How to Unleash Your Business Avatar with John Lee Dumas

As a business owner, you’re always looking to grow your audience. But how much time do you spend actually thinking about who that is, exactly?

We don’t mean daydreaming about anyone who may ever buy from you. We mean your ideal customer. The one who loves your business for all the right reasons.

Aside from wondering “what’s for dinner?”, envisioning and empathizing with your audience should always be at the forefront of your mind when thinking about your business. This week, we’re revisiting some evergreen advice from podcaster John Lee Dumas, on how to create and then stalk the avatar for your ideal customer. He reminds us why narrowing your focus to one quintessential persona helps you make business decisions that provide the best information and services to your customers.

Listen up to meet John’s avatar, Jimmy, and learn how you can get started zeroing in on your avatar to find out what content and products they want from you. Listen to more episodes of the Agents of Change Podcast.


Rich: Awesome, here we go. John, thank you so much for being here.

John Lee Dumas

John: Rich, I couldn’t be more fired up. Let’s do this.

Rich: Alright, let’s do this. So obviously you just were performing, or presenting, live at Agents Of Change, thank you so much for coming out. When you were on stage at Agents Of Change, you talked about “Jimmy”. Who’s Jimmy?

John: Before I get into that, you can say “performing” too, Rich, because I did do a one-handed push up on stage. So that was a a little bit of a performance.

Rich: Although some people said you “attempted” a one-handed push up. My back was turned so I really can’t weigh in, but your video I think is ready so I think we can go check that out.

John: It was a #fail on the one hand push ups. So yeah, thanks again for the amazing opportunity to come to Maine to speak at the Agents Of Change. When I did get on stage in front of my home state audience, I was able to talk about my favorite person in the world, which is Jimmy.

Rich: I’m not going to tell Kate you said that, by the way.

John: My favorite, fake person in the world, Jimmy. What Jimmy is, is my avatar. My one, perfect listener for Entrepreneur On Fire. When I first started Entrepreneur On Fire, Rich, I had a great mentor, I was in a great mastermind. And my podcast and my interview and my focus was pretty dialed in, but I was missing an incredibly key ingredient. I was doing Entrepreneur On Fire for an audience – a targeted demographic – but I wasn’t doing it for just one person. Because of that, it really hurt the exact focus of that podcast itself. But what I did figure out is the importance of creating that avatar, which is Jimmy. Then everything changed and every decision I had to make became so simple, and he is my favorite fake person in the world.

Rich: Ok, so for these people that just came in in the middle of a conversation and they don’t know what’s going on, Jimmy is an avatar, as they call it in marketing. Jimmy is an amalgamation of all of the different types of people or personality types into one person, and it helps you better focus your marketing. I think I could have done a better job explaining that, but would you say that’s close to how you envision Jimmy, or any avatar?

John: It’s very close. I mean, that amalgamation, that’s exactly what it is. I just took all of the different traits and all the different possibilities and potentials that my listeners were going to be, I created them into one person that I did just drill down into specifics so that I knew every, single turn to take when it came time to do something.

Rich: Right, and as you answered one of the questions that somebody asked, it was like how do you focus and how do you decide on what you’re going to do next – because obviously as an entrepreneur, you probably have a million ideas going on – and what you answered was something along the lines of, “What does Jimmy want?”

John: Yes, yes, “WWJD”. What would Jimmy do?

Rich: Alright. So this is great. And for years I heard about the benefits of doing an avatar, and I’ve thought about doing the avatar – both for my podcast as well as for takeflyte – but I’ve never really sat down to do it. Can you kind of walk us through what we can do to really flesh out our own avatars?

