Are You Talking To Me?

define your target audience

Here’s a little exercise for you and your marketing team. Ask each member of your team to describe your target audience. Not the demographics stuff. Go deeper. What do they do for fun? What keeps them up at night? Why do they love your product? What keeps them from telling others about you? Now, share what’ve heard. Are they close or a million miles away?

Copywriting is a skill that involves understanding the aspiration, desires, fears, and anxieties of a customer and responding with the solution your product uniquely provides. Selling through the power of persuasion, but how can you persuade if you don’t know who you’re talking to and how they talk about what they need. Here are five practical ways to get more out of your copy, content, and design.

Five Ways To Define Your Target Audience

1. Ditch the Hunch

analytics, beats your hunch

One of the biggest mistakes marketing makes is assuming the faulty assumption they know why users love their stuff. They are almost always wrong. Reasons for using a product, loving or despising its benefits and features are as varied as human beings. I’m not suggesting you ignore your educated guesses or that you solely rely on analytics but a combination of the two puts you on the best path. 

Every effort at messaging strategy should start with, “Our users have told us…”

A terrific article about why analytics beats a hunch: Data over hunches

2. Talk Less, Listen More

copywriting audiences audience surveys

Not everyone can afford costly persona work but everyone who has a user base can reach out to ask questions and use those answers to better the user experience.

The best user surveys are brief, north of 10 questions and you’ve lost user interest, contain questions that are user-centric, “How has product X made your life easier?” followed by choices. No boring survey questions like, “How likely are you to recommend the product?” “How would you rate your overall experience?” “How could we improve your overall experience?” is a much better question. Don’t be afraid to ask negative questions. “How many emails are too many emails?” “Why?”

You can see how these questions tailored to your product can give you insight into your user’s likes and dislikes. Once you have the answers use them, share them, talk about them, let them inform your copy, content, and overall marketing strategy. Using surveys to confirm a hutch is a big fat waste of time. 

Two great articles about persona work even on a budget:

3. Stop Following the Herd

social media copy

Facebook has 2 billion active users, but that doesn’t mean your audience is among of them. Stop throwing everything at the social media wall. Asking is the best way to find out then follow them and they will follow you.

Choosing the right social platform 

4. Test, Test, Test

copywriting a/b testing

Nothing should leave your shop without having been tested. Even if you aren’t testing entire emails you should start by having a clear understanding of how your unique selling proposition (USP) tests. Is there a way to better to state your bottom-line message?

And no CTR, click-through rates are not a stand-in for A/B testing. Sounds nuts but I’ve seen this happen. Relying on how well an ad runs is no substitute for testing before it leaves your control. 

Here’s a great article about A/B testing.

5. Rinse, Wash, and Repeat

copywriting repeat cycle

Too often marketing strategies are too often born out of panic, a need to improve results right away and just as often they fail. Developing effective messaging takes time and attention. Perfecting a process that works for your team will really help when times are tight. 

Clearly defining your target audience takes time but it can yield profitable results and deepen your relationship with your users.

Sarah Rector

Sarah Reactor. Invisible History.

Sarah Rector was born in 1902 near the all-black town of Taft, located in the eastern portion of Oklahoma, then an Indian Territory. She had five siblings. Her parents, Joseph Rector and his wife, Rose McQueen were African descendants of the Creek Nation Creek Indians before the Civil war and which became part of the Creek Nation after the Treaty of 1866.

Using the Dawes act (an act meant to “tame” the native people) native lands were divided into parcels meaning that Sarah’s family was given a parcel of land considered to be inferior for farming or nearly anything else.

In an effort to pay the $30 annual property tax Sarah’s father lease part of the land to Standard Oil. In 1913, the independent oil driller B.B. Jones drilled a well on the property which produced a “gusher” that began to bring in 2,500 barrels of oil a day. Rector began to receive a daily income of $300 from this strike.

The law at the time required full-blooded Indians, black adults, and children who were citizens of Indian Territory with significant property and money, to be assigned “well-respected” white guardians. In October 1913, Rector received royalties of $11,567.

Rumors began to fly that she was a white immigrant who was being kept in poverty. The newspaper published an article claiming that her estate was being mismanaged by her and her “ignorant” parents and that she was uneducated, dressed in rags, and lived in an unsanitary shanty.

National African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois became concerned about her welfare. In June of that year, a special agent for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), James C. Waters Jr, sent a memo to Dubois regarding her situation. Waters had been corresponding with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the United States Children’s Bureau over concerns regarding the mismanagement of Rector’s estate.

