How to understand your customer and write better copy

Understanding your customer – The Problem-GAP-GAP-Solution method

People in the copywriting circle always say: in order to successfully sell using words, you need to understand your customer. The best technical writer in the world is no match to the writer who understands their customer.

This blog post will teach you:

  • Why you need to understand your audience
  • How you understand your audience

For the sake of our understanding, imagine you have created a new kind of mobile phone with a week-long battery life. You think it’s pretty cool! I have drawn a picture of said mobile phone if your imagination is poor.


Now imagine you have 100 potential customers. Each customer has the potential to buy your product for £100. If you could sell them all you could make £10,000. That’s a lot of money, right? You need to find a way to convince every single customer they need to buy your product.

Your first lesson in selling: Be clear and concise.

Remember at school you were told your essay was okay, but the point wasn’t clear enough? Your teacher may have said something like this:

“If the examiner cannot understand what you are trying to say, you will not get the marks.”

It’s the exact same for copywriting. If your customers do not fully understand the benefits of buying the product, or more specifically buying the product from you, they will not buy it. 

There’s something I want you to remember. Your customers are selfish. They do not have any sort of allegiance for you. They are not “rooting for you to make a good product”. If they can find the same product cheaper somewhere else, they will buy it there. So how do you stop them doing that?

You get in the mind of the customer and try to understand them.

Let’s go back to our £100 phone with 100 potential customers. Suppose you put the product out there and 30 people buy it. They bought it straight away as it was EXACTLY what they were looking for, plus they have bundles of excess income.  

Congratulations, you have just made £3000. I am very proud of you. But don’t you wonder what it would be like if the other 70 potential customers bought your product too? Don’t you wonder what it would be like to have £10000 in your account, rather than £3000? I know I would.

THE CUSTOMER DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU – please if you do anything, remember this. 

The method you will use to understand your customers is the “Problem-GAP-GAP-Solution” method.  Say it out loud Problem-GAP-GAP-Solution. There are two steps we need to take before we get to the solution.

Untitled Diagram

So the Problem-GAP-GAP-Solution method begins with the problem. Put your product aside and think about the problem. What problem do they have? It might be one of these:

  1. They find it annoying that their phone battery dies so quickly.
  2. They miss phone calls and important messages because their phone dies.
  3. They have to spend extra time remembering to charge their phone each night.

Now with every problem, there is usually more than one solution. The first thing to do is fill the first GAP. Write a list of all their potential solutions and see which falls closest to the one you are offering:

  1. Use your phone less
  2. Get a phone with a better battery
  3. Have two phones

At this point they might not even be thinking about buying a new phone. The first step is to get inside their minds and convince them they need to buy a new phone.

Once you’ve persuaded them to buy a new phone, you need to persuade them to buy YOUR phone. There could be 30 other companies who are offering the same phone, if you don’t convince them to buy YOURS they could go elsewhere. This is a process that should be done methodically you need to take the customer on a journey.

The next step is to get into their mind and convince them they need to buy a phone with a longer battery. Consider what their thoughts are.Untitled Diagram (1)

Let’s pretend I am someone with the problem. I might take to Google to discover what I can do.

These are a few of my Google searches:

  1. “How to make my phone battery last longer”
  2. “What can I do to stop my phone dying so quickly”
  3. “Phone with the best battery”

What you want to do is to tap into the minds of the people who are searching for these & intercept them so they look at your product. 

If they are searching for “phone with the best battery”,  the copy you write needs to reflect this.  

Have a look at the two examples of search engine headline copy and think which is best. Remember you are trying to understand your customer and give them a solution to their problem. You are also trying to sew the seed of thought, that they need to invest in a new phone.

  1. “MOBI-Phone with a lithium power X3452 super battery”
  2. “Never worry about your phone dying, get a phone with unlimited battery life”.

If you chose option 1, please go back and have a think and come back when you think it’s option 2. If you chose option 2, well done, you’re learning. You’re just that little bit closer to understanding your customer and thus writing copy that converts.

This is one of the mistakes people make, especially with technical products. You might be very proud of the fact you have created a “lithium power X3452 super battery” but your customers are not.  All they care about is whether you can give them a solution to their problem.

If you’re currently sat in private, stand up, place your hand on your chest and repeat after me:

“My customers only care about the solution to the problem”  All good things come in threes so let’s say it three times.

My customers only care about the solution to the problem”

“My customers only care about the solution to the problem”

“My customers only care about the solution to the problem”

If someone cared about your “lithium power X3452 super battery” they would be searching for “lithium power X3452 super battery” Remember, it’s not about you. You’re simply the messenger, you are not important.

If your product is techincal but your ideal customer is not: don’t write with technical language.You will confuse and disengage them. The ideal customer who just wants their phone battery to last longer does not know what a “lithium power X3452 super battery” is, nor do they care. Think about it. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, OR EVEN YOUR PRODUCT. IT’S ABOUT THE SOLUTION.

Whether you’re trying to sell a physical product or a service, everyone is selling the same thing, a solution to a problem. If no one is buying your product/solution at all, it might be the case that your “solution” isn’t actually a solution at all. 

Let’s pretend you move into a new apartment. It’s smaller than your old apartment therefore you no longer have space for all your books. You decide to buy a Kindle. The kindle solves your problem because you’re still able to read all your books.

