I just got a text message from a friend, asking if I could record a short ad for his business. “Nothing fancy,” he said. “Just something to stimulate interest.”   The short answer is, “No.”   But I’m afraid if I responded like that to my friend, I‘d sound like a dick.

The fact is I get this question a lot. And it’s frustrating as hell.

Those who have never crafted a winning marketing campaign, launched a new business or product, or tried to fill a room full of empty seats think it’s an easy task to sit down and craft a message, that will cut through the noise, capture the attention and motivate a group of strangers to do whatever it is you’re asking them to do. If it were that simple, there would be no need for guys like me.

All top marketers and professional ad writers know this to be true: it’s impossible to motivate a group of people you know nothing about, to do anything at all.

Trying to sell something to a group of prospects, you know little or nothing about is a lot like walking up to a stranger on the street and proposing marriage. It’s really friggin’ awkward, for everyone concerned. And, like a single Pringle to a starving man, it’s useless as hell.

I don’t blame my friend for not knowing the basics of marketing and ad writing. He’s a Firearms Safety Instructor, not a professional ad writer. Even some so-called professional copywriters screw this one up.

When time allows, usually about every other year, I conduct a special, closed-door, invitation only seminar, for professional marketers and entrepreneurs, on how to effectively develop what I call a Psycho-demographic Profile of any given market.

I typically limit attendance to a few dozen participants and require each of them to have a solid working knowledge of the principles of CounterThink—which means that most people sitting in that room are more than just a little familiar with me and my work.

But even within this group—a group of people who should know better—there’s always a few outliers who want to jump right into crafting a new marketing campaign or produce a new sales video or audio infomercial without first taking the time to do their homework.  That would be a total waste of time and money.

Success in business—and in life, for that matter—will always be in direct proportion to the degree and quality of service you render to others. Success in marketing is all about your ability to reach out into the general public, identify a particular need of a particular group and convince that group that what you have to offer, scratches them where they itch.

Today’s market is both simultaneously loyal and unforgiving. With the power of social media and the capability for instant, community feedback— if you’re really good at meeting your market’s needs with delight and surprise, your market will hoist you atop their shoulders and carry you to the promise land. If you suck at what you do and disappoint them, they’ll dig a hole and bury you.

So it makes more than just good business sense, to know ahead of time, what will surprise and delight your market and what will piss them off to the point that they will go out of their way to attack and ruin you. And that’s where my Psycho-demographic Profile and Customer Avatar come in.

The way I teach it, you need to take the time and do the research, to know exactly who you are serving, exactly what they need from you, and exactly how you are going to provide it—and do so in an entertaining, surprising and delightful way.    The goal here is to get to know your customer—her needs, wants, fears, worries and secret desires—better than she even knows them herself.

Business is all about finding a need and filling that need. It’s at the root of everything we will ever do as entrepreneurs, marketers, innovators or thought-leaders, yet almost every beginner (and sadly, far too many who should know better) make the same greenhorn mistakes when trying to sell their product, services or ideas—they focus on whatever their what is, rather than how it can help us achieve what we want to achieve.

You market to the masses, but you write to an individual.

Regardless of the medium you use to deliver it—broadcast, social media, video, audio, or pen and ink, a good message must be very personal to resonate with it’s intended audience. You want the receiver to feel as if the message was meant for them and them only.   To accomplish this I use what I refer to as a customer avatar.

The completed psycho-demographic profile tells me about my market—who my customer is—factoring in data like age, race, gender, culture, where they live and work, and so on.   But also—and perhaps more importantly—it gives me insight into why they live where they live, work where they do, and believe what they believe. A customer avatar is simply a distillation of all this demographic and behavioral data taking the form of a single individual—someone with whom I can personally identify and intimately communicate with.   Ignore this and you’re just spitting in the ocean.

So no, Jose, I can’t just record a short ad for you. But I’d be happy to help you with your homework.