The most important part of your copy is not your headline, not your offer, and certainly not your benefits. The most important part is your customer.

Sounds obvious, right? But in the last few weeks, I’ve been critiquing some pretty good copy. Very well-written and compelling, too. But if the conversion rate is low (hence, the reason why I was hired to do a critique consultation), it’s because these sales letters do not target the right audience for the offer, or the copy fails to connect with their readers.

Researching your customer in depth is vital to the success of your copy. It’s not only an important component of targeting and qualifying the best prospect for your offer, but also an effective way to discover new ideas, different angles, captivating storylines, unsought benefits, and appropriate length and language of your copy that will convert more.

The question is, how do you target and connect with your readers?

If you have done enough research to know your product is viable, then you have a good idea of how to target and connect with your market. However, this is where many marketers fail, for they are trying to be “all things to all people” and attempt to market their product to everyone.

Instead, try to discover the qualities, characteristics, and behavioral patterns of your specific (or greatest) market. Then market to that audience with the right message, and do so more than any other and as often as possible.

Write your copy as if you’re talking to that one single individual, as if it’s a letter written one-on-one, and they’re the only reader that matters in the world right now. If you need help, let’s look at how to develop a “perfect prospect profile” (often called a “buyer persona”).

Typically, there four main categories.

The best copywriters in the world who have written multi-million dollar salesletters are usually those who have spent a great many hours interviewing clients, spending time learning about them (maybe even to be with them), asking a lot of questions, and spending a lot of time learning about:

  • Geographics
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Technographics

Empathy Starts With Discovery

It was Ken Blanchard, in the One-Minute Sales Manager, who said: “Before I walk a mile in your shoes, I must first take off my own.” Brian Keith Voiles, in an interview I gave him regarding the power of empathy in copy, said it best:

“The first thing I do is try to live a ‘day in the life’ of my prospect. What keeps him up at night? What are his biggest concerns or his biggest joys? What’s the first thing he does in the morning as he wakes up? Does he read the paper? What kind of paper? What sections? Does he hurt? Is he frustrated? About what? In all, I try to put myself in my prospect’s shoes as much as possible and really try to see what he sees, thinks what he thinks, feels what he feels. The more I do, the more empathetic I am in my copy — and the more I sell.”

Demographics are the basic qualities and characteristics of your market. They include age, gender, culture, employment, industry, income level, marital status, and so on. Does your product cater uniquely to women? Is it more appealing to a specific industry? Does your product complement another type of product?

Geographics are the countries, locations, and establishments in which your target market resides or works, or those it frequents or to which it travels. Is your market made up of French Canadians? Does your product cater to a market from a certain state that is predominantly of a certain religious or political persuasion? Are they urbanites or rural folk?

On the other hand, psychographics are made up of the emotional, psychological, and behavioral qualities of your market. They include the emotions, buying patterns, purchase histories, and even thought processes behind people’s decision to buy your product.

For example, they include events they attend, interests and hobbies in which they’re engaged, associations to which they belong, previous purchases made, other related products your market has consumed, and length of time they remained with a particular company.

Finally, a more recent category includes people’s affection or aversion towards technology. Are they early adopters? Do they surf the web and buy online? Or do they prefer to consummate the sale offline? Do they use and buy on gadgets such as smartphones and tablets? Or at least do they own a computer?

Bottom line, who buys from you specifically?

If you were to say “everyone,” then you are falling in the trap mentioned earlier. Avoid it as much as you can. Try to be as specific as possible. But if you do cater to a diverse market, find out who buys from you the most or the most often.

In fact, the more specific and your audience and the smaller your targeting, the greater the market and your sales will be. (Sounds contradictory, but I’ll come back this and explain later.)

Intelligence Gathering

The two most important elements are, of course, demographics and psychographics. In other words, demographics include the segment of the population that needs your product, while psychographics are those within your demographics that want your product. These are different!

If you don’t know this, you can easily conduct a survey as part of a marketing research campaign among your current clients, potential clients, and clients of other similar products or companies. Surveys alone can be misleading. So don’t be shy and pick up the phone. Call them. Ask them. Probe further.

In short, don’t underestimate your greatest source for marketing research — clients! For example, here’s a list of questions you should ask:

  • Who, exactly, is your perfect customer?
  • What’s a day in the life of your perfect customer like?
  • Why did they buy your product? If not, why not?
  • Why did they buy (or NOT) from you or your competitor?
  • Why did they buy from you at that specific point in time?
  • Why did they buy right away (on impulse) or took their time?
  • If they shopped around, what exactly were they looking for?
  • Where did they shop around and what else did they look at?
  • What do they like the most and the least about the product?
  • Would they refer you to others? Why? If not, why not?
  • What specific benefits do they see in your product?
  • What specific benefits do they see in your competitor’s?
  • And so on.

These are immensely important questions that can help you, guide you, or even cause you to change your approach altogether. Don’t discount the power of doing marketing research, especially within your own backyard. You want to know not only who buys from you but, more important, why they do. In other words, think psychographics and not just demographics.

To illustrate the difference between demographics and psychographics, here’s an example pulled from my own experience as a copywriter in the cosmetic surgery field when I first started 25 years ago.

Hair transplant doctors cater mainly to men who have experienced hair loss and are able to afford such an operation — i.e., men and bald men specifically are potential patients because they may need of more hair.

