How to use surveys to find your customers avatar

Well hello there! Catherine Langman here with you on the Productpreneur Success Podcast! Welcome to the show if you’re a new listener, and welcome back if you’re a long-time listener!

Today on the show we’re going to talk a bit about Consumerism and how it’s changing really quickly.

Since 2020, we’ve seen the world change and shift multiple times. In 2020 and 2021, we saw the biggest shift in consumer shopping behaviour from offline and instore, towards shopping online. 

We’ve seen massive changes in the way people consume content online – where they’re consuming content and the types of content they’re looking for. 

Not to mention, there have been plenty of other massive changes we’ve had to deal with, that have changed the way we need to do business.

Last year, we were dealing with customers and consumers who were largely still living very disrupted lives, with lock downs and mandatory masking and homeschooling and working from home. 

This year, I think we all thought things would finally head back to normal. But newsflash – they’re not. 

And as an entrepreneur, there’s nothing we can do but hold on and try to adjust to the changing times the best we can.

I think we can all agree that staying flexible and fluid isn’t always easy… especially when you’re trying to plan the future of your business.

The reality is, we’re all continuing to try to adapt to a life where uncertainty is the only guarantee. And we’ve learned there isn’t one right way, one template to follow, to respond to this constant state of uncertainty

There isn’t just one current ‘state’ of the consumer and targeting consumers through data-driven insights has never been more important. 

Here’s the thing. To acquire and retain customers, you need to know them. But as a business owner, you can’t get to know all your customers intimately. 

But fortunately – there is one thing you can do, one strategy you can employ, that will help you to gain the insights you need. 

So that’s what we’re going to discuss in today’s episode.

But before we dive further into this episode, I’d like to ask you a quick favour: if you love this episode, would you share it with one or two of your business besties? Especially if you know they’re looking to master growing their eCommerce business this year. It’s super easy to share – just click on the icon next to the podcast on whichever platform you listen to it, copy the share link and then send it in a message to your friends.

OK, let’s dive into the episode and talk about how to figure out who your customers really are and what really motivates them this year.

Do you know how to figure out what your best customers want?

In business, we shouldn’t treat our customers like parents treat their children. We absolutely SHOULD love some customers more than others!

Let me explain. And in the process, I’ll give you some insight into your customers, and explain how to build your business around your best buyers.

Why you should play favourites with your customers

Those of you who know me know that caffeine practically runs in my veins. I’ve been a coffee lover for as long as I can remember. (Starting out with decaf iced coffees that I made as a little kid!)

Many years ago I bought my beloved Italian-made espresso machine. I called her my 3rd child – until she had a fatal heart attack when her boiler blew up! (Luckily coffee machines are replaceable…and I now have a fabulous Profitec machine which is German made and is all chrome and looks like a rocket ship sitting on my kitchen bench. I love it!)

Since then, I’ve bought a lot of coffee products: coffee grinders, brushes, tampers, beautiful coffee cups and jars – the list goes on. I even bought a professional coffee-making course!

But I didn’t buy all this at once. It was a process.

The place I bought all my products from educated me about coffee using engaging content – I would read their emails, watch their videos, sometimes I would visit them in-store, and I would buy. And buy. And buy.

I became what’s called a hyper-consumer. And these are the people who drive your sales forwards. They are the backbone of your business.

Use the 80/20 principle to identify your hyper-consumers

In my own product-based business, we had about 20% of our customers who were responsible for over 50% of our revenue. They were regular repeat-buyers who spent a good amount with us with each transaction.

Which is why it’s so important to have multiple and/or consumable products. So that people who buy from you – and love your products and your brand – can buy again. Because they will!

So it is your responsibility to build your business around your hyper-consumers. Figure out what they would love to see and how you can improve their experience.

Learn your hyper-consumer’s buying journey

One of the best ways to learn such insights from your repeat customers is to survey them. A special survey just for those customers who have bought from you twice or more, making sure to ask an open-ended question about their original need, frustration or pain-point that led them to buy from you in the first place.

By listening to what they say, you’ll be in a much better position to be able to communicate meaningfully with them. To create marketing content that actually attracts and engages them and communicates the right information that they want to find out from you and via the right channels in order for them to be able to make a purchase decision.

Now, I’m quite aware that doing a survey is something that a lot of business owners really really don’t want to do. 

I remember when I was in the early stages with my first business, I didn’t want to do one either. I felt as though it would come across like I was pestering my audience and that it would be really annoying, like it used to be annoying when I was growing up and telemarketers would phone the house at dinner time to ask market research questions, and I also felt as though as the business owner I should already know the answers. 

Which is kind of ridiculous, but that’s the type A perfectionist in me I guess. I call myself a recovering type A personality these days – it’s not a trait that is conducive to success as an online entrepreneur!

Anyway – what I’ve learned over the years is that many people actually love to share their opinions and thoughts and experiences. 

And even better – a lot of people love to share their thoughts and experiences and opinions and ideas IF people listen and pay attention to them and show they’re willing to make improvements as a result.

Here’s how to identify your most profitable customers

You want to ask a number of questions – but not too many, ideally around 6-8 (less than 10), because the more you ask the fewer people will complete this for you.

I like to start out my surveys by asking what we call a ‘grease the wheels’ question. Something that qualifies the respondent in or out of the survey. 

For example, if you sell an item for babies, you might ask if the respondent is a parent to a baby or pregnant and expecting. 

