How to Sell Online: Learn to Speak Directly to Your Target Audience

Diverse audience of potential customers to sell to

One of the hardest things in copywriting is getting your brand’s tone of voice down. Because chances are, you’re not going to be selling to someone who is similar to yourself – you’re going to be selling a specific product to a specific target audience.

The best copywriters – who have mastered the art of crafting a particular voice – can sell anything to anyone. They can write copy for diapers, even if they themselves have no kids. They can sell tampons to women, even if they are men.

It’s an art… once you master it, you’ll be able to write copy that sells products.


It’s tough to put yourselves in the shoes of someone else, though. And it’s even harder to write in a way that truly appeals to that person. That’s why top copywriters are so coveted.

This is your guide to getting off on the right foot – only practice will make perfect, but these guidelines below will get your mind racing in the right direction for your copy.

How to Determine Who You’re Selling To Online

The first step to writing copy that your audience can relate to is finding out who will be reading what you write.

If you’re a 30-year-old man and write as such, it’s likely that a 15-year-old female teen won’t relate to what you’re writing. You have to be precise if you want your traffic to convert. By figuring out who your primary target audience and what matters to them, you’ll be able to increase your online sales and conversions.

Selling a ridiculously high-quality grill brush? Your target audience is anyone that’s a dedicated griller who has money to spend on quality. Selling a budget faux leather couch? Your target audience is those who want nice furniture and the feelings that come with it, but don’t have a lot of money to spend.

Here are some ways to determine the exact demographics of your online buyers from your past data.

Social accounts: Almost all major networks will give you a breakdown of your social media following. Use this as a rough guide – although the numbers themselves are accurate, certain demographics use social more than others.

Facebook Insights Helps Sell Online

Demographic data from Facebook Insights

Customer data: Download all of your purchase data. At the bare minimum, you’ll be able to see names – sort through these to get an idea of your male/female percentages.

Ask: Run a contest or giveaway offering coupons or free stuff for a survey completion. This works best if you have an email list that you can tap that you can direct to a landing page for the giveaway. Most people won’t mind giving their date of birth, gender, zip code and their name to enter.

Landing Page - Giveaway

Landing page for a giveaway – easy way to collect demographic data.

Get organized: Put all of your findings and the other data that you already had into a single Word or Excel file. You’ll be referencing this frequently and you want to make sure that everything is in one place and accounted for.

Thinking About Your Reader

So, you now have raw data about your customers. It’s time to do a little thinking as it’s important to go beyond just the demographic data. We have to think about the data behind our customers and think of attributes that they will have.

Writing for the customer, not the product

But first, let’s go over what you write. You are obviously very invested into your own product or service. You know what it does, the features, why it’s the best, what its flaws are, etc.

But your potential customer doesn’t care about any of that. In fact, they don’t care about your product, they only care about what the product will do for them. You have to tap into your potential customer’s emotions to be able to find the right tone which will allow you to write effectively.

Finding the right tone can create an emotional response in your reader and get them to act on those feelings. Fail to make that connection and there’s no guarantee that they will relate to the words, which potentially means lost conversions and sales.

Determining what your customer wants

Figuring out why someone desires a product is the backbone of copywriting. You address a want or need (or create a want or need) so that the customer is willing to fork over his hard-earned cash for it.

A person isn’t going to spend money on a product if it doesn’t have what he or she needs, though. This is obvious, but most people just don’t get it. If you’re selling cars to parents with kids, speed isn’t a factor, but safety and dependability are. If you’re selling a sports car, no one cares about how many airbags it has, but they certainly care about the speed and aesthetics.

Open up your document with all of the demographic data, write a list of the features of your product, and determine which features are most important to a person in that demographic.

These will be your selling points – especially with short copy, you often won’t have time to go over every feature of your product. You’ll often only get to sell with a few features… if that. The most important ones to your target audience need to be covered.

Determining the deeper purpose

Great! We now have the features of the product to cover. It’s time to dig even deeper and think why those features are coveted by that particular group of people.

Doing so is easier than you think. Say this sentence aloud:

I want [feature] in my [product] because it [benefit].

Some examples are below.

  • Young males: I want durability in my pickup truck because it lets me do crazy things without worrying about damage to my car.
  • Even younger males: I want a money-back guarantee with my “How To Become A Millionaire” book because I’m not sure if it will work and I don’t have much money to spend.
  • Older women: I want comfort in my robe because after a long day of dealing with the kids, it lets me truly relax.

This is how we’re going to speak directly to our target audiences. Instead of just blabbering off random facts, we’re going to first determine who are customers are, what they care about, and why they care about those things. Then, in our copy, we’re going to write to address as much as we can as time and space limitations allow.

You’re now armed with what to write about – the selling points and how they benefit your target audience. But you don’t know how to write about it yet. Remember, a 30-year-old male writing as a 30-year-old male while trying to sell to a 15-year-old female is a recipe for disaster.

Who does your customer want to buy from?

You might think that customers want to buy from people who are similar to themselves – this isn’t always true. Most 15-year-old’s won’t want to buy a “How To Become A Millionaire” book from another high schooler. No medical director will want to buy equipment from someone who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the concepts behind what it does.

