Business is about connection and connection is fueled by insight.
Insight means to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something. I take the definition further, it is about using penetrating, empathetic knowledge of clients to know and serve them better (and generate opportunities).
Insight provides opportunities for every entrepreneur, perhaps you can’t out spend, you can’t outmarket or you can’t out do someone’s sales copy. But you can all do one thing better than anyone else. You can “out know” your ideal clients.
An insight is a thought that will zing with energy. It’s visceral … it’s an epiphany – it’s the classic “a ha” moment – it’s the thing that gets you to stop and take notice of the person saying it (and stop to write it down). It’s the comedian telling a joke that captures your life precisely. It’s the thought you could never put into words before.As soon as it’s said, it feels like you’ve always known it (or felt it).
Insight is visceral, so insight laced messages don’t just get noticed, they get “felt”. Your messages seem “uncanny” and your empathy is demonstrable.
The most powerful of all is fresh insight, sensing a new connection that allows another piece to fall into place.
Like many skills in marketing, insight is part art and science. I am going to leave the “science” of insight (quantitative and often called data mining) for another time, and explore the art of insight (which is qualitative, meaning perceptive and penetrative understanding). Your listening ear, observations, probing, recognition of patterns and anticipation of what comes next. Insight is where your competitive advantage could lie.
So Why Put Time Into Developing Insight?
Insight is to an entrepreneur like seasoning for a a chef. It can be used everywhere in building your business and your brand, it brings out the flavour in every part of your strategy and communications.
- your brand, its voice and its stories
- your content marketing
- your copy – especially sales copy
- your product and service development,
- your social media presence
- your speaking topics and networking
- your giveaways
- all your growth opportunities.
In the early days when people struggle to get traction, lack of insight is often what causes their offers to land too softly or miss the mark.
Copywriting particularly benefits from insight, copy that isn’t based on insight will more than likely lack empathy.
I believe entrepreneurial confidence is born of insight.
What are the skills of insight:
Self Awareness: If you struggle to find your voice on social media, work on insight. People love to have their lives reflected back to them. Is it just me or?….
Listening / Eavesdropping: The words people use to describe their own situation are gold. I “virtually” listen in facebook groups, I take note of the language and the deeper struggle, especially where people struggle to put words to their struggle …
Probing: Asking great questions, not accusatory, smart, know it all questions, but empathetic questions from a non judgemental, non “right answer” space. Lots of people ask questions with an agenda to batter people with their own ideas. Insight gathering has no agenda other than insight, for the person asking and generally for the client.
Pattern Recognition: Whilst you always have to respect every individual client’s journey, you will rapidly notice very common patterns, particularly with respect to pains and problems. It is powerful to take note
Anticipation: The next step in pattern recognition is anticipating or foreshadowing what may come next. Again, you may not communicate this (to avoid overwhelming your client), but the knowledge is priceless in terms of product development.
Insight is not static, it can also lead you to things happening on the leading edge, what feels fresh. I have a “3 rule”, if something pops up in my life from 3 sources or 3 directions, I pause to dig in a little deeper.
How to Work With Insight
Business is vastly more straightforward if you know what drives your ideal clients at a deep level.
So, how do you document what you deeply understand and intuit about your ideal clients?
Don’t have many clients yet? Start with self awareness as a source of insight – reflection will lead you to your growing edge. take notice of your discomfort and struggles. Document your journey. If you don’t do this in real time
Building an Insight Bank
We have identified your ideal clients in Clarity 1 – Sweet Spot, but here is where we start mining. It looks like a small step but without a deep understanding of the people who need you now, your offers will more than likely miss the mark.
So now we start the work of learning who these people really are.
First up, your clients are a bunch of “persons”. Individuals. They have things in common (and it is so important to find those) but they are not a herd. They are individuals, each with their own story, fears and foibles and readiness to act.
So what insights to collect? You could go forever, but here are 5 areas that will give you the most “bang for buck”
Problems, Pain, Challenges, Struggles, Obstacles, Difficulties.
What lies between your and what they dearly or urgently want to happen
Understanding pain points allows you to meet people where they are, create an offer that will solve a real problem and spark a message that will get them to raise their hands.
So if you only work on one insight exercise, let it be about pain and struggle. You may never want to use this in your marketing, but you need it as part of your base of insights and your business DNA.
People care most deeply about themselves and their inner circle. Much of our mental and emotional bandwidth is taken up with our own concerns; our relationships, our family, our business, our money or security, our life.
The most effective way to get noticed is to join the conversation that is already going on in their head – your messages will seem like you are reading their mind.
You know yourself what threatens your peace of mind. Human needs have universal themes, at our essence most human beings want to belong, they want to feel safe and keep their families safe, and as the US constitution says, they want the opportunity to pursue their version of happiness.