John: So this is also something that I took way too long to accomplish, was actually sitting down and putting pen to paper and writing out who my avatar was and really getting to know that person. And Rich, when I realized just how powerful this was, I actually went ahead and created a 4 ½ minute video animation of Jimmy where I have him going through an average day in his life, which was pretty fascinating stuff. With a lot of people, we start with our topic. It’s like, “Ok, what are we going to podcast about?” And then we hopefully niche it down a little bit so we are hopefully unique in our podcast topic and what we’re bringing to it. And then we sort of start to picture who are the people going to be that are listening to the show. Who are going to be the people, those perfect listeners, who are going to tune in every single time a new episode goes live? And for me, I just had to see a face. I looked out and I saw all these people that I hoped were going to be listening to it. It could be a 19-year old college student, all the way up to a 65-year old almost retired boomer who’s thinking, “what could be that next big thing for me?” And because of that I was struggling with all the decisions that I had to make with my business – and my podcast specifically – and the directions I wanted to take it. Because what a 19-year old college student would want is completely different from a 65-year old almost retiring male that is looking for that next, big thing. And so for me, Rich, I was like, “This is really slowing me down”, because I was taking too much time, energy and effort at every single one of these decisions because I’m making them for people that are completely different. This has got to stop, I just need to sit down and actually write who my one, perfect listener could be. If I could just snap my fingers and that one, perfect listener would appear, who would that person look like? And then from that point, it’s just a matter of sitting down and saying, “Ok, I’m going to describe this person in detail.” And I’d be happy to do so right now, Rich. I can just talk for a second about Jimmy so your listeners can really understand what a really fleshed out, thought out avatar is.

Rich: I think anchoring it with a specific example is awesome. So please go ahead.

John: Ok, so Jimmy is 34 years old. He has a wife and 2 kids, ages 3 and 5. Jimmy drives to work by himself, 27 minutes every, single morning to a job he doesn’t like, to sit in a cubicle and look at the clock counting down to 5:00. At 5:00, Jimmy jumps back in his car and for 32 minutes he drives home. He gets home and plays with his kids for a little while, has dinner with his family, puts his kids to bed, hangs out with his wife for a little bit and then he sits on a couch. And when he’s on that couch, Jimmy thinks to himself, “Why am I wasting 80% of my waking hours doing things that I don’t enjoy doing – doing what I don’t love – and only 10% of my waking hours doing what I love, spending time with my wife and kids, and then the other 10% sitting on this couch wondering why I’m wasting 80% of my awake hours?” That is Jimmy. And the reason why this changed everything for me, is because Jimmy needs to be listening to Entrepreneur On Fire every single morning as he’s driving into work so he can hear about my guests sharing failure, and those lessons learned. He needs to be driving home listening to Entrepreneur On Fire hearing my guests talk about a “A-ha” moment they’ve had and the steps they took to turn that moment into success. Now when he’s sitting on the couch at night, he needs to be listening to the lightning rounds, about a great book or resource he can be filling his mind with instead of feeling sad for himself. And so when I’m now interviewing, I have Jimmy at the forefront of my mind during every single interview. So when you, Rich, are a guest and you share a failure, I can then pull out the lessons learned from that failure that Jimmy would find very relevant. So it keeps me so targeted and laser focused as an interviewer – as the broadcast host – that every single interview on Entrepreneur On Fire, is really laser targeted to “what kind of information does Jimmy need from Rich’s failure story or ‘Ah Ha’ moment?” So my interviews are always so laser focused on providing that value for Jimmy, and that just helps me as an interviewer – and as a business owner in general – keep the right focus for my business.

Rich: That’s fantastic, and that’s actually very helpful for me because as I’ve come off of Agents Of Change and looking for how to improve it for 2015, I’ve already started to get back the evaluations and one of my big questions is whether I go to 1 day or 2 days, whether I do a Pre-Con or not, whether I do break out sessions or keep it single track. And to be honest, the answers are all over. What I need to do, it sounds like, is figure out who is the avatar for the Agents Of Change conference and create the conference for them. That’s going to simplify my life in terms of making any decisions.

John: So much so. And that’s exactly what I love to talk about, the forks in the road that we as entrepreneurs hit. Every single one of us, whether it’s from my podcast, for your next year’s conference, for where we’re going to go eat breakfast tomorrow, there are so many decisions to make for every single one of these forks in the road. And if you, Rich Brooks, are trying to make these decisions for Agents Of Change, you’re going to be spending time, energy, effort and bandwidth making those decisions. And Rich, you’re not the person that should be making those decisions, because you’re not the perfect avatar for Agents Of Change. But once you sit down and say, “Ok, this is the exact person I want in the room during Agents Of Change, this is what that person will want.” And every single fork in the road that you hit, you just go to that perfect person and say, “Well this is what they would want, this is who I’m creating this conference for”, and then “boom”, you’re off to the races, you’re not wasting any of that time, energy and effort. Rich, this freaks a lot of people out. They say, “If I just have that one, perfect avatar, aren’t I just flushing away all these other people that are out there?” And the reality is, if you try to resonate with everybody, you will resonate with no one. If you can just resonate with that core group of Agents Of Change people, their butts will be in the seats next year. That’s the kind of momentum that starts to build a massive movement.

