“Average is boring!” a colleague said emphatically. We were in mid-discussion about constructing effective composites out of collected data. She was on the mark in more ways than one: Average isn’t just boring. It’s unreliable. It’s a figment of our imagination. It may not even exist.

What does that mean? UX researchers are aware of the story: In the late 1940s, due to excessive crashes, engineers reevaluated the design of plane cockpits by taking the body measurements of over 4,000 pilots to create a new blueprint based on averages. The engineers assumed that most pilots would fall within the average. But when the engineers measured individual pilots against the calculated averages, they found that the average measurements fit no one pilot. Thus, the flaw of averages was rediscovered. Averages miss variations, gloss over fluctuations, and can even disregard defining characteristics that companies want to consider and incorporate into the persona of the target prospective customer or user. Averages can also conceal risks and, subsequently, opportunities to safeguard or innovate against risks.

Here are three reasons why your Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) composite organization is your ideal customer profile based on four to six customers — and not your average customer based on any and all of your customers.

1. Overcustomization

Customers are creative. That means if there’s a gap in their needs, they will strive to fill it — sometimes by using technology in unintended ways. In the absence of a stove, have you ever fried eggs on your hair straightener? College students have. Your tech solution — whether it’s a booking system or a CRM — might be used in ways you hadn’t imagined. And while that’s pretty exciting, it’s not necessarily the story you want to tell.

Although that unique use case may give your product team something to think about, you need to find customers who use your product as intended and quantify realized metrics. Your TEI supports your marketing and sales campaigns, so the main story must be relevant to prospects and show a truer ROI.

2. Your Audience Is Defined

“Know thyself” is not only a quote Socrates lived by; it’s advice that successful businesses take to heart. Could we as human beings — and storytellers — learn from someone whose characteristics are unlike our own? Of course. This friction introduces the art of deciding which measurements, characteristics, and defining features are important to the story our data tells. Don’t be afraid to define your audience, because your audience has defined itself.

Your audience is not a nonexistent average, however. It has defined business objectives, a target industry, an idiosyncratic workplace culture, a quantifiable number of employees, and an identifiable prior state. Details like this bring out the commonalities and differences in ways that faceless masses can’t. It’s easier for your prospect to connect to an ideal customer profile, even when the details show differences instead of unknown or blanket statements.

Effective stories inspire the audience to imagine a different version of themselves that is within reach. In marketing and customer experience, we want that version to be faster, better, and more flexible than the current state. The right character will tell the role your solution played in the story of that reaching. Criteria that help identify the best customer rather than just the average customer help you set up prospects for success with knowledge and appropriate expectations for your product.

3. Differences = Opportunities To Differentiate

Those of us who’ve designed websites or architecture — physical or virtual — know that designing for differences benefits a larger group and differentiates our product from the others in the market. Designing around inclusivity — with elevators, subtitles, automatic doors, ramps, crosswalk audio announcements, and texting — provides relief for a wider population than just the target audience. These solutions open new avenues and compel us to experience what we didn’t realize was needed by those directly affected and impeded by the prior state.

The average is a frame of reference, but it’s actionable only when we can see how the frame is built. Even two points outside the standard can result in an unforeseen impact that introduces unidentifiable risks hidden in the average.

Your TEI delivery team has experience in helping clients find customers that fit their target audience and guiding them to use the tool as intended to achieve great results. Your team will encourage you to consider various elements, including an effective before-and-after story, the intended use of the solution, and your target audience. Interviewees should be decision-makers who are involved in the implementation process and can speak to the KPIs.

Forrester’s Total Economic Impact methodology illustrates the impact of a product or solution through a main character crafted meticulously from four to six organizations and the characteristics of the ideal customer. Since the story isn’t based on averages, it doesn’t rely on sample size. The characteristics of the composite organization are those most meaningful to the audience. These details are used to create a main character who audience members can empathize with by substituting their own characteristics. To learn about why this type of storytelling (and marketing) is effective, ask us about the TEI of TEI.