How to Identify Your Ideal Customer and Develop a Customer Avatar

Understanding your audience is a first step to marketing growth.

If you want to influence or engage authentically with someone, you need to understand them – their needs, desires, fears, and feelings.

Unfortunately, if you’re trying to talk to “everyone” your message will resonate with no one.

The key is to identify your IDEAL CUSTOMER.

The process is often referred to as a “customer persona” or “customer avatar.” It’s developing a fictional version of your ideal patient – the type of patient you wish you had more of!

To start, think of the people you LOVE to serve, and then think of the things they have in common.

Questions to help you identify your ideal customer

Then, it’s time to start jotting down some of their characteristics. You can use questions like this as a starting point:

  • Demographics (gender, age, income, industry, marital status):
  • What are their desires? (What do they daydream about?)
  • What are their hobbies and interests? (What do they spend time and money on?)
  • What do they Google?
  • What are their favorite brands?
  • What are their guilty pleasures?
  • What are their fears? (What keeps them up at night?)
  • What embarrasses them?
  • What are their limiting beliefs? Why do they have them?

Now that you’ve thought about WHO your ideal customer is and what their deepest desires, fears, goals, and dreams are, tailor your marketing content, including your website, landing pages, social media, ads, email campaigns, SMS campaigns, etc. to speak directly to that person.

Consider which social channels your ideal customer is most likely to be on (Facebook? Instagram? Pinterest? etc.) and prioritize accordingly.

Then, turn attention to YOUR products and services:

  • Which of your services would they be most attracted to or interested in?
  • Which of your services do they need, but they may not be aware that they need it?
  • What are the benefits?
  • How will these services positively impact their life, happiness, wellness, and/or family?
  • How do these services align with their dreams or goals?
  • How do these services allay their fears?
  • What might prevent them from saying “yes” to those services?
  • What might entice them to say “yes” to those services?


This can be a challenging exercise, but it is SO worth it! And to help get the creative juices flowing, we invited Tiffany Dalton, the Practice Administrator at … This text opens a new tab to the Murdock Family Dentistry website …Murdock Family Dentistry in Billings, Montana, to join us for a live workshop to do this together.

Tiffany works tirelessly in her practice to lead her team and help her patients feel comfortable at every visit and help them understand their treatment options. In September 2021, she earned her Mastership (MAADOM) and she is on track to earn her Diplomat designation; which is the highest level of distinction with … This text opens a new tab to the AADOM website…AADOM. Tiffany was also awarded the “Practice Administrator of Distinction Award” in September 2020.

Being “in the trenches” in leading her practice’s marketing, Tiffany graciously agreed to go through this exercise with us to show you all how it’s done!

Watch the video above or read the transcript below to learn how to identify your ideal customer and develop your customer avatar for your own practice.

Developing a customer avatar with Tiffany Dalton, MAADOM

Whitney: I am so pleased to introduce you all to Tiffany, who is joining us today. Tiffany, thank you for joining us. Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself?

Tiffany: Hi, thank you. I’m happy to be here. My name is Tiffany Dalton. I am the Practice Administrator at Murdock Family Dentistry in Billings, Montana.

I have been there for 10 and a half years. I am also the chapter president of the Yellowstone Valley AADOM Chapter and do a lot with AADOM and the great work that they do. And I’m here to learn more about marketing.

Whitney: Yay! And we’re so glad you are here. So Tiffany has agreed to be our guinea pig to work with us and work through developing a customer persona.

This is a really amazing exercise for anyone who wants to hone in their messaging and define the offers that they want to have out there.

It’s a really good tool for you to have in your foundation, as you get ready to plan out your marketing for the year. So, Tiffany, we’re going to walk you through this exercise.

To get started, what I want you to do is I want you to picture one of your dream clients, and it can be an actual patient. It could be a combination of a couple of different patients. So, get that person in your mind and kind of really think about who they are, what they care about. And then we’ll work through these questions together.

Picture one of your dream patients, get that person in your mind and think about who they are, what they care about.

Tiffany: Perfect. Sounds good.

Whitney: Okay.

So can you tell me your dream patients’ demographics?

What’s their gender, their rough age range, industry, that kind of information?