Rich: Now that’s an interesting question, because that actually leads to one of the other questions I wanted to ask you. And the fact that I have met a lot of the people from Fire Nation. Hello, Fire Nation out there. I’ve been to your house when you’ve had a Fire Nation Elite party there, and they are not all Jimmy’s, by any stretch of the imagination. So how do you account for that?

John: And that’s exactly where the power of the avatar is. Because if you – the business owner – are confident, are action taking, you can be both when you build your avatar. Then the momentum starts, and nothing can stop it. So probably .1% of my audience from Entrepreneur On Fire, are Jimmy’s. But what happened – because I was able to make decisions and take action and those forks in the road didn't bog me down – I’ve been able to produce not one, but two 7-day a week podcasts, do webinars every single week and just build this huge brand around Entrepreneur On Fire that can attract everyone from everywhere. So the exact opposite happens from what entrepreneurs are terrified by. When you do have that avatar you think you’re going to scare away other people, but it’s the exact opposite. Because a lot of people are saying, “You know what, I may not know Jimmy, but I resonate with Jimmy or know somebody that’s like Jimmy.” And they’ll tell the Jimmy that they know about Entrepreneur On Fire, plus they’re seeing all the great things and value that’s kicking out of Entrepreneur On Fire, so they want to be a part of that. And when you build something like that, Rich, it becomes a magnet that people are drawn towards.

Rich: Alright, so I want to sit down this afternoon and create an avatar, perhaps for Agents Of Change, one for The Marketing Agents, one for flyte New Media, lets say. So it feels like I need that first step. Do I sit down with current clients, do I look at my clients, do I cut out pictures from magazines? And I’m only half joking. Literally, what do I do to start this avatar journey?

John: I think that you nailed it with one of those things, and that is you make phone calls and you sit down – with not just current clients, but your top 15% clients, those who you just love working with – and say , “Listen, I love working with you. I want to work with more people like you. I want to be interacting with and surrounding myself with more people like you. What draws you to me, what do you think I’m bringing to this world, why do you remain my client to this day?” And then start having these conversations and start seeing how people are being drawn to you and why they’re being drawn to you. And then you’re going to be able to start – as Seth Godin loves to say, “finding your superpowers” – where people are drawn to you for that reason. And that’s going to be so critical. But people try to complicate things first. They try to say, “Ok, I can’t do this until I have 5 meetings lined up with my perfect clients.” You want to get there, you want to have those perfect conversations, but it really does start with sitting down in front of a blank word document – or a pen and paper if you’re old fashioned – and just start writing on who that one, perfect… And I love for Agents Of Change, I can just see you doing this, you writing down, “Now who was that perfect person in the room, that butt in the room?” And that person is going to have some sort of social media presence, because you’re going to want them to be talking about the conference and sharing it with their friends and having some kind of influence over it as well. At Agents Of Change, there were 16 podcast paradisers, there were 9 Fire Nation Eliters. They came because #1: they wanted to be in an audience with everybody that you put on stage there, and #2: because I’ve been talking about Agents Of Change for months leading up to it, and that influence brought 24 people to Agents Of Change. And that’s just people that are in my community, and it could even be larger that that when you just start going to degrees of separation. Those are the kind of avatars where you want to sit down, that have that social media influence and are about that age. So then maybe you know he or she lives here. And the beautiful thing too, Rich, is it doesn’t have to be this one person. You might have 2 or 3 avatars for Agents Of Change, and that’s totally fine. But at least you know that these are the 2 or 3 avatars that I have that I really now want to grow off of.

Rich: Yeah, because that was another question, whether or not we need one or more avatars, and I think you kind of nailed that one. Now one of the questions that somebody asked me today was, “If we’re in a B2B environment, do we use the same process or is there some difference that we should do?”

John: Even in the B2B world, you’re still dealing with human beings. You’re still dealing with a person. So I still believe that you can have this overriding avatar, which is just this bigger bubble that doesn’t encompass an entire business. But when it comes down to it, you still want to have that one-to-one point, that one connection you’re going to have with that business is going to be a person behind that connection. That is still an avatar, that is still a person that you know is going to be perfect for you to have that connection with in that B2B realm. So even for that scenario – and there’s so many great stories out there and I really do believe in this as well – what you talk about and think about and put out into the universe, that’s the stuff that starts getting attracted to you. So you just need to start talking about, “Hey, these are clients I would love to have, this is a business I would love to start being connected with.” And I’ve had so many conversations with that where people have thrown things out and been like, “Oh, I know a perfect person you can talk to.”, and that just starts the chain of reaction out. So it starts and it comes down to getting on paper – writing down – your avatar, whether that’s a B2B or B2C clients, and just putting it out there into the world. Start talking to that person via social media and start engaging with that person and getting to networking events, etc. It works for both B2C and B2B, and its a critical step to take.

