Avoid Copy That Makes You
Look Like an Ass

Jack Ass

Remember the old saying about what happens when we assume? We make an ass out of u and me.

But let’s face it… when you make assumptions about your prospects, it’s only you who looks like an ass. The prospect just goes looking elsewhere.

We all have different motivators in life. Some people want a quiet, comfortable existence so they can feel good about every day. Some want to seize the spark of creativity and reach their ambitions. Others simply seek financial security so they can pay the bills at the end of the month.

These motivators are crucial to the way you write your website content and copy. If you have no idea what stirs your readers, your potential customers and your existing clientele, you’ll never be able to compel them to take action.

There’s a lot of psychology in the mix. And the worst thing you can do is assume the answer.

Your Motivations May Not be Shared

Here’s where people often get stuck. We think everyone wants what we want. We think everyone feels what we feel. We perceive the world through our own filters, making assumptions that everyone else in the world is just like us.

We think that Joe Business really wants success because we want success. Joe might just want to quit worrying about his monthly mortgage payment. We think that Sally Entrepreneur wants more clients because we want more clients. Maybe all Sally wants is to work a little less and make the same income.

Your motivators are not those of your target audience. You may reach for certain ambitions and goals in life, but the people who buy from you may seek something very different – and therein lies the trick of writing website copy that converts.

If you can’t reach people and tap into what they want, you’ll never be able to sell them anything at all.

Walk A Mile In Their Shoes

Your website content has to separate what you want from life from what your target audience desires. Remember that you’re after one thing: sales. Whether you’re convincing someone to buy a product, to hire you or simply to listen to your great concept, you’re selling.

So how do you sell to someone who doesn’t think like you do? Become your target reader. Shed your own motivators, assume nothing, and rid yourself of your personal perceptions. Use method acting and role-playing strategies. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes.

You aren’t yourself anymore – you’re the target audience. These prospective customers might not want the same things you do.

Your reader cares about his own motivations. He’s trying to figure out where your company figures into that equation. Why should he choose your business?

Maybe his business is struggling, and he’s trying to keep it afloat. Maybe he has too much stress and needs ways to make his life more peaceful. Maybe he wants to cut down on his workload or boost his business.

If you know what motivates your buyer, you can sell him what you have. Just don’t make an ass of yourself assuming you already know.

About the Author: James Chartrand leads a merry band of Men with Pens. Grab the feed for more free content today.

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Comments

  1. It always makes sense to understand.

    I like to take surveys, like this one (on social media marketing http://tinyurl.com/8yhneh ) to best understand my audience.

  2. That is donkey! I missed that ass. But you should definitely avoid copy like this. I might have go over this again and think about it for awhile. Or then again and I might go watch Shrek.

  3. I try to do what you’re suggesting every time I write. Since I’m in the overcrowded make money from home niche, but trying to reach the people that are smart enough to know that only a handful of people ever make it big, I need to write articles that are about the simple, easy, fast, REAL cash generating opportunities that exist. I can’t rehash the same ideas that are all over the internet. I try to be different and give my audience what they want-the REAL deal. It’s hard sometimes to get caught up in the hype of making money online, or get rich quick ideas.

  4. Great point, James

    Taking your point one step further, I think understanding the customer by reaching out to them gains some great insights.

    That’s what I like about the internet – instant interaction (which leads to research). The real power of social media is listening to potential customers & building your offer/voice around that research.

  5. Hey James,

    One way I’ve found to really connect with what core desires someone has is have them tell you themselves.

    But not online. In an interview disguised as a call to get a testimonial. When you artfully ask questions which allow someone to open up to you, this is where the rich real life tidbits flow from.

    You get them expressing their feelings about their story of redemption. Everyone likes telling this story and talking about it over the phone is 1,000 times easier than typing the full thing out for some people.

    People like my dad. He can blab and blab and blab. But he can only type about 2 words a minute. So for him the idea of typing a story means pain.

    What also means pain for some people is the fact they believe their writing is horrible if it’s not perfect. Therefore they never even attempt to write.

    People like talking about themselves. When you call them and ask them questions that make them feel good they’ll open up to you.

    Try this out. See if you like it. I’m guessing you will.

    Note Taking Nerd #2
    http://www.mynotetakingnerd.wordpress.com

  6. Helpful tips … Thank YOU for providing such great help and wise words.

    ~Expect Miracles

  7. @ Note – If you know their pain, you can sell them a band-aid. Emotional content works!

    @ Mark – Knowing your customer more than you know your own company gives people *such* valuable insight that it’s almost crazy. You see the trees and the forest at the same time.

    @ Melissa – Giving people what works for what they really want right now is a sure winner for success. We all want to make money online, sure, but how? Why? What are people’s motivators to making that money? We don’t try to make money just because, after all!

    @ Franklin – I prefer Marty, but then he’s a zebra, so what do I know, eh?

    @ Michael – Surveys rock. The trick is to avoid framing questions to get the answers we want to hear, and go after the answers that people really want to give us instead.

  8. Always need to think in the mind of your audience. This way you can better connect with them and write for them, not just to them.

  9. This is good–it’s very easy to think we know exactly what our customers want. Getting too cocky about that is a great way to make expensive business-killing mistakes.