Usually, people want to buy from people who are either experts or who have already done it themselves. There’s a reason why doctors are always in medical TV commercials, and there’s a reason why so many “lose weight fast” e-books are “written” by people who were once overweight and are now trim and in good shape.

Become that person with your tone

Think about the person who your target audience would buy from. How would that person write?

Replicate that with your own copy.

Here’s exactly how you do it…

Vocab selection

This is a big one. Use words that your target audience uses. Don’t use words that they don’t.

Let’s take two extremes – medical devices and payday loans. Anyone buying a complex medical device will have extensive knowledge of that particular field of study. He or she will be able to understand the complicated terms, and he or she expects you to understand and use them, too.

On the other hand, a potential payday loan customer probably doesn’t have extensive knowledge of how loans work – you’ll have to lead him or her through at a much slower and basic pace.

Imagine if the two were switched… leading an experienced medical professional through his or her field of study like a beginner, or talking to a payday loan applicant as if he or she is a loan specialist.

In the first case, the medical professional would feel offended and like the product did not cater to him or her. In the second case, the payday loan applicant wouldn’t be able to understand what the product was and assume that it didn’t cater to what they needed.

An extension of that: sentence length

Short sentences are good for the less well-spoken. This is how they would write. It would be short and snappy. If you do it too, they’ll understand you.

Medical professionals, on the other hand, have encountered sentences that vary much more in the grammar elements within. They’ll think that the payday loan writing is a bit childish; with them, you need to show that you’re an expert and on the same level as they are.

Slang, terminology

Using appropriate slang, abbreviations, and terminology is a great way to assimilate yourself with the reader. For example, if you said non-REM phase to a medical professional, he’d connect the dots and realize that you were talking about a cycle of sleep that wasn’t related to rapid eye movement.

Be careful with this one, though… it’s also a great way to alienate yourself immediately. If you’re using words and terms that the reader doesn’t relate to, he or she won’t feel like the product is the right choice for their needs. And if you use abbreviations that your target audience doesn’t understand, he or she will have to go off of your copy and do research which is not good.

How to check if you’re doing it right

Doing copywriting (writing the right stuff in the right way) is really tough because of how much it matters. It’s the direct line between you and your online sale. If you miss the mark, the consequence is not making any money (and maybe even losing money on advertising).

Along the way, you will get biased towards your own writing. We are all naturally hardwired to like our own ideas and creations but again, we’re not writing for ourselves. We’re writing for a very particular target audience – the people who will buy our products online.

So, the best way to confirm if your copy is good or totally isn’t? By asking your target audience what they think.

It’s very important to get opinions from only your target audience. If you’re selling to housewives, your younger sister’s opinion on what she thinks may not be entirely accurate.

Here are ways to get those accurate, critical opinions.

Ask for help on Reddit or forums

There is a subreddit for almost anything. There is a forum for almost anything. No matter who your target audience consists of, they’re congregating online somewhere.

People love to give their two cents on forums and on Reddit – all you have to do is ask. Find a relevant subreddit, be sincere, tell them what you’re planning on doing, and ask them for their thoughts on the writing.

Remember, these people aren’t marketers (unless you’re writing for marketers), so take everything that they say with a grain of salt. But it’s a useful tool to see the parts that are “off” or not directly pertinent.

Other options are forums and subreddits dedicated to the topic of copywriting. While they won’t be filled with your target audience, you might find an experienced copywriter to give you his or her opinion for free.

Pay people to critique on Craigslist

Posting in the misc section of your Craigslist is almost always free. Offer a quick job – 10 questions for $5 if you are [enter target audience demographic here].

Guide them along through your writing. Ask them what parts they liked, which parts they didn’t like, which parts sounded weird, which parts sounded perfect, what they would change, etc.

This is sort of like asking on Reddit or on forums, but in a more controlled, detailed way.

Survey previous customers

If you already have paying customers, survey them as you can use any information that you gather from them to optimize your copywriting further. The key is to survey people who recently purchased from you as their memories will be fresher. You can provide the customers you plan to survey with an incentive such as a discount for a future purchase.

Read aloud as if you’re reading aloud to your target audience

Selling to 15 year-old teens? Pretend that you have a pack of 10 of them right in front of you. Read your pitch aloud and figure out who you sound like. Hopefully, either an expert or “one of them”.

This is such an accurate way to gauge how your copy sounds because of something called internal monologue. Basically, it’s the term to describe how we read voices aloud in our heads. The voice is automatically chosen by our subconscious

…which is extremely helpful to us. All we have to do in order to come off as the person we want to be is write like he or she would talk in real life. Make sense?

It’s a tough skill to master, but once you do, you can write in a way that appeals to any target audience out there. You’ll get their attentions, tell them what they want to hear, and of course, lead them gently into a sale or conversion.

Determine who your customers are, what they care about in your product or service, and why they care about those things.

Then get started with writing compelling copy for them specifically.

Come back to this page frequently as you continue to try to relate to your audience in your copywriting. Read it over and over again until you can recite it like the date of your birthday – this post is a basic framework that can be used to sell any product or service.

Pretty soon, you’ll be one of those coveted copywriters who can sell anything to anyone.

Learn how you can use Soldsie to bridge the gap between social & e-commerce. With Soldsie, you can sell directly to your customers on Facebook and Instagram, allowing you to increase conversions and sales