Welcome to episode 61 of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Today Kira Hug and Rob Marsh talk with freelance copywriter Alaura Weaver about how she’s grown her business, often working at night to get things done. During our discussion, we covered:
• how she went from acting to sales to copywriting
• how theater and acting has made her a better copywriter
• what she did early on to get her first clients and her advice to new copywriters
• how she saw herself as a business owner, not a freelancer
• her thoughts about seeing customers as humans, not consumers and living your message
• how copywriters can live their own message and values
• how to develop buyer personas and why you should use them
• how she gets to know the customers she is profiling
• the trap of writing for everybody and reaching nobody
• how she sells her clients on creating Avatars as part of her projects
Plus we also asked Alaura about how often you should create new customer profile, what she’s doing to share how you can define your own customer personas and how she juggles family, course creation, and business and makes it all work. Want this one in your ear buds? Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.
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The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The storytelling post on CH
Hillary’s coaching post
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
The Copywriter Club Podcast is sponsored by Airstory, the writing platform for professional writers who want to get more done in half the time. Learn more at Airstory.co/club.
Rob: What if you can hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits. Then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work. That’s what Kira and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Kira: You’re invited to join the club for episode 61 as we chat with freelance copywriter and storyteller, Alaura Weaver, about how she became a copywriter, creating customer personas, and her course about them, juggling work and family, and various other products, and making business personal.
Rob: Welcome Alaura!
Alaura: Hi! Thank you!
Kira: Great to have you here, so I think a great place to start is with your story. As a storyteller, can you tell us your story?
Alaura: So, it’s really ironic is that my verbal, like, speaking storytelling skills are a little bit off, which is why I like writing. But, I’ll tell you how I started. I’ve actually started in the theater. I was a child actress and, that’s what I thought I was going to do my entire life. I was on the stage, I literally grew up on the stage.
Alaura: And I went to the Baltimore School for the Arts for high school. I majored in theater in undergrad and got my graduate degree in acting. So, it was kind of like, that was my path; I was going to be a professional actress. I focused on the creation of original works, so I did have that writing element in there. But, life is a lot harder—laugh—than your dreams, right? You know, the reality is most actors are unemployed for the majority of their careers, and I had to find a way to pay back those student loans and pay bills and be an adult. And so I got into sales. I got into business-to-business sales. One of my first jobs was actually on inside sales for a start-up, and I liked that environment a lot, of that small team, that kind of feisty, scrappy team, building and growing that business, and it felt like a good place to be. But then I got an offer to start selling, advertising for the Yellow Book.—Laughs—If you remember…do you remember the Yellow Book?
Rob: Let your fingers do the walking, absolutely.
Alaura: So you can guess how, um—clears throat—old I am….but yeah, unfortunately I got into Yellow Page sales, advertising sales, just as smart phones were starting to take off. And it was also right as the economic crisis happened. So, there was like a—this, terrible, perfect storm of economic downturn for small business owners who were the majority of my clients. And then of course, on how people find information about doing business with people, Google—you know, Google was king, but actually Google, on a local level, hadn’t really taken off, until right as, like, 2008. You know, just as Facebook was happening and more people were talking about things on a local level, and so I got a lot of pushback and I had to kind of fight through and learn how to sell. And then, I fortunately got a better job as everything was falling down, and then, I got married and got pregnant, and had to kind of had to re-evaluate everything. So, I decided I wanted to stay home with my child. I was actually given the opportunity by the company that I worked with to stay home and work from home, but, that was a pilot program, they’d never offered that before, and realistically, trying to sell on the phone is…kind of impossible around children, as you probably both know. Trying to have any kind of phone conversation is impossible around children.
Alaura: So, I also had a really bad case of postpartum depression, and it kind of forced me to dig deep and take a look at what I really wanted from life, and, what I didn’t want from life. And what I didn’t want from life was having to be beholden to someone else’s dreams. And honestly, I wanted to make an impact and a difference in this world. After having a child, it put into perspective that I want to, in some way, help improve lives for people who need a hand up. And so, I kind of was taking a look at what I could do, and what I didn’t want to do, and at the same time I was trying to out-mom every mom that had ever “mommed”.
Kira: Oh, wow. That’s hard to do!
