Four Ways to Target Online Buyers With the Right Words

Four Ways to Target Online Buyers With the Right Words

Reader Comments (40)

  1. This is fantastic advice that, in my experience, most people tend to forget — especially online. The focus when designing a website, or even just copy for a page, tends to be on, “What do I think is cool?” rather than on what customers’ preferences. Just because many of us are developing online brands doesn’t mean that we can ignore our customers, it means that we should consider them even more than traditional media! People don’t choose what commercials they see on TV, the station and the advertisers decide those.

    Online, we’re lucky enough that when someone comes to our sites it’s because they chose to go there. They made that decision. Then, once they’re already there, it’s just a matter of us doing our jobs correctly. If we have properly targeted our demographics and developed everything around who we know our core audience is, then it will help with conversions. Don’t write for yourself, write for your customers! 😉

  2. James, this really hits the spot for me.

    While marketing through build a niche site with ebay, it has been frustrating to understand what tone i should take. I’m selling vintage guitars, and these guys are very picky when it comes to finding quality stock from Fender.

    They are very choosy because music is a snobby music, but someone’s got to be opinionated!

    Seriously though, it helps me that the Highway version might work for this group- guitars that are the right fit, go big or go home type of crowd.

    Choose words that convey the sense of personal attention. Find a way to deliver a message that the customer right there is the only person that matters. Their happiness is your goal. Transmit that you care about them and make your communication sound open and friendly to create a bond between shopper and seller.

    I really like that as well, their happiness is my goal. That’s what it is all about, because they should be, and are expected to be pampered to a little bit.

    At least, that’s what they really want, they just aren’t saying it.

  3. One of the first things I learned when I first started to build web sites is the importance of knowing who your visitors are. Before I start any project or campaign I develop a visitor profile within my business plan.

  4. You have hit the nail on the head with this article. So many times I see people create web sites without any regard to the type of audience they’re targeting. Their web site is created according to what the creator likes, not what their target market likes. I’ve always maintained that it’s so important to perform at least some kind of market analysis before writing one line of code. How would you even know how to make your clients happy if you can’t even define them?

    Great article Mr. Chartrand.

  5. @ Brian – Thank you, Mr. Harnish. I, too, see tons of websites that just don’t target. They try to sound good and come off bland to everyone that passes by. I also have to deal with clients who resist my advice because they’re in love with their words, but that’s my job.

    Target effectively – but talk the person’s language, too, not your own.

    @ Troy – Excellent method. We do the same. “Tell me about your ideal client. What’s his or her profile?” It curbs the urge to answer “EVERYONE!” when I ask clients who their target market is.

    @ Lawton – Ahh, the artists. Yes, that’s a tricky one. It’s playing up quality above all and adding a little bit of snotty connoisseur, too. These people love their music, live it and breathe it, and they want distinguished instruments that only enhance their own greatness. 😉

    Aim for the High Quality At All Costs buyer. Dead opposite of Cheap Economy.

    @ Morgan – I can only nod and agree with you. It’s a case of, “Yes, what you think is cool is very cool. It’s also not going to work, so let’s start over, shall we?”

  6. James,
    It is interesting to analyze how exactly this word or that expression influence the public. Once I gathered information about using pithy sayings in PR to belittle one’s rival.

  7. James,

    What about #5: Quality, Luxury, Status? “High Quality At All Costs buyer” really is his own person.

    Not that I don’t like #1–4, but I feel like you left me hanging.

    I’m a 4-3-5 combo myself. Minus the snotty.



  8. Kelly, I’m glad you asked.

    Because there are typically only four main types of buyers. These are the four largest groups of buyers most websites and online entrepreneurs face convincing.

    The High Quality at all Costs buyer does exist, but as a minority group to these four groups. Niche, very niche.

  9. James,

    Is harumph too strong a word for Brian’s blog? What if we just take out the “at all Costs” part?

    Otherwise, I must disagree with you, gently.

    Sure, “at all Costs” is pretty niche, but “Quality, Luxury, Status” is not. (No more so than #3.) That buyer is out there, online, dying to be swayed by a savvy writer… like you.



  10. @ Kelly – Disagreement is always welcome, even the strong kind. As long as it’s nice 🙂 (Gentle works.)

    Unfortunately, I must gently disagree with your disagreement. While those factors of quality, luxury and status do exist in many buyers (myself included), they still fall under one of the four groups.

    Because quality, luxury and status may mean one person shops for the bargain Porsche. One might hate the Porsche shopping experience. One might believe Porsche is about getting schmoozed by salespeople. And maybe Porsche only hires workers paid fair wages.

    No matter how you cut it, quality, luxury and status aren’t their own type of buyer because one of the four always factors in.

    Have I swayed you, oh savvy swanky shopper? 😉

  11. seriously, one of the most helpful posts I’ve read lately. thanks.

    It is helpful if you target a segment of the population that you strongly identify with- if you can – that gets rid of the “what do I think is cool” issue. To a point.

