How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

By Yaro Starak
46 Comments

I’m not 100% sure, but I believe the very first email list I subscribed to was David DeAngelo’s Double Your Dating free newsletter. At the time I didn’t realize David D. was a nom de plume (fake name) and that the real person behind the newsletter was Eben Pagan, who I would later come to know as a leading Internet marketer.

In more recent years I’ve studied Eben’s work extensively, however it was my experience on his alter ego’s email newsletter all those years ago that I count as one of the most beneficial in my own career as an Internet marketer.

The reason why the Double Your Dating email newsletter was so valuable to me was because it was the only time I can remember studying an email list from the frame of two very important perception points in a completely “raw” state of mind -

  1. As a customer who was suffering the pain that the newsletter purported to help cure
  2. As a newbie Internet marketer studying how to make money online

When I first subscribed to Double Your Dating I was a young single guy struggling to figure out how to meet and date girls. I subscribed because the sales copy “spoke” to me. The benefits struck an emotional cord with my own desires. It was as if this person understood where I was coming from and where I wanted to go.

Like many young men at the same time as I was looking to gain experience with women, I was also looking for ways to make money and establish myself as a business man. In this case, the Internet was my chosen landscape to build my fortunes and I was studying what those who already had made money online did to build their wealth.

Given Eben Pagan created one of the most effective (and substantial – each email was MASSIVE) email marketing sequences in existence today, the foundation for a twenty million dollar dating empire, I had happened upon one of the best resources to study, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

Unfortunately in some ways, from that point forward as I became more familiar with Internet marketing, I found it increasingly difficult to fully engage with any online studying materials because I was constantly analyzing the “how” of what they did (the meta-analysis), rather than engaging with the “what” of what was being taught.

The Customer Avatar

I’ve been going through the recordings of Eben Pagan’s Get Altitude training, a high level coaching program for entrepreneurs who want to take their business to greater success.

One of the fundamentals that Eben teaches is to truly understand where your customer is coming from. This is not just knowing the needs and wants of your ideal customer, but understanding who they are, how they live, who they associate with, what their general attitude to life is – AND, more importantly, what are the underlying emotional conditions driving the actions they take.

To facilitate a deeper understanding of your customer, Eben teaches a concept known as the Customer Avatar.

An avatar is a representation of a type of person, including all the characteristics that person possesses. The best example of an avatar that I can refer you to is that of characters you create in video games. In games you can often define appearance (include fine detail attributes like eye and hair color), strengths, weaknesses, associations, and all manner of conditions that make up your character in the game. You play the avatar in the game world and its characteristics influence what you experience in the game.

In this case, the avatar Eben talks about is a representation of the person who purchases the product or service you sell. Eben suggests giving the person a name and then going through and defining their demographics, but also going further than this, including the emotional framework that your avatar operates within.

This can be a tremendously powerful activity because it helps you to enter the mind of the person who is coming to you for help. When you have a deep emotional awareness of why they are there, you can better adjust all aspects of your marketing – in fact your entire business – to appeal to your avatar’s deep rooted emotional motivations.

I’ve always been aware of the importance of understanding where your customer is coming from, but Eben’s training takes it to a whole new level. He really considers this the absolute key to success and hence spends quite a bit of time focusing on knowing your customers on an intimate level. In fact you really shouldn’t call them customers, these people are like friends because you need to know them that well.

Becoming Less Like You

Bloggers, or any entrepreneur who has leveraged their own experience as a self-made success story, face the challenge of growing so far beyond what they used to be that they no longer understand what it was like being who they were.

I might have lost you there, so let me clarify…

When you are a beginner, you understand what you desire because you still haven’t achieved what you want. Eventually you gain experience and if what you are doing is something you are really passionate about, you reach the point where you are considered an expert. It’s at this point that you’ve spent so much time studying, learning and immersing yourself in the subject that you’ve lost your ability to empathize with a beginner, because you stopped being one long ago.

As an expert, it’s often the beginners who you spend most of your time teaching, so if you can’t remember what it’s like to be a beginner anymore then you’ve lost a critical insight.