Alaura: It’s a lot of pressure, when you’re dealing with depression especially, so I was turning to, you know, those Facebook groups and the moms’ groups, and everybody’s talking, and subtly competing with one another with how great of a mom they are. And then finally somebody had this discussion of “look, I’m finding it impossible to find work that I want to do other than, you know, selling gadgets or romance…supplies?….or, kitchen gadgets” through MLM. You know, that’s like the classic stay-at-home-mom-job, right…
Alaura: …is to be the Mary Kay supplier. And, she said, that’s not what I want to do, I hate doing it. What do you do, that isn’t that, and earn money?” And, one of them mentioned “I do content writing on the side”. And so I looked into that, and I had discovered Text Broker. I got signed up at Text Broker, just to kind of take a peek, dip my toes in, and I started doing just little blog posts with 24-hour turnarounds and getting really good at it. And in fact, it was paying like two cents per word, and I wasn’t making much, but it was still a space of my own that wasn’t being a mom, that was just doing the things that I love like researching and figuring out who those readers are, and also sprinkling my own point of view when it comes to how information can be given to people without overloading them, without selling them too much.
And my clients responded really positively to me, and one of them actually said, “You’re better than this place. You need to get out and do your own thing.” She says, “I hate telling you this because we’re not supposed to even contact, you know, the writers outside of this platform. But, girl, get out!” Laughs—And so, I did. I started my own website, and I started looking, you know, learning just how a lot of your listeners do, it’s just learning the ropes: listening to podcasts, looking at blogs….some of the blogs that I really attached myself to were Neil Patel’s blog and Copy Hackers, and I started learning what was really involved in content marketing and copywriting. And I started developing a even more-focused point of view when it comes to how I think business can be done in a really positive way, and I think that storytelling is at the center of that. And we can talk about that a little bit more, but, eventually, I started kind of developing that brand, that point of view, and reaching out, and creating, like, a social media presence.
Nothing huge, just letting people know on Twitter, you know, this is what I’m about. And, people started coming to me. And eventually, I decided I was going to take the leap and offer to guest post for Johanna Wiebe at CopyHackers, because I had noticed that she—and most blogs had done this—they touch on storytelling, and I’m using air quotes right now, on like, oh I’ll have a middle, beginning, and end, but they didn’t really talk about the mechanics of storytelling, and how to do it, and how to apply it in a copywriting and content writing framework. So, that’s what I did, and I ended up writing this massive seven-thousand-word post for….
Kira: Oh wow.
Alaura: It was like my manifesto, you know? It was like everything that I cared about, why I cared about storytelling, why it was so powerful. Just poured my heart into it, and it was a huge hit. It’s like, it still gets shared, I still get fan mail over it. You know and I think that people think I’m a little more influential than I think that I am—laughs—because of this one article that ended up kind of, just, “this is me, this is what I stand for, this is what I’m picking a fight with”. And the clients followed, you know, by putting myself out there and defining what I wanted to do in this industry and the type of clients I wanted to work with, I very rarely have to go after clients now, they come to me.
Alaura: That’s why I’m here now, I’m talking to you.
Rob: So much to unpack from that answer. I’ve written down about ten questions to ask that you know, sort of follow your journey better, but I want to go all the way back to the beginning to acting.
Rob: How has your experience as an actor impacted what you do as a writer? I imagine there’s a lot of crossover where you’re, you know, taking on a role, and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Talk a little about that.
Alaura: Well first of all, the fundamental quality that you have to develop as an actor and as a copywriter is empathy. And the best way to develop that empathy is to dig in and understand the story behind the story, right? So, if I’m an actress and I’m reading a script, there’s already a plot and a structure and a whole journey already paced out for me. If I’m a copywriter and I’m looking at the goals of my client, we know what that journey needs to be, right? It needs to be from the prospect, discovering the product, then going through levels of awareness, and then eventually going into the sales funnel and becoming a customer. So, these are both laid out. The job of the actress is to define the inner motivations of the characters they’re portraying. And there’s different techniques of how to do that, a lot of people use the method, right? You’ve heard about the method acting, where…
Alaura: …people actually literally walk in the shoes of the character and walk around in character, and kind of see the world through the character’s eyes. There are other techniques that you just analyze, “alright, so in this part of the script this person says this; why did they say this, what happened to cause them to say it this way?” It’s very psychological, as we know. Copywriting requires psychology. You’re going in-depth to what the core of that person is, and what they want ultimately from the world. I think with copywriting, and what I love about copywriting, is it goes past what your prospect wants just in that used case, right, in that solution they’re seeking for that one problem. It’s also aligning yourself so that you can say, we share the same values; we want the same things from the world. And you’re going to have a lot more customer loyalty.
