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How to create an actionable client profile

daniel day lewis launch tomorrow
Daniel Day Lewis, method acting maestro

He’s the first man to ever win three Oscars. Daniel Day Lewis, that is.

For the entire filming of My Left Foot, he didn’t leave his wheelchair, sound coherent, or even feed himself. For Last of the Mohicans he became a survivalist. He lived off the land. For In the Name of the Father, he lived in a prison cell. He starved himself. He asked the cast to insult and abuse him.

When playing Abraham Lincoln, he even signed his texts “A.”

Daniel’s style of acting, called method acting, expects him to become his character. To live in their skin. Which is a potent skill to have as a marketer.


audience triangle launch tomorrow
Picking your ideal prospect is 67% of your success

The Launch Tomorrow triangle suggests 67% of your sales variance comes from deeply understanding your prospect. Grab the free intro to Launch Tomorrow to find out more.

Yet beyond just stressing the importance of choosing and grasping that prospect profile, I didn’t suggest how to create one in my book. I couldn’t find a tool that I felt “delivered the goods.” Or that made it clear what the next step was. Until now.

To be fair, there are a lot of tools out there to develop client profiles. Yet those profiles seemed like cardboard cutout versions of a real person. Particularly when it comes to deep rapport with a client.

Even though you might be able to belt out your client’s demographic info from under the table before closing time, that’s not enough. Stats are static. They don’t help you deduce your clients’ real motives. That’s what matters.

Your clients' real motives...that's what matters. Share on X

So I came up with the Hero Canvas.

hero canvas launch tomorrow
Get into your target client’s skin

The Hero Canvas is analogous to a Business Model Canvas. The hero of any successful venture is its clients. Clients are also the primary source of sales and hence profits. (See triangle thingy above). So the Hero Canvas helps you focus only on your clients.

When you start testing your pitch for business, you will have a client story in mind. If you don’t have one, it’s the first thing to get in place for a new product. That story details the client’s struggles and their motives. When they see your product for the first time, it connects them. It maps to their struggles.

The Hero Canvas maps out the characters in that story. It gaggles together your thoughts on important characters in your marketing/product story. Like a prospect or B2B buyer.

In fact, you can use the Hero Canvas to structure your “customer development” interviews. They are a standard Lean Startup technique. You question your prospects to identify and infer their problems. Qualitative research like this serves as market intelligence on a budget.

The Hero Canvas is best used with an approach like Daniel Day Lewis’. Get into the skin of the character. Become them. Think and feel like them-in order to play the role well.

You get so deep into the prospect’s internal emotional life, that when you put an ad in front of them (regardless of format: a Google ad, a sales letter, and email or a print direct mail piece) , it hits the exact emotional notes for the prospect. Right where they are. Then, it’s a lot easier to persuade prospects to take action.This tool helps you achieve three critical objectives:

  1. It helps you get out of your own head, to enable you to achieve empathy with your profile
  2. You target a narrower and more specific segment of people, thus focusing your efforts
  3. Discern the emotional life of your prospects, so that you connect without effort

So let’s start at the top, shall we?

The Hero Canvas helps you step out of your own head.

Daniel Day Lewis Launch Tomorrow
Daniel Day Lewis inspecting Gettysburg address original text

If you want to walk thousand miles in another person’s sneakers, first take off your own. Kinda obvious, and yet hard to do. This is part of the seismic shift from thinking about your solution to thinking about the client’s problem.

For example, when preparing for his role as Abraham Lincoln, Day-Lewis visited the White House. He wanted to see Lincoln’s original manuscript of his famous manifesto–the Gettysburg Address.

Did he need to? Maybe not. But this visit was an opportunity to figure out what made Lincoln tick. To see how Lincoln wrote, thought, and edited his masterpiece. It helped Day-Lewis stop thinking about himself. To grok Lincoln.

For example, here are two different startup pitches:
a. Digiscents developed the technology to provide the sense of smell to the Internet via a hardware unit add-on. Then they sold smells as a service
b. Roomor is an app-based platform which brings together tenants, landlords and real estate agents to help people find a place to live faster and easier.

While the tech behind Digiscents was fascinating, it ran the show. Once its tech was ready “enough”, Digiscents started to market itself. They approached gaming companies and the food industry.

Digiscents discovered that neither were that interested in forcing their customers to buy another brick on a wire. Just to make their laptop smell pretty. For most consumers, smell is just a nice-to-have. As a result, Digiscents went out of business. The $20 mln they raised went down the drain.

In contrast, Roomor is still on, as far as I know. And they are very clear on who they serve. Which makes it a lot easier to find them, interview them to learn of their problems. Then adjust the product vision so that it matches with the discovered needs.