  10. This is SO true! Just for fun, I posted a cartoon ballerina sheep on http://www.surrealshortstories.com

    It got more votes & comments than most of my stories! A humbling experience, but proof of what you wrote. P. :)

  11. James, this is such an annoying post. Not being of the copywriterly genetic pool, now I have to go and re-read everything again. ;-) Might have to sign up for a drive by…

  12. Just to play devil’s advocate, people value authenticity and consistency online. They only way to be authentic and consistent is to be yourself, surely, rather than think into a reader’s head.

    Sure, this means that page/product won’t sell to everyone. Maybe you need a different page/product for the others?

  13. Wow, great post indeed a real eyeopener. I’m actually redesigning my entire website just because of the content. Design wise it looks pretty good but the content just doesn’t work.

    Thank you for this post

  14. James,

    Who the heck wants a quiet, comfortable existence? I thought everyone wanted to seize the spark of creativity while paying the bills?

    Seriously, I think about motivators all the time, but never quite in this way. This post did exactly what a good one should—made me think about something where I was about to say “yeah, yeah” in a really fresh way.

    Have to go ponder this now…

    Regards,

    Kelly

  15. @ Craig – Talking to someone is never as good as a great conversation between two people. Even worse is talking AT someone.

    @ Sonia – I think too many people have a vested interest and get too close to their company to be able to think straight about it. Those who can truly separate themselves tend to have better success.

    @ Paul – I have this urge to pit my donkey against your sheep and sell tickets to the brawl.

    @ Lisa – I’m sorry. Consider it a measure of my confidence in your ability that I know you’ll do just fine.

    @ Kelly – Nyah, nyah! Made ya think!

  16. :)

    Always.

  17. Sure, you have to understand your visitors/customers. Otherwise you will not be able to provide value for them.

  18. “We think everyone wants what we want. We think everyone feels what we feel.”

    Especially when we take the time to start a blog on a topic we’re very passionate about :)

  19. I’ve had this happen several times to me – some (usually a youngish salesperson) asking me incredulously why I don’t want to “make more money” or something similar.

    The answer is, I often don’t. There are many, many things I don’t want to do to make money, and you should not take offense if one of them isn’t what you are offering.

    There are lots of reasons for this: sometimes it’s moral (I wouldn’t hurt someone innocent just to make a buck), sometimes it’s business knowledge (I may not know enough about whatever it is to get into it. Warren Buffet totally avoided the .com era, for example), sometimes it’s opportunity (I might make $50 off your deal, but then I didn’t have the time to make $100 off something else) but often it’s about focus – I do what I’m good at, and I’m good at what I do.

    As for the devils advocate position of only talking in your own voice, that’s only good if you only plan to sell to yourself. Good salespeople try to make the customer happy, not themselves. This means you need to understand what makes the customer happy – not just you.

    Great post, BTW.

  20. Franklin Bishop, you are right. That reminds me of Shrek more than an ass, :) but seriously, this is a very well written piece. Thanks for sharing, James.

  21. I think the financial security of paying each months’ bills is a good life marketing strategy, but how dull if that is all you can achieve! Help others to achieve their goals in Life! Build a business. Write a book. Travel. Comment on blogs. Read. Invent something useless. After the bills are paid, it’s oh so good to have a little energy left to make the world a brighter place! That’s assuming you want it to be different… :)

  22. Doesn’t this say that you always need to understand how your customers think.

  23. Putting well written copy on your website def. takes a certain science. If you know you cannot write well it is important to find someone that can.

  24. Great post! Very interesting.

  25. James- My head was nodding like a silly drinking bird reading this post! AMEN – AMEN-AMEN!!!!

    I learned this lesson as I do all lessons – the HARD WAY! It was long ago and I was working as an Account Executive with an ad agency. I began working with a client whose new business was BURSTING with potential. We began an aggressive advertising campaign and in my mind achieved oustanding results. Then, about 18 months into our relationship (right after Christmas) they called a meeting and announced they were closing their doors. Seems all they wanted was to be able to pay their bills and live comfortably. I gave them double digit growth which it turned out was a lot more WORK than either of the partners wanted to engage in.

    That was the first time I got slapped in the face with projecting my “assumptions” on others!

  26. That was good one.. Atleast some of them will read this and think on what the hell they are upto. They never think before converting the thought into action. And its true they really make fool out of themselves..

  27. Great point, and one that’s often ignored. Knowing your customer’s desires is the first step to making a sale. A lot of the copywriters of the world target one set of emotions, where a fuller approach is to go after different cases – I know most sales in the marketing side happen due to overwhelmed managers.

  28. What motivates you? What makes you Look?
    Does a Remarkable Business Presentation make you look, trust, comfortable, create confidence in a product…?
    There is a well-proven time tested way to find out Exactly what your prospect wants everytime. Ask Them! Listen to them! Solve their problems! Sell them benefits not features!Be honest with them! Great selling is not mind reading.
    And for Gods sake, ask them for their business, (close the
    sale)…
    My favorite subject is me, not you and your business, all I want to know is, what you can do for me.
    If a prospect starts to look confused it’s because you’re making them think. thanks, Bob Lewis