Psychographics, on the other hand, go a little further. In this example, they are comprised of men who not only need but also want more hair — since not all of them do. (It’s a matter of priorities, just as the type of clothing one chooses to wear). They may seem to need more hair, but they might not want more.

Therefore, in order to target this market as precisely as possible and thus generate better leads, doctors must take the psychographic element into account, such as their patients’ lifestyle, their interests, the type of industry in which they work (since certain industries are image-related), as well as their previous buying habits (such as men who have already invested in other forms of hair replacement solutions) — the more information the better.

For example, you have a headline that said, “Are you losing your hair?” That appeals to your demographics. People who have hairloss will probably read the ad. After all, they “seem” to need more hair.

The problem is, they may not care about it. But if your headline said, “Suffering from hairloss?” now your ad is targeting someone who not only has hairloss but also cares about it enough to want to do something about it.

Aim For The Bull’s-Eye

Nevertheless, arm yourself with as much of this type of information beforehand and your chances of achieving greater success with your product will be virtually guaranteed. While you can’t be everything to everyone, you shouldn’t be targeting everyone for everything.

The following represents the Success Doctor‘s Market Targeting Model (a format to follow when targeting an audience, or while engaged in any targeting activity). It’s in the form of three concentric circles — like a bull’s-eye — as follows:

The Success Doctor's Market Targeting Model
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn

Applying the targeting model is simple. Each circle represents a different level in the targeting process — the center being the first, your main priority, and so on. As the marketing adage goes, “fish where the fish swim.” Find places, events, or publications that meet any of the three, from the center out.

The bull’s-eye, the center, which are things that directly and specifically involve your “perfect customer,” should be your main aim at all times. The second level are things that are related to them. The third level, while not related, are things that are oriented towards your perfect customer.

Here’s a quick description of each circle:

The Center (Bull’s-Eye), or Audience Centric: It’s what pertains directly to your target market. In other words, it’s anything that meets your perfect customer profile (and does so immediately and as specifically as possible). Things like demographics, psychographics, and geographics are included, here.

The Second Tier (Middle Layer) or Audience Related: It’s what pertains indirectly to your target market. Stated differently, it’s anything that relates to or logically fits in your perfect customer profile. This includes things such as direct competitors, complementary products, related industries, etc.

The Third Tier (Outside Layer) or Audience Oriented: It’s what does not pertain at all to your target market but somehow matches or is oriented towards any of its areas. Examples are unrelated industries with which your customer is associated, other businesses patronized by your customer, other unrelated products they consume (products that do not complement, replace, or supersede yours, but are consumed by them), common threads among your audience (even if they have nothing to do with your product), etc.

Here’s An Example

Let’s say you’re in the computer sales business. Your perfect customer is a person aged between 20 and 35, earning around $30,000, living in the eastern part of the United States, and working in the high-tech field.

The center or bull’s-eye would include computer-related magazines, shows, websites, tradeshows, ezines, forums, social networks (specifically computer-related groups and “cliques” on those social media), etc. Wherever your perfect customer is targeted, based on the qualities and characteristics of your product or customer, should be your first goal. Your main aim. The bull’s-eye.

The second tier are areas that are indirectly related to your perfect customer. Your goal would then be to target markets that are similar to your own or somehow logically fit into your target market as well — in short, other related publications, businesses, or areas that target your perfect customer, too.

Areas include software magazines, trade publications, technology websites, industry associations, non-competing businesses, etc. An example would be other websites selling computer peripherals or software your perfect customer would need or enjoy, such as an accounting software package.

The third and final tier consist of totally unrelated areas your perfect customer frequents, without having anything to do with your industry. You want to be in front of as many of their eyeballs as possible, even if where you appear has anything to do with your product, industry, or niche.

Let’s say, through some research, you found that a large percentage of your target market are coffee drinkers. Then areas you would seek are coffee-related sites, specialty coffee magazines, coffee product stores (e.g., coffee maker companies, mugs, espresso machines, etc), restaurants, books on coffee, and so on.

It means that, as long as the audiences of such websites and publications logically fit into your target market somehow, even if, in this case, they have nothing to do with computers at all, then you’ve got it made. In essence, you’re still aiming within your “dart board,” in other words.

Don’t Play Darts in The Dark

The bottom line is, in order to convert at a much higher rate, you need to have the right message in front of the right people as often as possible. You not only need to know who your perfect customer is, but you also need to understand her, connect with her, and empathize with her.

As Robert Collier said in his book, The Robert Collier Letter Book, you need to continue the conversation already going on in their minds. Or as Dan Kennedy often says, above all pay close attention to “message-to-market match.”

When you write your copy, you need to think of that perfect customer, that one individual your copy is specifically meant for. But you know what? Even if your copy aims for the bull’s-eye but you still land somewhere on the dart board, you’re still expanding your market indirectly.

People who fall outside of that bull’s-eye but are still within your market, i.e., they are within the dart board so to speak, will be interested and buy from you. As opposed to generic, bland, targeted-to-everyone copy that people feel no connection with no matter where on the bull’s-eye they fall into.

In short, the less targeted and the more generic your message is, the less connected your copy you will be with your market. You might as well shoot darts in the dark and hope you’re lucky to land on the board. Maybe.