How to Break Free of the 'Fear and Greed' Trap

Will Newman

Fear and greed …

Yesterday, we debunked the myth that fear and greed are the only emotions you need to target to be a successful copywriter. (And here is Monday’s article about the Rule of One.)

But I left you hanging yesterday … after reminding you that we humans are complex individuals motivated by many different emotions. The question for you as someone seeking the writer's life is how do you find which emotions to target?

You do that by getting to know the most important person for successful copywriting. That person is your prospect.

Just as a reminder, your prospect is the person you want to buy your product … or subscribe to your newsletter … or act in a certain way.

Getting to know that person is extremely important. That's why it’s the very first session in the Circle of Success Headlines Targeted Learning Program. (For more details on the COS Targeted Learning Programs, go here.)

The starting point for getting to know that person is …

The Shadow Image: Demographics …

Beginning copywriters often think clients expect them to “know it all” when they first get an assignment. Because of that, beginners are afraid to ask clients questions.

This isn’t the case at all. The client wants you to know as much as possible about the prospect and the product so you can write effective copy. They’ll gladly answer questions like, “Who’s your best customer? The one who buys time and time again?”

The client will start with two types of data about their best customers: demographics and psychographics.

Demographics reveal basic data about best prospects like gender, age range, income, and education. Demographics include whether most of your prospects own or rent their homes. And if they’re married or single, have any kids or grandkids. That sort of thing.

While vital to the 3-D image of the prospect, demographics don’t provide a very rich picture. It’s the starting place. When you combine demographics with your knowledge of the product, you get your first inkling of this real person you’re writing to.

Understanding your prospect’s inner life …

You’re more than the sum of your age, income, education, and marital status. You’re a complex person with complex needs. To know you deeper, I must delve into that complexity. Same with your prospect.

The books and magazines your prospect reads say a lot about her. So do her hobbies and recreations. As does the political party she belongs to. (Your client can give you much of this information from what's called the data card.)

This type of information shows your prospect in a richer, fuller light. We’re starting to get a feeling for her inner life. We’re learning a little bit about her belief system. With enough probing, we’re even getting a sense of her hopes, desires, and aspirations.

All of this data is your prospect’s psychographics.

Let’s see how this might work for a joint product.

You’ve projected your prospect is an older grandmother. The data card indicates prospects like her are likely subscribers to Modern Knitting. You’re starting to get a better sense of why relieving aching joints is important to her beyond the pain.

Sore, stiff hands make knitting for grandchildren almost impossible. Insight into her life. Another way to understand her. And more important, your first personal sense of how she feels about the loss sore joints cause.

You’re starting to feel her pain personally, to develop all-important empathy.

You're getting close. And this is where many copywriters stop … with demographics and psychographics.

But there's a really easy way to dig even deeper. And we'll talk about that tomorrow when you learn how to delve into the real person behind the 3-D image.

Until then, I'd love to hear your ideas and thoughts about this article. Comment below to let us know.

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Published: May 18, 2016

11 Responses to “How to Break Free of the 'Fear and Greed' Trap”

  1. Thank you for the great article, Will! My word for today--and possibly for the week ... and rest of the month--is psychographics! Writing copy that appeals to our audience's hopes, dreams and inner desires is a paradigm shift for many of us. But now that I know the term for the technique I'm learning, I can search for helpful articles and books on the subject! Thanks again.

    Cara Flett

  2. Awesome information! Can't wait for tomorrow's article!

    Keepwriting 23

  3. Hello Mr. Newman,

    Thank you for this article. It is very timely because I've started to go through the Accelerated Program for 6-Figure Copywriting again (rededicate myself), to gain better understanding. I just finished reading one of your articles in Part 2 on this very same topic. I guess I must be on the right path.
    Thank you again and I must say it is a pleasure to read your writing. I always learn something.

    Marcellus Greene

  4. A very fine "tease in" for the 3-D reveal and steps for understanding a " prospects life ". My initial vague guess was the standard "your self" as the M.I.P to know. Today you had me at 'psychographics!" 3-D?? Robert De Niro's character 'Paul Vitti' in "Analyze This" would say.." You YOU, are Gooood!"

    [Thank you.]

    Lil Acorn

  5. Great article, Will. When I worked for the Argus group in Cape Town their marketing branch had a system that let me hone in on specific demographics around the country. Then they branched out and included psychographics, which made wonderful tools for creating client specific presentations. I enjoyed working with them so much! Can't wait to read tomorrow's article on finding the real person behind the 3-D image!


  6. Thanks Will:)

    That was for a persona about whom you already have data and who has bought your product earlier. How about when you want to sell an entirely new product? Do you then create a probable persona?

    [FROM WILL: This isn't really difficult. If this is a product that's new to the company but exists in other realms, you develop your 3-D persona from information you can gain from those situations. If it's a brand-new product in all realms, let's say some wonderful new tech gizmo, then what you do is find people you feel are the best prospects for this product. And then you do what I outline in the article for tomorrow, May 19, 2016.]


  7. "The real person behind the 3-D imagine"...fascinating. You make some good points here. Anyone who reads it will understand much more about direct-response marketing. Not sure I have it all figured out yet. Things have begun to make more sense, however. "Psychographics" definitely illuminates some things. I'm sure you will reveal the big picture in due time so that readers can understand exactly how to avoid the kind of pitfalls young, amateur copywriters can make.

    [FROM WILL: Over time, I'll be touching on the subject in TWL. You should also be looking at The Golden Thread.]


  8. Will. I'm not really worried about breaking out of the "fear & greed" trap. I'm more concerned with breaking out of the "feast or famine" (mostly famine) trap that you often find yourself in as a freelance copywriter, continuously looking for work when there isn't any to be found.

    To date, nobody at AWAI's been able to tell me how to break out of that "feast or famine" trap. Or at least they're unwilling to, unless I pay them a large amount of money first.

    Rob Lindsay

  9. I must be dense.... I have gathered REAMS of data on demos and psychos on my target audience with regard to my product (Millennials and Dog treats.). And i know tons of whatvthey want and expect regarding their fur-babies, their dog children. And their desire for work life balance and the need to feel like they have a worthwhile life.
    But I still don’t know which emotion that translates to for motivating them to my product. Yes. They want the best for their ‘baby.’ But is paternal love the only emotion? And is paternal love, the need to protect/show love the RIGHT emotion??


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