

It’s one that will serve you well, both now and in the future.


Building a Customer Avatar

One of the best ways of NOT falling into the trap of thinking you are your customer, is to develop a customer avatar to help you get under their skin and consider their own situation.

If you’ve never done one before, check out this article which walks you through the process and demonstrates how you can benefit from the exercise.

I know of many successful businesses who use the Customer Avatar process to describe their ideal customer and understand not only where to communicate to them, but what to say!

…and once you’ve done one, why not develop more, as we’ve all got more than one type of customer! 

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Robin Adams

Robin Adams

Robin Adams is a business owner who is passionate about helping businesses build effective marketing systems that work and don't waste money. Having a lifetime of Marketing experience (he's got a degree in Marketing before there were degrees in Marketing!) and having worked for big and small businesses and both client and agency side, he understands not only the theory, but the systems that are required to underpin everything.
51% marketer and 49% Chimp, Robin is the main man behind chimpanswers.com and the Mailchimp Answers Facebook Group - the world's biggest Mailchimp User Group. Connect with him on Linkedin.

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Use this FREE Customer Avatar Worksheet to develop your marketing activities with a specific person in mind and ensure you know what to say and where to say it.

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