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Home » How to read people’s minds (know your customers better than they know themselves)

How to read people’s minds (know your customers better than they know themselves)

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How well do you know your customers or clients?

It’s a question I often ask mine.

The answer often lies somewhere in between “We’ve never ran proper research…” and “We have identified our ICPs (Ideal Customer Profile/Persona), but we’re not sure they’re on point”.

But the fact is, knowing your customers is not as simple as drafting a one pager with their demographic data, needs, wants, goals, desires and pain points.

You have to understand how they behave and how different situations affect their behavior.

True, storytelling in copy is powerful. But when it comes to converting on websites, behavior has a big impact and story might not be as relevant.

It’s all about the Stimulus, the Organism and the Reaction (in social psychology called SOR).

How do you figure this stuff out?

David J. Lieberman, in his book Mindreader, offers a very simple yet powerful and practical framework.

It comes down, first to understanding the difference between a state and a trait:

“A state is a temporary way of feeling; it reflects our thoughts or responses to the current situation. A trait is a more stable characteristic or pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and thus serves as a valuable predictor of future behavior.”

This is incredibly helpful, because when you’re scouring the internet for information on your audience, when you’re interviewing them, or looking at survey data, it tells you how to separate the two.

In other words, you should learn to map out the states along the journey, but always anchor them to their traits, as the foundations for how people act.

States are dynamic.

Traits are static (or at least they aren’t likely to change in the short-term).

Going deeper, the book provides 4 elements to look for to understand when a reaction or behavior reflects a state or a trait…

  • Frequency: how often people do something
  • Duration: how long they do it for
  • Intensity: how strongly or emotionally they behave
  • Context: what’s the situation around that behavior

When you consider these, you get better and better at spotting patterns, rather than looking at single instances that aren’t likely to predict how people will act.

And you start seeing the matrix.

Meaning you understand why people might change their opinions or make seemingly absurd decisions in the moment.

When it comes to your audience I would ask:

  1. What are their core traits?
  2. What are the different states they might be in when they land and go through my site?
  3. How can I change these states to move them towards converting?
  4. And, how might these states temporary affect their traits (so I can anticipate them)?

The difference between state and trait is also helpful for understanding yourself and for changing your own behavior.

For example, realize that the way you just reacted negatively is because of your temporary state and not an ingrained trait, and you’ll have a much easier time accepting it and letting it go.

This book is so good that I want to share more takeaways from it.

Tomorrow we’ll dive into how to understand and use the vivid details prospects share with you or that you find in your research.

Because, hint: people lie…

And when you’re blind to it, you risk using the wrong details and derail your conversion efforts.


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Quote and reflection of the day:

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood.”

– Terence McKenna, Unfolding the Stone

The world mirrors your intentions and rewards you for daring to be someone better than you were yesterday. But it’s still up to you to take the chance and meet opportunity.

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brain dump?

Every week I write about what I’m learning at my copywriting/UX desk ,with fun, insightful and quirky stories.

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