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I am going to apologize in advance because this may come off as a bit of a rant, but you should know it comes from a place of love. You see, I often work with business owners who are struggling with creating an ICA after paying thousands upon thousands of dollars for business training that basically leaves them with fantasy-land worksheet exercises to create their Ideal Customer Avatar. It frustrates me to see these beautiful, smart, dedicated folks struggling and feeling like failures because the system let them down.

The phrase Ideal Customer Avatar is misleading. Just because it uses the word ideal, doesn’t mean you should simply envision your ideal customer and magically have them appear at your door.

If it were up to me, we would replace the word ideal with intelligent. Intelligent means you’re using data and insights to create your ICA, so the outcome is something actionable and real.

Those ubiquitous ICA worksheets have their place in your brainstorming and evolution, but they are only the start of your ICA journey, not the destination.

Let me share an example from a real ICA we were handed:

Our Ideal Customer Avatar loves shoes and spends more at shoe retailers. They are mostly younger moms (under 45), ethnically diverse, with annual household income under $75K.

Ok, so it’s not a terrible start. But it’s only a start.

Spend more – spend more how? More than the average customer? A larger share of her monthly budget? Does she consider shopping for shoes entertainment, so while she doesn’t spend money on movies and popcorn, she will spend 2 hours at the mall and drop $30 for a cute pair of slides instead?

Younger moms – are they coupled up or single moms? That’s important because it dramatically changes the rhythm of family life and the financial decisions they make.

Think about that for a moment. How much more powerful are your messages, products, services, connections and campaigns if you are able to go beyond “younger moms”? For example:

  • If she lives in the suburbs, is parking a concern with hauling car seats and kids? If so, you could add mamma-friendly spots near the door or offer car door delivery for online orders.
  • If she lives in an urban area, does she have to think about parking her stroller outside your store? Or what to do when lugging a stroller and shoe boxes around town? If so, you could offer shopping bags with stroller loops designed to make that easy and serve as walking billboards for your shop!

Loves shoes – how does she express this love? Is she curating wish lists on Zappos, bookmarking beauty shots on Instagram or doing a weekly walk through of the shoe department at Target when she’s running for supplies?

Ethnically diverse – why does that really matter to the ICA? Does she want shoes that reflect ethnicity in styles or simply that she won’t relate to shiny-happy white mom photos with twin sets and pearls?

Annual HHI under $75k – Given that the median household income in the US is hovering around $53k per year, this number leaves a lot of room to break down further. Like the younger moms example, $75k spreads around much differently in rural, suburban and urban areas. Furthermore, discretionary spending on things like cute shoes is part of a whole ecosystem of financial decisions – so having a more nuanced view of spending ability and habits would let you tap into much richer conversations.

You can see by parsing out that simple statement, there is so much more opportunity available when you transform Ideal into Intelligent.

What Next?

Go ahead, use those worksheets to get yourself started, but please don’t stop there. Dig deeper. Support your ideas with facts and insights.

If your ICA sounds something like the example above, you’re in Fake It Until You Make It territory. It’s not your fault – all the advice we’ve seen out there revolves around the same basic principles, goofy questionnaires and quests for the perfect headshot to represent your Ideal Customer Avatar. But now you know there is more work to do – go deeper, leverage facts and insights to make real magic happen for your business.

You can do this.