It’s a simple yes or no question that will determine whether the respondent actually qualifies to be a customer or not.

Then, we like to ask an open-ended question that invites the respondent to share their pain points with the type of product you sell or with solving the particular problem or need your product solves. 

The idea here is multi-faceted: you want to learn first of all what those pain points are, because this will help you to understand your customers motivations and the desired outcomes they’re hoping to experience better. If you know these things, you’ll be able to have a much bigger impact with your marketing. 

Secondly, you really want to start gathering specific quotes or lines of text that your customers have written in their answers. Using the language of your customers – even if it’s not perfect grammar – is also going to help you have a bigger impact with your marketing and to connect on a more emotional level with your audience.

Beyond this, you want to ask questions that help you to understand the rest of their buyer journey. What is important to them during the consideration phase? Where do they go for that information? Why do they choose to buy what they buy? Are there factors that contribute to that decision or that help them to weigh up one option vs another option? What’s the biggest deciding factor? What benefits do they hope to get or experience from the products they buy? 

I like to use an app like Typeform to put this kind of survey together and make it easy for respondents to answer and for you to collect and collate the data and then to analyse it.

You want to aim for at least 100 responses so that the sample size is meaningful and will give you insights and information that is representative of your potential customers. 

By the time you collect it all – you’ll then be able to analyse it, by graphing out the answers to the multiple choice questions and by making notes to the open-ended question. 

With the open-ended question, I like to group the answers into common themes, with the goal to find the top 3 themes that are the most common amongst your audience. 

You can think of these, then, as variants of your avatar.

And then you can take that a step further.

Use your insights to attract, convert and retain highly profitable customers

By understanding your most profitable customers’ buyer journey, you can use this knowledge to make the right product offers to your best customers at the right time.

Here are three ways to use the insights you gain from your survey in your marketing:

  1. You can create specific marketing automation campaigns that are triggered by specific events, such as signing up to your email list, to abandoning the shopping cart, to making specific product purchases.

That means, …….

sending automated email campaigns after a customer has bought, timed to make specific offers at the time intervals you know your best customers are likely to be ready to buy.


  1. Include the right products in your product range.

By mapping out your most profitable customers’ buyer journey, you’ll see what repeat purchases they make over time. Use this to inform decisions around which new products, bundles or variants you add to your range.

You can also use it to help inform your production or inventory requirements. For example, if there’s a high chance that one product or category that customers buy first, then make sure you always have that in stock.

Or, it might be common for your customers to buy one thing first to test you out, and then come back and buy multiple items. So you want to know what to put in your bundles to make sure that they’re desirable and easy to sell.

The goal is to increase the frequency of repeat purchases AND to extend the overall lifetime of your customer.


  1. Tailor your content marketing to suit your most profitable customers.

This one should be pretty simple really. You can use what you know about the information requirements and the buying habits of your most profitable customers to drive your newsletter marketing.

That means, creating content and running promotions designed to appeal to your hyper-consumers.

For example, if your customers are typically looking towards particular Instagram personalities, whether they’re celebrities or major influencers with huge audiences, or whether they’re more micro-influencers who come across as people just like your own customers – 

If your customers are looking to these personalities for guidance or inspiration or advice, and your customers’ purchase decisions are heavily influenced by what those personalities say, then you want to make sure you get your products out to them and start to collect that kind of content. 

But that’s not every kind of customer though.

If your customer is more likely to make a purchase based on very strict values and beliefs, then you need to find out what those are so that you can create content that clearly articulates your own or your brand’s values. 

And of course, you’ll want to be trying to appeal to customers with values that are aligned with your own authentic values, not making something up in the hopes it’ll appeal – I think values based consumers typically have an acute radar to sniff out any inauthentic marketing that brands put out.

Or if your customers are super overwhelmed and feeling a bit beaten down by life and they really are just looking to escape from reality for a while, then you might need to find ways to create marketing content that’s entertaining for them, that speaks to the reality they’re living but has a humorous or entertaining take on that reality.

And then distributing all that content and all those promotions via all your channels, from social media to email marketing to any other media or channel your customers are on.

In my first business, I had segments of my customer base that fell into all three of these categories, so I would make sure I had different kinds of content that appealed to each of them. 

That way, my customers always felt like I was talking directly to them, that I totally “got” them, and because they felt like I knew who they were, what they were struggling with and what they really needed and wanted, they were more likely to give me a go and buy from me.

Truly – if you take the time to learn all about your customers and then use that information to help you treat your best customers like royalty – you’ll absolutely skyrocket your profits!

The benefits to your bottom line of having loyal, repeat customers is irrefutable.

When you turn one-time customers into multiple repeat customers, if you can increase this loyalty rate by even just 5%, statistics show you can potentially increase your profitability by up to 95%. 

This is because it costs time and money to acquire a first-time customer – you spend money on advertising, you perhaps offer a discount or incentive for the first purchase, plus a first purchase is usually going to be a lower dollar value than a repeat purchase, as customers often like to test you out and make sure you’re a trustworthy business to buy from and that your products do what they say on the tin.

But when you truly know who your customers are and what makes them tick – you get to be like the coffee merchant who won me over 15 years ago and who has been laughing all the way to the bank with all my many purchases ever since! 

That’s it for today’s episode. I hope this has given you some insight and inspiration into how you can learn what makes your own customers tick at this unique moment in history. 

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