Rob: Alaura, I want to hear more about when you just made that transition and, you know, you kind of broke free from Text Broker, and you’re like, this is what I want to do, I’m going to do it on my own, you got your website set up. What did those early days look like as far as what was happening behind the scenes—Hustling, not hustling, you know—to get that traction that we need as new copywriters?
Alaura: So, I did not follow a very typical path. Everybody has a different path but, you know there’s a lot of pitching to people and applying for work, and all this kind of stuff. I had the luxury of not needing to do that, because I considered this my little side job, right? I wasn’t desperate for building a business rapidly and making as much money as I could to support my family. So, I will put that out there right now. I was in a place of privilege, but what was happening behind the scenes was, I was researching and researching and researching. I was following Neil Patel like a religion. And Johanna, I was—you know, again—I was fangirling out over her, and I was just digging in, and just deciding I don’t want to have to chase after clients. I want to create something where I’m a beacon and the people that I want to work with come to me, so I started studying content marketing and how to create a blog that, that appeals and is relevant to the people that you want to attract. And I started really focusing on how to develop that social media presence, and aligning yourself with the followers that you want to follow you. I really think it was my training process as a content marketer, which I am now certified as. I treated my business—instead of myself as a freelancer—I treated as a business, where I was more interested in attracting visitors to my front door then going after new business, if that makes any sense.
Kira: Yeah that makes a lot of sense; I’m thinking through, you know, what advice what you give to a new copywriter, and you know maybe they have the luxury of not providing for their family, and feeling that pressure—or they don’t—but it’s sounds like that blog post for Copy Hackers was really critical to your success. Is it that we tell them—of course there’s not one path, but we say—find what that content is for you, and like go all in, right? Six thousands words, pour your heart into whatever that is, because then the people will find you…is it as simple as that, or is it really figuring out the right platform, the right message…?
Alaura: I think it’s a mindset.
Alaura: Again, I wasn’t really concerned about selling myself more than I was concerned about selling what I want to change about the industry, or what I want to help people do that’s different from everybody else. So, I think a lot of times when freelancers think about themselves as freelancers they think of themselves as hands for hire. I didn’t go into that thinking of myself that way. I started just thinking of my website as my business, and it might’ve been because I had worked in the phone book world for so long that I understood how people look for information, and why they do, and how they you know—what captures their attention when they’re looking for help; when they’re looking for services. And I also had the bad experience that I wanted to avoid which is, I hated ringing doorbells. I hated calling people on the phone and saying, “I know you’re not looking for my services right now but—laughs—but I want to be the person you think of when you do.” I didn’t like doing that, and, even though I was in it for ten years, that’s what I did, I hated doing it. So, I think that it was part of necessity for me to just avoid that by creating, again, attracting people to me, as opposed to going after them.
Rob: That makes sense. And, it seems to dovetail with this mantra that you have all over your website, you know: “Be human,” and, “Business isn’t business, it’s personal.” Talk a little bit about your thinking around those ideas.
Alaura: So, I came to this realization that “business was personal” back around the same time as the economic crisis, you know. When I was trained as a phone book sales rep, you know, I was given many of the same ideas that copywriters are given in terms of that attention, interest, desire, and then, action step. Right? Those steps that you have to go through to get the sale. And, the problem is, after doing this for a while, you start thinking of people, us human beings as kind of this monolithic—almost like a computer, where you know, if you push the right buttons, they will execute the command that you desire. And, I realized that there’s a relationship between that—how businesses treat consumers—and how people ended up losing their homes, or not being able to pay for their retirements, or going into bankruptcy because they can’t pay a medical bill. Because, when you try to convince people to do something that’s profitable for you but goes against their best interests, you’re not treating them like human beings anymore. You’re treating them like consumers, and I think it’s time for businesses—and I think that it’s happening more and more, but—I think it’s time for businesses to start taking a look at the impact they make in lives after they make the sale, you know. And the impact that they make in the world after they create the product, because that bottom line is worthless ultimately, if it’s causing damage in somebody’s life, or it’s causing damage to the environment. So, when I realized that, I was sitting there across the table in this guy’s kitchen and, he had lived with his mom, his mom had just died. This was like a 60-year-old man. He had never had to advertise for his company before, but because the economy was so bad, he was putting himself out there. He handed me an enveloped—it was like this yellowed envelope—it was stuffed with cash.
