Just over a week ago I signed up to Drayton Bird’s e-mail list.

One thing I love about Drayton Bird’s e-mails is that they’re always good reading, even when the whole thing is a subtle pitch.

(And the whole thing is a subtle pitch for various products, either Drayton’s own or ones he’s an affiliate for. I’m almost certainly buying a couple before the series is done, too…)

I’ve read a load of copywriting books over the years, and Drayton’s Sales Letters That Sell is up there with the best. I’ve learned more from him about direct response than anyone else.

All this is a fairly long winded way of saying that I think the man knows what he’s talking about.

One of his recent e-mails was on knowing who your customers are. Every company thinks they know who they are. Most of the time, this is based on assumptions and gut feeling.

The problem with assumptions and gut feelings is that they’re almost always wrong.

You’ve got an idea about who your customer is, but none of it is based on facts.

I’ve been just as guilty of this. I once thought my primary target market for a product range was young men, £20,000-£30,000 income, 20-30 years old.

When we actually did some research, it turned out that while that group was in there, there were even more 55-65 year old men, currently reasonably high-earning but well aware they were coming up to retirement.

We started targeting this group more directly, and saw sales go up by 47%.

The first step to making a sale is understanding who you’re trying to sell to. Talk to your customers. Send out some surveys. Do the research. You’ll be surprised.