Do You Know Who Your Customers Are?

How well do you really know your customers? Reading the magazines or websites where you intend to advertise is a good way to learn something about the folks you market to, but it’s not enough. Knowing that you are writing to farmers, information technology (IT) professionals, or plumbers is just the start. You have to dig deeper.

To create powerful marketing campaigns, you must go beyond the demographics to understand what motivates these people – who they are, what they want, how they feel, and what their problems and concerns are that your product can help solve.

There are 3 levels on which copy can reach your prospects: intellectual, emotional, and personal.

Intellectual is the first level and, though effective, is weaker than the other two. An intellectual appeal is based on logic. For example: “Buy the stocks we recommend in our investment newsletter and you will beat the market by 50% to 100%.”

More powerful is to reach the prospect on an emotional level. Emotions that can be tapped include fear, greed, love, vanity, and, for fundraising, benevolence. Using our example of a stock market newsletter, the emotional appeal might be: “Our advice can help you cut your losses and make much more money so you become much wealthier than your friends and neighbors. You’ll be able to pay cash for your next car – a Lexus, BMW, or any luxury automobile you care to own – and you’ll sleep better at night.”

The most powerful way you can reach people is on a personal level. Again using the stock market newsletter, this might be: “Did you lose a small fortune in the stock market meltdown? So much that it put your dreams of retirement or financial independence on hold? Now you can gain back everything you lost, rebuild your net worth, and make your dream of early retirement or financial independence come true – a lot sooner than you think.”

Veteran ad man JS once had an assignment to write a campaign for a new needle used by diabetics to inject insulin. What was its key selling point? Not being a diabetic, JS talked with potential users.

The main thing they liked about the needle was that it was very sharp. A non-user probably would view being sharp as a negative. But if you have given yourself or anyone else an injection, you know that sharper needles go in smoother, with no pain. JS wrote a successful ad campaign based on the claim that these needles were sharp, thus enabling easier, pain-free insulin injection.

To reach prospects on all three levels – intellectual, emotional, and personal – you must understand what Michael Masterson calls your buyers’ “Core Complex.” To do that, you ask yourself questions about the beliefs, desires, and feelings that drive them:

  • Beliefs. What does your audience believe? What is their attitude toward your product and the problems or issues it addresses?
  • Desires. What do they want? What are their goals? What change do they want in their lives that your product can help them achieve?
  • Feelings. How do they feel? Are they confident and brash? Nervous and fearful? How do those feelings apply to what your product can do for them?

I did this exercise with a client that gave seminars in communication and interpersonal skills. We used IT people as the prospect group. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Beliefs. IT people think they are smarter than other people, technology is the most important thing in the world, users are stupid, and management doesn’t appreciate them enough.
  • Desires. IT people want to be appreciated and recognized. They also prefer to deal with computers and avoid people whenever possible. And they want bigger budgets.
  • Feelings. IT people often have an adversarial relationship with management and users, both of whom they serve. They feel others dislike them, look down upon them, and do not understand what they do.

Based on this analysis, we created a sales letter that was my client’s most successful ever to promote a seminar titled “Interpersonal Skills for the IT Professional.” The headline: “Important news for any IT professional who has ever felt like telling an end user, ‘Go to hell.'”

Occasionally, insights into the prospect’s desires and concerns can be gleaned through formal market research. For instance, a copywriter working on a cooking oil account came across this comment buried in the appendix of a focus group report: “I fried chicken in the oil and then poured the oil back into a measuring cup. All the oil was there except one tablespoon.”

That comment became the basis of a successful TV campaign. (You might remember it.)

Another way to get a deeper understanding of your prospects is to use the Internet to ethically “spy” on them.

For instance, I had an assignment to promote a leasing service to computer resellers. My client had been “bribing” resellers into giving him their leasing business by offering a generous free gift, like a TV or iPad, with each deal made.

Posing as a computer reseller, I joined a forum for resellers and started a discussion on “What do you look for in a leasing company?” I discovered that while resellers liked free gifts, what they valued most was lower rates. My client adjusted his marketing accordingly, with good results.

As copywriter Don Hauptman (ETR’s “Language Perfectionist”) advises, “Start with the prospect, not the product.” When you gain a deeper understanding of your prospects before you try to sell them, stronger marketing campaigns usually follow.

[Ed. Note: Using – and providing – reliable services should be a priority in your Internet business. But there is plenty of other stuff to learn and take care of: search engine optimization, copywriting, landing pages, e-mail list building, social media… you’ll learn it all in Bob’s Internet Cash Generator program.

Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of more than 70 books. To subscribe to his free e-zine, The Direct Response Letter, and claim your free gift worth $116, click here now.]