Kira: Oh my gosh.
Alaura: And he looked at me with desperation in his eyes. He’s like, “This is going to work, right?”
Rob: Oh my goodness…!
Alaura: My manager is sitting next to me.
Alaura: And he’s looking at me with dollar signs in his eyes!
Kira: Sigh of disbelief.
Alaura: And at the time, you know, I took the money. I said, “Yes, you’re goiung to see so much improvement in your business”, knowing in the back of my mind that phone book usage was going down; knowing in the back of my mind that this was like the Detroit area, okay? Laugh—in my mind, that everything was getting foreclosed, and people weren’t looking for….this guy sold doors, okay? So, people can’t buy doors for homes that they can’t live in anymore. And I’m making these promises, I had gotten the sale. And after I had gotten the sale, I felt terrible. I felt like the worst person in the world. And my manager took me into McDonalds right, to celebrate?
Alaura: And he’s like “wow, that’s amazing!” It was a half-page ad, which was a very expensive ad in the phone book. He’s celebrating; I’m just like, I feel awful. I feel terrible. Did we do the right thing? He’s like, “I’ve never had a sales rep show regret after having sold a half-page ad.” And that’s when I realized, I was in the wrong business.
Alaura: So, even though I’m using my skills as a copywriter, there’s such a thing as integrity that I think is highly underrated in the world of business, because profits are so overrated, because I mean, I know that profits drive business, it’s what capitalism is about. But I think there’s room for integrity and consciousness, and as a copywriter those are the clients I want to reach out to, or the people who are seeking to have integrity throughout their brand, you know. If there’s somebody who says everybody is, you know, like—Dove, for example…..sigh, Dove….if you’re somebody who says everybody’s beautiful, and we’re not seeking to change you, we’re seeking to bring out your inner beauty, then everything, every message that you have, the way that you treat your employees, the way that you handle your manufacturing, needs to be along with that message. So, that’s why business is personal. You have to live what your message is.
Kira: So can we connect that to copywriters? I’m just thinking through what you said about humans vs. consumers, and you know, I know I’ve caught myself at times where, it’s like, you look at your list, and you’re like “oh, I have this many people on the list, I can definitely sell this many people” and everyone becomes a number. What have you seen? What mistakes have you seen copywriters specifically make in this space of humans vs. consumers?
Alaura: Actually I’m not going to say what you can avoid, because I think that if you use the right process, you won’t help but avoid it. And the first thing is developing a user or buyer persona. And just don’t focus on their use of the product, focus on what space they want to fill in this world, and what’s important to them and their values, and how you can speak to them without manipulating them. The other thing you can do as a copywriter, as a freelancer, really dig into who you want to work with. If you don’t feel right, if you know that your client is exploiting people, don’t work with them. Just….don’t. And I know that it’s easy for me to say because people are looking for money, you know, you got to get money to support your family, but what’s the cost of that ultimately, when you know, that person refers more exploitative business to you, and then all the sudden you start hating what you do, because you feel…you feel guilty? Or, the other cost is, you start not feeling guilty about it because you’re seeing the money come in, and it’s not until later that you realize, oh, I’ve hurt people with my work. So dig into what your values are, and find clients that align with those values. The other thing you can do is, if you see something that works for a lot of people, don’t assume that it will work for you. Test. Test what your work is doing, because when you test, you’re saying, “I’m going to assume everybody’s different and just because I’m using a time-tested copywriting formula doesn’t necessarily mean my audience will respond in the same way. They might even reject it.” I just found this great post by Hilary Weiss about how the coaching niche is starting to crumble because people are doing the same things over and over and over again.
Alaura: And audiences are getting wise to it, they’re seeing through the gimmickry, and their saying, “this isn’t genuine. This is another ‘guru’ trying to get me to open my wallet”, and there’s a backlash against it. So, and yes it’s partially because people are using clichés, but it’s also partially because people aren’t bothering to test with their specific audience to see what kind of success they can have with it. I think those are the three biggest tips I can make at this point. But, some other things will come up I’m sure.
Kira: That’s great, thank you.
Rob: Yeah that’s good stuff. So you mentioned customer profiles, or personas, or what some people call avatars. What is a persona, and why do we need to be using them?
