January 29

You’ve Got To KNOW Your Target Before You Start: Listen Up, AARP (Part 2)

If you recall, last week we talked about big mistakes some companies are making in their marketing campaigns, and how you can do better (if you missed it, check it out here).  Here’s a quick recap:

This week, we’re going to cover everything you need to be talking about to get your target customer craving your services like a college kid craves tacos. Let’s get started.

Dating your Audience

The number one thing we want as humans is connection. Our psyches are primed for connection, and more than a want, studies show that humans need connection just as badly as we need food, water, and sleep. In his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, Matthew Lieberman says,

“Being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion.”

But we often forget in marketing that consumers are hardwired for connection, and instead of reaching out to our audience and forming relationships, we push our agendas on our audience and wonder why they don’t love us.

Sales messages are sort of like a first date: if all you do is talk about yourself, no one is going to agree to a second date. And you can forget about a relationship.

In order to connect with your customer, think of them like a long-term relationship, because hopefully they will be (a lifelong customer). You’ve got to get them intrigued, show interest in them, and understand their hopes and fears, pains and joys, just like in a dating relationship.

You’ve got to care, and they’ve got to know it.

But first, you have to find them. Where do modern people go to date? Online, of course. Now, I don’t suggest Tinder, though that may work for some of you. Instead, we’re going to break one of the most taboo rules in dating: light stalking.

No binoculars needed.

But good research skills are.

Step One: Figure out who your audience is

To figure out who you’re talking to, you need to consider three aspects of your prospective customers: demographics, interests, and thought processes.

Demographic information is actually pretty easy to find. At my library, we have a staff member called a business specialist who can sit down with you and show you numerous websites that track demographic information from age, sex, household income, and marital status. You can search by physical area, by gender, or by income status. These are just the basics of your customer – what their labels are – but they can tell you a lot.

The second aspect of your prospective customer to consider is their interests. What magazines do they read; what activities do they enjoy; do they have pets? What car do they drive; what vacations do they take; what causes do they support – all of these flesh out a prospective client in your mind and help you to understand them as a whole.

Just because a customer might be interested in what you’re selling, doesn’t mean they’re not interested in a whole lot of other things as well. And in order for you to connect with them, you have to show them that you understand them.

Your customers are multi-faceted, sometimes complicated individuals, and you have to show that you understand that.

Sounds a lot like a first date, right? Except in marketing, this is pre-first date: pre-first sales message.

After you know a bit about who your customers are and what they like, you have to dig deeper. What keeps them up at night? What hurts them? Who do they deeply love? What problems do they have that they’re willing to pay to solve?

Once you can answer all of these questions, your customer will seem a lot less like a shadowy figure in the distance and a lot more like a flesh and blood person that you might pass in the grocery store.

In order to help you remember that, I want you to do something for me. It might feel silly, but trust me. I haven’t led you astray yet, have I?

I want you to visit a free stock photo website. I want you to find someone who looks a bit like you’d imagine your ideal client looks like. And I want you to print their picture, and hang it by your desk. Name your ideal client.

My client’s name is Tom Marlin, and his picture is framed right on my desk next to a picture of my son.

Because we’re friends, Tom and I, seeing his picture on my desk helps me to speak directly to him in my sales messages. (That’s not to say I wouldn’t have a female version of my ideal client named Sue, mind you… but this is a visual/mindset exercise so don’t get bogged down in the details.)

Yeah, this is a little creepy in a dating situation, but don’t worry, it’s not so creepy if you’re a marketer.

Here are a couple of sites that offer free stock images:

Snappa Blog has an entire list of free stock photo sites, so check them all out.

Now that you completely understand who your target client is, what makes them tick, and what keeps them up at night, it’s time for:

Step Two: Figure out how your service solves the problem

WIIFM: What’s In It For Me?

That’s what your customer wants to know. What is it about your product or service that will benefit them?

Here’s the part that a lot of people trip up on. Customers aren’t asking what features your product or service has. They don’t really care that your green tea drink is handcrafted using the secrets of whatever mystical process you have. They don’t care that you have fifteen years of experience.

What they care about is how that helps them. The organic green tea drink means nothing until you also say: which helps you stay focused and energized all day. Fifteen years of experience is meaningless until you add: and my service will double your sales leads in a week.

This is the difference between features and benefits.

Features are usually what you care about; benefits are how those features impact the customer.

So here’s what you do.

Make a list of all the features of your product that you love. The stuff that breaks your face into a huge grin when you tell people about it.

And then, for each feature, write down how that benefits the customer. Why they should care. How it improves their lives, takes away some pain, or makes them happier.

Here are some examples:


Cell phones that have integrated email applications


A customer can check their email wherever they are


A small law firm that offers personalized customer service


One-on-one attention


A toy that has batteries included


It’s ready to use

Want some more examples? Check out this article from Vappingo.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to only focus on the positives, even if you are a glass-half-full kinda person.

In fact, the two biggest emotions that you can hit when you create copy are fear and greed.