This is a very typical situation for any person who’s leveraged the years they’ve spent doing something as the basis for a business. Even if you sell a product or service that is not based on teaching, if you solve your problem with a product that you then want to sell, as soon as you no longer personally suffer from the problem you begin to distance yourself from understanding where your target customer is coming from.

In my case, I started blogging when I had a strong desire to learn how to make money online. I wanted to be one of those guys who sends emails and makes money, or writes blog posts and makes money or perhaps the guy who started an online service like eBay that just happened to take off and become huge.

At the time I started my blog I was none of those things and my motivation was squarely focused on experiencing those outcomes. That’s why years ago I read books and blogged about companies like eBay, PayPal, Napster and Google. I followed and reported on what was going on in the blogosphere and lapped up the stories from guys like Darren Rowse and Jason Calacanis who were making a killing with blogs. Later I began studying and writing about Internet marketers like Mike Filsaime, Jeff Walker, Rich Schefren, John Reese and Frank Kern.

Along the way I managed to figure out my own niche and start making money. As I passed each income bracket and reached each new milestone I moved further and further away from what I used to be. I forgot what it’s like to not know what SEO is or how to do it. I can’t remember what it’s like to not “get” how email marketing works, or how PPC fits in, or even what the difference is between “hosting” and a “domain name”.

Most importantly though, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to focus intently on making enough money to live off like your life depended on it. This is so important, because most of my customers are still suffering from this pain, and my ability to empathize and deliver solutions that specifically solve the very subtle elements that make up that pain, is critical to my success.

Staying Connected

Although you can never go back to who you used to be, you can always do more to understand where your customers (or, your friends you want to help) are coming from.

When I first opened Membership Site Mastermind I released a video that went through the power of conducting surveys. You can watch the video here -

Video: How To Find Out What Your Members Want Before You Launch

Surveys are a great way to gain insight into where your customers are coming from. Other forms of online research can also shed light on what unique conditions are influencing the actions of your people, including reading blogs, in particular the comments, reading discussions in forums, and one of my favorites, actively listening to what your current customers tell you on live teleconferences.

Keeping a connection with your customers is a lifetime activity as long as you remain an active part of your business. You can never understand your people “too much” so the more you know, and more importantly, the more you can empathize with your people, the better you will be able to communicate with them, satisfy their wants and of course, make more money too.

It’s important whenever you are considering any aspect of your customers that you look to them as people. This is not about raw demographics like age, weight, height or income bracket. This is about understanding that a new mother feels unattractive because she is overweight for the first time in her life, or the dad that is lacking self worth because he can’t afford to feed his family organic food. It’s about understanding the situation and the raw emotional response to the situation.

This is similar to the difference between features and benefits in sales copy. Although both are important and have their place in marketing, talking about emotionally driven benefits (that people will enjoy) will always sell more than stating the features of what you offer.

Ultimately what I’m talking about here is good communication. You can’t expect to communicate effectively until you have the same frame of reference of the person you are communicating with. Take steps to enter the frame of your customers to as deep a level as you can, and you will be well equipped to communicate exactly what they want to hear. Then all you have to do is make sure what you sell actually delivers what you claim it does, but that’s another discussion entirely.

Yaro Starak
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About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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46 Comments

  • Good article Yaro,
    I am currently studying about Marketing management about market segmentation, i think it’s connected with this. i also have the same problem when it comes to meeting a girl… Lol.

    Daniel P

  • Great post in so many ways. I did not know about Eben Pagan before and even though I’ve read some of his newsletter to study I’ve never thought the idea before that David is simple a pseudonym.

  • I have also started my way into internet marketing by getting interested in learning pick up art. David De Angelo realy hooked me with the free ebook he gave away.

    It took me a year and a half to realize that David D. and Eben Pagan are the same guy. LOL. Thanks for the insightful post, Yaro.

    ~Igor

  • DYD and GA are two of the best purchases I have ever made. I’m on my way through Get Altitude for the second time.

    In a strange turn, I have a nice article brewing on business avatars, which is a result of answering a question someone posed in the Membership Mastermind! Not published yet though.

    The main notion is when you create more than one business avatar, clone your process for all of them: accounts, passwords, etc. Managing even one facebook account is hard enough, more than one… helps to plan ahead. I use a different browser for different avatars when necessary.

