By Apryl Parcher
One of the primary maxims of writing sales copy is: “Know Your Customer.” However, that particular pearl of wisdom sometimes gets ignored in white papers. Why?
We’re Taught to “Talk Sideways”
When I took a speech class in college, one of the tips the instructor gave for handling stage fright was to look over the heads of my audience and avoid direct eye contact. Have you ever heard that one? Or how about visualizing your audience naked?
While these “talking sideways” tactics may have temporarily helped reduce my sweaty palms in public speaking, they didn’t help me connect with my audience. I later learned that this was much more important, both in public speaking and writing persuasive copy. Talking directly to your audience—making that eye contact—is what gets the best audience response.
Here’s a little nugget of wisdom I learned in copywriting that may help you avoid talking sideways and make better connection with your readers:
Visualize one person (your ideal reader) right down to their shoes.
The great marketer, David Ogilvy, once said to a soap manufacturer: “Your customer isn’t a moron—she’s your wife.”
Think about it. Wouldn’t you write differently to a spouse than to a group of faceless people? Of course you would—because you know that single person well enough to be able to picture him or her in your head, and understand where he or she is coming from.
So I like to get enough information about my prospects to visualize what they might look like—age, sex, married, kids, income, lifestyle, hobbies—and conjure a mental picture of them before I start writing.
Clayton Makepeace, who many refer to as the “King of Copywriters,” takes this type of visualization even further with a “dominant emotion” exercise before he writes a single word, as illustrated in this excerpt from his book: Two Hours to More Profitable Sales Copy:
“I leaned back in my chair, closed my eyes and mentally inserted myself into the shoes of a 50- to 70-year-old man (our target demographic) whose life was plagued by chronic health problems–endless doctor visits–taking fistfuls of costly prescription drugs every day–suffering horrific side effects from those drugs–and never getting any better.
I saw myself showing up at the doctor’s office–cooling my heels in the waiting room reading dull magazines for an hour, waiting for my name to be called–ushered into the exam room–and made to wait even longer.
Finally, I saw the doctor hurriedly burst through the door, ask me a cursory question or two, scribble a few chicken scratches on a prescription pad and vanish as quickly as he had come.
I saw myself experiencing what my prospects experience every day, I started feeling the emotions they were feeling: Frustration with health problems their doctors couldn’t seem to cure–afraid of the consequences of failing health–exhausted by doctor visits that interrupted their lives–worried about the cost and side effects of conventional medicine–and disgusted with doctors who never seemed to take a personal interest in them.”
For Better Connection: Go Deeper
Granted, Makepeace is talking about sales copy here, but it translates well to writing white papers too. The deeper you can connect with your reader on an emotional level, the more likely you are to engage him or her in any type of writing.
Give this exercise a try. It may feel a little funny at first, but trust me—getting that deeper connection in your head before you begin a project will help it flow more smoothly from start to finish.
About the Author: Apryl Parcher is Michael A. Stelzner’s apprentice. You can learn more about her at http://www.aparcher.com.