Why do some landing pages work while others fail?
The core of a landing page lies in picking a target profile. Yet, it's incredibly easy to mix up a target profile with a target audience. And worse still, the concept of persona comes into play.
How do we find our way out of this mess?
Presenting the target profile mistakes we make and how to get around them quickly and efficiently. And create a landing page that attracts the clients we want.
In this episode Sean talks about
Part 1: Target Profile Blind Spot
Part 2: Person vs. Persona
Part 3: Target Profile Questions
In Mexico, there's a beach that goes by the name of Rosarito.
The rocks on that beach made advertising executive, Gary Dahl over 6 million dollars back in 1976.
Those rocks were a smooth stone that was soon better known as Pet Rock. These rocks were marketed as if they were live pets. They had their own cardboard boxes, straw and breathing holes for the “animal”. People buying the Pet Rock knew fully well what they were buying. And yet they went along with the gag. They leafed through the 32-page official training manual, which included instructions on how to care for the rock. You could, it joked, teach the rock to “sit” and “stay” but “roll over” or “shake hands” was a little harder to explain.
What was important back then and what's just as important right now is that people knew it was a gag; a dummy. They knew they were buying something that couldn't really do much for them. And they went along with the joke. When it comes to marketing or selling our products and services, we often don't realise we're dealing with a dummy.
We think we're doing the right thing when choosing an audience.
In the book, The Brain Audit, there's a whole chapter on why this premise of target audience leads you off the path and into dummy land. And yet the one thing we've heard over and over again is the concept of target audience. It's our Pet Rock moment.
We are stuck with something that seems fun and exciting, but won't do anything but “play dead”.
This episode takes on the issue of target profile and why it's so important for your landing page. Thousands of clients have read the book, The Brain Audit, and yet I see so many of them mixing up the concept of target profile and target audience. So how do we separate the two once and forever?
In this article, we cover three parts (as always).
– The blind spot with target profile (and why we keep repeating the same mistake).
– We go deeper into the concept of the “dummy” as we examine person vs. persona.
– Finally, we'll take a look at some of the questions to ask in target profile interview.
Let's start with the blind spot, shall we? Why do we keep making the same mistake over and over again?
Part 1: The blind spot with target profile
I remember when I took my first driving test in Auckland, New Zealand.
I drove a manual, what you'd probably call a stick shift back then. As part of my test, I was asked by the testing officer to go down a hill. Immediately, I put the gear into neutral and coasted downhill.
You know what happened next, don't you?
As exhilarating as it can be to race down hill at top speed, you shouldn't ever put a car in neutral and when heading downhill. There are a whole bunch of things that can go wrong. But that downhill drive was my blind spot. I had done it so many times before, that I didn't see that it would not only cause a problem, but would get me a nice big F (as in Failed) against my test.
Most of us make the same mistake when we get down to working with our target profile
When asked about our target profile, we get drawn into the error of describing a target audience. And this mistake is reasonable because almost every marketing book or course talks mostly about target audience. It suggests that we should look for a bunch of people. E.g. people who are afraid of making presentations, or teacher, or people who want to be coaches. It talks about targeting huge groups of people all at once. While this is a great starting point, it's only the starting point.
An audience won't get you very far
You may not be focusing on an audience, but instead on a type of person. So instead of ‘people who are afraid of making presentations', you think of a fictional person. And you say: “Ok, let's call him Chris.” And then you go on to rattle off the factor of how this fictional person named Chris may end up being terrified of presentations. And you think you're on the right track at this point.
But a testing instructor would still fail you
And this is because you're still not paying attention to that blind spot. When we use the term, target profile, it's not an audience, and it's not a ‘let's call him Chris.' Because if you say let's call him Chris, you're saying the following:
Chris is a fictional person. Kinda like a real person, but not a real person.
He kinda lives in a real house. But not in a real house, but in a fictional house.
And he lives in a real city, but not really.
And his dog. Well, he used to be real.
His girlfriend. She could be Lady Gaga or Ellen DeGeneres (well, it's fictional, so who cares?)
He eats fictional hamburgers, and he can chomp through seven hundred at one go, right after he has fifty-three shots of tequila.
You see the difference between real and fictional?
