The more people your online course appeals to, the more potential students, right?
It might make sense on the face of it – if your marketing covers all bases and appeals to every demographic – the larger your potential audience is. Sadly, many online course creators and marketers fall into the trap of thinking this way, but actually, the opposite is true. Instead of aiming for broad appeal, you need to get specific on who you’re talking to.
As author and Chief Vision Executive of Gifted Travel Network, Meredith Hill said:
But with so many potential students out there, how do you know who your people are? More importantly, how do you speak to them? This is where building a highly specific customer avatar (also known as a buyer persona) can be a powerful way of targeting the right audience, and simplifying your marketing message. But before we dive into why this is the case, and how to build your own customer avatar, let’s first look into what a customer avatar is.
What is a customer avatar?
You can think of a customer avatar as a fictional character who represents your ideal customer. Once you’ve formulated your customer avatar, you then use them as a guide for the many marketing decisions you’ll have to make.
- Which platforms do I advertise on?
- What kinds of content should I share?
- How do I speak to my audience ie. which voice should I use?
are questions that become much easier to answer when you have a clear image of who you’re talking to.
Why do customer avatars work?
It might seem counter-intuitive to say that targeting fewer types of people can result in more sales until you consider the following:
1. The internet is a big place
If you’re worried that narrowing down your audience to a certain type of person will decrease your sales, remember just how massive the internet really is. With over 5 billion users across the globe, even with the most specific customer avatar that you can think of, there are likely tens of thousands of potential students who fit this description perfectly. Casting a wide net with your marketing only makes sense on the local level. The types of people you’re likely to come by are limited to the people in that locality, and so broadly appealing messaging is a better strategy.
Marketing an online course is very different. With no geographical limits, you can get as specific as you like and still reach a wide audience.
2. Emotional marketing works
Have you ever read a book, or listened to a song that feels like it’s speaking directly to you? If you have, you’ll understand the power of connecting with prospective potential students on an emotional level.
By using a customer avatar and targeting specific needs, wants and desires, you’re able to tailor your marketing directly to your audience. You can build a emotional connection with your audience in a way that would otherwise be impossible. According to research, brands who build an emotional relationship with their audience get 71% more referrals and have a 306% higher lifetime customer value.
Putting these two facts together, we can see why customer avatars are so powerful. Unlike a business in the physical world that can only advertise locally, the internet is a big enough place to find exactly who you want to find. Allowing you to speak directly to their needs, goals, fears, and challenges.
Now that you’re on board with the benefits of building a customer avatar, consider the following questions to build your own.
We’ll build an avatar (Alice) for a course on computer programming.
1. What’s important to your avatar, and what do they want?
First, it’s important to really consider what is motivating your ideal customer.
What are their goals? What do they value? Of course, you don’t need to write an exhaustive list of all their goals and values. Stick with the goals and values that you can speak to with your course.
For instance, let’s say that Alice has the goal of becoming a software developer. She wants to become a software developer because she values money, stability, and having a career that’s mentally challenging and stimulating.
Can you see how targeting this kind of customer will start to shape your marketing messaging? If your course is marketed as “your ticket to a high-paying, challenging career path” you will have a much better chance at reaching people like Alice than simply saying “Learn to Code”.
2. Where do they get their information?
This step is really about understanding:
- What sources of information your avatar trusts
- Which figures they trust (Authors, influencers, business people etc.)
- Where they get their news from
- Which social media platforms these use
This is a crucial step, because as an online course creator, you are aiming to become a trusted source of information for your students. Understanding who they trust will allow you to mirror those sources, and allow them to put their trust in you.
Because Alice wants a career in software development, we can safely assume that she is a bit of a tech geek. She likes to read Wired magazine, she uses Twitter and Facebook, her favorite author is Yuval Noah Harari, and she’s inspired by Steve Jobs.
All of this is information you can use at the various stages of your funnel.
You can retweet Wired articles.
Include Steve Jobs’ famous “Everyone should learn how to code” quote on your landing page.
You can advertise your course on Facebook knowing that she is a regular user.
With a strong understanding of where your avatar gets their information from, you can align messaging with those sources to be viewed as more credible. If you appear as a credible source, they will be much more likely to want to learn from you.
3. What demographics do they belong to?
This is perhaps the most important aspect of building your customer avatar. Having a strong idea of the age, average income (ie. buying power), gender, location and education level of your ideal client can let you know exactly how to reach them.
For example, if we can determine that Alice is a 28-year-old female living in California who works in the health sector and earns $70,000 a year, we can craft our marketing message to speak to somebody in that type of demographic.
We can understand that as a female, she may be concerned about working in a typically male-dominated industry so we can post articles that empathize with those concerns. Given that we know she earns $60,000 a year, we can talk about how the median salary for a software developer is $110,000. Age demographics can also tell us a lot about our visual branding, and what kind of aesthetics we should appeal to.
4. What are their challenges and pain points?
At this stage, you should have a good enough picture of who your ideal customer is, and what they want. But what is it that hurts them, and how can you help? Understanding this can drastically increase your sales by targeting what your avatar struggles with, and how you can position your online course as the solution.
Since we know that Alice has a full-time job, we can assume that she doesn’t have the time, or the energy to go back to university. Her pain point is that she doesn’t have much time, but she also wants to get a quality education. We can address this directly by offering a self-paced online course that will teach all the fundamentals of software development.
5. What would stop them from buying your course?
For every purchase that we consider, there is always something that we might object to, or some consideration that we have to take into account.
We ask ourselves questions like:
Is there a better course out there?
Will I really get my money’s worth?
Am I going to waste my time?
By now, you should know your customer avatar pretty well. What would stop them from buying your course? How would you address these concerns?
In Alice’s case, we already know that she may be concerned about entering into a male-dominated field, she’s concerned about investing in a course that may not pay off, and she might not be fully prepared for the workplace.
Keeping her objections in mind, we can make offers that will put her at ease about buying our course. This is known as objection handling.
Some examples of objection handling are:
- Offering a satisfaction guarantee
- Post-course assistance with work placement
- Use testimonials of people who had the same objections
- Address objections specifically in marketing copy, offer counterarguments
In sum, building a customer avatar is a fantastic way of simplifying your marketing messaging, and ultimately, finding more students for your online course. Knowing exactly who it is that you’re trying to reach can help you at every stage of the funnel, from social media messaging right through to your sales page.
But knowing who your ideal customer is is only half the battle. You’ll also need to build a funnel that speaks to them on every level, and this is a big task. If you’d rather spend time making your online course amazing, and leave the rest to a team of dedicated experts in achieving results for online course makers, why not get in touch with ClassGrowth below?