One of the first questions I ask, both myself and clients, is “Who is this for”. The answer is rarely one customer and often reveals a lot about the whole marketing direction and can let me know key copy errors before I even look at a single asset. The worst answer that comes back is “Everyone” closely followed by “Everyone who wants/needs (x)”. Here’s why that answer is so bad, and how to arrive at a much better answer.
When you are for “everyone” you are really for…
It’s understandable that people want to help everyone, or at least everyone who does the thing they want to teach, or needs and wants your type of product. But no company does this.
Apple doesn’t make smartphones for everyone, they make smartphones for people who want a device that is simple and easy to use, unlike more complex Android phones which are great for people who want to tinker and customize everything.
The reality is that if you try to be for everyone, you end up being for no-one.
There are some exceptions to this rule, you can make different offerings, lines and products to meet different market segments but even in a situation like this, you still need to hone each product for a specific person and there should be some overall connection between these elements.
But I don’t want to turn customers away
People often assume that by targeting one specific person they will drive away everyone else. But the reverse is true. When you target one specific person, you can effectively communicate what they want to hear and present them with an irresistible offering. But that clear communication and specificity will also reach out to people who don’t exactly match the person you are targeting.
That can then lead to a positive reputation which extends even further than your specific target and people who don’t match your profile at all can get drawn in (though this can be a downside if they start placing demands and trying to force you to change to their will and not your target).
Every potential customer or client wants to know “is this for ME” when they first encounter you. When you target a specific person you help answer that question (even if you answer it with a “no”) but when you target everyone you can’t help them resolve that question.
Not all target people are equal
Unfortunately, some dream clients are just that, dreams. There is such thing as being too niche and focusing on such a small interest group that you exclude too many people. This, however, is almost certainly not going to be your issue. Most people’s natural inclination is to target too broadly at first rather than being too focused.
The other risk is that the market simply doesn’t exist or isn’t viable. For example, Paul Jarvis talked about how he tried to make a complex software program to help musicians organize their gear. Something that musicians said was useful, but no one wanted to pay for as they were all struggling and investing the money they did have on instruments, touring and other merch.
How to identify your one person
When people start to think of a one person they usually start with some vague data which doesn’t describe a person like “female 25-35, college educated, annual income between…” and so on.
I don’t know about you but I don’t know anyone who has an age which crosses multiple years let alone 10.
This is because they derive their data from marketing data such as website analytics and surveys and customer profiles. All of that data is extremely vital and should inform the one person you target, but it isn’t a person and by trying to write for a person who fits within a range of statistics, you end up writing not for one person but in broad sweeping terms.
So make sure you give specific answers. Give them a name and single numbers, not ranges.
Good copy uses summaries, great copy uses exact data.
Demographic data is good but….
Demographic data is things like age, nationality, and so on. It’s useful for working out things like how financially viable an audience is and what sort of language and slang you should be using but there is a set of data that is far more useful for copywriting and marketing materials.
This is data about their mindsets, drives, desires and the stories they tell themselves.
Demographic data can have a role here but it isn’t always connected.
Demographically different individuals can be very connected psychographically and demographical identical individuals can be completely disconnected psychographically and in the way they talk.
Using the smartphone example from before, two iPhone owners, one 25-year-old male, and one 43-year-old woman) may have more in common regarding how they choose to buy a product than two 25-year-old males.
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