The starting point is to get into your customers' mind, to immerse yourself into their world, to feel the angst they experience, and to envision their aspirations.
It's much like the process an actor goes through to get into character and make the portrayal as realistic and riveting as possible.
How do you get into the head and heart of your customer?
I begin by developing a Target Audience Profile (TAP) to help me "tap" into the mind, will and emotions of each customer type I'm looking to reach.
On paper or a whiteboard, I brainstorm ideas by using these six points as a guide:
1. Market Segment: (e.g. technology, healthcare, industrial, etc.)
2. Title (e.g. CEO, CFO, CIO, VP of Sales, IT Director, etc.)
3. What are this person's core job responsibilities?
4. What are this person's most pressing pain points with the status quo? In what ways does the status quo cause the customer to feel anxiety, stress, frustration, etc.?
5. What are this person's aspirations? (Look smart, get promoted, job security, etc.)
6. How does our product/ service address our customer's greatest concerns with the pain points AND nudge them closer to attaining the aspirations?
Pulling It Together
I then use the "raw" ideas to write the TAP, using the following format:
Market Segment/ Customer Title
Here's an example of what a TAP would look like if it were geared to fleet managers. Apply this format to any audience you're trying to reach.
Transportation/ Fleet Manager
Responsibilities: Acquire, maintain, and manage multiple vehicles across an organization with the goal of achieving the lowest possible equipment acquisition and operational costs, while securing the highest possible resale values.
Pain Points: Fleet managers are under increasing pressure to do more with less and must find creative ways to reduce costs. Yet, they are usually reluctant to try something new (even with the promise of lower cost and better performance) because of fear of making a mistake that could cost them their jobs. A specification error on a couple vehicles is one thing; a mistake across 100+ vehicles can be catastrophic for a fleet manager’s career.
Aspirations: Reduce costs. Make wise purchase and asset management decisions that make them look smart to senior management. Get promoted – and a raise.
Communication Strategy: Communicate how [product] expands options for fleet managers to [key product feature] – at substantially lower cost and risk than [status quo solution]. [Product] also reduces downtime because the [product] can be quickly and easily removed and replaced, getting workers back to the job sooner.
If you have multiple target audiences (such as VP of Marketing, Chief Technology Officer, CEO) for the same product or service, develop a unique TAP for each customer type. A CEO experiences different pain points and aspirations than a CTO, requiring different messaging to help move the overall sales process closer to a purchase decision.
If you can think your customers' thoughts and -- as Bill Clinton put it -- feel their pain, you'll find yourself intuitively coming up with the right words that resonate with your audience.
About the Author: Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC (www.lydencommunications.com), a business communication consulting firm that helps companies develop messaging designed to engage, inspire, persuade and sell. Practice areas include content & editorial strategy, sales strategy & coaching, and leadership communication. A feature writer for several automotive and trucking trade publications, Sean is also co-author of “How to Succeed and Make Money on Your First Rental House” (John Wiley & Sons) and contributor to "The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide” and “The Great Big Book of Business Lists,” both books published by Entrepreneur Press.
© Sean M. Lyden, All Rights Reserved