To Succeed As a Marketer - Know Your Customer

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Psychology Today reported on a study designed to uncover the characteristics of successful salespeople.
"The best salespeople first establish a mood of trust and rapport by means of 'hypnotic pacing'-statements and gestures that play back a customer's observations, experience, or behavior," wrote the author of the study.
"Pacing is a kind of mirror-like matching, a way of suggesting: 'I am like you.
We are in sync.
You can trust me.
'" In other words, successful salespeople empathize with their customers.
Instead of launching into a canned sales pitch, the successful salesperson first tries to understand the customer's needs, mood, personality, and prejudices.
By mirroring the customer's thoughts and feelings in their sales presentations, successful salespeople break down resistance to sales, establish trust and credibility, and highlight only those product benefits that are of interest to the customer.
Copywriters, too, must get to know the customer.
Of course, as a copywriter, you can't create a separate ad or brochure for each individual prospect.
But by understanding the needs of the marketplace, you can tailor your presentation to specific groups of buyers-segments of the total market.
Understanding the customer and her motivation for buying the product is the key to writing copy that sells.
Too much advertising is created in a vacuum.
The advertiser and the agency write copy based on the product features that catch their fancy, not on the features that are important to the customer.
The result is copy that pleases the agency and the advertiser, but leaves the customer cold.
In a survey published in Mainly Marketing, advertising agencies and buyers of high-tech products were asked which product features they considered important.
The results showed that advertising agencies stressed features that were not important to buyers.
The agencies also omitted information that was vital to the buyers.
For example, both purchasing agents and engineers ranked price as the number-two consideration when buying high-tech equipment.
But the agencies said price was unimportant as a copy point.
Agencies said high-tech ads should stress how the product saves the buyer time.
But engineers and purchasing agents said this is far less important than product specifications and limitations.
When you write copy, don't write in a vacuum.
Don't just pick the features and benefits that suit your fancy.
Instead, find out which benefits and features your readers care about-and write about the sales points that will motivate readers to buy the product.
A good example of copy that "hits home" with the reader is a subscription letter I received from INC.
Here's the opening of the letter: A special invitation to the hero of American business Dear Entrepreneur: You're it! You're the kind of person free enterprise is built on.
The ambition, vision, and guts of small business people like yourself have always been the driving force behind the American economy.
Unfortunately, that's a fact which the general business press seems to have forgotten.
In their emphasis on everything big, like conglomerates, multinationals, oil companies the size of countries, most business publications pay very little attention to the little guy.
The letter is effective because it speaks directly to the pride entrepreneurs feel in being "self-made.
" The letter writer has done a good job of empathizing with the reader and understanding how an entrepreneur thinks of himself.
You, too, must get to know your reader.
One way of doing this is to start paying close attention to your own behavior as a consumer.
The next time you start to write a TV commercial that uses dancing soup cans to sell canned soup, ask yourself if you want to be entertained when you buy soup...
or if you're more interested in how the soup tastes, what it costs, its nutritional value, and where to find it in the supermarket.
Once you start thinking as a consumer rather than a writer, you'll have more respect for your reader.
And you'll write copy that provides useful product information and sales appeals rather than empty hype and ballyhoo.
Another way to understand your prospect is to observe consumers and be an active student of the marketplace.
When you're in the supermarket, watch other buyers.
Which type of person picks the sale items and which type goes for the name brand? When you visit an automobile dealer, observe how the successful salespeople deliver their pitches and handle their customers.
Listen to the pitch you receive and think about why it did or didn't sway you.
Take an active interest in the world of commerce.
When you receive a telephone solicitation, listen to the entire call to see what techniques you can use in your own copy.
Attend trade shows to find out the nature of buyers in the various industries your clients deal in.
And talk to the businesspeople you trade with-store owners, the plumber, your lawyer, the gardener, the person who repairs your hot-water heater-to find out the techniques they use to promote their services and products.
People who are close to their customers-and most small business people are-know more about the reality of selling than most ad agency account executives or corporate brand managers do.
Listen to these people, and you'll learn what makes the customer tick.
There's an old saying: "You can't be all things to all people.
" And it certainly applies to advertising and selling.
You can't create one ad or commercial that appeals to everybody, because different groups of buyers have different needs.
So, as a copywriter, you must first identify your audience-the segment of the market you are selling to-and then learn which product benefits interest these buyers.
You will tailor both the content and the presentation of your information to the group of customers you're selling to.
Take frozen foods as an example.
When you sell frozen foods to a homemaker, he or she is most interested in nutrition and price.
But a young, single professional person is primarily interested in convenience: He or she doesn't want to spend too much time in the kitchen.
Price is not as much of a factor because the young professional has more disposable income than the homemaker.
Take photocopiers as another example.
The large corporation buying a copier wants a machine that is fast and offers a variety of features such as color copies, collating, and two-sided copying.
But the self-employed professional who works at home has different needs.
His budget is limited, so the copier must be inexpensive.
And, since he's working from home, space is at a premium, so compactness is an important feature.
But speed and capacity are not as crucial, since the work-at-home professional makes fewer copies than the corporate user.
But how well do you really know your customers? Knowing that you are writing to farmers, information technology (IT) professionals or plumbers is just the start.
You have to dig deeper.
But how? To write powerful copy, you have to go beyond the demographics to understand what really motivates these people: who they are, what they want, how they feel, and what their biggest problems and concerns are that your product can help solve.
Your copy should reach prospects on three levels: intellectual, emotional, and personal.
Intellectual is the first level and, while effective, not as strong as 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 percent.
" More powerful is to reach the prospect on an emotional level.
Emotions that can be tapped include fear, greed, love, vanity, and, for fund-raising, benevolence.
Going back to 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, from our example of a stock market newsletter: "Did you lose a small fortune in the April 2000 tech stock 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.
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