Customer Archetypes, some rules & samples

We all know that, most of the time when communicating, storytelling is better than dry facts & figures.   And, stories backed up by facts and figures are better still!   Steve Blank‘s Lean Launchpad popularized the idea of using “customer archetypes” to convert dry demographic descriptions of customers into living, breathing people the audience can understand.

Archetypes should follow a few simple rules:

  • Customers are always humans and never entities.  Entities (companies, nonprofits, government agencies, etc) do not make decisions, specific human(s) who work/volunteer there make decisions.  That means you have to care about what will get that person promoted or fired.
  • Archetypes are 1-person samples (real or fictitious) of the “typical” customer.   If your typical customer is a 60 year-old Japanese grandmother, make sure your archetype is a 60-year-old Japanese Grandma!
  • Archetypes are narratives, not recitations of demographic/photographic data.
  • Only describe details that are relevant for your venture’s value proposition.  If your solution doesn’t address their need for beer, don’t talk about how they love to drink :).

Example 1:

Boring demographic version:  English-speaking visually impaired people with internet access at home.

Archetype:

Jane Rook is a retired army nurse who was blinded during her service in the Vietnam war.  She lives on a small, fixed income provided by her government disability payments.  She uses her home computer to email, Facebook, and Skype her children, grandchildren, and friends.  She loves to play cards with her friends from church.  However, as her blindness prevents her from driving transportation is very difficult to arrange.  Add the social embarrassment she often feels when playing with brailled cards or when accidentally knocking over things at a new person’s home and she often stays home, alone and isolated.

Example 2

Boring demographic version:  18-24 year-old college students with annual incomes of $20-40,000 per year from middle & upper class families.

Archetype:

Blair Smith is a senior psychology major at UMass with a full course load working to maintain her B average while working 20 hours a week as a waitress, and frantically looking for a “real” job for when she graduates in a few months.  She has what feels like a mountain of student debt to worry about, as well as a dorm room overflowing with four years of acquired junk.  She has no storage space close by and couldn’t afford to pay for it even if it were available.

Example 3

Boring demographic version:  25-45 year old married women, with children, with average annual household incomes of >$50,000.

Archetype:

Liu Whan is pregnant with her and her husband Juan’s first child and has realized that their one bedroom apartment isn’t going to cut it.  They would like to find a home in which to raise their family.  Liu is a tenure-track junior professor of psychology at the local woman’s college and Juan is a firefighter.  They have just relocated to the area and have little knowledge of it and no family or friends nearby to lean on for advice.

If you have any archetypes you would enjoy sharing, please post a comment.  Thanks!

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