Your 2011 marketing planning in a nutshell: Avatars, Ecosystems and Watering Holes

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I taught a class in December called Ethical Selling That Works that was all about understanding and using the steps in the selling process to connect with your market in a non-pushy, but effective way so you can grow healthy revenue.

One of the modules we covered was about Avatars, Ecosystems and Watering Holes, and ever since I taught it, I have been sharing the concept with clients who are planning their sales and marketing activities for the year.

I thought it proper to share it with you too.

The frame

Selling is so much easier when you know who your ideal clients are, and where they hang out.

So many people spread themselves too thin by spending hours trying to cultivate clients on social media, or attending multiple workshops and conferences and events, hoping that the right client will magically appear. When you do the work to focus and clarify your market, you get much better results with less effort.

Ideal Client Avatar

When you can describe the specific characteristics of your ideal clients or customers, it makes it much easier to find them. It will also make it easier to screen out clients who are not the right fit.

If you are selling to individuals, you can define your ideal client with criteria such as:

  • Profession
  • Income level
  • Geographic area
  • Psychographic characteristics (personality, vibe, etc.)
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Interests
  • Hobbies

If you are selling to companies, your criteria could include:

  • Nature of business
  • Size of company
  • Type of industry (high technology, manufacturing, health and wellness, etc)
  • Geographic area

You may find that you come up with three or four Ideal Client Avatars that represent people you love to work with.  They can be different from each other, just make sure they are a great fit for your business.

Describe your Avatar with as much detail as possible.

I am certain that Apple Computer has my picture up in the cubicles of their marketing staff as one of their Ideal Client Avatars. Their description would be:

  • Anglo female
  • 44 years old
  • Mother of small children
  • Democrat but not antagonistic toward other parties
  • Loves TED, PopTech, Ignite
  • Loves music, especially R&B. Worships John Legend.
  • Entrepreneur
  • Heavy social media user
  • Martial artist
  • Globe and tree-hugger

With this kind of specific description, there are all kinds of ways and places Apple could (and does) market to me.

Once you have clear descriptions of your Ideal Client Avatars, you are ready to define the ecosystem in which they live.


No company stands alone in serving its market. There are a whole group of companies around it that also market to the same people.

In my case, my business ecosystem partners include:

Jonathan Fields
Danielle LaPorte
Charlie Gilkey
Naomi Dunford
Dave Navarro
Chris Guillebeau
Seth Godin
Martha Beck
Michele Woodward
John Jantsch
Rich Sloan

and many, many others.

Products and services widely used in my ecosystem would include:

Apple products

When I looked for a live example of ecosystems to use in my class, I asked a bunch of friends on Twitter who would be in Whole Foods Market ecosystem and got back the following answers:

  • Trader Joe’s
  • Fresh Market
  • REI
  • Patagonia
  • Rent-a-goat
  • Tom’s Shoes
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Yoga studios
  • Pilates studios
  • Lululemon
  • Honda
  • Toyota (Prius)
  • Volkswagon
  • Apple
  • Gaiam (organic clothes)
  • Laura’s Lean Beef

When I shared these findings on Twitter, I got this response from my friend Lianne Raymond:

“I love WF (Whole Foods) Mushroom blue cheese pizza (she types into her Apple computer before driving her VW to yoga in her lululemon slit crop boogie pants).”

Powerful stuff, isn’t it?

Watering Holes

When you have a sense of your ideal client and the overall ecosystem in which they participate, you can start to look for watering holes. These are places, online and in person, where a great concentration of your ideal customers hang out.

They would include:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Conferences
  • Events
  • Stores

As an example, I noticed that I seem to know 75% of the presenters and attendees who will be at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit, taking place in Portland, Oregon on June 4-5, 2011. This will be an excellent “watering hole” to mingle and connect with people who are at the core of my ideal market, and who I love working with.

South by Southwest is another example of a watering hole for social media active, technology-loving innovators. I fondly call it “Prom for geeks.”

When I first started my blog, Guy Kawasaki’s blog was the watering hole that led me to so many great friends and partners, including Bob Sutton, Garr Reynolds, Kathy Sierra and Seth Godin. After Guy linked to a few of my posts, I got a flood of new subscribers, and it earned him the nickname of my “link sugar daddy.” 🙂


If you take the time to define your ideal client avatars, ecosystems and watering holes, your year will flow a whole lot easier. Here is what to do:

  1. Define the specific characteristics of your ideal client avatar.
    You may have more than one – try to capture the most important ones. Remember, ideal clients not only pay you well and let you do your best work, they are fun to work with!
  2. Define the ecosystem that surrounds your business.
    Who are your natural and respected competitors? What other products and services do your people buy?
  3. Identify the watering holes where your ideal clients hang out.
    Be as specific as possible! “They hang out on blogs” will not help you get clients. Which blogs? Which live events?

I hope this helps get your year off to a great start!

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