I don’t say that to sound cynical. Think about it: we all want more: more time, more money, more status – the best looking garden and the biggest house. It’s completely okay to want more.

And on the flip side, we’re scared of losing everything. We’re afraid that we’re going to stay broke forever or never finish our college degrees or completely lose our businesses.

These are entirely human emotions, and acknowledging that they exist isn’t wrong.

In fact, if your product helps to assuage any of these fears or satisfy that desire for more, then of course you should say so. You’re still providing a solution to your customer’s problem, and that’s very much a good thing.

Step Three: Write Great Headlines, and Don’t Forget to Make Promises

It’s the job of the headline to get the audience to read the first line. (I can’t take credit for that quote, but I sure do love to say it all the time.)

How do you do that?

By making big promises.

Promises that you’re going to solve their problems, satisfy their greed, calm their fears, add to their free time, help get them healthier – however it is that your products and services benefit your customer, you’ve got to let them know.

Let them know up front, in the headline, before they even open your email. Or they may not open your email. Because why should they, if they don’t think you’re going to help them?

This doesn’t just work for email though – any sort of sales message out there likely has a headline. Make it good. Make it timely, relevant, and tailored to your ideal audience.

Make them believe, in those few words, that you completely understand how upsetting their problem is and that you can help to solve it.

This continues with the subheadings, though. Many of your readers are only going to skim the headings, so they’ve got to be targeted. You’ve got to hit all of the main points – the pain points AND the solution, in both the subheadings and the body of the content in order to speak to the entire audience of readers.

After your headings are in place (hint: you can use these as an outline when you’re planning your copy), you need to remember this flow to writing:

  • Show them that you understand their pain by describing it in detail.
    • Describe their pain so vividly that they feel it most acutely when reading your copy. As many famous fiction writers say, “Make them suffer.”
  • Introduce your solution to their pain.
    • And then describe the relief from that pain just as vividly, in just as much detail, so they can feel the sensation of being free while reading. You want them to feel the solution so vividly that they miss it as soon as they stop reading – which is when they’ll call you.

Step Four: Introduce Your Offer

Don’t be confused: the solution you just gave your reader isn’t the offer. The solution is the end result of your offer. It’s the relief the reader will feel after they’ve accepted your offer.

There are two parts to a compelling offer: value and urgency.


Your offer needs to be good enough that the audience can see its value in their lives. Even after you’ve just made the reader feel their pain, the one thing you haven’t done is change human nature, which is to procrastinate as long as possible.

So unless you convince them to act immediately, they may never act.

Which is to say: offer them something amazing. The complete, unarguable answer to their problems. Throw in a freebie if you can: a free week of services or a free phone consultation.

You can beef up an initial offer three ways:

  • A Freebie
    • Pretty self-explanatory. A freebie is an additional free item, gift, etc, that your customer would earn by purchasing from you
  • A Value Add
    • Sort of like a freebie. A value add could be an additional week of service free or a buy this get that too kind of deal.
  • A Discount
    • A dollar or percentage amount discounted from the price. Common discounts are $10 off sales or 50% off of a regular price


You want them to act now, right? Not later? Then you have to tell them this rather clearly.

Tell them that this offer is only available until X date. Or only available to the first ten to book.

You have to spur your audience to action, because again, we’re procrastinators. If you don’t get your customer to call or book right away, they just might procrastinate for years, or until they forget you and find someone else offering a similar service.

Talk about marketing dollars wasted.

Step Five: Deliver Your Message So That It’s Appreciated

If you know your target audience really, really well, you may be able to do this on the first try. But chances are you’ll need to do at least a couple of rounds of testing with different media types and messaging.

The goal is to deliver your message so that it’s actually appreciated by the recipient. Don’t send someone selling meat door-to-door to talk to me when I’m in the middle of work. I don’t want to be interrupted, and even though I like to cook and maybe could use the products being offered, I’ll be too frustrated by the interruption to appreciate the offer.

Don’t use a magazine to offer a product to someone who doesn’t read magazines.

Put your messages in places where they’ll be received and appreciated.

One way that I love to do this is with a marketing campaign that utilizes a couple of different types of media. I might start with a sales letter in the mail, but pretty soon after, I’m going to be sending out emails that reference the sales letter and use the same copy.

When I do this, I can reach both people who would rather read what comes in the mail and people who prefer email. And I can reach by email someone who may have been out of town when the sales letter was mailed.

I’ll follow this up with social media, because we all know everyone is there.

But using social media alone isn’t enough – we need all three in the campaign to maximize reach.

With a multi-step campaign like this, you typically see response rates increase with each step. Not only is the multi-step approach allowing you multiple mediums through which to contact your audience, but it’s spreading the timing out a little to reach people who are accessing the messages at different times and also reminding those who may have intended to reply but have forgotten.

So there it is. The five step process to actually reaching your audience and getting them to reply – because they’re excited to engage with you and your services.

Want to learn more? Stay tuned for part three of this series next week!

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