Here are what are called the “gateway areas” of life – any THREAT to these will create a pain
If your ideal clients are business owners, here is a list of business problems that one might have that prevents their business thriving or going to the next level
- Fears / mindset / confidence / overwhelm
- Can’t define their offer or can’t define their market
- No traction / messages not landing / not building an audience
- Leads / audience but low or no sales / not making enough money
- Too much work / burnout or don’t like their business
- No systems / can’t scale / growth stall / business dependent on you
- Structural / partnerships / legal / administrative
- Team / training / management
So, what is creating anxiety for your ideal clients, what are they stewing over – what is taking up their precious mental energy? Open a document, call it “Insights”, sub heading “pains” and start writing.
Wants, Aspirations, Dreams, Desires, Yearnings, Hunger, Needs
As per problems, at our core there are some universal aspirations that apply to most humans at different stages in their lives (they are a hierarchy too, as per Maslow’s hierarchy).
Do you feel bit icky about marketing to pain points? Many know how entrepreneurs resonate more strongly with wish fulfilment than agitating pain.
You still have to understand problems that lead people to your products but you take the opportunity to paint the picture for your clients of how they feel with that desire fulfilled.
It is rarely hard as a marketer to activate desires or sell to an aspiration, and it’s a great way to demonstrate the “after” in your marketing.
The challenge is urgency, for many people desire marketing takes them into “wish fulfilment” and they may not be motivated to act, so you also need to understand the triggers and market to symptoms, which is the next section.
Here are some “universal human needs” that many humans aspire to.
I found it hard to think in problems, so looking for “symptoms” unlocked something for me. These are the recogniseable signs people that a problem exists – so speaking to these will demonstrate your empathy and understanding, especially if you’ve experienced the same pain.
The word recognisable is key, in that hearing about a solution will immediately spark interest. So if I notice a downturn in enquiries and you offer me new leads
Even with a wish fulfilment positioning, you may need to market to a symptom. Also you will know (as an expert) that a symptom indicates a broader need (opportunity for you), but still restrain yourself for now to showing how you can alleviate the symptom.
For True Entrepreneur a symptom that upsets my clients is feeling inferior when they don’t have a tantalising answer when people ask them what their “thing” is. Without this clarity something feels just out of reach, like a missing puzzle piece. I can help this with “The One Page Brand” training in under an hour – no more glazed eye responses after these exercises.
What precisely happens to turn someone from interested to buyer? A business responding to a trigger event can be like super hero swooping in when needed.
- Crisis – this could be health, business, security, possibly even personal or misfortune.
- Milestones – life events for which you have no prior experience like becoming a parent, mid life, retirement
- Stages – developmental stages exist for everything from businesses to
- One Off Events – things like weddings, travel.
- Event marketing is interesting because it is a rare purchase, often with little pre existing knowledge so it puts people into “search” mode. Often they have no pre-existing ideas, so if you need to be found or referred. And once you are found, you need to have what they are looking for. So facilitate browsing and facilitate buying.
- However, with these types of businesses it is mostly one off purchases so you need strategies to manage acquisition cost. Often the path to buying is fast and easy but you can’t expect a lot of repeat business.
One of the most effective ways to connect with ideal clients is to cultivate a “people like us” tone. You don’t necessary exclude, but you emphasise the group’s commonalities and likenesses to make it very inclusive. This approach is pretty much essential if your goal is to build a community.
So in the exercises below we’ll ask you to think about the likenesses, commonalities, interests, curiosities, shared experiences, shared values, shared beliefs and describe the ways in which the group is like minded.
My system teaches clients to develop an ear for insight and will encourage you to create your own system to capture your intuitions, your hunches, the patterns you notice and the things that jump out at you.
These exercises will create a platform/base of knowledge that you can draw upon in so many aspects of your business; especially social media, content creation, product development and non-salesy sales copy.
Once you have a platform you can continue adding to it with an insight practice. This could be your competitive advantage. When someone says “what makes you better?” you can say “I know my clients better, I know what they are struggling with and what they want. I know how to add value to make business easier for them.
Boom! You are miles ahead of competitors.
To re-iterate a final point about insight before we get to the exercises, if you want to forge that instant connection with prospects and have a way to deepen your relationships quickly, make your communication (be it written, audio or video) insightful. Not about you, about them. Meet them where they are. Validate them. Show you know them – show them you get them – show them you know how to move them forward.
1. Profile of Your Ideal Clients as a Group
The foremost insight tool in your business will be your ideal client profile document
The following can be included in your profile document
- demographics, age / life stage, living situation, employment status, socio economic level
- experience or stage of business
- personality type (also known as buyer type or buyer persona)
- investment capability
- learning styles, self directed or other directed
- goals and aspirations
- ways of working, need for accountability
2. Pains, desires, triggers and affinity
We discussed this at length above, and suggested you open a document and start writing – or write on a giant post it note like I do. No is the time to flesh out your profile with your observations, insights and personal experience with pains and desires.