Alaura: Okay. So, Google says a persona is kind of a amalgamation of characteristics that define a business’ target user, and that amalgamation can include demographics, it can include how people use a product, or what problems they’re seeking to solve. And that’s a pretty generic approach to personas, and when you kind of define personas generically, you get a generic persona. And, that’s when you get that consumer avatar, right? But my personal definition of persona is the character that you create that represents the shared values, shared desires, shared fears, of the ideal customer that you wish to attract.
And, I think that it takes a lot of research, I mean my clients come to me and it takes me a good ten to twenty hours to dig up a good user persona, because I don’t just look at their typical work day, you know. Is their idea user somebody who has a family? They’re looking to save time because they want to spend more time with their families. And, why do they want to spend more time with their families? What are the special things that they want to share with their families? So it goes beyond just that product, you know, the interactions with that product and it’s ultimately about their interactions with the world and what they ultimately want to achieve in their lives.
Kira: So when you’re creating your personas for your clients, what does that look like during that twenty hours—however long it takes you—behind the scenes to do this research? Are you interviewing some of their customers? What’s happening?
Alaura: Well, a lot of my clients are start-ups, so there are no customers to interview. But with the customers that I have that are interested in re-positioning their brands, I’ll listen to recordings with their customer success folks. I don’t do a lot of personal interviews with customers because, first of all, they don’t me, they’re not going to tell me much about themselves. But when they’re in a scenario where they’re seeking help, a lot of times they reveal more about themselves then just “oh, I’m having trouble logging in”, right? So, you know, they might even talk: “Oh my, I’m sorry I can’t hear you ‘cause my kid’s in the background”, or “*sigh* I’m sorry if I sound short, I was stuck in traffic”, you know. Those are the things that are just as important, than “I can’t log in”.
So I like to listen to customer success conversations, and so it’s really a good idea to start to record them, or suggest that your client records them. And the other things that I do, like, the very thing that I start out with, is really a competitive analysis of taking a look at who’s coming to your competitors. Again, I use the word “values” a lot, but, what kinds of values are your competitors projecting? And, how do you want to differentiate yourself or align yourself with your competitors? Because, that has to do with the following and the audience that they’re generating around themselves.
Then I take a look at very technical, you know, analysis of the demographics of their web traffic. I use some software analytics for that. Then I dig in a little bit deeper and do psychographics, and when I say psychographics, I mean internal motivators, the things that people want from their lives. And also what they surround themselves with to kind of create the world that they want to.
So, what are their favorite brands? What kind of music do they listen to? What do you think their theme song could be? And I do that by blatantly eavesdropping and sneaking in on Facebook groups and on going on blogs and looking at the comments and looking at people’s Twitter profiles and seeing who’s following them and what they have to say, and grabbing all this information and kind of copy-mining, you know, if there’s any really good nuggets that reveal who that person is. And then, I put it all together into a beautiful presentation for my client to let them know, “Okay, this is the human being that you want to attract. And if you attract this human being then all of the human beings that are friends and the human beings that share a lot of their values will follow them.
Rob: So, Alaura, I totally get the idea, sort of, riding towards you know, one customer that you identify, but I also have part of me that sort of rejects it or wants to push back against that as well, you know. Where, you get a persona that defines, you know, let’s say, it’s Rick, and he’s thirty-eight years old and he’s got an eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, and you know his son plays soccer Saturday mornings and he’s at the pool with his daughter Tuesday nights and, you know, he loves carrot cake but hates red velvet cake…
Kira and Alaura: Laughter
Rob: …and it feels to me like sometimes they get almost so specific, that you sort of lose the person that you’re actually trying to talk to, or you’re eliminating parts of an audience that ought to be there that maybe you’re starting to miss because, you know, the persona doesn’t grab them. What would you say to that kind of push back?
Alaura: That’s push back that they get a lot, because, you know, if you’re in business chances are you want to get as much business as you can get, and you want to please everybody. But we’re learning more and more that when you try to please everybody, you will please nobody. So, you want to get specific, because specificity creates more interest. And even if it’s not necessarily relevant to that one person, they might be able to relate to it in a different way. The other thing to keep in mind is, just because you have one persona, doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have multiple personas. This is where segmentation comes into play. If I have a campaign, that’s for, you know, the course that I’m developing, and, I want to target Rick who’s thirty-eight and has a couple of kids, and he’s in a full-time job but he’s thinking about branching out into copywriting, that campaign is going to be designed in a very different way than if I’m trying to sell my course to Trisha, who is a marketing manager at a Fortune 500 company, and she’s a woman who lives in the center of a metropolis, you know, and her life is very different from Rick, and so that campaign and the things that I say within that campaign are going to be designed very differently.
