Even though (with any luck) you’re marketing to lots and lots of people, no one wants to be a faceless speck in a crowd.
Maybe it’s a result of the industrial age. Yes, we like to be in tribes, but tribes are small, intimate things. A tribe might be 8 people or 80, but it’s not 80,000. The greater the scale we have to deal with in our jobs, our commutes, our grocery stores, or even our churches, the more we look for one-to-one relationships.
We’re born alone. (Even twins can’t manage that one side-by-side.) And we all secretly think we have problems that no one else has. We want someone who really gets us. Someone who speaks to us, and just to us. Someone who listens to our problems and fears, and then makes those go away.
Know Who You’re Talking To
Marketing 101 tells you to know your market. Too many marketers confuse that with demographics. “My customers are married women 26-40 with one or two children, who subscribe to Redbook and Parenting, and carry a MasterCard.”
Demographics are collections of traits. They come in real handy if you’re buying a mailing list or deciding where to advertise, but demographics aren’t people. They’re just a collection of patterns.
If you have something to sell to that demographic, you need to be thinking about Cynthia (who hates to be called Cindy), who’s 33 and a little bored at work, has a four-year-old named Ben and a six-year-old named Ruby, reads Parenting even though it makes her feel guilty and her mom got her a subscription to Redbook but all she reads are the dessert recipes and articles about dieting, and yes she knows that makes no sense but she does it anyway, and yeah she has a MasterCard, because she got mad at the bank that issued her Visa so she cut it up.
Talk to One Person
Whether you’re writing a blog or an email newsletter or a set of postcards or a yellow pages ad, you need to be thinking about Cynthia.
What can you help her out with? Why is your stuff the perfect match for her problems? Does your gym offer really great childcare, so she doesn’t feel like a rat for parking her kids there for an hour? Does your product respect the fact that she’s pulled in 20 directions as a working mother, and help clarify her choices so she can focus on what she needs to do? Does your carpet-cleaning service use nontoxic solvents, so she can quit worrying about poisoning her kids and the dog just so her mother-in-law will quit making that face when she comes over?
What’s not working for Cynthia right now? How can you make that work better?
To get started on that conversation, I found a nice resource on a copywriters’ forum [note: this has moved a few times, here’s the latest link that I’ve found] called the 60-minute naked truth sales letter, created by Dean Jackson and popularized by Michel Fortin. Even if you never intend to use any kind of sales letter, the things you’ll discover with this exercise will help you find the right messages for Cynthia. You’ll get a good, high-level grasp on what you really need to let her know about.
How Do You Find Cynthia?
You’ll be able to find Cynthia by paying attention.
First, make sure Cynthia loves your stuff. She’s your perfect customer. She’ll buy anything and everything you have, because your solutions line up exactly with her problems.
If you realized you’ve imagined a Cynthia who’s just not that into you, start from scratch. Your Cynthia needs to be the person who loves what you do and how you do it, can afford your products and services, and is someone you can figure out how to reach. (In other words, you could buy a mailing list of Cynthias, or you can find a joint venture partner who’s got an email list of Cynthias.)
Talk to the customers you have, especially the ones who love you. (You also want to pay close attention to the ones who hate you, but that’s another exercise.) What’s going on with them? What’s freaking them out right now? How do they feel about the economic situation? What’s going on in their personal relationships? Is this election a big deal for them? Do they think it’s going to change things, and if so, is that good or bad, from their point of view?
If you’ve got a bricks and mortar operation, spend a lot of time on the floor hanging out with customers. Watch them. Listen to them talk to one another. Ask them questions.
If you’re online, go to forums where your customers hang out, and listen to what they gripe about. Set up Google alerts about the kinds of problems you solve. Send out surveys, to both existing customers and potential customers.
Make it very easy to give you feedback, and pay close attention. Look for patterns. Try to figure out the underlying problems and worries that are beneath people’s words.