Rich: Yeah, it sounds like it is. And so the next question I ask is, it sounds like you’ve gotten pretty detailed, did that happen overnight or did you continually refine who Jimmy is?

John: So Jimmy is continuing to be refined. Because as Entrepreneur On Fire the business grows, I’m adding new things. Last year it was Podcaster’s Paradise and a handful of months ago it was Webinar On Fire, and we just came out with Fire Nation Elite 2.0 – we just celebrated our anniversary – and we just took things to the next level with that mastermind and added a ton of new things. So as I’m doing that and my business is evolving, my avatar Jimmy is also needing to evolve. So if you listen to a webinar that I gave 7 months ago where I was talking about the avatar, he sounds different than he does today, because there are things that have changed within Jimmy. Avatars can evolve, they should evolve, and they should change as your business does.

Rich: I think that makes sense and so depending on what your industry is, the Jimmy's of the world are going to grow as people, and so their needs may be different over time.

John: Totally. I mean, Jimmy was 32 last year and he’s a year older.

Rich: Happy Birthday, Jimmy.

John: He’s older and wiser and he’s taking some steps in the right direction.

Rich: Now, is there any downside that you can think of to using avatars, do you ever get too narrowly focused and miss out on some opportunities?

John: I honestly believe you can’t get too narrowly focused when you first start. Pat Flynn did a great job on stage about his pyramid where he talks about at the bottom where it's the widest you have your casual fans. And at the very top you have those tiny, tiny raving fans. And the reality is every entrepreneur that’s starting their business needs to be – or is going to be – starting from scratch. And they need to be so narrowly focused and so narrowly niched that they are just getting those fans that are raving right from the beginning, because those fans are just feeling like, “Hey, this podcast/blog/YouTube channel, this was created for me.” And they’re going to resonate with that, and that’s going to get you that first handhold and momentum – that first ball rolling down the hill – and that is so incredibly critical. To start as an entrepreneur, I don't think you can be too narrowly niched or focused at all. Now if you’re more of a business – a small business starting out – and you have more people on your team, that’s when you start thinking about, hey, maybe I have this person working on this type of avatar and this person working on this type of client, and you can assign more roles to spread your wings out a little bit more. But for the solopreneur, that person that’s just starting their business, it needs to be one avatar that is narrowly niched to get that initial feedback from that avatar and then you can start moving forward. Once you start getting some success, Rich, then you absolutely broaden out. You’ve seen Entrepreneur On Fire in the last 2 years continue to expand in the products and services and offerings, and what we do as a business and adding more people to our team. So once you start narrowly focused and narrowly niched, that’s the place you get that handhold. We were just a podcast, now we’re so much more, because we’ve been able to broaden now with the success that we’ve had.

Rich: Alright. Now I’ve heard of people who create cutouts of their avatars and keep them in their office. Brilliant or creepy?

John: Brilliant. This is why I have Jimmy on my “About Me” page, and the video of him. Because you always want to have your avatar in the forefront of every decision that you make. If you have an office of 10 people and they’re walking by this cutout every single day, whenever there’s a question that’s asked, “What should I do here?”, just pointing to that cutout is like, “Hey, that’s what you do.” Slightly creepy, but I think it’s so very effective.

Rich: Awesome. Alright, John, you have so much great stuff to share. Where do you want people to check out you online?

John: All the magic, Rich, happens at We do a completely free, live podcast workshop every single week that we’d love for people to check out. We also do a free webinar workshop on webinars twice a month. Both of which can be found at

Rich: Awesome. And I can speak for myself that John was instrumental in helping me get my podcast off the ground and he’s been a good friend and a great mentor – or I should say a great friend and a good mentor – all these years that I’ve known him. John, I just want to thank you for everything and also for coming out and sharing your knowledge with us today.

John: Well Rich, it goes both ways. Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for allowing me to prepare to ignite.

Rich: Alright, man. Talk to you soon.

John: Bye.