Kira: So Alaura, I’m listening to all this, and you know, I’m thinking okay, I can up my game within the persona space and add more value to my clients, improve my work… I kind of want to hear more about how you’re pricing this as far as, is this an add-on? Is this just a core part of every project you take on where it’s embedded in the price, and like, you’re just like, “this is what I do, it’s part of the package” price? And then also want to hear more about how you present it, the final presentation: is this a .pdf, ten-page document? So if you can share more of the details….
Alaura: So as far as pricing is concerned, I do put an emphasis on it being central to my process…
Alaura: …and when I send out proposals to clients, I include that as part of the research and development phase of whatever project I’m doing. If it’s like, you know, a…I’m trying to think of a scenario where I wouldn’t use a persona and I honestly can’t think of one. I think it’s just when I on-board a client, that’s part of the process upon boarding that client, is understanding deeply who their target customer is. The other thing is…. I have a software tool that I used called “Extensio”, and it has multiple ways that you can put together personas. You can either have like on persona and you can add different text blocks, and….it’s like building a webpage, honestly, but it’s focused on information that pertains to a persona—or, you can have like a persona comparison if you have multiple personas. And I love to use it, it’s just beautiful presentation, and I highly recommend it to anybody out there, and I’m not paid by Extensio to say that, although it’d be cool if they let me do a blog post or something for them…
Alaura: And, one of the first things I do after I compile this research, is, I do a nice search for that face. Literally, the face of that customer.
Kira: Oooh, that’s fun!
Alaura: And so I go through stock photos and I like, look like, “Does that look like her? Does that look like him? Mmmm, no, he’s way too conservative-looking; oh, she’s too quirky”. And, you know…
Alaura …it’s like creating a character, you know? As a writer, you can’t help but love creating characters and, as an actress, I love creating characters, so it’s really fun!
Alaura: And then I put together a really beautiful presentation—it’s not a ten-page .pdf document, it can’t be, because you want to be able to pass this out to anybody who’s creating content for you, not just your copywriter, but, you know, if you have a graphic designer, if you have somebody who’s going to create a podcast, anybody that’s helping you creating content needs to know who this person is, so don’t overwhelm them, let them put it on one to two pages. I prefer to keep it just as an electronic document so it doesn’t has to be printable. And it should be nicely laid out in a visual way, so that you’re not overwhelmed with giant blocks of texts.
Kira: And I imagine you don’t really get push back from the client at this point. They just accept it, and they’re happy with it, they’re not coming back to you and saying, “Whoa, this seems off! Can we update the persona?” Or, is that built into your process?
Alaura: Okay, so this I think that magic moment when you pass that persona on to your client. I’ve had one client who said that I didn’t get it. But it was because she didn’t want it to be that way, right?
Kira: (Makes snickering sound.)
Alaura: I kind of discovered this about the people that will be the most engaged in her product, and she rejected it; she just didn’t want it to be that way. So I was like, “You know what? We’re not a good fit!” But otherwise—laughs—I’ve had every client of mine, like, has this amazing emotion reaction. It’s not just like “oh, that’s really good”, it’s “*GASP* You nailed it!” I’ve had somebody say they cried after looking at the persona because I brought this ideal customer to life, because you have to remember, and especially with start-ups and entrepreneurs, they want to help people. They’re doing this because they want to change the world for the better in some way. And if you’re saying, this is the person that you’re helping, they have an emotional connection to that person. I’ve had one client like, I printed the email ‘cause she’s like “Fuuuuuuuuh—you get her! Oh my God, I cried! I showed this to all my best friends, and they cried”, and….it was funny. I mean, it’s strange, what a big reaction you can get from your clients after revealing it. And then so that a-ha moment too, I was saying, “Okay, this is the copywriter for me. She gets who it is…”
Alaura: “…that I’m wanting to reach.”
Kira: It builds trust and confidence in you before you even write the copy.
Alaura: Exactly, exactly.
Rob: Yeah, I like that. So, is this something you should revisit every once in awhile? And, let me share why I’m asking that question. So, I worked with a company that had done a lot of work around defining a user persona, and you know, talked to that person for years and years and years, and then a new CMO came on board, hired somebody else to do customer research, and they found that that customer that they were talking to was only responsible for like ten percent of their business, and that, you know, they actually had three or four other, you know, customers that were using the product in a really different way, that they weren’t talking to those people at all. So, how often do you need to be taking a new look at who you’re talking to and saying, “are we hitting the right person; is there somebody else here that we need to be focused on”?