  12. @James & Kelly – Ok, been thinking about it. I think I’m leaning a little more toward James’ logic (sorry Kelly, I still love ya).

    The way I see it is quality, luxury, and status are traits that a great number of people can exhibit under any heading. To create a #5 labeled the people with “quality and luxury” traits would be to say no one in any of those other subheadings exhibit them. If they do exhibit them, then that new category #5 would fall under those other categories.

    Uh . . . am I making sense or am I talking in circles again?? LOL

    @James – great post bro, as always.

    I think it’s good to point out that if your target customer is an average middle-class paycheck-to-paycheck earning employee, they will probably fall under category #1.

    I know for me, in the web hosting industry, there is a vast number of people who want “free web hosting” and think it’s a good thing. Everyone wants something for free and they want it to be as good as paid hosting.

  13. John,

    See, now that’s just what bugs me. Reeeeally briefly, are we saying you can’t be eco-conscious and like fast-and-convenient (like me)? Can’t I want to indulge myself occasionally yet not want to pay too much?

    I assume we agree that everybody’s more complex than that. We can all exhibit traits of the other subheadings along with our primary motivation at the time we encounter this savvy writing, so…

    I see James’ #1–4 as the writer’s primary angle for “speaking to” the buyer’s primary need, at X site (since we’re talking online here). There are a LOT of sites where the primary angle is the missing #5, and it’s those other needs that are the less prominent motivations. A lot of sites where that’s what you’ve got to write to, or the buyer is gone.

    (Let’s face it, I’m no good at reeeeally briefly.)

    Love all around. No offense—other than this itty bitty sticking point, I thought the targeted motivations were great. I can’t always agree and slobber, can I?


  14. Wow James! You hit the nail on the head with this one. The profiles are generalizations, of course. No one profile is going to be a perfect match.

    However, if you find that you keep attracting the same type of client, then I think it makes sense to rethink your marketing strategy.

  15. @Kelly – you’re talking to someone who has constant battles with keeping content and my need to tell everything I think – short!

    I see what you’re saying and of course, there will be the eco-friendly and fast and convenient buyer. Everyone’s different (like you mention).

    So if I’m reading you correctly, maybe you’re saying that under each of James’ headings the writer should not forget to mention “quality” n stuff?

  16. No, no. I’m saying it’s NOT just a factor. The Quality, Luxury, Status motivator is a separate category, one which sometimes is the main focus of targeted writing, whether folks may have sub-motivations in James’ 1–4 or not.

    IMVHO. 🙂

  17. In that regard, you’re right – there could be that category, and I think James agrees with you in one of his comments. He said they do exist in a minority (the people who only foucs on quality, luxury, status exist, but the majority of those people fall under one of his categories).

    But I think his point was you may do better focusing on the larger groups? Maybe he can enlighten us.

  18. I think the catagories can merge and as a marketing writer, you need to target your copy for whatever combination your clients are going to be in.

    Take Real Estate or the Hair Industry for example, both may have clients who are looking for bargains,and/ or service-pampering or they just want to keep up with the jones and want the latest and best snob appeal on the market. If you are dealing with a Star-bellied Sneetch appealing to their need to be the first on the block to have something is absolutly a good marketing strategy and it is likely that their need to own it is more important than their need for great customer service. In a perfect and just world, it shouldn’t be that way… but really…look at the commercials on TV…snob appeal is for real. I wish sneetches were a minority but at least in America they aren’t!

    I think the best marketing will have some element of good service-who doesn’t want that- with then the strongest focus on one of the others. A One-Two punch.

  19. @ Kelly & co…
    I gotta agree with Kelly on this one, assuming the disagreement isn’t dead and buried (I like adding my 2 cents where I see an opening), I’d say the ‘status’ group is a seperate group in itself.. Mostly with younger buyers, yes, but it’s still there.. And after all, the younger ones are the ones with the most money to burn..
    These are the ones who buy to look “cool”, they don’t really care if their new Nike’s were made in a sweatshop in the middle east by underpaid child labourers.. What they care about is how much attention their brand new, stylish shoes are going to get..
    This is the first conversation I’ve really added to here on copy blogger, so please, bear with me.. 😛

  20. There are a few studies (such as the ones offered by the Journal of Environmental Psychology) that cover profiles of typical buyers, but unfortunately, numbers conflict between four and five and they also conflict on types of shoppers or defining groups. I used what felt right and seemed correct based on my experience writing copy and designing websites for the past few years.

    I understand what you’re saying, Kelly and Shane. Yes, this group exists. As a minority (if seeking Quality, Luxury and Status only) and as part of a larger group (if seeking Quality with value, status by personal attention).

    Shane, your younger rich people are still a minority. They exist, but they are a niche group still compared to the number of people in the other four groups.