To combat this practice of white guardianship W. E. B. DuBois establish a Children’s Department of the NAACP, which would investigate claims of white guardians who were suspected of depriving black children of their land and wealth. Booker T. Washington also intervened to help the Rector family.

Sarah and her siblings attended school in Taft the family lived in a modern five-room cottage, and they owned an automobile. In October of that year, she was enrolled in the Children’s School, a boarding school for teenagers at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, headed by Washington. Upon graduation, she attended the Institute.

Rector was already a millionaire by the time she had turned 18. She owned stocks and bonds, a boarding house, a bakery and restaurant in Muskogee, Oklahoma, as well as 2,000 acres of prime river bottomland.

Rector lived a comfortable life, enjoying her wealth. She had a taste for fine clothing and fast cars. She was frequently ticketed by the police of the city for speeding she will say to officers, “Do you know who I am?” which apparently worked.

She hosted frequent gatherings at her home for the leading members of the nation’s African American community, entertaining the likes of Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

In the depression, like many wealthy Americans, she lost the majority of her wealth she lived comfortably dying on July 22, 1967, at the age of 65.

And now you know.

A Pawn Shop

blog writing

I find pawnshops depressing. Years ago, my sister and I visited a Las Vegas pawn shop, she seems to always find good deals in them, I was surprised that the shop was so empty but the parking lot was full.

When I expressed this to the shop owner he laughed and said, “Those cars aren’t customers they’re pawns.” Pawns? Depressingly, people pawned their cars for more gambling dough. That did it for me….so sad.

My other pawnshop experience is happier. Whenever my pal Roberta needed cash she’d take her inherited emerald, diamond, and ruby jewelry out of the freezer and down to the pawn shop on Mission Street between 16th and 17th street. whenever she’d stop by my desk at work to teblog writing ll me she needed my help I knew it was pawn shop time.

Yesterday, walking by that same pawnshop on the hunt for an audio mixer, I decided to go in. Buzzed in I couldn’t believe how it had changed. Before it was drab but now it reminded me of a room at the Neptune Society where you go to choose which cremation arrangement you’d prefer.

The prices were unbelievable high. As expensive as buying the same item new with a warranty and stuff.

Does anyone know what that’s about? Why so pricey? The loans seem to be a fraction of the value so wassup with the price spiking?

Please help solve the mystery?

Ella in Rome – The Birthday Concert

reginald mcdonald blog

I used to be one of those dopey people who divided the world between Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan lovers. Foolishly, I admired Ella Fitzgerald’s technical skill preferring Vaughan’s humor and spontaneity with a crowd. The sheer perfection of Fitzgerald’s singing always kept me at a respectful distance, but Ella in Rome erased all of that. Three things are immediately clear upon hearing her perform live, her effervescence, her humor, and her out of this world singing chops.

Ella in Rome – The Birthday Concert, recorded on Fitzgerald’s 40th birthday, April 25, 1958. Made as part of a larger European tour to capitalize on Fitzgerald’s songbook successes this stop in Rome was forgettable from a recording standpoint according to the band’s pianist Lou Levy. He said, “I didn’t even know they recorded Ella in Rome, I really didn’t. When they put it out and I got a copy of the record, I thought, ‘God! we were swinging our cans off. It was just great! So much spirit and drive on it. You could never get it in a recording studio.”


This concert date might not have stood out for the band but there were a few things about it that made it special. Besides being backed by her regular rhythm section, with pianist Lou Levy, bassist Max Bennett, and drummer Gus Johnson, she also had her pal Oscar Petersen and his trio rounding out the bill. Another notable thing bout this concert is that it was recorded live in stereo, a new process at the time.


Calling the recording lost isn’t quite accurate as it was just forgotten as the Rome stop was just one more stop in a huge tour. In 1988 when the recording was discovered filed away in producer Norman Granz’s archives. When it was released it immediately went to the top of the jazz recording charts.


There so many technical was to describe what this recording captures but none of them conveys the sheer joy and enthusiasm of the performer and the crowd. Instead of going through the song list I will note a few moments of magic that put you right in the hall.


Introduced by producer Norman Granz in his amusingly unmusical, halting Italian Fitzgerald swings into “Saint Louis Woman” and when she begins scatting half way through the tune the crowd goes wild, as she scats the last section of the song they erupt again and this is just the first number. Some of the other highlights include “Caravan,” “It’s All Right with Me,” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” during which she imitates both Louis Armstrong and Rose Murphy.