Alaura: I think it’s a good idea to do this every time that you are about to scale up your business. You know, everybody has a business strategy of what they want to accomplish; if they’ve met that metric, then great and they can move on. If they’re not reaching it, they need to reevaluate it. It’s the same idea as how often do you need to refresh your website, how often do you need to redesign your….any kind of marketing materials? You need to reevaluate the marketplace, and see what kind of traction you’re getting and again, who’s responsible for what portion of your business, and is there a segment out there that you aren’t reaching right now that you could be? So no, a persona is not a granite fixture—laughs.
Alaura: It is constantly evolving, as are we, you know. Again, if you can’t treat your persona like a human being as opposed to this machine, then you’re going to be able to accept the fact that everything changes and that you need to adapt as the world changes around you.
Kira: Right, especially as there are big changes in the world around you, that may trigger you to revisit those quickly. So, I’m listening to this, and I wan to see the personas you put together, ‘cause of course, I kind of want to snag everything you’re doing, but I know you’re creating a course, so I don’t have to steal those from you. You’re actually creating something right now that could help copywriters and other marketers. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re building, like, where you are in the process? I know it’s a lot of work to put together, of course, right? Or I imagine.
Alaura: It’s a beast, man. And, yeah. This is my first course that I’m putting together. So I’m going to be putting together a beta group to begin with to kind of test out how it does and, and what I can do better. But, I’m going to be creating a series of courses that contribute to my story-based copywriting approach and the steps that it takes to be within that framework, and the first one is the very first step that I go through, which is the defining the user persona. And the course is going to be called, for now—we’ll figure out a better name if it doesn’t pop—is the Power of the Purpose Driven Persona. And I say “purpose-driven” because, it’s focusing again not just on that used case, right, we’re not talking just about how people use a product, but what their purpose in the world is that they want to fulfill, and how you as a can help them fulfill it. So right now, I’m in the “slide-deck” building phase, and it’s a little bit of a beast right now. I think it’s interesting because I’m trying to find a hook at the beginning of each lesson to kind of get people into the mindset of what we’re going to talk about, so that’s kind of fun. I like doing that part. But just going through and putting it all together is kind of a bit much. But I’m going to get there! Laughs—I’m pushing through because I can’t wait to see how it will change people’s businesses as copywriters and as start-up founders once they start implementing this approach to persona user building.
Rob: So I have to ask, who is the persona that the Purpose Driven Persona course is aimed at.
Alaura: Ooooh, good question!
Kira: Whose face is it? Who’s face—is it Rob’s face? Is it my face?
Rob: That’s right, who’s—yeah, who’s face is it? That’s right!
Alaura: It’s kind of meta because within the context of the course, I will be building my persona…
Alaura: ….a student of that course.
Alaura: So, one of the things I do is to find myself in comparison to the competitors out there, and their two big competitor types in the copywriting world, and the direct response copywriter who is very focused on that financial world, and also business leaders and the personality coaches and, or personality-driven businesses that focus on coaches, and they have a different approach than I do, because they’re very results-focused, and mine is very impact-focused, so I’m going to be targeting my persona course to anybody….well, no. I have to be specific, right? Um—laughs—her name is Dara Dogooder, right? Laughs—she is a mid-thirties woman with kids, who is very marketing-savvy, she knows what she doesn’t like about marketing, she wants to make herself stand out, she also is somebody who is dedicated to social causes, and wants to drive social enterprise and so, she’s a marketing expert who is wanting to get more into—what is it called—impact-investment industry, and she has been struggling to find material that speaks to that more than the very results-driven classic copywriting framework approach that a lot of people use you know. Here’s the formula that will help you do this, or…it’s, again, it’s about not just getting the conversion, but creating a conversation with the customer. It’d be better if I just put the persona in front of you, at this point, but…laughs.
Kira: Laughs. So, when I hear about you know, I can’t help but ask, how you manage all of this, you know? You mentioned at the beginning that you were trying to out-mom the other moms, and I know you’re juggling family, you’re own business, plus creating this course. It’s a lot, and so….how do you do it? Can you just tell me how you do it? Please guide me!
