A well-known copywriter once told the story of a lesson he learned as a young rookie.
This was a while ago, back in the days of direct mail marketing, where you didn’t have Google ads and Facebook targeting to pinpoint exact demographics — all you had were lists of people with a general interest. So you didn’t always have the luxury of knowing exactly who your prospect was — only one thing they were interested in.
Anyway, this copywriter had always been a smart dude. He’d gotten good marks at uni, could write well, and had a decent grasp of the idea of selling.
Problem was, he was a bit too cocky for his own good.
Now at the time, he had this mentor he worked under, an old grizzled veteran.
And his mentor knew he had talent … but didn’t like his attitude.
So one day, out of the blue, his mentor says to him:
“Come with me … I’m going to teach you something about knowing your market.”
Now, the rookie might have been cocky, but he wasn’t dumb, so off he went.
They got in the car and drove to … a shopping mall.
And they went in, and sat down. On a bench. Right in the middle of the crowds doing their shopping.
“We’re talking here?” asked the rookie, sounding a bit surprised.
“Just shut up for a moment and watch,” said his mentor.
And so they did:
They just sat there in silence, and … watched.
Five minutes passed.
And still, they just … sat.
After a while, the rookie copywriter couldn’t take it anymore.
He turned to his mentor and said: “Come on, this is a joke. You said you were going to give me a lesson, but all we’ve done is stare at a bunch of random idiots buying clothes and eating doughnuts. What are we even here for?”
His mentor shook his head. “You don’t get it, do ya, dummy?” he asked. “Look at the people who’ve been walking past you for the past 15 minutes. These ‘idiots’ ARE your market. Do you know what it’s like to actually be one of them? Because as long as you think you’re better than them, you’ll NEVER be able to sell ’em. That’s the one thing you’re missing: empathy!”
And so it is.
David Ogilvy famously put it thus: “The customer is not a moron … she’s your wife.”
Fall into the trap of thinking you’re superior to your market, and you can’t truly connect with them in your copy — or sell them.
People know when you’re talking down to them.
And this is especially dangerous if you’re ‘smart’, since this attitude gets drummed into you your whole life. You go to uni, you make friends with educated people, you consider yourself an ‘intellectual’ … and it’s something you have to work extra hard to overcome when you write copy.
Anyway, all this is particularly relevant for me, as I actually spent several hours today doing market research for an email funnel I am writing for a client next week.
The audience is a group I am not part of in any way (demographically, psychographically … or pictographically?) so research is critical to doing it right.
But, not only did my research reveal some surprising insights that helped me empathise with the market … I also got some sweet ideas for my email funnel.
In fact, I ended up interrupting my research to bang out my first sales email quickly while the inspiration was still fresh …
Such is the power of good market research when you are doing your copy.
And it just so happens I am working on condensing my exact process for how I do it into a manual which I will be launching in the near-ish future.
Pre-orders are sold out already, but if you want a discount when it launches, you can put your email address here:
Up to you whether you do, but there’s no downside the way I see it …
P.S. I wasn’t going to include the research technique I used today in my product, because I felt like it was almost too ‘obvious’ for most copywriters (and I rarely use it), but since it worked so well I am thinking I might as well include what I did, as well as the email I ended up writing.
So if you pre-ordered, you will be seeing more details on this in a few weeks.