Because the Chris I used to know wasn’t fictional. He lived about 20 minutes from my place. He was a genius at computers. He didn't drink water, only wine and milk. He was grumpy as hell and yet extremely helpful. And if I wanted to go out with Chris for lunch, I know that I'd have to deal with his grumpiness. I'd know exactly what he'd want. And the Chris I used to know wasn't interested in making presentations at all.
But I do know Christina
Christina isn't a big fan of making presentations. She would rather bake two-dozen cakes and have kittens, than speak. And we're not even talking about the hard task of ‘presentations'. We're talking about just standing up at a networking meeting and speaking for one measly minute. Christina knows it's critical for her business. She knows she's in a safe space with friends all around her, but she can't overcome the wave of panic that starts the night before.
She prepares like crazy, but it's the same thing over and over again. She can't sleep well. The drive to the event is an ordeal. She looks at all those people at the networking meeting, so cool and relaxed, and wonders if she can ever be like them. And then, when she's done, she feels like somehow she could do a better job. She's happy to go back to the office, turn off the phone, recharge—and just do what she's good at doing—instead of doing these crazy presentations. But now, she has to make a presentation. And she's terrified…
Now that's the emotion and drama you get with a real person. But there's more
Fictional people can't tell you when you're going on —or off-target with your message.
An audience can try to get a message to you, but everything gets lost in the din.
The only way you can get to a target profile is to have a real person. Just like that testing instructor in the car with me. If he were fictional, I would have passed the driving test. I'd also be likely to win $50 million in the lottery on the very same day. But instead, I failed. I learned from my mistake; spotted my big blind spot.
And today I'm your driving instructor. Instead of coasting downhill and putting others and us in danger, let's keep the car in gear. Let's use the concept of the target profile as it was meant to be used, shall we?
Let's explore the questions you're going to need when conducting a real client interview.
Which is when we run into our second problem. More often than not, we run into a concept of persona. We are told we don't need to focus on a real person, but we can easily base our marketing on a character. It's almost like a fiction novel. We make up the character as we go.
Except what we end up with, is a little Frankenstein. A Frankenstein with random body parts all stitched together. That's the difference between a person and persona. And we're about to find out why a person—a real person matters a lot more than persona.
2) Persona vs. person (Why a person matters more)
When my niece Marsha was eight, she wanted a dog for her eighth birthday. Then her parents realised that someone had to walk the dog, come rain or shine. There would be many trips to the vet, they figured. And the dog would need to be trained, so there wasn't poo all over the carpet.
Marsha got a toy dog instead. It barked and you could pull it around. And it sounded like a real dog.
But it was a dummy
And that's the problem with persona. Persona is when you assume the role of another person. You try to walk in that person's shoes. And your shoe size is 10, but that person wears a size 13. You might assume things will be fine and you'll somehow manage. But you don't and you can't. Because while we all can try to imagine what that person is going through, we can only imagine.
In short, we get dummy text, dummy words and dummy emotions from dummies. To get real text, real words and real emotions we have to go to a real person. Not real people, one person. Because a real person won't have “dummy thoughts” or dummy words.
So what do dummy words resemble?
Dummy words looks like they were written by you and me sitting in our office, looking at a computer screen. We churn out words that are stifled and boring. Or worse, we may copy headlines like “Who else wants to…blah, blah, blah, blah” and slap it into our headline on the landing page.
That's not how a target profile speaks
A target profile speaks from a place of real emotion. I remember sitting at a workshop early in the Psychotactics timeline, and explaining my website issues to someone. This is what I said: “I feel trapped with my website. Every little change I have to make, I have to go back to the developer. And then I have to wait, because he's busy, or asleep or something. I feel like I'm at his mercy all the time. And it's a crappy feeling.
I want to be able to have more control over my own website, do my own things and yes, I can understand bits and pieces that need to be added. But for the most part I want the control. I want to be like the person that can drive, instead of being driven.
Feel that raw emotion? Well, with persona-based writing you have to make all that stuff up…
For instance, let's take the Nobis Hotel. They have a persona-based website, by their own admission. Here's what it reads like: The personas are frequent travellers who are sick of sterile chain hotels and want something different. They make their own decisions on where to stay using the web and social media. Buyers want upscale luxury but in a modern style, not the old-world traditional style.
And how does their landing page reveal those problems?
