How well do you know your prospects?

You may have heard that you need to create a "customer avatar" -- a concrete mental image of an ideal target customer -- someone you can imagine you're talking to as you create sales copy. Today, let's try a mental experiment to help you dive deeper into the concept.

Visualize your home 2 or 3 times bigger than it really is. See yourself in the living room. Imagine the vast empty space in the middle of the room. Now walk the long walk to the kitchen. See how spacious it is. Climb the stairs (if you don't have stairs, imagine you do). They take you so high, you feel like you're among the birds and clouds. Look at the furniture. Instead of sitting down on a chair, climb up onto it.

Have you taken a moment to visualize all that? If not, do it now before continuing.

Done? Good.

Now imagine your home its natural size again, but imagine yourself as a small child. If you didn't realize it already, the purpose of the previous exercise was to show you what your home looks like to a child.

Are you able to see the world the way your business' prospects do? How deep into their experience have you looked? How carefully have you considered the implications of their world view?

Let's dig a little deeper into our exercise.

  • Can you understand why children run in the house? It's a long way across the room, and daylight's wasting. No time to walk.
  • Can you understand why children bounce balls in your little kitchen? It looks plenty spacious to them.
  • Can you understand why children whine about running upstairs to grab something? It's like climbing a mountain to them.

It's easy to get a surface level picture of your prospects. But if you want to be able to touch their souls with your sales copy, you've got to dig deeper.

You've got to feel in your bones what it means to be them -- why they do what they do and don't do what they don't do, why they think what they think and don't think what they don't think, what and why they believe and don't believe, what your product looks like to them and what they fail to see in it.

Then you've got to figure out how someone like you could reach them -- how to share knowledge that's foreign to them in a way they can understand and fully appreciate -- how to convince them to believe what your saying -- etc.

Don't just look at your customer from your product's point of view. Look at your product from your customer's point of view.

To do that, you can't limit yourself to thinking about how your customers relate to your product. You've got to see the bigger picture of their lives -- what they think and worry about -- and figure out how to connect your product to what's already going through their minds.

It does little good for you to understand how much your product could help them. They have to understand it. If your product solves an underlying problem that they aren't aware of or rarely think about, how will you come up with a hook that they'll even notice?

What problems keep them awake at night? Hook them with those, and show how your product solves the problem that causes the problem that they're thinking about.

Let's say you've got a cushy office job for people who are stuck doing physical labor. Your prospect is Sisyphus, pushing a rock up a hill every day, only to see it roll back down.

He's looking for muscle building vitamin supplements to make his work easier, an escalator to carry the rock up the hill for him, or a chain that'll hold the rock at the top of the hill for a while.

If your ad just says "cushy office job", it's not worth a second glance. He's got a rock that's not where it's supposed to be, and your product isn't going to get it there.

You've got to tell him you've got a solution for tired rock pushers -- a new law has made all rock pushers eligible for transfers to cushy office jobs, and this one is just right for people like him. Now you've connected your product to his world view.

Remember, your prospects are not you. If they were, they'd have created your product, and wouldn't need to buy it from you. They may be similar to you in many ways. But to reach them most effectively, you need to understand the differences. Some of those differences may require an adjustment to your marketing message.

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