(Revisit the gateway problems and the universal desires)
Try to articulate these with the 3 “V’s” – vivid, vibrant and visceral language. Even scraps of thoughts, will prove useful remember, this isn’t copy, but done well, this is what you’ll revisit each time you sit and write a sales page.
With both pains and desires, I am going to introduce you to a technique called laddering, so we can get to the heart of what you really provide. Laddering questions typically start with how, what if or why, and help you get past clichéd, superficial or overused language.
You can start with symptoms and ladder to the deeper truths Laddering is most effective for getting into emotional language and you can ask “how does that feel in your body” to get the visceral language. (Definitely save this work in a document to help start your sales copy).
List the symptoms, triggers and catalyst events as per suggestions above.
The most important profile dimensions to understand are those differentiators that will have bearing on purchase decisions for your products. Ensure these are included in your document.
What trigger purchase?
Think deeply about the purchase cycle, these insights help with your marketing strategy, making sure you will be found where they are looking.
What happens before, during and after the purchase, who else might they be talking to, are there any associated purchases? This deeper understanding opens up strategic options, such as partnerships, as well as communication.
For affinities, flesh your profile out with this knowledge (or hypotheses) about your ideal clients.
3. Create a profile of one absolutely, amazingly ideal client.
This is someone who is “over the moon” excited about working with you and is ready to pay handsomely for the transformation that working with you will bring
Give him / her a name, an age and a place to live. Write up their full and interesting life. Give them a business and hopes and dreams. Be explicit about their challenges, figure out how they found you and what it is about you that called to them.
It would be better if it is a real person, that you have helped and would work with again any day of the week, but if that person doesn’t quite exist for you just yet, it could be a mash up of some people you know or a projection. But describe this person as you would describe a close friend or sibling, with respect and perceptiveness.
4. Write to this client
Bring this person to life in the eye of your mind and write them a letter (or letters!). Whatever comes to you to demonstrate your empathy with where they are at right now. They should feel validated and understood. You can speak of your own experiences and personal stories. Then speak to them about the process of transformation and how they will feel when the process is complete. Paint a word picture for them that describes their new reality, this is powerful base copy and you can create it fast when freed of the fear of writing copy.
Save this, it is so valuable for you to revisit to inspire new content or new product ideas, partnerships, social media messages, because this writing has come from an authentic place.
Some people write letters in their journal regularly to their ideal clients or when htey feel inspired. What amazing energy you are sending to the universe with this focus on
5. Segment Your Customers
We’ve talked a lot about what your customers have in common, but also think about what makes them different. Identifying segments means you can make differentiated and immaculately relevant offers in your marketing.
Some of the common things that could be used to segment customers are:
- problems and symptoms
- level of prior knowledge of the topic
- level of experience in business
- ability to invest in services and help vs bootstrapping
- strategic clarity
- comfort with technology
- readiness to implement
- personality dimensions
- strength of relationship (how well they know you)
- interest in topics
Using a survey methodology and / or automated tagging in your marketing software, you can choose a couple of segmenting variables that will allow you to dive in even deeper with a customer segment.
6. Continue to Build Your Insight Bank
I don’t think there is a perfect system for capturing insight, but here is my imperfect system. (I’d love to hear from you in the comments below if you have better systems)
When I’m creating I love pen and paper, blank canvases and marker pens. Most of my ideas start with giant post it notes on my walls with smaller post it notes to develop the ideas. I have one very unstructured large post it called “content ideas” right next to my desk so I can slap a post it note on there anytime I see a question that I could answer in my content.
Sometimes I come out of my bathroom dripping, write on a post it note, slap it on the wall and then dry myself. (Everyone knows they have the best ideas in the shower, I believe someone has even created a waterproof note pad just for this purpose).
I have a “screenshots” folder linked to dropbox which contains a lot of screenshots (often of questions I had seen in forums and Facebook groups), saved documents, and scraps of text notes and inspirations I find on social media.
About once week I jump into there and move stuff over to my “insights” folder, which has a couple of subfolders including social media, blog ideas, questions. It’s a bit of a mess, but it’s also one of my greatest resources for ideas and inspiration.
I like simple .txt notes for some stuff. If I drop in a text note I try and name it something that will trigger my memory.
I know other people use Evernote for the job I mentioned above because of the searchability and tags, and whilst I don’t use it for that, I am an avid user of the web clipper and tags. So I can find great examples and case studies again
I use Capsule CRM for notes on individual clients of discussions and follow up tasks.
I hope you make it a habit to curate insight – it truly is a foundational asset for your business.
This article is one of a series – Read on to Clarity 3 – Transformational Content
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