Nobis Hotel is an independent, 201-room first class, luxury hotel in Stockholm, Sweden occupying a prime spot on Norrmalmstorg square, the single most central and attractive location in the downtown area. Nobis Hotel is a new centre stage of Sweden's Royal Capital, defining our own personal sense of Stockholm hotel luxury.
It calls itself modern, elegant and extremely comfortable, but also ethically sound, warm and moderate. It says it provides their guests with true value for their money in a stylish and pleasant setting designed by award-winning architects.
Does that sound like a real person speaking?
A person talks in plain language. He or she has real emotions and real frustrations. And it makes it super-easy for you to take their exact words and put it down on your sales landing page or home page, or any page for that matter.
It's the emotion and the wording that attracts your audience
Yes, audience. Because even though you start out with one person, that one person's voice attracts others just like her. So if your target profile is Rita, all the ‘Ritas' of the world are attracted to that message. And so you get a consistent audience. An audience that identifies with that one big problem. And wants to solve that one big problem. So instead of trying to juggle with different personality types and multiple problems, you solve a single problem.
And it's all being handed to you on a platter. No thinking, no research, no fiddling with key words—and it still works for you. My niece Marsha is much older now, but even as a child she clearly knew the difference between a real dog and a dummy one.
When you're dealing with target profile, you have to deal with someone real. Otherwise, you just have a dummy.
3) Questions to ask in a target profile interview
The worst problem with a target profile interview is really not knowing where to start.
And logically, we believe there must be some way to have a set of questions. And so we create a bunch of questions. But in reality, those questions don't always work. The target profile interview doesn't always follow a path. Suddenly, you're wondering whether it's a good idea to have the interview at all.
Even if you botch it up, a target profile interview is an amazing experience.
But how do you create the questions?
Well you don't. What you're looking to do is get a bunch of components together instead. I know, I know. It sounds technical. But here's what you're seeking to get:
1) The list of problems. Yup, all the problems that the customer faces when dealing with a product or service like yours.
2) Their biggest problem.
3) Why is it their main problem?
4) What are the consequences of the problem not being solved?
5) Their second biggest problem.
6) Why is it a problem?
7) What are the consequences of the problem not being solved?
8) What are their main objections to buying a product or service—even when they think it more or less meets their needs?
9) What would cause them to give a testimonial?
10) What do they see as a significant risk factor? Are there more than one risk factors? Can they describe it?
11) What would make the product unique (in their eyes?)
So can you ask other questions?
Sure you can. But these set of questions enable you to get a tonne of information that can almost literally be slapped right onto your sales page, or in some cases, even your home page. Of course, there's some re-engineering to do, but for the most part, you have all the stuff you've been looking for. All the bags of The Brain Audit get covered in one fell swoop.
So why bother with this interview at all?
Because in many cases, you'll find that the client's problems are not what you anticipated. There you are in your cubbyhole, imagining stuff, but the client often doesn't feel that way at all. And there's more, of course. You get to hear the client's exact words. Their terminology. Their emotions come surging through in the conversation. And for the first time, ever you can feel the pain.
But what if you've already felt the pain?
Many of us start up businesses because it seemed like a good idea. But often you start up a business because you feel the pain as well. So for instance, I felt the pain of being a cartoonist that was always on call. I wanted to have my vacations—and not just vacations, but substantial vacations. And so yes, I started out trying to help myself. So yeah, I know that pain. I can go back and feel that pain.
If you've ever had a big injury or operation, you'll know what I mean. The pain at the point in time is unbearable. Several weeks later, the memory of the pain is there, but not quite there. After a few years, it's almost impossible to recreate that pain. The target profile has no such problem. They're in the emergency ward right now. They feel the torrent of pain and know what they'd like to see as the solution. They understand why they're not keen to take the risk and will tell you so.
And that's what a target profile interview does
Yes, it does sound dramatic, but a target profile can change your world and how you create your landing page and market to your audience.
When Kathy Sierra sat down to write her book on JAVA, it wasn't supposed to be a bestseller.
They had incredible odds with over 16,000 other books on JAVA already on Amazon. And yet they cut through the noise? How did they do it? They didn't pull the stunt that many Internet marketers do. Instead they focused on how people read and why they get to the finish line. The more the readers got to the end of the book, the more popular the book became in programming circles.
Read more: The Unlikely Bestseller (And Why It Sold 2 Million Copies)
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