Day 6: Fishing for people

By now you should have your foundations in place.

We’ve been making sure your house won’t crumble to the ground. And that you have the tools to measure your progress.

We’ve also talked about the importance of conversion research and about the most important principle you should follow when optimizing for conversions, the user comes first.

As much as we’d like to think we’re pioneers, this is not news.

The popular self help author Dale Carnegie in his 1936 best seller book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” said:

Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn’t you like to have that?” Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?

Judging by his success I’d say he caught a lot of people.

Let’s face it, in recent history, with the advances in technology and the swings in the markets, the only thing that hasn’t changed much, is the human mind.

If business owners started studying how humans think and what makes them tick, rather than the latest trends in AI or crypto (to name a few), their businesses would be booming 24/7, 12 months a year, for decades.

Psychology and human behavior are at the basis of effective marketing. Master copywriters knew it.

Take David Ogilvy, “The father of advertising”:
“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.”

Or Claude Hopkins in his 1923 book “Scientific Advertising”:
“Human nature is perpetual. In most respects it is the same today as in the time of Caesar. So the principles of psychology are fixed and enduring.”

You get the point. Start from your users and you’ll get all the copy and insights you need to convert them.

That’s where customer research kicks in.

In the next couple of posts we’ll get to intimately know who your ideal customer is, even if right now you have no idea. And if you have an idea, we’ll make you question it until you get a crystal clear picture.

Before we do that, let’s look at a few examples of how one of the masters we’ve talked about, Claude Hopkins, used research to win the hearts and minds of the audiences he was reaching (and the wallets of his copywriting clients).

These examples will let you see what you could learn through customer research.

Understand what your customers really want

At one point Hopkins was tasked with the seemingly impossible job of writing ad copy for Palmolive Shaving Cream.

Why impossible? Because their shaving cream didn’t have anything special. In addition to that, most men were loyal to the brands they were already using and didn’t feel the need to switch to a competitor.

Hopkins embraced the challenge and, guess what he did? He buried himself in research, particularly studying the audience’s behavior. What he found was that the majority of men valued a few, specific things in their shaving cream: abundant lather, enduring lather and quick action.

The only missing ingredient was to use the findings and enhance these exact benefits in the product first and in the ad copy second.

Palomolive’s chemists went to work to improve the product and the campaign was a success. Hopkins managed to get an understanding of the users’ needs and wants that competitors failed to grasp.

Learn who your competition is and how to obliterate it

When asked to sell Van Camp’s factory-baked Pork and Beans, Hopkins faced yet another challenge. This time again the product didn’t seem to have an apparent advantage. Nothing powerful enough to blow past the competition.

By researching the audience, house-wives who were cooking for their families, he stumbled upon a crazy insight: 96% of them were baking their pork and beans themselves. Only the remaining 4% of the audience were buying factory-baked pork and beans. This meant that the competition was fighting for that insignificant 4% of the market! And it was doing it with the usual “I’m the best” claims.

It was a great opportunity to conquer the vast majority of the market. But how?

By identifying weak points in the current way of doing things (the status quo), he was able to emphasize the advantages the product had over it. These weak spots were mainly a ton of effort, time and the cognitive load involved in baking pork and beans at home.

He used a simple comparison ad to point out the winner (Van Camp):

Figure out the best way to sell a new product
Similarly, when working with Palmolive to sell a new women’s toilet soap, Hopkins turned to research to figure out how.
It was pretty clear that the market was trying fear tactics to acquire customers. They were focusing on wrinkles to make women buy into their soaps. The master copywriter used the findings to focus their ads on something way more powerful than fear, hopes and dreams.

He found out that women wanted “beauty” above all.

And that’s what he gave them in his copy:

And these are just a few examples of the golden nuggets customer research could give you.

Your homework

Today’s homework is to get into the right mindset and start opening your eyes for what works.

Take a look at these great examples:

  1. Ecommerce:
    Their audience is for the majority young professionals or students into minimalism and simplicity, looking to get rid of unneeded distractions. How are they conveying their message?
  2. SaaS:
    They are targeting remote teams, mostly startups, but also freelancers. These customers value their freedom to work from anywhere and technology that adapts to their flexible needs. Is it coming through on the website? How?
  3. Lead generation:
    You might be familiar with Pat Flynn. Their business started by offering content on building affiliate websites and today it’s a media empire targeting anyone wanting to learn the skills required to build an online business. How do they tap into their audience deepest desires? How do they establish their expertise?

If you want to dig deeper, check out this website where they reverse engineer pieces of copy and marketing materials.