Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your customer is "like you"

Thu, Apr 30, 2009

Copywriting, Web Design / Usability

What does that mean?

Simply, “believing that you are your customer” means that you are acting as if all you have to do to write great copy or design killer websites is to look into your own heart. It’s a surprisingly common mistake to make, even for top-level professional web designers and copywriters. And there’s more than one way of making it. For example:

  • You are so familiar with your product or service that you assume the customer knows just as much.
  • You assume that just because you love some design, idea or product, your customers or visitors also will.
  • You talk in industry language so you speak the same language to your customers.
  • You love to talk about features, but your customers care about benefits.
  • As a web designer, you love Flash, bells and whistles. Your customers demonstrate time and time again that they prefer functional, simple designs. You run with what you find attractive.
  • You’re young and tech-savvy; you assume that what you like will be what your baby boomer customers like, or vice versa.

What mistakes does thinking you ARE your customer lead to?

In copywriting it can lead to such sins as client or personal ego-stroking. You know the sort of thing. Boring “we” talk where pages of prose and graphics are wasted on talking about the awards you’ve won, how great your company is, etc. All about the product or company, and nothing about the customer.

It can lead to marketers and business owners pushing products and services that customers could care less about, a practice which ends up costing the business time, money and energy.

It can lead to web designers producing “artsy”, counter intuitive sites that read like murder-mystery-meets-Salvador-Dali.

Okay, so I get that I’m not my customer – how should I act instead?

  • Talk to the customer in her language about things that interest her.
  • Imagine yourself as your own customer and brainstorm on what you’d want from this product or service.
  • Listen to what your customers to find out just what they are getting from your product or service and then adjust your copy or design to suit those needs. (If you really listen, they’ll tell you how to improve your sales.)
  • Constantly research and test.
  • Use the Web to listen to and get into more conversations with your customers. (That’s what blogging is all about!)


It is our job as affiliate marketers (in whatever capacity) to understand our customers or visitors and provide them with the information, resources and products that they are looking for. It makes no difference whether we’re trying to sell cars or attract visitors to a website, our goal is to serve our customer’s needs, wants and desires.  For many of us, we are not the customer who utilizes the services we promote. We have to keep the focus on what our customers want and remove our own preferences as much as possible.

How about you? Have you ever made the mistake of thinking that you are your customer? How did it work out? How did you fix the situation?

Until next time!

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27 Responses to “Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your customer is "like you"”

  1. SiflO Says:

    oh God this reminds me of when I did an advertising campaign for laundry powder and came up with one pitch that was all “OOoo sexy housewife”. The advertisers all just looked at me and I suddenly realised what I’d done….so embarrasing…

    apparently even in today’s egalatarian world single males in their 20s are not laundry powder’s target market! DOH


  2. Elaine Garrett Says:

    Another super article, Mogul, but I can tell you it is hard to do! It is natural for most people to think: “I was attracted to this product because I…” As you say, that limited approach will turn many customers away, if they find you at all, considering the keywords you’ve optimized for.

    Elaine Garrett’s last blog post..Affiliate Marketer Gets Found!


  3. seekingwin Says:

    hah lately I’m finding myself selling all kinds of stuff I’d never use so not too much danger of thinking i’m my custoemr! thanks for article though


  4. TigerEye Says:

    Well, once I had to write 10 pages of copy for a new model of bike and COMPLETELY pitched it wrong (i.e. to myself.) I guess I fixed it by going back and rewriting it with the customer in mind and my boss breathing down my neck. :/


  5. Tom - Twitter Backgrounds Says:

    I have had to go through this whole process as marketing manager in my job. We decided to create a questionnaire and post it to all our clients -so we would know exactly what they were thinking.

    Tom – Twitter Backgrounds’s last blog post..Twitter Backgrounds: Top 10 Bloggers


  6. slimdusty Says:

    Did it help a lot, Tom?


  7. Jay Philips Says:

    Great post. I really like how you not only point out some of the mistakes but also how the mistakes can be rectafied.

    Jay Philips’s last blog post..List of Helpful Sites for Xcelsius


  8. Joanne Smith Says:

    Another point taken! One must conform with the customer’s needs. Don’t use technical or industry words that customer will end up not understanding what you are selling. Nice.. nice article!


  9. MJ Designs Says:

    As a designer, I always ask for my customer’s preferred type, color or design. From there, I can say that I satisfy their needs.


  10. Macau Says:

    Lesson learned today: You love to talk about features, but your customers care about benefits.

    This is so true.


  11. Almeda Cu Says:

    Key is talk to the needs of clients. Better be flexible enough to do designs in variety.


  12. Twit Says:

    Research about customer’s needs. This is one of the most important factors.


  13. Enrico Says:

    Customer is king. Live by those words.


  14. Rhianna Says:

    Constantly research. That’s the best thing once should do.


  15. Vanessa Says:

    Ask, ask and ask. Consider yourself a customer. You’d like to be treated well.


  16. Jai Says:

    You assume that just because you love some design, idea or product, your customers or visitors also will.

    This is direct o the point. Always go with the customer’s preference in terms of the design, theme or color.


  17. makoto Says:

    It’s like puttung yourself on one’s shoes. That’s basically it.


  18. Atlanta Says:

    Very useful post. There are times though that customers don’t know what type of design they want. So always be ready to give suggestions, after all, you know what’s best.


  19. Inga Says:

    Hey there!
    I have studding about customers and their needs and yes I discovered, that if I think my customers love the same things that I do, then I might throw away that money, that I put in my marketing champaigns.In todays world it is not about me or you or our products, but it is all about people who will buy from us. Research and communicating with your customers is number 1 thing to do, if we want to sell our products:)

    Have a nice day:)


  20. Cassandra Says:

    I totally agree with the posters here. Be flexible enough to know your customer’s needs.


  21. World Says:

    Sometimes customers don’t know what they want. If that’s the case, I think designer will just do his job.


  22. Party Getup Says:

    Customers know what they want so always ask.


  23. Pepper Says:

    With web 2.0 type of designs, you can never go wrong.


  24. Fantasy Says:

    I agree with Pepper. Web 2 rocks!


  25. Alcogel Says:

    Effective web design: simplicity and functionality.


  26. Attender Says:

    Ask your customer’s preference. That saves time and effort!


  27. Janice Says:

    You should always stay focused on your customer’s needs.


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