Wondering how to read your customer's mind, even if you're not psychic?

Tell me if your typical writing M.O. goes a little like this...

You corral all your wild ideas for your web copy or sales page into a Google Doc, ready to blow the minds of your future customers...

You J.K. Rowling out on that first draft of copy for 7 days straight...

And even though your desk is a confetti of peanut butter cup wrappers and half-full mugs of unintentional cold brew by the time you eek out that last word, you’ve got a good feeling.

You click “publish” with a shiver of…anticipation. Then you wait. And thumb-twiddle some more.

You predict your web copy or sales page is going to be a bestseller. But all those inquiries and sales: not happening.

You feel part confused, part failure, and mostly just ready to eat yourself into a mac & cheese coma.

Because if your words don’t make bank, you are S to the C to the R to the E to the W to the E to the D. I don't want this to be you!

While you may be quick to blame your writing style here, I’m going to guess your brilliance got derailed at the customer research stage.

Most of us would rather skip this part (like the opening bands at a concert).

YES. It would be awesome if you could Being John Malkovich this.

But since there’s no handy portal into your customer’s brain, you may try to guess at what they want...and that can get expensive (and annoying).

Copywriting isn’t about guesswork. It’s about doing your research.

And that should be a RELIEF: Because it means you never have to start with a blank page when you’ve got the right data in front of you. (Takes some of the pressure off, right?)

Reading your customer's mind is all about digging into the data, so you can develop content, offerings and products that your peeps will be all over like maple syrup on pancakes.

Today, I’m going to teach you the 5-step customer profile process I use with my private clients to write “it’s like you’re inside my head!” copy.

Step 1 | Decide who your product or service is designed for

Before you sneak into Nancy Drew mode, you're going to want to create a basic avatar for who your product or service is designed for. For now, you don't have to worry about getting TOO specific.

You're going to make some assumptions up front. But in future steps, we're going to get clearer on how your ideal customer is really thinking, feeling and talking about their problems and aspirations with real research.


Demographics: Basic facts about your ideal customer like age, gender, income, and geographic location. Also, give them a name!

Psychographics: Think about their attitudes, perspectives, habits and lifestyle. If she’s a “no coffee, no workee” type, would she rather use a French press at home? Hang out at an urban café in town? Or grab a caramel macchiato from Starbucks? If she’s a soon-to-be-bride, is she all up in Pinterest and wedding blogs? Or is she more likely to look for inspiration in books and magazines?

Priorities: Knowing what your ideal customer cares about when it comes down to your product or services will help you strategically organize and stack your copy, so you can lead with what matters most to them. Here are a few examples:

If you’re targeting women who are starting a business, their main priority could be anything from financial freedom, to spending more time with their kiddos, to being location independent, to becoming internet-famous. Who do you want your offer to appeal to?

If you design men's jeans, who do you want to design FOR? Do you want to attract dudes who care about a comfortable fit and affordable price? Will he pay more for a flattering fit that has him pulling a Channing Tatum from behind? Does he want to buy a brand name that’ll impress his social circle? Or does he want to be a rule breaker in leopard print? (I’m looking at you, Jared Leto.) Again, figure out who you want your messaging to appeal to based on your product.

If you want to create meal plans for busy moms, which priority are you most interested in addressing? Budget-friendly meals? Healthier options? To be in and out of the kitchen in 30 minutes tops? Easy recipes that only require college student cooking skills? Less moldy veggies to toss at the end of every week? Even if you'll address more than one of these, you'll want to focus your messaging on ONE.

Values: Values are what guide your ideal customer’s actions. While priorities are day-to-day determinants that can evolve, values play the long game. For example: creativity, giving back, relationships, personal expression, convenience, freedom, fun, flexibility, adventure, aesthetics, wellness, accessibility, affluence, influence, and personal growth. This is why you’ll notice car companies focusing on everything from fuel economy, to design, to safety ratings or environmental impact. What values do you want your product or service to align with?

Pains: What current problem is your ideal customer facing that’s related to your product or service? How does this affect their life, both in a tangible way and an emotional way?

Gains: What are your ideal customer’s short and long term goals? Think of both quantitative (ex. “I want to have consistent $3k months in my business”) and qualitative (ex. “I want to have more freedom to travel”).

Objections: Why does your ideal customer think they CAN’T achieve their goals? Lack of time, energy or motivation? Not knowing their next steps? Zero accountability or support? Explore the beliefs, fears or habits that might be holding them back.

If you want to take it a step further, you can also create a reader mood board if you appreciate having visual inspiration to guide your writing.

This can include elements that match your ideal client’s style, from fashion she’d wear, to quotes she loves, to where she hangs out, and what her interests and hobbies are.