Tiffany: Sure.

I can think of a couple of examples, but to focus on one specifically, I would say female working mom with multiple kids, married.

Maybe mid to late forties in business or healthcare, maybe teaching, but definitely career-oriented, but family-oriented as well, kind of a little bit good mix of both.

Whitney: Awesome. Perfect. Okay. Let’s give her a name, a fake name since we don’t want to violate any HIPAA.

Tiffany: Oh dear. Mary.

Whitney: Mary. Okay. All right. So what are some of the things that Mary really desires?

What are some of the things she hopes for, dreams for, plans for?

Tiffany: I would say maybe more vacations with family taking time away from work, as much as she enjoys doing what she does. Future like fun events, fun, social things, maybe some big home improvement projects. Things like that.

Whitney: Yeah. Perfect. Okay. What are Mary’s professional goals?

Tiffany: I would say career advancement and depending on the career, of course could be multiple different things. So she likes to learn new things. She likes to be part of organizations that make a difference in the community. And she has really strong family values.

So definitely would want to be sure to lead by example for her family and provide for them.

Whitney: Beautiful. And I think with that, you kind of also answered some of her personal goals too. Spot on. Okay. So what are some of Mary’s hobbies and interests?

You mentioned vacations. What are some of the other things that Mary spends her time on and her money on?

Tiffany: Kids’ sports. Yeah, I could see home improvement projects or something crafty. Maybe gardening something outside during nice weather times. Yeah, travel vacations, camping, things like that with the kids, but family-oriented things.

For some reason I see her spending more time with and around her family than she does on herself.

Whitney: Classic mom behavior.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Whitney: Okay. So Mary enjoys home improvement projects, crafting, family time, she’s probably running around, running the kids to their different sporting events.

What are some of the things that Mary searches for on Google?

Tiffany: Maybe that’s where she spends her personal time. Self-care, beauty tips, recipes for cooking, things like that.

Whitney: I love it. She’s probably also Googling things for the family too, right?

Tiffany: Yes. Family things. It could be equipment, appointments, maintenance for the house, maintenance for the family, things like that.

Whitney: All right. What are some of Mary’s favorite brands?

Tiffany: That was hard for me because I’m not a brand person, probably Target. Cause everybody loves Target. Ulta Beauty, I suppose she could be an iPhone or Apple person. Most people are. That one’s hard for me cause I’m not a brand person at all.

Whitney: She probably loves to shop at Target because we all love to shop at Target, but she probably also loves Homegoods and places like that. I identify with Mary, I like those things too. So what are some of Mary’s guilty pleasures?

Tiffany: Let’s see. I would say that Mary has a little bit of a fun side. She likes to go to festivals or concerts, to do the fun social things outside of family and work. I think that would be a good, guilty pleasure to have. Maybe some weekend getaways, a Netflix show here or there, maybe.

Whitney: Maybe some time with friends, even maybe like girls’ night?

Tiffany: Yeah, exactly. Something out. There’s some social outing, for sure. Whether it be a ladies’ night, time away from kids.

Whitney: And going back to what you mentioned earlier too, she’s probably the type of mom who takes care of everybody else’s needs before her own, right?

Tiffany: Absolutely.

Whitney: So do you think that maybe even like self-care or doing something for herself she might consider to be a bit of a guilty pleasure?

Tiffany: Yeah. Absolutely. Going to get her hair done, maybe a set of nails now and then. Some personal shopping for herself instead of kids’ sports stuff now and then.

Whitney: Which social media platforms do you think Mary uses the most?

Tiffany: I would say your typical Facebook, Instagram, maybe some LinkedIn.

Whitney: What about communication? Do you think she prefers phone calls or texts messages?

Tiffany: I think she’s a convenience person. Text messages, emails, something that’s quick and easy while she’s multitasking all of the other things.

Whitney: Yeah, I would, I would agree with that.

Okay So let’s talk about some of Mary’s fears. What are some of the things that Mary worries about and is anxious about? What keeps her up at night?

Tiffany: I would say worrying about family and home, so personal health things, family health things, economy, you know, your typical bills and home business that you have to keep track of. Depending on a career of course, we could bring some of that home and worry about that through the evening hours. But really, just home needs and overall health.