Suppose two weeks later you decide you don’t like reading anymore. Do you still need the Kindle? No. Are the Kindle’s features still the same? Yes. Are they important to you anymore? No. Because the solution is not important, therefore the product is not either.

The reason we have broken the process into steps is just because the solution is obvious to you, does not mean it is obvious to other people. You need to bring people to your line of thinking slowly, especially when asking them to make a commitment like buying your product.

Untitled Diagram (3)

You are now ready to pitch your product to people who have an interest in what you have to offer. You need to think carefully about how you pitch, and what you say. This is probably not a good time to spend an age discussing how amazing your “lithium power X3452 super battery” is. The main thing you want to do from these pitches is: answer any questions they might have.

Two example e-mail subject lines: pick which one is best:

  1. “never have to worry about charging your phone each evening, our MOBI-PHONE lasts 1 week.”
  2. “Cool new MOBI-PHONE has lots of apps and the best processor”

If you’ve been following and understanding you should have chosen option 1.

Option one you are directly answering their questions. Option two you are talking about yourself, again. It might be the case that the phone has lots of apps and the best processor, but people are not looking for that. They are looking for a phone with a long battery life. 

You are now going to write four emails. The first two will be emails you pitch to a company to see if you can stock your phone in their shop. 

The second two emails are going to be pitching to customers. The first two people have signed up to your newsletter. They filled in a survey on your website and gave you their e-mail address. This is perfect opportunity to contact them.

Before you read what I write, why not try and write an email to the phoneshop and an email to the potential customers.

When you’ve written it see how close you were to my example. If you were closer to my bad example than my good example, try and look for the differences between the two. If you don’t understand, I am always contactable by email on

Good example


I know your customers continuously complain about your phones having poor battery life. We have created a solution to everyones problems. We have a created a phone with a battery life of one week. That’s right you can use the phone continuously and it will last for a week. If you use it less than that, it will last even longer, but the smallest time it will run out is a week.

We know this is something your customers have been looking for. We conducted a survey for you here.


On the technical side, we have created a “lithium power X3452 super battery”. This is one of the best on the market and we’re looking to offer exclusivity. This means you will be the only retailer able to sell the phone in your stores. We’ve created a press package attached to this email for you to use.

In exchange for selling the phone, we’re willing to give you 30% of the profits, alongside exclusivity rights.

This phone is the answer to your customer’s problems and we think you’re the perfect match to sell the phone.

Bad Example

Hi, I have a new phone you might be interested in. We’ve created a “lithium power X3452 super battery”. You can sell it in your stores and take 30% of the profits. It’s one of the best phones on the market and we think you will love it as we’ve spent a long time making it perfect.

Good Example

Hi person-who-filled-in-the-survey,

Thank-you for taking an interest in the MOBI-Phone. You wrote in the survey you would be interested in a phone that had a longer battery life. That’s brilliant because we have something you will be able to use.

We know how frustrating it is when you’re lost, trying to get somewhere but your phone died. We also know how frustrating it is when you’re listening to one of your favourite songs but your phone dies half way through. It’s tough and as much as we all hate to admit it, we depend on our phones. i know I feel lost and disconnected from the world without my phone.

The phone we’ve created has all the features of an ordinary phone but contains a special battery. If you’re technical, this battery is called “lithium power X3452 super battery”, if not it just means it lasts a long time.

We think this phone is something that could be of use to you and because you’re one of the first to express interest, we’re giving you the chance to trial the phone. No contract, no commitments, we just want you to try it and see what you think. You can trial it for a month and if you like it, we’ll be very happy to sort you out with a deal, to say thank-you.

We’re contactable on the phone 12 hours a day, and can even have out of hours phone calls if this suits you better. Just give us a ring on 01-RING-US.

Thanks NAME,

Bad example


Thanks for filling in the survey. We think you will like our new product.

We’ve created a phone with one of the best battery lifes in the world. it has a “lithium power X3452 super battery”. This is an exciting time for us, and we’re all very proud of what we have created.

We think everyone is going to love this phone and we think you will too as it is the best phone with the best battery.

We would like you to try the phone if you want to and if you try it we hope then you will buy it, which we are sure you will.

Please get in touch whenever you can and discuss where we should send the phone to.


As you can see, the good examples are good because they follow the golden rule:  YOU ARE NOT IMPORTANT, THE SOLUTION IS.

Aim not to talk about yourself. Talk as little about yourself as possible.

In the case of the retailer, a good pitch is one that lets them know what would be in it for THEM. They don’t care what benefits you get from selling the phone, only what benefits they get.

In the case of the potential customer, you got behind their mind. You knew they wanted a phone with a longer battery life and they expressed interest in your phone. Give them a reason to buy from you. Don’t waffle on about the phone’s specifications or why it is important to have a phone with a longer battery life. They already understand that – that’s the reason they’ve signed up to your newsletter.

So now you have built the bridge

Untitled Diagram (3)

You’ve built a bridge between the problem the customer has and the solution.

You’ve made them see the benefits of your solution over another. And you’ve made them understand the benefits of buying from you.

You did this through understanding them. You got to know them, what they want, and how they want it. Only once you do this can you successfully write copy that will convince them to buy something.

Do you struggle to understand your customer? Have you ever thought about it like this? Comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts. 

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