You can create a collage using Canva, Pinterest or PicMonkey.

Remember this is just a draft and it's going to evolve over the next few steps. You haven't researched or test-driven these assumptions yet, so before we create a buyer persona, we have to remove any bias by gathering some specific data.

Step 2 | Build a customer empathy map

Even though most business owners skip this step, an empathy map is the foundation for your buyer persona and will help you read your customer's mind. Unlike a buyer persona, an empathy map dives deeper than demographics to help you understand what your ideal customer thinks, feels, hears, says and does.

An empathy map will help you to deconstruct your ideal customer's worldview, break into their brain, and understand the underlying "why" behind their choices, fears, behaviors, aspirations and motivations. In other words: COPYWRITING GOLD.

The empathy map was originally created by Dave Gray and the goal is to get more insight into your potential customer's buying decisions.

To build your empathy map, you can use a graphic design software, paper and pen, whiteboard or chalkboard, Post Its, or a Google Doc or Google Sheet. It can be as simple or as colourful and creative as you like.

ALL YOU NEED ARE THE FOLLOWING SIX SECTIONS: Think and Feel, Hear, See, Say and Do, Pains, Gains.

Don't worry about what you're going to put in each section. We'll get to that!

Step 3 | Copy stalk to read your customer's mind

Ok. Now that you’ve got your empathy map ready to go, it’s time to stalk your ideal customers like you’re their number one fan. (Think Kathy Bates in Misery, minus the creep factor.)

You’ve probably heard: “Go on Reddit! Go on Quora! Read Amazon reviews! DO ALL THE THINGS!”

I shortcut that. Because honestly? You can get a lot of misinformation taking that route.

If you’re a personal trainer, 50+ men who want to avoid a heart attack and stop taking cholesterol meds are going to have a VERY different take on health and fitness vs. twentysomething college guys who want to lift heavy and be a walking gun show.

Copy stalking without parameters is pointless. You need a way to filter, so the responses you’re listening to actually represent your ideal customer.

Now do you see why we figured out a general idea of who our ideal customer was first?


1 | Do surveys with qualifying questions.

Before you get into the meaty survey questions, ask qualifying questions. That way you can create filters that zero in on your ideal customers.

Qualifying questions can help you target age, gender, or a subgroup in your topic area.

Here are a couple of examples of qualifying questions:

Which of the following best describes you?

a) My business is just an idea right now.

b) I have a full-time job and my business is my side hustle.

c) I’m in the early startup stages of my business and making under $25k.

d) My business brings in a full-time income of $50-75k.

e) I’m making over $100k in my business.

Which of the following best describes your relationship?

a) Married to my partner.

b) Single, but living with my significant other.

c) Single and living alone, but in a long-term relationship.

d) Divorced or separated.

e) Other (please specify)

So if you’re creating a high-level mastermind for businesses that are already making $100k in revenue and want to scale, you can immediately disregard any of the responses from unqualified candidates who take your survey.

Or if you’re creating an online workshop for cohabitating couples, you can focus on those living with or married to their partner when you review your survey responses. Make sense?

Another reason I love surveys? Because you often find out the problem you THINK your ideal client wants solved is different from the problem they actually want solved.

2 | Review testimonials and feedback from past ideal customers.

If you’ve worked with dreamy customers in the past who represent the person you want to serve in the future, their feedback can give you incredible insight that helps you read your future customer's mind.

Here are a few examples of how testimonials from my clients might help me highlight pains, gains and obstacles in my copy:


3 | Conduct interviews with past ideal customers or beta testers.

Figure out what kind of problems your customers wanted solved, what they found compelling about your product or service, what their buying hesitations were, and what results you helped them get.

4 | Search Facebook communities and Amazon reviews with parameters.

Search within Facebook communities for keywords related to your offering and review the discussions that went on and check out Amazon reviews. But make sure whatever you’re grabbing is actually coming from your target audience.

For example, if you’re a personal trainer who is creating a fitness program for middle-aged individuals, you might want to try searching something like “fit over 50”.



I was struggling to bend over to tie my shoes.

I noticed I was getting early arthritis.

I couldn’t go up a flight of stairs without getting short of breath.


I’m dropping waist sizes.

I run faster now than I did in college.

The exercises weren’t too difficult and I was still able to work up a sweat.


I wasn’t as active after I retired, so I started aging faster.

I feel like the older I get, the slower my metabolism is, and the more challenging it is for me to lose weight.

I’m afraid of getting injured now that I’m getting older and I’m not as strong as I used to be.