Whitney: Yeah. Good. Does Mary have any limiting beliefs?

Tiffany: That maybe some things can’t change, or some things won’t change, whatever the topic may be. So ‘it is what it is’ or something. So go along with the flow of things and so some things are out of her control.

Whitney: Yeah I could imagine, I’m almost picturing a mom even thinking like, limiting beliefs could even be like going back to that bit about how she takes care of everybody else and probably care of herself last, she may have some limiting beliefs, like, you know, ‘that’s never going to change,’ or ‘I’m never going to be able to do something for myself until the kids are off at college,’ or something like that.

Tiffany: Yeah, absolutely. Or ‘I can’t do that because so-and-so needs me’ when really that so-and-so was probably fine and she can go and do her thing, but she thinks that she has to take care of that first in order to get to that guilty pleasure.

Whitney: Yeah. Do you think Mary has a hard time saying no to people?

Tiffany: Very likely. Most definitely.

Whitney: Okay. So what is embarrassing to Mary?

Tiffany: Self-image, things I think that maybe she doesn’t have a very good self-image of herself, whether it be her smile or, her looks in general, maybe her wardrobe, you know, maybe she feels like she’s frumpy mom stage.

At the same time, I guess I feel like Mary kind of takes care of herself. I think that she’s classy, but I think that she feels like she could be lacking in that self-image.

Whitney: I feel like someone could be on both ends of that spectrum, you know, busy professional, but also worrying, you know, ‘am I keeping up,’ and ‘is this a mom outfit?’

So let’s make a connection then, between everything that we’ve just learned about Mary and your practice. So before we do that, could you tell everyone watching what kind of practice you have?

What are some of your primary services? Who are you generally serving?

Tiffany: Sure. So we’re actually a small single-doctor practice, fee for service, much different than some of the larger ones that are out there. Our doctor is a general who focuses on overall systemic health, but also is amazing in his general aesthetics.

So he focuses on function and overall health for the patient and we do a lot of basic restorations, but we do a lot of extensive restorations as well, all the way to smile design and complete reconstruction with restorations. Some implants here and there, but lots of crowns and even just basic care, from whitening to periodontal health.

We focus on the whole family, all age groups.

Whitney: Now that we know Mary quite intimately, which of your practice’s services do you think Mary would be most interested in?

Tiffany: I think that she would like the fact that we can service the whole family. We can see and take care of everybody.

But I think that she would be interested in learning more about whitening or, what she can do, those guilty pleasures for herself that she can maybe dive into.

Whitney: Which of your services might Mary need, but not be aware that she needs?

Tiffany: Sure, and this one we actually come up against often more often than you may think that people don’t really know the options within dentistry.

And I think that she would be very interested in, fixing something about her smile that she didn’t know she could fix, whether it be overcrowding or just the general overall look of her teeth. And so we do a lot of what we call smile designs, recreating a smile that fits the patient in a different way, but at the same time building the function.

So maybe she suffers from headaches and didn’t realize it. And her occlusion is off a little bit and we can help her not only rebuild that occlusion to more ideal, but also build her a beautiful smile in the process of doing so.

Whitney: I love that. So I’m going to combine the next two questions cause I think they kind of go hand in hand and you’ve already started to answer them.

How does smile design benefit her, but also how does it align with some of her dreams and her goals for herself?

Tiffany: Absolutely. So the benefit would be, not only if she were to have some underlying headaches or jaw pain that she didn’t realize that she was suffering from or ignoring maybe, the process can help with that and realigning things for her, which builds confidence.

It helps her self-worth increase significantly. So maybe she didn’t go for something different within her career choice that she didn’t think that she could before? Because her confidence level is at a much higher state, or maybe she’s just happier in general, because she feels better about herself in her home life, in her business life, or both.

And you know, maybe she spends more time with her friends now because she has that confidence and that self-worth, that is just starting to be built up because she has I won’t say because she has a prettier smile, because she feels better in what she’s living in.

Whitney: And so what challenges might Mary face in saying ‘yes’ to smile design for herself?