    Kelly, I have agreed with you. The Q, L, V group exists as a minority niche. Yes, if this is your target market, write to it. But it does not warrant its own group because of low numbers.

    Also consider that if people purely want Q, L, and V, most will not shop for it online. There is no direct personal fawning and attention, the quality online is negligible and these people are off floating on their yachts. It is a luxury status symbol to them that they do not have to shop online. 🙂

    Those who do are probably still watching a budget in some regards. Your example kind of proves that:

    Reeeeally briefly, are we saying you can’t be eco-conscious and like fast-and-convenient (like me)? Can’t I want to indulge myself occasionally yet not want to pay too much?

    I’m confused. You mentioned being Q, L, and V…. but here you bring in other factors that put you in one of the main umbrella groups.

    It’s all good debate people, I’m enjoying this. Keep in mind that I don’t have a psychology degree yet (working on it) and that I could be wrong. I don’t think I am, but I could be.

  21. Good notice for marketing experts. I heard about one direction such this, but forgot how it calls. Something like “mem-marketing”. Do you know or remember?

  22. I’m still trying to figure how I can apply my mathematical degree to all this 😉

    Great topic and this is the reason for the blog community . . . to learn from one another.

  23. I agree… The main reason I blog is the learning aspect of it.. The main reason I added my comment in here was in hopes that it would garner a response from which I could learn more.. so far my plan is working! Bwahaha!!
    Regarding my point about status, I wasn’t reffering to young “rich” people though… Just that kids still depending on their parents for a majority of their needs generally have more money to spend since they can spend pretty much 100% of their income on frivolities…
    I simply feel that the group between, say, 16 – 23, middle income are more status buyers than anything else… however, I can see why you’d say that this group is a very niche market and, honestly, on further reflection, I actually realised where the mistake in my argument lay….
    The bloke buying the big expensive car for the sake of the status it’ll give him in his group of friends might still purchase that car from the store that gives him the friendlier service simply because he feels comfortable dealing with the staff there.. He feels at home, yes he’s buying for status but WHERE he chooses to buy is dictated by one of the four points you laid out….
    Thank you for the education… 🙂

  24. @ Shane – Ahh, I love it when my clarity shines through in a convincing manner. You grasped it all perfectly, my friend.

    As for evil plans, you’d be amazed what you can get out of a few well-placed, well-thought out and well-worded comments. 😉

  25. I think the problem is that I was still in the process of waking up when I read this post… Heh heh… You know when you stare at a post and see the words but they somehow fail to sink in?
    Anyway, great post! heh heh
    I’m going to be monitoring this thread in case the debate rages on!! 😀

  26. Of course the person that can find a way to write good and convincing copy that entices a broad spectrum of people to buy…well that person really has it made. Is it possible? With certain products I think so.

    Live From Las Vegas
    The Masked Millionaire

  27. James,

    I liked the post. It reminded me a bit of a white paper produced by ACIA (Argus Center for Information Architecture) back in 2001 – “Retail Ecologies, E-commerce, and Information Architecture”.

    Within this paper they discussed the notion of purchase ecologies, of which they named four: Provisional, Maintenance, Consumption and Pilgrimage. Your post matches up with two of those ecologies: Maintenance and Pilgrimage. In the white paper, Maintenance is described as ““Gotta get it done as quickly, easily and efficiently as possible.” That appears to match your “Ugh. Shopping.” category. They describe Pilgrimage as “You have a mystical, ephemeral really fun experience – it’s the holy grail of shopping.” This obviously fits your “I like you; You like me” category. What I love is that you have updated the landscape of purchase ecologies to include an eco-friendly ecology and an economically aware ecology. To round out this discussion, here is how ACIA described their remaining ecologies: Consumption (“You feel good about yourself, it’s a retail therapy kind of thing.”) and Provisional (“You feel good about what you are doing for your loved ones … and treat yourself.”).

    Now, with all of that said, I want to introduce you to Semantic Marketing. It is the ability to recognize representative of specific purchase ecologies, personas, market segments upon arrival to a website, enabling marketers to welcome each visitor with more meaningful content, supportive imagery and even simplified navigation. This puts an end to the one-size-fits-all, single dimensional world of the home page for which you’ve grown accustomed to writing copy.

    We have a patent pending semantic marketing technology – Semanticator ( ). That can analyze up to 1,000 data points within milliseconds to triangulate which market segment or purchase ecology a visitor belongs. Then, we display the most contextually relevant content.

    Our oldest implementation launched August 2007. The results have been exciting! A large increase in time spent on site and a corresponding decrease in bounce rate. Follows the equation: more relevance = more attention. We have also seen a nice increase in conversion as a result.

    Hopefully, our fellow copy writers will find what I am saying here interesting. We would love the opportunity to engage more of you. We need your opinions and suggestions to improve Semanticator.

  28. James, It is interesting to analyze how exactly this word or that expression influence the public. Once I gathered information about using pithy sayings in PR to belittle one’s rival.

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