Writing for your Customer X

Tom Albrighton

ABC Copywriting

One of the classic copywriting no-nos is to address the audience as a group. For example:

Many of you have called or emailed to request more details about our new fairtrade coffee range…

This instantly shatters any intimacy or rapport with the reader, making them feel like an anonymous face in a crowd. (The right approach is to write neutrally, in the third person, and let the reader associate themselves with the group if they wish: ‘Many customers have called…’)

Even though most marketing is a group communication (Twitter being a notable exception), it should still adopt a one-on-one tone. And one of the most effective ways to do this is by writing for a specific customer. Not necessarily an expensively produced customer profile, but an actual real-world individual.

Choose someone who likes your products or services, but is still discerning. Someone who spends carefully, but not avariciously. Someone who appreciates quality and value, but doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Let’s call them Customer X.

Bring Customer X vividly to mind as you write. Picture yourself actually speaking the words out loud to them, pitching the product or service in person. Picture their reaction too. And picture the interaction happening in the venue where your material will most likely be read – at the breakfast table, browsing Facebook, researching a holiday etc.

The Customer X approach automatically brings a number of very important benefits:

  • Customer X’s time is precious, so you’ll get straight to the point
  • You want them to listen, so you won’t bore them by banging on about yourself
  • You want them to like you, so you’ll offer something that really helps them (benefits, in other words)
  • You want them to take action, you’ll explain what they need to do next – and politely ask them to do it  (the call to action)
  • You want them to respect you, so you won’t embarrass yourself by being pretentious, cracking lame jokes or trying to look clever
  • It’s an informal, face-to-face interaction, so you’ll use simple, familiar words that can easily be said out loud
  • You’re writing for an individual, so your points will be coherent and consistent, avoiding self-contradiction by trying to hit too many targets

Writing for Customer X is a great antidote to all the classic copywriting pitfalls – talking features instead of benefits, overcomplicating the message and failing to persuade. Try it. It really works.

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