  • It really is difficult to continue empathizing with the same audience when you yourself have gone through so many changes.

    In some ways, knowledge can be a curse when it comes to marketing. You forget that your customer isn’t an “industry insider” and start throwing out corporatespeak – then you lose business just because people are intimidated or confused by you.

    When I brainstorm blog post topics, I always have to remind myself to consider the basics. Just because I know something in my niche doesn’t mean everyone else does.

    • I understand where you are coming from. I am a beginner in this area and already realize that everyone doesn’t know what I know about my niche.
      Thanks

  • I heard about Eben Pagan before and a great marketer he is. Thanks for the info.

  • The message that comes out loud and clear is simply that all of us go through continuous change process and good marketing keeps pace with the changing profiles of the customer to tailor make the product to meet changing expectations. In pure marketing language, this can be called an ongoing process of innovation.

  • A very insightful post, Yaro.

    It seems that most of us connect by default. We happen to interact with people who have some understanding or idea of where we are at, now, and since they are in a similar place, the interaction seems fluid and natural. With people like ourselves, it is easy to connect.

    The challenge comes when we have to step out of ourselves (and out of our comfort zone) to understand where someone else is coming from on an emotional level. This is a real challenge, but the connections you experience when you do this are so much more powerful… It’s a matter of choosing consciously rather than choosing robotically…

    And choosing consciously… having true freedom of choice is a good thing… isn’t it

    keep smiling,

    Ben

  • I know, Providing good communication can be used as a very good marketing technique. This is the first time i am reading about how to communicate effectively. What a great post. I tried to digg it, but it’s already done been dugg.

  • Yaro, thanks so much for the podcasts and the eBooks and such, your site has been a valuable resource for me in figuring out what niche of IM I want to be in. It has also gotten me started on blogging and writing more, but while my blog somewhat lacks I intend to spruse it up a bit eventually and then take the blog mastermind course. Again thanks a lot for all the podcasts they really do help alot with my processing.
    Larry

  • Yaro, thanks a lot for the the free gift eBook by sign in your newsletter… it really help me a lot… but i still wondering why my blog did not have a lot visitor even i update my post almost everyday for 3 month and communicate with my visitor when they have problem with my blog content…

  • You have brought out a good point Yaro. I think by providing people with solutions to their problems, it can make you a successful marketer. By adapting to those changes along the way will ensure your spot as a successful marketer.

  • Hi Yaro!

    I am reading your post after finishing some homework researching and answering some forum questions regarding customer relationship management systems, and Internet marketing in general.

    As someone moving in a linear fashion from psych to education to IT, your post brings to mind many of the lessons I have learned in all three fields. I can think of a study/theory for just about every sentence in your post. Since you focus on good content, just thought you might appreciate knowing many of your insights in this post can be aligned next to some great thinkers across three fields.

    Just cuz a good job deserves a good pat on the back:)!

    Debra

  • Your Message Hi Yaro,
    I must admit I have never heard of Eben Pagan,but this is all great info for me as I am just starting out on my own journey doing a student course with Alex Jeffreys.Fantastic blog!

  • Great story, Yaro. Not losing sight of the wants and needs of “beginners” is definitely the way to stay on top of your game. Never stop being a beginner seems to be the main lesson to be learnt here. Now if only politicians could take this advise to heart!

  • Vic

    I believe that we should do first what are the great things for our consumers / readers. And in an unexpected return, they will come to us and will love our great things done for them. By helping people we can create a great reputation that usually stay in us for a longer or even for a life time. Thanks for the very insightful post.

  • Eben Pagan,,, this name recall me the name of the Ninja Affiliate Plugin’s creator at MaxBlogPress. I know they are certainly different person, but the last name sounds similar to me… I don’t remenber the full name of the latter one anyway..

  • Great post Yaro, very important points. Btw, I didn’t know eban pegan was behind “double your dating” that’s a good content newsletter. But, it’s all about your customers, you have to know your customers and what they want, that’s the point of being in business, to serve others at the same time helping yourself.

    Terrance Charles

  • Solid post. We all have to guard against losing empathy with our customers.