Having a clear picture of who you are targeting makes a big difference. It course-corrects your future marketing and product plans. And it’s easier to step out of your head, if you interview specific people in that market segment. Even if you as a founder are also in that segment, it’s easier to spot the larger trends and patterns by chatting with many other people in the niche.

So go ye forth and find ye a market, so your product can prosper as richly as it deserves.

You target a narrower segment of people with a Hero Canvas, conserving resources.

Segmenting affects the success of your entire venture, not just your sales. It’s life-or-death if you’re tight on budget.

Bob Jansen (@jansn) has an insightful angle on this. Think about it this way. You walk into a large hall. There’s an event on. It’s attracted your target audience. They’re milling around, ordering beers at the bar, waiting for the first speaker to start. Who are the first few people you’d want to speak to? Why, the ones who would be the most likely buy into your approach or your product. What did you look for first, when figuring out who to approach?

Think about it this way. You walk into a large hall. Who do you walk up to first? @jansn Share on X

What if you could only focus your entire business on people like that? Exclude everyone else in the hall? How can you approach only those people, and ignore everyone else? You can later approach others when you have a great solution for them too.

That would bring you a lot of benefits:

  1. You’d build a solution that is more attractive for them
  2. It would be easier for you to sell to them, and thus achieve dominance (#1 position) in that smaller niche
  3. You could focus 100% of your resources on a smaller homogeneous group, as opposed to part of your resources
  4. You would develop a well-deserved reputation as a specialist for this group, which would translate to higher profits

In more practical terms, here’s how I apply it in my own venture.

superman vs bizzarro launch tomorrow
Superman vs Bizarro

For example, first I’d create a profile based on the hero. Then, I’d use the Hero Canvas to create an anti-hero. Think: getting Bizarro when trying to reach Superman. So basically, these are the combined characteristics of people who are like the hero but not that attractive as clients.

For example, the Heros that I’d like to attract are startup founders that are interested in marketing and product mastery. They want to build a sustainable, high growth startup, and they’re willing to commit however long it takes to see an idea through.

My anti-hero is someone looking to find the next business opportunity. They dream of sipping Bahama Mamas under palm trees, as the cash magically rolls in. They don’t need to many any effort or learn anything for that matter.

The anti-hero looks quite like the hero. They’re both savvy, somewhat technical, ready to take a punt. But the second group is unlikely to ever become successful with that approach. They’re stuck in wishful thinking. And they’re be a waste of my time and effort, because they wouldn’t be willing to implement anything they learn from me.  And I want to focus my own time and resources on founders and product people who ship and achieve despite the odds.

Discern the emotional life of your prospects, so you connect effortlessly.

Character motivation forms a core part of Stanislavski’s system. Specifically, the character exists in a context. Also, they have certain drives. These drives are deep-seated, and cause the character to take action. Those actions have consequences for the character and his context. So basically, if you understand the emotional triggers to what the character wants in any given moment, you’re gold.

The main challenge for method actors is to let go of their own preconceptions and preferences. They must do this, to get into the character’s mindset, context, and motivation.

Sound familiar?

It’s the classic narcissist trap. “I am my market.” Lean Startup and direct response marketing try to prevent it. You are not your target market, even if you are or were part of it. Lean Startup promotes testing in order to get out of your own head and use data to grok what’s going on. Direct response promotes looking at client behavior. To prove that a particular piece of marketing works better with your market than another one, you have to register a bigger response.

With both of these approaches, you are decoding your target profile’s motivations. What triggers them to act? What keeps them back? How do they make decisions? If you have a deep understanding of your target profile, your sales become effortless.

When writing sales letters, direct marketer Glenn Livingston says that he waits until a market changes him. He feels an emotional shift. Then he starts writing sales copy.

How to use the Hero Canvas yourself

To use it:

  1. You print out the canvas
  2. As you consult with your prospects or buyers, you start to pick up on specific details.
  3. You write these down on post-its or directly on the canvas

You can use it to document all of your guesses about your target profile, before you go out to interview. Then do the above again, and update them as you get actionable feedback from your target market.

As a result of using a Hero Canvas, you get a detailed picture of your target profile based on discussions with real people. This can then be turned around and used to craft a sales story.And build a “kick-ass” product that hits pain points that exist in the market.

Download your free copies here:

hero canvas launch tomorrow


Please use these on your own projects, use them with your clients, get as much as you can out of them. I’d like this to spread far and wide!


If you are interested in finding out more, join my email course on using the Hero Canvas with your sales and product:
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