The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Really Know Your Prospect

It’s great seeing you back here.

As I mentioned in our first visit together, this week I’m giving you a few of the many top writing strategies I’ve shared with Circle of Success members in their exclusive COS Blog.

The past two days we’ve been talking about the make-or-break importance of developing empathy with your prospect – the person you’re writing to. Yesterday you learned the first two steps in developing empathy – using demographics and psychographics.

Today we’re looking at the most essential step … the step that ensures you’ll develop true empathy with your prospect … the step that connects on a deep, personal level.

Do this with the person on the other side of your writing and you’ll be a success. Wildly so.

The final step I’m urging you to take is one many freelancers and copywriters avoid. Why? Because it means stepping out of your comfort zone … at least stepping away from your keyboard.

It requires that you actually go out and talk to your prospect. And it demands that above all else you listen to him or her.

Easy ways to “talk” to your prospect

An easy and effective way to “talk” to prospects is by joining online forums and discussion groups.

For example, Yahoo has excellent discussion groups called Message Boards. These cover many topics including Business & Finance, Health & Wellness, Family & Home, Recreation & Sports (and many others).

Go into discussion groups to learn … not to sell. If you “listen” carefully to what people write, you can hear your prospect’s deep emotions. Here’s a quote from a Health & Wellness post about joint pain:

“I suffer from severe joint pain constantly. I currently manage it – but barely – with over-the-counter ibuprofen. But I’d like to find a more natural alternative. Please help … I’m at my wit’s end.”

Do you hear the frustration? Do you sense her deep need for relief?

You can also find discussion groups on any subject by Googling your subject and the phrase “discussion group.”

The harder way, more effective way: Talking to your prospect personally

Many times I’ve had COS members ask me where they can find prospects to interview so they can “get to know them.”

I tell them that’s the wrong idea.

You already know your prospects. They’re people you live near. People you associate with. You see them at the gym or coffee shop. They’re your friends and family.

Here’s the hard part: Open up to them. Find times to be pleasantly social. Ask them for their ideas about subjects relating to what you’re writing.

Listen. Truly listen. My friend Buck provides a clear example of how important it is to listen carefully.

Buck’s a very conservative man who’s worked his way up in the railroad from driving spikes to being in charge of an area the size of Connecticut. He’s a hunter and confirmed Republican.

Based on that knowledge, I might assume many things about Buck. But I’d be wrong. He’s passionate about hunting … but he’s also against open carry laws. (He feels it’s dangerous to children.)

He’s fiscally very conservative. But he’s in favor of our town raising water rates to repair sewer and water lines. Why? “It’s gotta be done, and we’ll just have to pay for it.”

Buck’s pretty quiet and doesn’t reveal this side readily. But, if you were to make the effort to listen, you’d learn a lot about this man and how he feels on many subjects.

Buck’s one of my “prospects.” I think about him when I write about something I know could affect him, his family, his community, or his country.

Find your own “Buck.” Find many of them. Learn who they are and what motivates them … and what frustrates and worries them. Take the time to get to know them, like them, and empathize with them.

Then, when you write your sales letter, or your fundraising appeal, your website, or whatever, write to them. Write to your Buck. Your writing will have more passion and more power, because you truly care for your prospect.

He’s your friend. Or, she’s your aunt.

And, they’re your pathway to writing success.

By the way, one thing I love about writing the COS Blog is getting feedback from COS members. It lets me know how I’m doing. It also gives me the opportunity to answer questions the members may have.

I’m inviting you to do the same thing here in The Writer’s Life. Please leave your comments and questions here. I’d love to hear from you.

Tomorrow, I’m going to shift gears a bit. I’m going to reveal two core secrets to success in any career, but they’re crucial in writing.

Until then …

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: July 29, 2015

9 Responses to “The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Really Know Your Prospect”

  1. Thank you Mr. Newman for your writing tips on how to connect with prospects. I couldn't agree more that by envisioning you are writing to someone you care about clearly shows through in your writing. Now if I can only substation this compassionate tone throughout while writing my book, hopefully, it will connect with many different types of people. Good luck to us all.

    Michael CJuly 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm

  2. Thank you, Mr. Newman, for all your wise words. When I see an article with your name attached to it, I know I won't be disappointed - and will gain valuable insights to boot.

    Teri Weber - Enchanted CopyJuly 29, 2015 at 4:44 pm

  3. That in the beginning WAS 'The Word', "so shall MY word be that goes forth MY mouth" insofar as never to "return to me void." Let us prosper within us... that for which it was sent. Where written reciprocity is our best listening device. Kind of a whole thermodynamic wrap threetween: scripture, relativity, and information theory. Lest our contacts depart from thine eyes -- indeed ever unkempt -- and skewed from the midst of thine heart. From Proverbs our verbs, duly probed. For better returns.

    Guest (Chris Morris)July 29, 2015 at 5:00 pm

  4. Hi Will, I have an idea for a show on a cable channel that I've been developing for some time now. So, I'll be writing a proposal and sending it to the VP of Programming. I intend using what I've learned from AWAI to create the proposal, but wondering if copywriting is an appropriate "sales mechanism" to use. It's basically a sales letter to one individual, the Programming VP. Any thoughts on this? Or, can you point me to something that might help with writing a programming proposal? Thanks.

    Bob MaucherJuly 29, 2015 at 5:43 pm

  5. I have been writing for years, but am new to copywriting. I read everything I receive and try to take good notes, but in spite of that i am still trying to understand exactly where and how I get clients. Perhaps I'm dense, or maybe I missed that part? Forgive an old woman for asking an obvious question but I really would like to get started!

    cowgirldonna48July 29, 2015 at 10:53 pm

  6. Hi Will, I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comment and for your suggestion on the book. As a COS member, I have access to it through AWAI. I'm excited to read it! Thanks very much for your help.

    Bob MaucherJuly 30, 2015 at 3:20 pm

  7. Hi Will:

    I will print and save this for future reference. Any tip on finding relevant discussion groups is helpful.

    Thanks again.

    John BatsonAugust 1, 2015 at 10:11 pm


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