By William Ballard
What do you really know about your prospect?
Their age range, perhaps? Where they live? What they do for a living?
Useful definitely, but not enough to create copy that gets prospects emotionally involved and intrigues them to take action.
For that we need to take a journey much deeper into deep reservoirs of our prospects’ marvelous minds.
Want to join me?
Today’s article is inspired by someone who understands the power and influence writing has on us.
In 1946 The Art of Dramatic Writing (AFF), (considered to be one of the best works on the subject of playwriting), was published.
The author, Lajos Egri, had a simple rule: know your characters and you’ll know your story. How well you know your ‘characters’ makes all the difference between captivating your readers, or boring them.
And the same principle works in copywriting. Before you can write content that gets and grips your reader’s attention, you have to get to know them … at an intimate level.
Thanks to Lajos, we have some advice to help us do just that.
The one thing your prospects desire most of all is ...
… to feel and be seen as important.
According to Lajos, this is the number one desire that motivates all characters.
Even the small actions we take in life are attempts to increase our importance in the world.
Whether it’s attempting to request for a promotion, trying to look nice for a date, or trying to set up the house (inside and out) in such way to impress the neighbors.
These actions are influenced by our desires to be well-respected, noticed, or loved. And if we succeed, we use these as gages or measurements of how important we are to others.
So how do companies make their customers feel important?
A typical business owner desires to have a better looking website in order to appear more important to potential clients and customers. A web designer desires to have better tools in order to offer a high-quality service, and therefore appear more important to his/her clientele. A content marketer desires to produce informative and intriguing content in order to appear important to readers so they keep coming back.
As a copywriter, when you know the desires that make your prospects feel important, you can already determine what the number one leading benefit in your copy should be.
However, this is just the beginning, because when you set out to sail the murky waters of your prospects’ mind, especially down the channels of desire they have for importance, you’re just a few steps away from another piece of the puzzle that helps you understand your prospects.
Do you know your prospects insecurities?
According to Lajos, no-one is wholly satisfied with themselves, or if they were satisfied and happy, no-one would ever do anything.
The fact of the matter is this: We all have insecurities, of some form or fashion, that causes us to be dissatisfied with ourselves or with our circumstance, which then motivates us to pursue activities to make us feel more important.
And here’s the kicker: the hook you use in you copywriting in order to attract your prospects can change dramatically when you are targeting different prospects insecurities, even if the product is still the same. To be honest with you, it is really fascinating how all this works, and what actually motives customers to buy.
For instance, not everyone who decides to hire a copywriter is motivated by the same reasons.
One copywriting prospect might be embarrassed about how his website and/or marketing materials look and decide once and for all to pay the price and hire a professional to make his marketing assets really standout and attract new clients and customers.
Another copywriting prospect might already have a full-time copywriter on staff but fear he or she is thinking of leaving, or is losing touch with their target market and costing them income and ultimately annual revenue.
While the same copywriter might work for both kinds of prospects, the same approach to writing copy may not feasable. And if you want to write copy that resonates deeply with your prospects, you have to tackle their insecurities as well as their desires.
Your prospect's history can give you vital marketing clues
Most prospect profile templates (or avatars) focus on the present-day. Where does your customer live now? What problems do they have today?
However, Lajos understood that if you really wanted to understand a character you had to go back in time and know the events that made your ‘character’ who they are today.
So what about your own customers or clients? What chain of events made them into your target market?
If you service small business owners, how did they get there? Were they always self-employed? Have they been in business long? Have they always ‘gone their own way’ or are they more used to conforming and being told what to do?
Taking this journey through your target market’s history helps you develop a better picture of your prospect's values. And it also helps you shape your content in such a way that appeals specifically to your target market.
Conflict reveals your prospect's true character
In Lajo's book she states that it is in conflict where people’s true characters are revealed … but what conflict is your prospect really going through?
Some conflicts are obvious. It’s an action that causes a problem that needs to be solved by a reaction:
Other conflicts are more subtle but no less worrisome to your prospects.
For instance, on the surface (at the desire level) a business owner wants a polished looking website in order to look important to her customers.
No real conflict there.
Going a bit deeper (to the point of insecurities), we discover that maintaining a professional appearance is something she worries about.
Okay, we now know more about her insecurity trigger, but still there’s no real conflict.
Swim a bit deeper or sail a bit farther into the oceans of your prospects mind and we find out it’s likely to be a start-up business and she’s probably new to online technology. She doesn’t have the funds to hire a major design firm, but she doesn’t know enough about technology to do-it-herself and still look professional in the process. Bing-go! Conflict!
The design company that solves this kind of dilemma and understands this conflict can put together content that really speaks to this prospects issues much better than the company that simply advertises affordable web design.
Now, of course, you don’t have to know the entire individual story for each and every prospect you may you may be marketing to, but without an idea of the conflict being faced by the majority of your target market and understanding their real character (their conflict dilemma), writing copy for them becomes a major challenge.
Okay, so now we know what makes our customer feel important – desires, what makes them secure – overcome insecurities, what their past is – where their values are and which has made them the character they are, and their conflict.
Finally, you need to know …
How far are they willing to go?
When it comes to writing fiction, you need to know just how far your characters are prepared to go. Are they willing to embark on a dangerous adventure, commit a crime, or declare their love by making life changes that appear irrational from a logical point of view?
There is no difference when it comes to writing copy. You need to know the same about your prospects.
Okay, you don’t need to know if your prospect will go to Italy to find true love (unless you’re a travel agent and this is where you are trying to send clients), but it does help to know what they’re willing to do to resolve their particular conflict.
Human will is a fascinating subject to study. Your research might lead you to try new approaches in the way you present your offer to prospects. If you discover your prospect is more of a “shop-around” type buyer, and really likes to read a lot of information before making a buying decision, you can create content marketing campaigns that cater to this type of buyer.
Getting to know your prospects isn’t a quick, run of the mill kind of task. In Lajo's book she shares how she would spend hours plotting question-and-answer scenarios with characters, thinking of a range of different back-stories, and visualizing how they might react with different events and opposing personalities.
Now granted, your customers or clients aren’t imaginary or fiction by any means, but you can use the same insightful approach to build a clearer picture of your prospect and what they are looking for.
How do you get to know your prospects?
What do you find helps gain a better understanding of your reader?
How does this affect the copy you write?
Let us know in the comments below …
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About William Ballard
Freelance Writer, Direct Response Copywriter, Content Marketer, and Author of the True Writer's Life, William Ballard, helps small businesses and entrepreneurs, like you, broadcast their message across the Internet (and offline) and be seen as experts in their field. He has recently been dubbed the Most Coveted Direct Response Copywriter and Marketer for Self-Publishing Authors.
William, a writer and content creator since 2007, enjoys sharing with others his experience on how to become a successful writer, blogger, and author. View more about William Ballard →