As you can imagine, the language around fitness and health would vary greatly between a new mom who wants to drop the baby weight, a college athlete, a CrossFit enthusiast, and a yogi.

This is why it’s so important to create parameters when you’re building your copy bank instead of just stockpiling everything you find across the Interwebs. To read your customer's mind, you've got to get specific in your search.

Step 4 | Populate your empathy map

Most people will create their empathy map before doing the real dirty work (surveying their audience, researching, interviewing, etc.).

I prefer to do this step after I've interacted with my potential customers, so I'm populating my empathy map with THEIR words, feelings and behaviours instead of making educated guesses.

The think and feel column is where your ideal client’s aspirations or worries go. What do they want to change? What motivates them? I also like to bold the emotional words that keep coming up for them (ex. “I’m excited to start my own business, but balancing my responsibilities is challenging).

The hear column is where the messages they hear from their spouse, coworkers/boss/employees, family and friends go. How does this influence their actions? And what are they telling themselves? (ex. “You shouldn’t leave your corporate salary and benefits to start a business. That’d be so risky and you could lose everything!” Or “I won’t have the time to start a business until my kids go to college.”)

The see column is where you describe what your ideal customer’s environment looks like. What is she being exposed to daily? What daily problems does she encounter? You’ll want to go beyond the obvious and address both positives and negatives. (ex. They see other people succeeding in online business. Six figure success stories. Positive impact. Freedom from corporate. “Everyone is further ahead than me.” “My market is already saturated, why bother?”)

The say and do column is where you explore what your ideal customer tells others, how they spend their time, and if there are conflicts between what she says and does and how she truly feels. (ex. They might say, “I need more accountability and direction to get my business off the ground.” As far as do, maybe they hire a business coach, take an online course, or attend regular networking events.)

Under pains, you’re going to list anything that your ideal customer is trying to get relief from. Think: Struggles, fears, obstacles and potential risks.

Under gains, you’re going to list their biggest dreams and aspirations. I always like to skip back to the values part of my buyer persona to flesh out this part, so I understand not only what they want, but what’s motivating their desires and how they measure success, too.

Once you've done this, you can create what's called a Problem Statement or Point of View Statement:

{Ideal client/user} need a way to {verb} because {surprising insight}.

For example, let's say you're starting a lifestyle blog for breastfeeding mamas: New moms, for whom breastfeeding seems confusing and overwhelming instead of easy and convenient, need a way to connect with other moms online who get the ups and downs of the nursing lifestyle because they feel socially isolated and oftentimes judged.

Step 5 | Create a buyer persona

Think of your buyer persona as a fictional version of your ideal customer (and muy importante).

Now that you've collected data and insights, you can flesh out the assumptions you made in step 1 and create a story for your ideal customer based on the wording you collected by copy stalking and building your empathy map.

I like to treat it like a fun role-playing exercise where you get to become your customer and see the world through their eyes.

Always make sure you write your buyer persona story from your ideal customer’s perspective, not yours.


I’m struggling to {main challenge or pain point}. I feel {associated emotions}. But {the obstacles they’re facing that are stopping them from achieving their desired outcome}.

I’d love to {their goal} because {why this goal matters to them}. The only thing is, {their objections or hesitations when it comes to solving their problem}.

I want to {reaffirm the values and beliefs tied into their goal}. My only worry is {questions or concerns that they may have about your product/service that need to be answered}.


I’m struggling to find nursing tops that are comfortable, functional, and a fashionable way to wear spit-up! I feel like a lumpy mess right now, so dealing with unflattering fits and all of these confusing clasps is NOT helping. But it’s not like my fave retailers carry maternity clothes, so what other options do I really have?

I’d love to find maternity clothes that are modern, versatile, and easy to wash...because while I may be a new mom, I still want to feel like myself. I want to look pulled together in public (and not like I'm hanging on by a thread), even if I’m just grabbing groceries! The only thing is, comfort is still my top priority and clothes only work for me if they’re easy to layer and have ample coverage for "the girls".

I want to be able to comfortably nurse my baby in public, but I don’t want to settle on personal style. My only worry is that while I go through this transitional time and work on shedding some of my extra baby weight, I can’t afford to break the bank. Until I can get back into my most-loved outfits, I need a few affordable nursing outfits to hold me over and make me feel like the hot mama I am.

Now you can create marketing messages that speak directly to your ideal customer (let’s call her Amy) and share with her how your line of nursing clothing can satisfy her desire for fashion and function while still being baby and budget-friendly.

Just remember that your buyer persona is going to evolve over time as your business changes, so make sure to revisit this exercise whenever you’re going through some major growing pains or a rebrand. You can also have multiple avatars for an offer, service or product.

Janine Duff