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…You talkin’ to me?

21st July 2023

Hey, business owners, we’ve got an important question to ask you. Do you know who your customers are? By that, we mean, do you really know them… What do they do for a living? How do they find answers to their questions? Which circles do they mingle in? 

Emily, our Head of Digital recently wrote an article that goes into depth about the 5 absolute musts to set yourself up for online success, and spoiler alert, her first rule of thumb is “get to know your customer”. As our digital marketing guru, it’s probably worth taking her advice on that one.

Having an intimate understanding of who your customer base is and how they operate socially is imperative for successful marketing in any sense, but it is especially important in the digital sphere. Otherwise, how will you know who you are trying to connect with, and if they are listening?

Without a clear insight into your market, advertising is as futile as delivering a speech to an empty auditorium, or even a full auditorium where the seats are filled by people who ended up in the wrong room, don’t speak the same language, or are half asleep. You may give an Oscar worthy performance, but if you’re not talking to an audience that cares about what you have to say, your efforts are wasted.

So, if we haven’t drilled it into you enough already, one of the first things you need to understand is who you should be talking to. If you don’t know, pull up a chair and join the crowd, we’re about to begin…

Part 1. Let’s build an avatar.

Granted, it may feel a little too AI, but humour us for a second and have a go at this exercise. If you had to build an avatar that represented your perfect customer, who would they be?

There may be a few versions you could build, depending on how many services you offer or products you sell, but let’s start with the most prominent one first.

Ask yourself some general questions to help you narrow down your audience and begin to profile that avatar. Alongside the standard demographics such as age, gender and career, try these;

  1. Where did they grow up?
  2. Are they the sort to be pulling pranks or are they a serious sort?
  3. What would you find them doing during the weekend?
  4. What would be their top food or snack?
  5. How would they behave at a party? 
  6. What are their passions? What really makes them tick?

Now use the above points to imagine a person who will encompass these things. Once you can picture them clearly, grab a pen and have a go at listing 3 or 4 ways to describe them in more depth.

For example, are they thoughtful, misguided, philanthropic? Are they independent, self-assured, family-oriented? Perhaps they’re loud and bold, or maybe they’re quiet and modest?

To give you an example, a wine subscription company may build an avatar that looks a little something like this…

  1. A woman in her 30s who runs her own business, lives in a 4-bedroom home with her husband, two children and cocker spaniel.
  2. She appears to have a tough exterior but appreciates quick wit.
  3. On a Sunday, she’ll be spending time outdoors with her family and enjoying a glass or two of wine in the evening ahead of a busy week.
  4. Her favourite snacks are Properchips and dip.
  5. Her morals are work hard, play hard. She believes in being fair and giving credit where credit is due. Her passion in life is new experiences whether it be travelling to a new country, trying a new restaurant or watching her children hit a new milestone.

Okay, how did you get on with yours? Got it? Perfect, let’s move onto part two.

Part 2. Create a “we’re this, but not that” list

By now, you should have a pretty solid idea of your customers’ disposition. Now we need to bring that personality to life in order to understand what our customer connects with. We find this tool particularly useful as part of a brand study, to really get below the surface and narrow down an audience. 

If we were to ask our wine-loving avatar to create an “I’m this, but not that” list, we imagine it to look a little something like this…

  • I’m relaxed but not lazy. I’m generally pretty chilled out, and I like to keep things in perspective. That said, I understand the importance of urgency.
  • I don’t favour loud, raucous people, but I do appreciate intelligent humour. I’m open-minded to all opinions, but I’m strong-willed in making my own and won’t be led astray by others.
  • I’m outspoken but not offensive. I’m not afraid to speak up about what I believe in, but I won’t be unkind. I’m patient when listening to others, but I like to communicate directly and honestly.
  • I like the finer things in life, but I’m not a snob. I like to spend money to ensure I am receiving quality, but I’m also partial to a bargain and am good at saving money.

Part 3. Does your avatar fit your business model?

Now, let’s imagine for a minute that your business is also a person using a similar thought process to the above.

Based on how your avatar describes themselves and how your business presents itself, do you think they would talk to you if they were in the same room?

Would they interact with you genuinely? Would they listen or, if you are being honest, would they prefer to be striking up a conversation with one of your competitors?

If you’re already getting on like a house on fire, then congratulations, you’ve completed it mate.

If you’ve got doubts, then it may be that you’ve just stumbled upon a serious disconnect that’s costing you money. (It’s okay, we can help if that’s the case.)

This lack of connection is a common pitfall and there are often two main reasons. One, your tone of voice doesn’t resonate with your avatar, and two, your avatar isn’t around to hear you.

Part 4. Establish a strong tone of voice and stick to it

Let’s address this one first, it’s really important to get this right before we go any further. The tone of voice behind your business sets the foundation of all marketing communication. It is the personality that will connect with real people. Your real life avatar. No negotiations, you have to know how to talk to them.

When addressing your audience it is important that you use a tone and personality that sits true and reflects your business, yet is appealing to your target market. 

The easiest way to establish this is exactly as we have for your aforementioned avatar, by imagining your company as a person. We would also recommend making a mood board to list do and don’t words, our own brand guideline document specifies, for example, that we always use the word studio, never office.

Ultimately you want to end up with a guide that will ensure everyone working for your business understands fully how the brand talks.