Tiffany: Spending money on herself instead of her home and family, I think is definitely the, biggest one. Spending money, in general, is always going to be a barrier. But it’s most specifically spending that kind of money, specifically and only for her, is a huge barrier.

Whitney: What do you think would help Mary overcome that barrier?

Tiffany: Really guiding her to realize what the options are. Letting her know that not only is it okay to invest in herself, and that is quite the investment, not only financially, but time. It takes time to get to the point of completion with those cases. But the time and money always are well-spent when you’re at the other end of it.

And seeing that transformation is life-changing not only for the patient but for the practice that gets to help a patient get to that point. So being upfront and honest on how the process works, and allowing them time to kind of ingest that.

I think sometimes practices can be aggressive like it’s going to have to happen in the first conversation. And really sometimes it takes a couple of years to get to the point to where, okay, ‘I think I’m ready to do this thing for myself.’

So, guidance, time, knowledge, giving them as many tools as they can to get to the point of them wanting to do it for themselves.

Seeing that transformation is life-changing, not only for the patient, but for the practice.

Whitney: Awesome. Okay. Well, that completes the end of our exercise Tiffany, you did fantastic. Thank you!

I really feel like we know Mary now and we can tailor your content and your social media and your website and all of your marketing messaging to really talk to Mary.

That’s not going to alienate other people. Knowing that you’re talking to Mary, isn’t going to make other people not listen, but I think we have really good information here.

And so, thank you so much for taking the time to go through this exercise with us.

Tiffany: You’re welcome. Thanks for thinking of me. It’s good to see you ladies.

Whitney: So are we are post-customer persona exercise with Tiffany; we went through the exercise and we’ve pulled on Mel, who is our Content Director, to give us feedback, to find out what other questions she might want to know from a content perspective.

So, Mel, we’d love to hear your feedback on how that all went.

Mel: Yeah. So, Tiffany, I think you answered the questions beautifully. As a copywriter, I would have a lot of information to work with to write your marketing copywriting, website, blog posts, social media posts, anything in general.

Some questions I would want to dive deeper into, were when we got into her limiting beliefs, you brought up that she can’t control changes, right. So my follow-up would be, why does she think that?

Tiffany: Sure, It’s actually a really good question. Is that a confidence issue? Is it, is there something that literally is physically holding her back from doing that?

That would be hard to say, maybe it’s a location thing. Maybe it’s a home thing. Maybe it’s a job thing. ‘The job won’t let me advance here’ or you could also say things that can’t change, won’t change.

Well, and coming off of the past two years that we have had, you know, is there something that is still happening? Because for example, where I’m at in Montana versus where some of you guys are at, we’re much more open than other people are. And so we have a little bit more leeway to physically go and do things, versus others. And so it’s different.

I feel throughout the entire country, there definitely could be some actual physical barriers there that are keeping her back from or something

Mel: In your area, what would you say would be the top barrier of why she would think that?

Tiffany: I think we’re… I’m not gonna say back to normal, cause there’s no such thing, but we’re fairly open here as far as that is concerned. And so I think that if it were to be somewhere, someone specifically my area, if it’s a geographical thing, it’s going to be distance.

We see a lot of rural patients. So, traveling in, that’s a limitation that we see often.

Otherwise, it’s going to be personal issues like ‘can I afford it with everything that’s going on?’ or to change the thing, whatever the thing may be.

And then, if it’s not an actual physical barrier that’s holding her back from something that you can or cannot change, then it reverts back into, I feel, a psychological portion of things, where ‘I don’t have the confidence to do that thing’ or change that thing. Or maybe she’s not married, single, or divorced. We see a lot more of that, I feel, where it’s mixed families. And so there’s barriers there.

Honestly, I think when I initially wrote the things that she can and can’t change, it was mostly interpersonal. ‘I can’t change it at this time. I’m not going even going to worry about it. So I’m just gonna do what everybody else expects me to do,’ type thing. But you can play it on multiple different views if that helps.

Mel: Yeah, absolutely. And the reason I asked that is that if we tell them what they want to hear then in our marketing copy, we could address that limiting belief. Like, okay, you probably think it’s not your time to change your smile. You’re just way too far away. It’s not worth the drive. But here’s X, Y, and Z, why it is.