Speak Her Language
One great thing about all this paying attention is that it lets you discover the language of your customers. Maybe they talk like Katharine Hepburn, and maybe they talk like Roseanne Barr. You’ve got to listen before you can find that out.
Use the phrases, metaphors and examples that your customers use. Describe their problems the way they do. When they give you testimonials, don’t clean up little grammar errors or odd turns of phrase. Keep as much of the original language as you can. A little imperfection shows that it’s real.
Obviously, to make this work, you have to get to a point where that language is natural to you. Parody makes for lousy advertising. If you’re Roseanne and your customer is Katharine, find someone who’s more like your customer to read through your stuff and help with the tone. You can’t make a real connection in a language that’s utterly foreign to you.
One giant advantage you have over Coca-Cola or Johnson & Johnson is that you can create a true sense of personal connection with your customers. Not every customer wants that, but you can find the ones who do.
The worst mistake small-business marketers make is thinking their market is anyone with a pulse. Find your Cynthia, and just write for her. (Even the non-Cynthias will respond to this, because your tone will be personal and genuinely friendly.) Have a cup of coffee with Cynthia when you sit down to write a blog post or an email newsletter article. Let her know what you can help her with today.
When you spend your time thinking about what else you could be doing to make Cynthia’s life better, you’ll start to see some very exciting things happen in your marketing.
So who’s your Cynthia? Let us know in the comments . . .
The Relationship Marketing Series
- #1: Create a Human Connection
- #2: Don’t Be a Bad Boyfriend
- #3: Come Out of the Closet
- #4: Show Up
- #5: Pay Attention
- #6: Connect With One Person
If you found this post useful, subscribe to my free email class on creating better content!
Flickr Creative Commons image by geeknerd99
My Cynthia is actually Althea – despite that name, she’s in her early 30s, no kids, professional in NYC. She’s super-knowledgeable about yarn, into knitting podcasts, active in online knitting forums. She’s very comfortable navigating the online world and does a lot of her shopping online. She thinks of herself as part of the handmade movement and thus buys all of her yarn from small indies (like me) or at local yarn shops (instead of the Big Box craft stores). She’s proud of this, so she shows off her purchases on her blog. She’s concerned about blind consumerism – the more she knows about a product, the better she feels (and the more likely she is to purchase) Her language? More Meg Ryan chatty (but no cursing, at least, online!)
I was half way through reading this when the Account Director on a lux. resort client we have popped into my office. He asked me what questions the client should include in a survey they plan to send to their newly cleaned customer data base. I will send him your post.
Happy birthday, Remarkable! You rock. Thanks for keeping me informed and giving me the occasional genuine chuckle while I try to weave every strand of your brilliance into my web based business.
Sonia Simone says
Tara, that is very cool, I think I would like Althea a lot.
Thanks Suzanne! You have your own brilliance, you’ve just got to keep walking along your path and it will make itself apparent. Nice to have you here.
Christie @ fig&cherry says
Very interesting your comments about who your customers / readers really are. It’s easy to get wrapped up in who you want them to be and how you want your product to look / sound, without investigating it thoroughly.
Seamus Anthony says
Great post. You’re definitely better off ‘speaking’ to people who you actually naturally do speak the same sub-cultural language as. Don’t wanna be like Dad trying to be cool with the teenagers! Never works!
J.D. Meier says
Great reminder. I find myself torn between the various individuals I write for that have a different lingos, frames of reference, and lots in life. At the end of the day, I want to write for the underdog to help them get more out of life. But you’re right, it starts by connecting with one person.
J.D. Meiers last blog post..Social Loafing
János T-E says
I hope your persona is not named Cynthia because I felt like you were talking to me. 🙂
Excellent post in a great series!
Sonia Simone says
Thanks Janos! I suppose I must never divulge my Cynthia’s name, for fear of wrecking the mystery! 🙂
And of course I was talking to you!
What about companies that offer services and products to a large range of people? For example, Coca Cola, Vodafone or Microsoft. Do they have only one Cynthia ?