Let’s use a real life example, Tesla. They’ve profiled their customers pretty rigorously and  the success of their branding and marketing efforts show as a result. 

So, what does their main avatar likely look like?

  • Male, white, around 50, established as an executive professional with a high income, someone who cares about latest advances in technology and likes to talk about it. Confident and self assured.

To borrow Fabriks psychographic segmentation, Tesla’s ideal customers want to be seen as early adopters of technology. They are adventurous and image conscious, highly ambitious and have that status as a high earner. Basically, flashy and proud. (No offence to all the Tesla owners.)

Tesla are innovators in their field and connect with people who want to be seen as the same: forward-thinking and original, the pioneers of the future. They aim to make common ground and kindle a relationship with their customers by speaking in common terms and emphasising the parts of their business ethos that will gel with their customers the most. Even by design, Teslas are minimalist, futuristic and incredibly intuitive with the world around them, reinforcing this kinship of being the leaders in society. *Musk high fives avatar*

So, let’s talk about the Tesla company’s tone of voice and how they use that to attract the right sort of people. Let’s take a look at one of their promotional videos for example, the ‘Model Y Unveil’ released 4 years ago. A half an hour long YouTube video.

We will save you the time, should you not wish to watch it all! The introduction, a scientific showcase inviting us to peep into the revolutionary world of Tesla. We see the inner workings of the engineering and production line behind the sleek and intuitive new vehicle. The video is masculine & punchy in its dynamic, alloy-hard delivery and note how it cleverly intertwines wide shots of a natural environment, then zooms back into the workshops, focusing on a unity of human beings and robotics to assemble the car. Then, Musk takes centre stage to talk you through the story behind his new model, in front of a live audience. (He’s quite literally talking to a room full of his avatars.) He speaks intelligently, in depth, and nods to light humour now and then. Now, can you picture the common tropes of a personality that might connect with this tone of voice? Self proclaimed innovators, forward thinkers, appreciators of entrepreneurship and people that like technology and cars. Yeah, you can see how it fits, right?

Who is going to be excited to watch a 30 minute long, in depth Ted Talk-esque live stream of Musk talking about his achievements. The Tesla avatar, that’s who. 

So here’s the interesting part… Tesla doesn’t pay for traditional advertising. Yes, that’s right. Musk has always said, and to this day believes, that the need for the vehicle outweighs the supply. Confident and self assured. Wow, even that in itself is in keeping in line with the Tesla avatar. Bravo.

Part 5. Hello? Anybody out there?

It’s not just about establishing who you are talking to. But, also knowing where those people are. City parks, rooftop bars, college cafeterias? In a digital sense, which communities are you likely to find your avatar? Googling your product? Checking Instagram? Posting on Facebook? Or perhaps they’re hanging out on Threads?

In a digital arena, there are so many platforms to spread awareness of your brand, but you don’t need to be everywhere. In fact Alex, our Social Media Exec and resident sax player, actively recommends that you don’t have a presence everywhere.

He says, “Time is key when looking after your digital presence, so be efficient and focus on the places where your audience will most likely find YOU. Don’t waste your time posting on LinkedIn for instance if your company doesn’t have an audience for it there. Find what communities make sense to engage with.”

Let’s use Tesla again as an example. Tesla has an official handle on Instagram. But they’re nowhere to be seen on TikTok. Why? Well, Instagram’s original and primary feature is the sharing of images. Tesla’s avatar, as we know, is ‘image conscious’ and interested in portraying themselves as forward thinking philanthropists. Instagram is a hub for self promotion and modern thinkers, and for a high flyer like the Tesla avatar, it’s the perfect online social environment to showcase their do-good, executive way of life.

TikTok, on the other hand, is perhaps not a great environment for Tesla. When considering the demographic of users who are on Tik Tok, about 50% of their users are under 30, and that’s not even close to the average age of a Tesla customer, so, why bother being there at all. No one there is listening. Save yourself the marketing budget, and don’t fire shots into the dark.

And yes, we know how this sounds, we’re not ignorant to the generalisation. But hey, this is marketing, and if we cast our net out into the ocean and hope the bait we attached attracts all marine life, we’re likely going to be disappointed with the catch or worse come home with nothing. So, to make life just that little bit easier, let’s start with recognising patterns in the demographic of our audiences and their behaviour in order to connect with them. So although it feels like stereotyping, it’s important to understand this exercise isn’t designed to put people in boxes or limit our reach for that matter, but ultimately it’s about tailoring your brand strategy to make sure you catch the right fish.

Get to know who you’re targeting and get results.

Sometimes you need to strip it back, figure out your weaknesses and tackle any issues at the root.

Carrying out the exercises above should help you create a buyer persona and help you really understand what sort of people you think your company attracts. This is a great place to start, but if you get stuck or overwhelmed, we are here for you. 

So, we’re gonna ask you one more time. Who are you talking to? If you’re still not sure, and if you think your tone of voice needs a rejuvenation, then perhaps it’s time for a chat.

We’re not just SEO and design experts, first and foremost we are creative marketers that understand fully what it takes to make a business fly. Therefore, if you would like help getting underway with creating or refreshing your brand guidelines, including devising a tone of voice for your business, then give us a shout, the kettles on.  

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