  • It really is quite difficult to go on evolving with your customers when you have been through a lot yourself. However, I think that with a bit of patience and determination, we can continually stay side by side with our customers. This is one splendid post!

  • Good article. I also bought a book from David De Angelo several years ago. Yes he is an expert at internet marketing. Good lesson on customer service.

  • Hey Yaro, this is a great post on connecting with your customers.

    When I started out with internet marketing I struggled a lot with making sales. My initial problem would be getting targeted traffic. But once I learned how to get traffic I would still struggle to make the sale.

    Then I unknowingly implemented some of the strategies you talk about here to create a converting pre sell page. Now I understand more why a particular pre sell works and not the other.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Great post! For the first time i was reading about how to communicate effectively with audiences? I am sure for new babies like me this post will certainly help to maintain a strong relationship with audience for lifetime. Thanks for this insightful post Yaro.

  • Great post Yaro.. enjoyed that very much. I think you summed it up very well by saying it is all about communication and I guess that is communicating with yourself, as well as your customers..

  • Yaro what a brilliant post!

    Your final sentence is the one that means the most to me:

    “Then all you have to do is make sure what you sell actually delivers what you claim it does, but that’s another discussion entirely.”

    I wish all marketers shared your ethos, but a lot don’t and that Yaro is what sets you apart and why I, and many others, will sing your praises for a very long time to come.

  • Hi Yaro,

    Great post, many thanks… To any relative newbies out there who are reading this, can I just add that you are in a really great position to connect with your readers while you are still on your journey to success. The reason is that you are much nearer to their level of skill and expertise, therefore your content can be much more accessible than some of the “gurus” content.

    A big mistake a lot of beginners make, is that they try to give the illusion they’re already a guru and are making thousands of dollars every day, when the reality is that they’re losing money.

    In my experience, it’s much better to represent your true journey, so if you’re a beginner, then let people know that and tell them the steps you are taking to to become a success. If you make mistakes, thats fine… we all do, and by telling your readers what mistakes you’ve made, they can avoid the same ones!

    The bottom line is, if you connect with people in an honest and transparent way, then they’re more likely to stick around to get to know you. If they know you, like you and trust you, they’ll be customers for life.

  • Another great post Yaro, I appreciate your ability to provide constructive, relevant and honest information time after time. This particular post may seem like a “no brainer” but many many many people don’t and won’t get it, thats why those who do can still benefit from it so much.

  • That seems to be the main thing here in “blog Land”, finding the common ground for people to come and find the info they need. As you say the main things are need and pain. Effective communication is important and sometimes I am sure I digress into some other place. It is all a learning curve for me, but a fun one.
    Talking about tapping into the raw emotions is an important one and something I will keep in mind for my next post.
    I too have noticed how I can easily forget what it was like to be at the beginning……of anything. It seems to be a wall I have put up to keep moving and meet new people and get new experiences.
    But all the same, to be able to stop….and listen and to have the opportunity to go back in our minds is a great thing. When others are truly interested it can be quite inspiring for everyone.
    Thanks again for your insights
    Brigid

  • A company I used to work for had a very similar idea to the Customer Avatar you mention, though we used to refer to it as our Customer Template.. Very very similar idea..

  • Also David De Angelo is a name designed to rhyme with the site Double Your Dating. Creating an overall brand, like Coca Cola and Major Corporations. Very good post Yaro, i think that the most important thing in your article is the comparison between friends and customers. They are the same, and you will need to put things in place to attract the right kind of customers.

    But you put me thinking, on this so thanks for the article.

    Talk to you soon
    Jorge Diaz

  • Hi Yaro!

    “If you forget what is like to be a beginner, you’ve lost a critical insight.”

    As a blogging expert, this is perhaps the most important statement of this post. I have studied education, informally and formally as an education major, for over 10 years. Generally speaking, when you become an expert (teacher level), you really do forgot many of the beginner aspects of your expert area.

    This is critical for teachers to understand in order to become effective teachers. In order to effectively teach, you have to break down your elaborate knowledge structure in order to pass it on to students. For example, when I took math for elementary teachers, we had to do math problems using only symbols. It not only taught concepts better, but it reminded you what is like to be a child without any number knowledge. Remembering that not only makes you a more sensitive teacher, but a more effective one as it helps you see how to structure information clearly.