Alaura: It’s a process, man. I don’t “do it”, I’m “doing it”, right? And I’m always in the process of figuring it out, and because my kids are growing constantly, they’re changing constantly. So, I figure out what’s important like, prioritize: is it really important right now that I get my three-year-old a snack, or, can he wait, you know? Or, is it going to be easier to get him a snack right now so I can get some peace and quiet for a little bit to finish this email up, and make sure it’s a healthy snack! You know, don’t just throw a bag of gummy fruit at him and put him in front of the TV…
Rob: Putting away my gummy fruits right now, laughs….
Alaura: It’s okay as long as you eat something healthy too, Rob.
Kira: Laughs—I think I have done that in my worst moment, like take this.
Rob: That’s the problem.
Alaura: Oh yeah! Fine, take it!! Laughs—So, if I had a perfect solution for balancing momming and copywriting, man….I would be so rich.
Alaura: You know, that’s actually my side project, which is, I’m developing a co-working group of moms where we switch childcare duties while the other moms are working, and we host co-working sessions at each other’s houses, so that was we can get a few hours of uninterrupted work time. The other thing is, man….when my husband gets home, after dinner, I’m out. I’m out of the house. I’m sitting at a diner, or at a chain restaurant that has cheap cocktails…
Alaura: And I’m enjoying myself thoroughly in my solitude while I’m working.
Alaura: When you’re constantly somebody’s focus of attention and they want your attention at all times during the day, and I’ve got a three-year-old and a five-year-old so it’s a lot of attention I have to give my kids, it’s kind of nice to retreat from the world, and I kind of see my work as my haven, which, might be an unhealthy approach to—laughs—working too, but you know, that’s how I started doing this in the first place, was that I was carving out a space for myself that wasn’t in the mom realm.
Rob: It’s nice that you have a partner too, that you know can help balance that. I, you know, I know there are a lot of single moms that are trying to do this that don’t have that luxury, and…
Rob: That’s tough. That’s, yeah….that’s really hard.
Kira: I can’t imagine.
Alaura: And that’s why you really do have to reach out for help. Once you have a child, you enter the—as a woman, anyway—the “mom club”. And we know each other’s struggles. We feel for each other. Yeah, there’s mommy judgment a lot, but that insecurity, man. And once you start revealing your vulnerability, and saying “I’m having trouble with this; I need help”, somebody will reach their hand out and say “I’ve got your back”. I just talked to a fellow mom in my child’s kindergarten class, who is going through a divorce right now. She’s got twin girls; they are five years old. She’s on her own, she doesn’t have any relatives that are nearby, and I said, “If you need somebody just to keep the kids, you know, for a few hours after school, I’m within walking distance of the school. And that kind of thing comes full circle. Because I know that at some point, she’ll say “Hey, if you need to drop the boys off so you and your husband can go out on a date or you can get work done on a project”, it reciprocates. So if you reach out to somebody, I think that’s one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give as a parent, is, reach out to other parents. Let them know you have their backs, and they will have yours.
Kira: That’s a good reminder for me, because I—Laughs—I’ve like avoided other mommies, and just like, hang out with my childless girlfriends, for such a change.
Alaura: It’s freaking hard to make friends…
Kira: I know, I know!
Alaura: …with other moms too, and that’s the other reason why I’m creating that co-working group because we have shared interests other than children, which is running your own business, and we want to help each other out, so it’s not just about taking care of each others’ kids, but getting each others’ backs when it comes to business, like giving each other advice on how to write a cold email, or how to gracefully bow out of working with somebody you don’t want to work with, you know? So, it’s important, I think, to connect with other moms that—or, other parents—that are in similar situations.
Kira: And Alaura, I feel like we could ask you—I know I have a lot of questions I still want to ask you, and we’re out of time, so we need to have you back and…
Alaura: I would love to come back!
Kira: Yeah! And we would also want to know where can people find you, especially if someone’s interested in your course about personas? Where can they find you?
Alaura: Well, once I launch the course, you can find me at wordweaverfreelance.com. You can find my website right now if you just want to look around. The other thing is you can like me on Facebook, Word Weaver Freelance, and you can also say hi to me on Twitter, @wordweaverfree. So, those are my three big places.
Rob: Nice. Thanks so much for coming on and sharing so much, especially about personas, which is an area I think I need to get better.
Kira: Me too.
Rob: Very helpful.
Kira: Thank you, Alaura!
Alaura: Thank you! Thanks, guys!