Rob Christeson says
It looks like the 60-minute sales letter has moved to: http://www.michelfortin.com/dean-jacksons-60minute-naked-truth-salesletter-formula/
.-= Rob Christeson´s last blog ..100 Posts in 113 days =-.
Sonia Simone says
Thanks much Rob! I updated the link here.
Sonia Simone says
@Dimitris, branding for a company like Coca-Cola is a really different exercise than branding for a small or mid-sized company. It’s a more difficult and complex task, but then again, they also have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on advertising.
Michelle Reynolds says
Thanks Sonia, this is a great post. I just focused on women, say 25 – 45, with children. Now I’m thinking of a great customer in Toronto, who is interested in natural health, concerned about the ingredients in the products used on herself and her children, is trying to live a greener life and wants to support local, independently owned businesses.
Derrick Smith says
Fantastic post. I’ve been struggling with how I might better reach my audience. I have a ‘Cynthia,’ and I’ve been ignoring her/him writing to a broader audience.
Dave Doolin says
Coming in from Remarkable #12.
“Marketing 101 tells you to know your market. Too many marketers confuse that with demographics.”
I’d like to find a Cynthia. Currently, my small pool of customers ranges in age from 19 to 69.
Not sure what they have in common except liking my stuff. As long as they keep liking it, I’ll keep doing making it.
And keep looking for Cynthia.
.-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Basic Blogging Business: Do you know what you don’t know? =-.
Sonia, what a great article! I’ve found out my Cynthias, and I found out I am “your” Cynthia as well! eheh!! Thanks for the insight! 🙂
Sonia – Great article. The whole series was great. I wanted to wait until I read them all to comment.
As I start down the road of blogging I was torn between writing things no one would care about (because I am so unique and special) and wasting people’s time writing something that has already said before.
I decided to start by outlining my personal history and to tell it to myself. I am special, unique and self-absorbed and tuned into my own non-stop mental radio; so why wouldn’t I want to hear from myself. Plus as an added bonus my BS detector could be on high alert. I have done this primarily in notebooks and have just started getting it online.
All kidding aside, what I have learned almost immediately is that by writing about things that seemed personal to me – I instantly found liked minded people. I try to stay very conscious of your points in the PAY ATTENTION article, so that I am not writing ABOUT me but to me as if I was someone else.
To answer your question; My Cynthia is me; a forty year old, married, very lucky father of two girls, creative type who has made a successful living in a white collar world, while still hanging onto my long hair and most of my ideals. I work like crazy on side projects, such as video editing and music projects to keep my passions alive. I can often be found hiking or getting lost on long motorcycle trips. More importantly I am at point in my life where I am ready to get out on my own and pursue my creative interests full-time.
As I learn more about blogging I intend to promote the blog more and eventually, I hope to find a way to monetize what I am doing; but only when it feels right.
I have to run – I purchased the “Question the rules” program and have to go listen to your interview. 🙂
Thank you for all of your great information!
.-= Joe´s last blog ..Unsubscribe =-.
Andrew Greenberg says
As always greet stuff here. I have spent sometime dealing with defining the “perfect customer” my problem is I have two distinctly different perfect customers. How can I please both via a blog?
Marcy Gerena says
You really got me thinking. Thank you.
Would being aware of the competition be one of the reasons to “pay close attention to the ones who hate you..”?
Alexander Norman John (Funny Name, Serious Marketer) says
Very Outstanding Post My Friend!
A Bellyful Of Knowledge You Have My Friend! (I Just Ate Orange Chicken And I Really Do Have A Bellyful Of Something)
Thanks For Filling My Mind Up While I Filled My Belly Up,
“The Eat & Read Blog”
I’m new here and realize this is an old post, but my first time reading,
any chance of getting ( 60-minute naked truth sales letter) this link is
no longer found on the Michael Fortin site.
sonia simone says
Hi Allan! I did find another version of that one — it’s here:
Reading this in 2020. In the middle of a pandemic. And all I can say is, this is still relevant. Amazing, Sonia!