My favorite number comes at the end of the recording when Fitzgerald performs “Stompin’ at the Savoy” with the Oscar Peterson Trio. Peterson, a notorious jokester, begins the song then Ella joins the slower swing tempo but soon you can hear something is up. You might assume that it is Oscar Peterson’s humming that’s the problem but, Peterson was known to hum along as he played both live and in recordings.


Truth is, it’s almost impossible to know what he is doing but at one point Fitzgerald can’t go on singing and starts laughing, she then regains control improvising replacing the lyric, “Dancing with you” with “Oscar, we’re through” as the song swings to a sublime toe-tapping finish.


Ella in Rome – The Birthday Concert, get it and then listen to Fitzgerald’s other work. You might find a new appreciation for a great artist as one heck of a fine live performer.

The Kid The Teen The Park and Me

the kidWent to the park this afternoon to read and edit a document. I sat on a bench next to a young woman in the full flower of adolescents, meaning I could feel the contempt for adults radiating towards me, but soon we would be in common cause.

She was reading and listening to music as I was when this eight-year-old, sandy-haired boy child person, who had just minutes before finished chatting with a man and his very large dog, walks up to us, stops, and just stares at us both.

I take off my headphones and he says, “Hello, don’t mind me, I’m just standing here.” I smile at him. A few minutes later I took off my headphones to ask him a question. Before I could say anything he said, “Finally, I thought you guys were too busy to talk to me.” I said, “Shouldn’t a person such as yourself be in school?” He asked me, “Why would I ask him a question like that?” I said to him, “If you’re going to answer my questions with a question we’re through.” He giggled, in part because I couldn’t keep a straight face as I said it to him.

Then he turns to the teen and asked her if she wanted to play with his Rubix cube, she just shook her head and went back to her book.

Seeing that he wasn’t making any inroads he decided to return to me. He said, “Do you want to know why I’m not in school today?” I hunched my shoulders pretending not to care. He then lapses into this fantastic story about leaving school through a window he himself had broken and now he was hiding out in the park.

I put down my papers and told him, “Listen, kid you are a great storyteller, but that story stinks.” Before he could mount a rebuttal, a parental-like figure walked up, put his hands on the kid’s shoulders and ushered him away.

As he was leaving the teen took off her headphones and smiled. We both agreed, loved that kid.


pop and child

My relationship with my father was complicated. Though he never said it outright I always, maybe it’s better to say sometimes,I got the impression I just wasn’t quite the guy he had counted on being his son.

The poor guy, right out of the gate he wanted me to be to his namesake. My mother prevailed telling him, children should have their own identity and names, he relented but never rallied. Thanks for the name rescue mom! Phew!

Once, he told my mother that at age 24-25 that I was a disrespectful son. I wasn’t a very obedient son at any rate that much is true. My sisters were much better daughters than I was a son.

Before he became ill and died he called me one early evening. We hadn’t spoken on any regular basis for several years. He told me that the rift was his fault. He told me he loved me and how proud of me he was. I will never forget that apology because I know what it took to make it.

I was of course partially responsible for the breach but his apology, the first one I had ever received from him, filled me with gratitude.

So, to all the extraordinary fathers that I know and to all the sons, thank you. Thank you for the sacrifice and the sleepless nights.

Thank you for hangin in there even when the world sometimes discounts your contribution. What you do really matters.

To my own father I say. Thanks, Pop.



Napa & Savoy A Cabbage Marketing Strategy

The Market in the Twitter building has a great, if not overpriced, organic produce section including the Napa or savoy cabbage that I like.

Loved as the Civic Center farmer’s market is, it can be a bit hit and miss in the cabbage department, so I always stop by The Market on my way home.

This morning, there are two checkout folks up at the registers but no customers other than me. The guy rings me up but the other clerk asks me, “Would you like me to put these into your bag?” I hesitate as I always bag my own stuff. Before I can say yes please, she says, “Alright, grumpy” as she starts putting the thinks in my bag.

Both surprised and bemused, I ask her, “Did you just say alright grumpy?” and they both start laughing, she shaking her head no, the guy has his hand over his mouth trying to suppress his laughter.


Both surprised and bemused, I ask her, “Did you just say alright grumpy?” and they both start laughing, she shaking her head no, the guy has his hand over his mouth trying to suppress his laughter.

On my way out I say to them, “I think we three have just come up with a new marketing strategy, instant customer character assessments.


Some will be pleased, some not so much.







A Red Hat, A Chinese Vase, and a Courvoisier Chaser

This morning on my Saturday sojourn into the Mission I had two encounters that reminded me of how much I still love this neighborhood.


