Get to Know the One Person Who Can Make Your Writing a Success …

Will Newman

I almost scuttled my copywriting career when John Forde critiqued some of my early copy.

Yesterday, I told you how his assessment left me feeling gut-kicked. But he showed me how to improve as a copywriter with three words.

“Know your prospect.”

(If you missed yesterday's article, please click here.)

You must get to know your prospect as a real, living, breathing individual. Not as some vague collection of data. Not as a compilation of qualities. But as someone who’s your friend.

If you don’t really know the person you’re writing to, how can you know what emotional hot buttons to hit? How can you truly know what benefits she’s looking for?

A challenging but enjoyable aspect of developing this 3-D image of your prospect is harnessing your imagination to develop the image. Your starting point …

Your prospect’s “bones”: Demographics

About a week ago, we talked about how beginning copywriters think a client expects them to “know it all” when they first get an assignment. Because of that, beginners are reluctant to ask the client any questions. (Click here for a refresher.)

But this isn’t the case. The client wants you to know as much as possible about the prospect and the product. After asking a few general questions, hone in on specifics about your prospects. Ask for the ideal prospect’s demographics.

Demographics are things like gender, age range, income, education. They also include whether most of your prospect universe owns or rents their homes. If they’re married or single. Have kids or grandkids. That sort of thing.

Demographics are the “bones” of your 3-D prospect image. When you combine them with your knowledge of the product, you get your first inkling of this real person you’re writing to.

Let’s say you’re selling an alternative joint product. The prospect universe is primarily married or widowed women, 45 to 75 years, with an average income of $35,000-$55,000 per year.

Bingo! Sounds like your Aunt Joan. But don’t be too quick to start building your 3-D image yet.

More than just numbers

Your prospect is more than age, income, education, marital status. She’s a complex person with complex needs. If you want to get to know her, you must delve into that complexity.

Think about this. What do the books and magazines she reads say about her? Hobbies and recreational activities? The political party she belongs to?

This information shows your prospect in a richer, fuller light than simple demographics.

They give you a feeling for your prospect’s inner life. You’re learning more about her belief system. With enough probing, we’re even getting a sense of her hopes, desires, fears.

This type of information is called psychographics.

How might this work for a joint product?

Your client told you your prospect’s an older woman with grandchildren. He tells you the data card says prospects similar to her are likely subscribers to Modern Knitting and Conde Nast Traveler.

You’re getting a deeper sense of why taking care of aching joints is so important to the prospect (beyond the pain).

Sore, stiff hands make knitting for grandchildren more difficult. Sore knees make travel less enjoyable.

Insight into your prospect’s life. The first personal sense of how she feels about what sore joints have caused her to lose.

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

As we’ve said, you can get demographics and psychographics from your client. But what if he doesn’t have them? And even if he does, is his information really enough?

That’s where real people come into your research. And where we’ll pick up this narrative tomorrow.

Please let us know your thoughts. Are you gaining a firm understanding about the difference between demographics and psychographics? Comment below.

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Published: August 16, 2016

11 Responses to “Get to Know the One Person Who Can Make Your Writing a Success …”

  1. Yep, "know your prospects"! Help them solve a problem that they may have. Great article, Will.

    Thomas Arillotta

  2. Hi Will,

    The importance of knowing your prospect is another good reason for establishing a niche market for your copywriting business. This said, most copywriters will choose a niche that is related to their interests' and experience. This should make things much easier.

    Nora King

  3. You have hooked me! I've been in medicine for 30 years and have a degree in counseling and love to write. "Demographics" and "psychographics" equals my passion for people's stories!

    Guest (Kathleen)

  4. Dear Mr Will Newman,

    I do not pretend to be a good analyzer of a serious and important story narrated as start information as you gave me a clue called:
    -Psychographics It is sure part of great work to keep writing by using those detailed information.How will I be able to prove that those information belong to a person?If true how can I be sure that nothing was invented?How can I be responsible for results of complaint?
    I am working only with real aspects.Not with fake one!!!!?

    Guest (ali rely)

  5. I can't wait to read your next article. This I the area that I struggle with the most.

    Guest (Melvin)

  6. To make a success with our writing, one needs to know the prospects Demographics ( a male or a female, the age bracket, educational background, and financial capabilities and so on)

    Pyschographics is more of the inner person of heart, inner feelings. Etc.

    Thanks for the insight wills, its an eye opener.

    Guest (Wilfred)

  7. Thanks Will, for this wonderful piece.
    im learning more about the Psychographics of the prospect.
    look forward to the next article



    Guest (william)

  8. Mr. Newman,

    The difference between demographics and psychographics is quite clear to me. One is physical, the other is emotional.

    Taking both into one's understanding, the art of persuasive text, and remaining committed to the cause, are all recipes for success.

    Being personable in all areas of daily life is just as rewarding. So, it makes perfect sense to use that same dynamic when writing to, or about a client.


    John Hull

    Guest (John Hull)

  9. Yes i am writting my life story and doing the first draft and these seem like what was missing from my story thank you for helping with my writters block i have much i can add because of two wondrerful words thank you for careing for other writters .

    Guest (Nikki Hole)

  10. G'day Will, I am having trouble understanding how to read the information that follows the 'Newsweek sales letter' in exercise #5. Can you suggest where I can get a breakdown of this information so I can grasp it?

    [FROM WILL: Hi Geoff. I take it you're talking about the Accelerated Program. When I went online to look at the exercise, I had problems accessing it. I've contacted Barb Hume and should have an answer for you in a day (at most).]

    Geoff S

  11. Wonderful article, Will. You've given us a clear portrait of demographics and psychographics. Can't wait to read the next article!

    Guest (Kathleen P)

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