Unfortunately sometimes we focus too much on what we want people to do and not why they would want to do it. When this happen, you get what I call a ‘Customer Disconnect’ and your copy becomes invisible to the very people you want to reach (and help.)
In this post I want to introduce the problem of the customer disconnect, how LEGO used the customer perspective to flourish from massive loss, and how you can start building a pain connection in your copy.
Forgetting your customer’s world: The train station promotion…
I’m always struck by companies that choose train stations or the entrances of supermarkets to promote a product or service that requires education, consideration, and a financial commitment. Insurance companies or animal protection sponsorships for example. Representatives ask if you have “just a few minutes” to speak to them, as they encourage you to stand by their booth of pamphlets and forms to be filled out.
I can understand it from a visibility point-of-view but in terms of getting people to sign-up there and then, it’s a classic customer disconnect focused on what the company wants, not what is easy for prospects.
Let’s see this scenario from the customer’s point-of-view
You’re at a train station. You are possibly…
- Catching a train
- Buying a ticket
- Collecting your tickets
- Queuing for a ticket
- Hoping you don’t miss your train
- Running to catch a train
- Meeting someone
- Checking the departures board for information
Your head is filled with platform numbers, connections, begrudging the cost of your ticket, finding people in a crowd, delays, cancellations and getting to where you want to be on time and with the minimum amount of fuss possible.
This is a transitional place. It’s not a place people come to ponder and meander as they contemplate saving wildlife.
It’s the same situation with supermarkets. Who turns up to the supermarket early to consider anything other than what’s on the list and getting a bargain? These booths rarely attract a crowd. Instead there’s usually a repellent invisible force field of about 4 feet that people don’t cross in case they get nabbed and have to say ‘no-thank you’ before quickly shuffling on.
Why does it happen?
I understand why companies do it. They’re thinking in terms of crowds. Large watering holes. Where is there a lot of footfall? Supermarkets and train stations get a ton of traffic, surely if they can skim even just a small slice of that it will be worthwhile?
However, these numbers don’t mean anything if you’re not building your marketing from your customer’s point-of-view.
On the other hand, when you get the booth at a train station giving away samples – especially food or drink, they’re never short of interest. I can’t testify whether or not this type of promotion translates into sales later down the line, but at least they know one thing – compared to the information leaflets that many people ignore, their marketing is at least being consumed (literally).
Why? Because it fits into the prospect’s life who is: busy, in a rush and possibly hungry / thirsty.
Learning from LEGO – “Camp With Consumers”
So how can you prevent the customer disconnect in your own marketing? Take a lesson from Lego. The company reinvented the brand to go from sales being down 30% year-on-year in 2003, to announcing profits of £660m in 2015.
The downfall of LEGO happened when they focused on diversification into products customers didn’t want and into areas outside of their expertise such as theme parks, a move that almost bust the company.
When they moved the focus back to fans of LEGO and delivering what they wanted, it was more successful. But what struck me in a recent article was this:
“We call it ‘camping with consumers’,” says Anne Flemmert Jensen, senior director of its Global Insights group. “My team spends all our time travelling around the world, talking to kids and their families and participating in their daily lives.”
They see how children play with LEGO, how they interact with each other, and they take that insight to their business development and marketing.
I’m suggesting that you do the same when thinking about writing copy.
I’m not saying you have to physically move in with your customer, but you should try to imagine what it would be like to live with them.
A day in the life of your customer – what does their pain look like?
When you spend time being your customer there are many ways you can use this in both product development and marketing, but I want to focus on one particular aspect of copywriting: describing their pain.
You need to describe your customer’s pain so that it is vivid, evocative, and elicits elation at the idea of eliminating it.
Too much copy relies on generic terms, and while this may make you feel that you’re reaching a wider segment of a target market, it just makes your copy bland and without the punch of someone who feels you’re writing copy just for them.
One way I recommend doing this is to use what I call ‘copywriting symptoms’. Just as a cold manifests itself through a runny nose, sore throat, headache etc, you need to know how your customer’s problem manifests itself in their life.
For example, let’s look at a property management firm. I’m picking this because I recently finished a few projects for clients in this industry. Our prospects is a landlord who is managing their own property. The problem may be they don’t have the time to take on all the tasks of managing it.
But what does that really mean when it comes to writing copy as a firm that can make that problem go away?
How does the problem of managing their own property manifest in their life? What are the symptoms?
- It could be that early morning call from a tenant to say the boiler’s on the blink and they’re having a cold shower before work.
- Or the gnawing feeling when a tenant says they paid the rent, but the bank account shows they’re lying. How do they escalate the situation when they hate confrontation?
- Or the apprehension of tenant’s moving out and having no idea what state the property will be left in.
- This might be a first investment and they’re not sure if they’re setting the rent at a rate to get them the best possible returns.
Highlighting pain isn’t about being sadistic, it’s about drawing your prospect’s attention to the problem they have, and then elevating your value as the person who can make that problem disappear.
There are many different ways your copy may be disconnected to your prospect, and not highlighting the problem specifically enough is one I see a lot.
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking at the Call to Action conference in Vancouver. I mentioned using symptoms as part of a campaign I had worked on to launch a new video course called Better User Stories for Mountain Goat Software.
Now the problem here is gum disease. But the advert doesn’t say:
Do you have a problem with gum disease?
Instead, they’ve focused on the copy on something vivid and evocative that an ideal customer can relate to.
Beyond identifying symptoms
I encourage clients not to stop at identifying prospects’ symptoms. Instead, plot out and highlight:
- The symptom
- The underlying problem
- The risk of not solving the problem and eliminating symptoms
These were a couple of examples I walked through briefly at the conference, but I’m certain you could fill a page of notes based on your individual symptoms (and I really recommend you spend time to break these down).
By building your notes this way, before you write any copy it forces you to ‘Camp With Consumers’ and see the world from a prospect’s point-of-view. If you maintain that perspective when you write your marketing, you’re more likely to overcome the customer disconnect.
Have you experienced a customer disconnect in marketing?
How do you try to make sure the copy you write is written from the customer perspective?
Let me know in the comments below!