On Mission Street, I walked by the market in the parking lot at Arribas Juntos. The market is so popular that other folks selling their stuff from cars and on the sidewalk extend the selling by a block.


Walking past I noticed a huge bottle of Courvoisier at one spot and an equally large dragon vase at the spot next to it. The dragon vase was so great I stop to take a picture of it when the guy it belongs to says, “NO!” I ask him why not and he answers, “$1.” It takes me a second before I realize what he’s saying and it cracks me up, I can take a picture if I pay him a buck. As it turns out the Courvoisier belonged him too, tells me I can have it for $5. Too bad I’m a teetotaler.

chinese vase

On the way home up Valencia, I witness the end of a traveling couples argument when the guy pulls a map out of his back pocket and hands it to his female companion. She stops walking as he carried on never looking back at her. My sympathies were with her.


Two blocks down a black man steps out of a doorway dressed in a navy blue pinstriped suit and a red hat on his head at a jaunty angle. The ensemble was completed by an overcoat hanging over his right arm.


I slowed so I could take him in a bit longer. After all, you don’t see this sort of sartorial rhetoric mid-afternoon in San Francisco every day.


Catching up to him as the light changed I tapped him on the shoulder, “You’re lookin
pretty sharp, you’re making the rest of us look shabby.” He smiled as he considered me, dressed in my best smelly old tramp costume, and initiated a fist bump, in which I had to quickly avoid the gigantic diamond pinky ring he was featuring.


Bump completed he said, “Thanks, Daddy.”









See, the Mission has still got it.

The Pea Coat Style & Elegant Utility

If you’re like most guys you have one or two coats that you wear until they are beyond the reach of dry cleaning.

When it comes to choosing a wardrobe staple like a coat it’s wise to go with your personal style over fads. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it is time to invest in that new coat.

Amongst the variety of shapes and cuts of coats the one that I find the most reliable, practical, and stylish is the pea coat. 

The exact origin of the pea coat is not entirely clear. The first reference to a pea like coat comes from the Dutch, renowned mariners, made of coarse cloth or pijjakker, pij for “coat of coarse cloth” and jekker or jakker for jacket. Perhaps a more reliable source is the coat made for petty officers in the British navy, the Petty Coat made for the petty officer nicknamed the P-coat. The U.S. navy adopted the coat in the early 1900s.

Whatever its origin the pea coat’s ubiquitous construction with padded shoulders, generous collar, and lapel, double-breasted tapered silhouette projects strength no matter who’s wearing it makes it the ultimate in power dressing.

One of the reasons I like the pea coat is that it bridges the utility/style gap, the gap between personal expression and practical features such as warmth and durability.

petty coat

Petty Coat



U.S. Navy Pea Coat WWII





edwardian pea coat

Edwardian Pea Coat





Style Tip!

When shopping for a new pea coat resist the current trend of ultra trim coats that look as if they have been boiled for maximum shrinkage. Instead, look for something that has a bit more tailoring, or have your coat tailored to your build.

My favorite coat tip comes from a friend who says,


“Make sure your coat covers your butt.”

Short Pea Coat

The Short Pea Coat




A Cut Above

This pea coat from Burberry, 90% virgin wool and 10% cashmere, is a perfect example of style and utility. While it is a tiny bit shorter than the traditional ¾ length it is modern while avoiding looking too faddish. The coat is full of stylish details including wooden inscribed buttons, a mMartindale, and a wide revere collar. The silhouette is tapered but not too dramatic giving the coat an elegant, casual panache.


Burberry Pea Coat


While the Burberry pea coat, $1050 would make a swell addition to your wardrobe its elegance and durability can be found in thriftier versions.  In addition to the Burberry I have owned a London Fog pea coat for many years and it is one of the pleasures of my wardrobe.

If you want something truly special why not have a pea coat custom made.  The folks at Tailor4less  will build you a custom coat in cashmere for around $200. They even offer a beige option!

Truth is, with a little tailoring and minor alterations, including the addition of vintage wooden, plastic, or metal buttons, an inexpensive well-made wool or wool blend coat with a sturdy construction can amp up your personal style for years to come.

Oh, one more thing, though the traditional pea coat is navy blue don’t worry about that, let your personal style dictate the color black, blue, even beige!


To read more about the history of pea coat check these out. A cool post called 6 coats that stand the test of time with really great illustrations. 

Gentlemen’s Gazette Offers a really deep dive into the history of the pea coat. 

Tailor4less Custom made beige cashmere at a pretty reasonable price.