And it goes back to what you mentioned earlier about education. So, it’s just bringing that education and just showing that empathy that you understand them.

Tiffany: Absolutely. Yeah.

Mel: Then I just had one more question. We talked about what she worries about. What are her fears? What keeps her up at night? You mentioned health issues. Could you go deeper into that? Like, if she were to wake up at 2:00 AM with night sweats, why would it be over health issues?

Tiffany: I guess that one’s hard. I think that, when I originally had put that out there, I put a little bit of myself in that. I worry about my kids’ health, making sure that they are staying healthy, more mentally than physically. So, the mental health of my children is definitely a hard thing. I also have a husband who has severe heart problems, so it could be, a spouse who has some health concerns. So, therefore, once again, she’s putting their health concerns and fears in front of hers. And, is she healthy? Is she really getting the help that she needs?

I think that other question could be, you know, the health of the home, you know, is she getting to all of the needs met before she went to bed? And so she can’t sleep at night because there is too much to be done. So she has to go back and either finish things or, you know, with work-related things, it could be, undone tasks.

I could see keeping somebody up at night for that as well.

Mel: Awesome. Thank you. That’s a very clear picture of knowing Mary even more intimately.

So, then I can see very, very clearly how she definitely puts her family before her, like it’s all about family. So maybe our copywriting really focuses on that family element of health and overall wellness, cause that’s what your office really focuses on.

So that’s why I wanted to ask those follow-up questions, but I didn’t have anything else to follow up on besides that.

Whitney: Mel, those are great follow-up questions. And Tiffany, I’d love to hear your perspective on going through this exercise, having Mary in mind as a target customer.

Does that influence you in planning out social media content or thinking about what you want your website to convey? Has this exercise given you a firmer idea of what you’re trying to say and who you’re trying to say it to?

Tiffany: You know, it actually does. Like I was saying before, it does make you deep dive into not only what the perfect patient is, but honestly, this is a mix of a lot of patients that I see on a daily basis. It’s all of them. I think most average human beings at this moment are focusing on one or more of the things that are in this worksheet.

And so, it does break it down. And what we want to focus on this year is the overall health, including the mental health, of our patients and not necessarily getting into chairside mental health things, but checking in differently when they do come in, remembering things differently about them, so when they come back in, we have that little extra piece of care and empathy. As you had mentioned earlier, that seems to be a lot harder these days. It’s not just low fees or being PPO with providers.

It’s the experience that they get. It’s the feeling that they have when they are with you. It is… we get to be that guilty pleasure. We’re like the ‘spa day’ for your mouth. You get an hour today to sit and have it to yourself; we make you comfortable when you’re here.

And so, we’re trying to shift the mindset around dentistry. It can be a positive experience. And we have your kids, and they have a blast. And we help you take care of your aging parents. It’s difficult to understand and many people are going through these really, really hard times. We see a lot more recently of our mentally failing seniors and the help that the kids need and taking care of those mentally failing seniors.

We’re trying to shift the mindset around dentistry. It can be a positive experience.

And so, it makes you think a lot more in regard to, how can we help our patients be happier and healthier? What does that look like? And how does that sound on paper and how do you work towards that? So, it was a huge help for me, actually.

Whitney: I love that you mentioned all of that because that’s what we really want to do with our marketing, right?

You and your team are making an effort to be more empathetic and make those connections, even in a different way than you were already doing, when patients come in. And so, we want our marketing messaging and anything that we’re putting out there to be the same. We want to communicate that same level of empathy and really make patients feel comfortable with us, whether they’re in the chair or not.

We want to communicate that same level of empathy and really make patients feel comfortable with us, whether they’re in the chair or not.

Tiffany: Yeah absolutely. And like I said, that goes a lot farther than any of the financial things. That’s still a big part of it, but the experience itself has to be at a much higher level than it was maybe three years ago.

Whitney: Well, I’m glad the exercise was useful for you. It was definitely useful for us. So, thank you again, and thanks Mel, for offering the content team’s perspective so that we can really write amazing copy.



We’d like to offer a HUGE thank you to Tiffany for joining us for this exercise!

If you need help with developing your own customer avatar or refining your overall marketing messaging, request a free website audit today!

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