3 Ways to Read Your Customers' Minds Try these scrappy ways to gather intelligence and write sales copy that prospects can't resist

By Maria Ross

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Admit it. As a business owner, you know you secretly dream about prospective customers or clients reading your sales copy or seeing your Facebook ad and instantly shouting, "Yes! That's exactly what I need! It's like you've read my mind! Where do I buy?!"

Related: The Best Ways to Do Market Research for Your Business Plan

What's the key to packaging up offerings or writing sales copy that instantly resonates with your target buyers? Trial and error is one way to go. As if marketing in general were not time-intensive enough for business owners who have 500 other tasks to do, they have to invest effort and time to test, tweak and execute different campaigns just to see what resonates.

But, here's the good news: There is an untapped marketing-research resource right in front of your nose. One that many small business owners seem to overlook in their quest to just throw marketing campaigns out the door to see what sticks:

Your ideal customers or clients

Whether we're talking about your actual customers or people who should be your customers, there is a wealth of information out there for you. So it's time to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and suss out that information to ensure success before you launch, promote or create anything new.

Here are three tips to speak directly to what your ideal buyers want, including four ideas for gathering the information:

1. Identify.

First, identify your ideal customers or clients.

  • Create an ideal customer or client profile and be very specific about who this person is, what his or her life is like and what problems are faced and solutions are needed. "Women between the ages of 25 and 65" does not cut it. Get specific and create a sketch of one person.
  • If yours is a brand new business, find these people in your professional circle -- not casual friends or family. Do not simply ask your brother and neighbor what they think and prefer, as they may not be your target audience.
  • If you're already in business, make a list of the five best customers or clients you've ever had. These should be people with whom you've loved working or who you think are perfect customers.

Related: Craft Brewers: This Is What Your Customers Want

2. Ask.

This seems obvious, but most business owners skip this step. Ask customers about their problems or needs; don't guess. Here are four crafty ways to do this:

  • Send a short email survey: If you have a decent email list, create a survey using SurveyMonkey for free, or just a short Google form. Offer a freebie or enter customers in a drawing for their time. Or simply offer then a short printed survey in-store, again with an incentive such as 10 percent off their next purchase. Ask about their biggest challenge or a benefit they seek when using your products or services.
  • Leverage auto-responders: When people sign up for your email list, use your auto-responder to ask them about their challenges or needs so they can just hit Reply. There is gold in this information.
  • Conduct one-on-one interviews: Approach a favorite client or a loyal customer personally and ask for 30 minutes, either by phone or over coffee. Again, offer an incentive or really nice thank you gift. You will not just get new ideas, but you will get amazing feedback to validate or void your plans and avoid wasting time and money.
  • Host a gathering: Many savvy business owners will create their own focus group and bring ideal customers together for a tea party, free workshop, luncheon or wine-tasting event. This encourages organic conversation, as these customers will share their challenges and goals and make their own connections with one other. You'll deliver them a memorable experience, meanwhile, and gain valuable intelligence at the same time.

3. Mirror.

This is the most important aspect to creating those "You read my mind!" marketing materials. Don't just guess at wording. Write down or record, exactly, the words or phrases customers are using, and mirror their own words back to them in your copy.

Related: Market Research Has Lost Its Mojo. But Here's How It Can Get It Back

This way, you'll avoid useless jargon and they'll feel as though they've created something just for them. Link to "their" pain points and problems: For example, your clients may use words like "overwhelmed", "confused" and "paralyzed" rather than "challenged." When you use those words in you content, they will instantly respond.

Wavy Line
Maria Ross

Brand strategist, author and speaker

Maria Ross is a brand strategist, author and speaker who believes cash flow , creativity, and compassion are not mutually exclusive. Her consultancy, Red Slice, advises entrepreneurs and fast-growth businesses. Ross has authored several business books, including The Empathy Edge and Branding Basics.

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