    Debra

  • It’s a very important thing to make sure that the blogger is communicating well to its target readers. It is always recommended that we share some stories so that they could relate to us. As we share some insights, we need to show in our writings that we are ahead of them. And that they will gain knowledge from us.

  • Hi Yaro, thanks for passing on your experiences. A lot can be learned from studying others, yet so often we overlook the methods used by the most successful of marketers.
    And getting to know the people on your list and learning what they want and need rather then just treating them as a ‘list’ is a very important lesson to learn and implement.
    Thanks,
    Paul

  • Hi Yaro,

    I’ve recently set up my own blog and currently on a very steep learning curve myself.

    I’m one of many students in the Alex Jeffreys coaching programme and although there’s a strong emphasis on the people who know ‘how to’ in the forum helping the people who are learning – I’ve definitely noticed what you’ve described in this post.

    That is of the successful online marketer having little insight because they’ve forgotten where they used to be themselves.

    Very thought provoking post – really got me thinking.

    Andrew.

  • I’ve heard of the avatar concept before, Yaro. I think it came from Dan Kennedy. Eben Pagan was not the creator, but being one of the masters of the psychological aspect of marketing, I’m not surprised he had come across this concept and brought that up in his program.

    You are spot-on in your article, especially the last part where you said it’s about being in the same frame of reference as the customer, feeling the same pain, understanding the raw emotions, etc. It’s actually much more difficult than it sounds. Perhaps that’s why so few people become great marketers like you :-)

  • Hi Yaro,
    Just like a few of the previous people who have commented on this post I am a student currently studying I/M. I guess we need to look to our selves to find out how we felt in order to talk to our intended Friends (Customers) We Have probably travelled different paths to arrive here – But I think the deep underlying reason the pain and determination is the same. We just should not forget that whilst communicating. Great post.
    Regards Steve.

  • Communicating is very important, and I’ve also found that trying to connect with as many individual customers as you can really helps

  • Rob

    Generally, I don’t like stereotypes but in marketing sometimes you have to use them. There are certainly groups of people which exhibit similar behaviors. Know your product types and fit them with the personality that buys them, or you will be out of place in a market that doesn’t fit the people pursing those products you are marketing online.

  • The more you know, the better you can market and talk to your customers. The way I see… it’s like a negotiator… the more the negotiator knows about the opposition, the more effective the negotiator can be in getting what he wants, every time.

    Till then,

    Jean

  • Great post! For the first time i was reading about how to communicate effectively with audiences? Its very important to make sure that the blogger should communicate well with the targeted audiences

  • The ‘Becoming Less Like You’ section really spoke to me. I would in no way consider myself an ‘expert’ but I have been on the receiving end of people who have lost their ‘insight’ on forums or blogs before and it’s sad to see that they won’t help the people they used to be.

  • That’s one thing I never want to forget – being one of those called “newbies.” Understanding how we felt before will help us determine what our customers really need. I agree, friends and customers are a like. We need to treat them as one of our friends, not just any random guy trying to buy something from you. Remember, when a customer is satisfied, he’ll come back for more.

    Great article.

    Regards,
    Phil

  • The ability to suceed in any business is seeing yourself from the point of view of the customer. However, sometimes we don’t get any feedback from customers. Therefore, we might assume our material is good when many people think it’s bad. Therefore, you might have to seek out the opinions of customers on forums and other places.

    • sometimes you dont know because customers simply go somewhere else.

  • Hey Yaro, the first newsletter I ever signed up for was David DeAngelo’s as well! It was before I was into making money online and before I was making money online. Crazy how Eben has been doing what he teaches for so long (a reason he’s so successful).

    I find myself having to go through the customer avatar activity all the time so that I can keep in contact with what struggles my customers are going through as time goes by. New problems arise that I never would have thought about if I didn’t spend the time asking them about their problems. Excellent post here, it’s amazing how such a simple concept can be so powerful for our businesses.

    Keep rockin it!
    -Chris

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