Get Our Blueprint for Creating
and Selling Online Courses

How to Launch Your Course and Enroll
Your First (Or Next!) 5, 50, or even 500 Paying Students... FAST!

The next webinar is on

Click here to get the details.

What Some Clown Can Teach You About Audience Analysis

What scared you as a child?

Did something make you believe there was danger lurking under your bed, below the shower drain, behind the furnace, or even at the circus?

When my daughter turned three, her grandparents took her to the circus. They found out that if you arrive early, you can meet the clowns before the show starts.

Other kids were happily getting high fives from the clowns, smiling for photos, or having quarters pulled out of their ears. My daughter wouldn’t get anywhere near the clowns.

Every marketer knows that customers buy from people they know, like and trust.

My daughter’s toddler brain assessed the clowns and positively felt that she didn’t know them, like them or trust them.

And your customers might be doing the same…

Several years later, she found a picture of her unsmiling face at the circus that day. She said, “I was really scared of the clowns.” No kidding.

Then she said something that shocked me.

She said, “I didn’t know they were people in clown costumes. I thought they were just clowns.”

She didn’t see the circus clowns as just big, loud strangers who chose to wear garish makeup and clothing, and who were fond of gags that have been done to death since Vaudeville.

She wasn’t judging them as men who made strange life choices.

She didn’t even know they were human.

This taught me two things.

First, I learned that I should remember to tell her younger sister that clowns are actually people in clown costumes before her first trip to the circus.

Second, I learned that unless you’re a mind reader, you just never know what thoughts or assumptions can completely destroy a carefully prepared image.

Are You Afraid That Your Customers Aren’t Seeing You Clearly? You Should Be.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your customers all see the same good intentions when they come to your website.

I’m sure that no clown went into the circus biz just to scare away children. Maybe they see it as a combination of performance art, comedy and tradition, but their act just isn’t getting through to everyone.

As a marketer, you can understand more about audience analysis by looking at another trip to the circus.

Now imagine another family settled into their seats the circus acts begins. Just like your online audience, the audience members have a variety of sight and sounds competing for their attention.

  • Grandpa looks around and wonders how much it costs to heat the arena each winter. He thinks about how many miles the performers travel on bus over the course of a year. He wonders how this outfit has the gall to charge twelve bucks for a snow cone.
  • Mom sees the exotic acrobat and remembers her championship gymnastic tournament at fifteen, and how strong and powerful she felt before her injury at sixteen. That was more than half her lifetime ago, not to mention at least 30 pounds.
  • Dad watches the lion tamer. Wonders if the lion is drugged. Decides that he’d never mess with a lion, but assures himself that he could absolutely kick the lion tamer’s ass if it became necessary.
  • The favorite aunt glances around at all the dads with kids. Wonders how every guy in here could manage to make a commitment. She silently counts on her fingers how many weddings and baby showers she has had to go to in the last two years.
  • The ten-year-old girl watches the trick horseback riders. But all she can see is that it’s so unfair that her parents won’t even pay for one month of riding lessons, and that circus girl gets to skip school and ride a horse standing up every day of her life.
  • An elephant poops right in front of everyone, making all the kids laugh and hold their noses. The seven-year-old boy immediately imagines himself telling his friends about it in school on Monday.  He’s also going to embellish his story by telling them that the poop smelled so bad that it made him throw up three hot dogs and a large popcorn. He already knows exactly what he’ll add to the story to make everyone laugh.

Do you know how your audience sees you?

People in your audience want to know how your product or service will help them solve their problems. As we all know a personal connection can make a huge difference in your sales and traffic.

How do you make sure that the audience sees a person behind your business, not a performer, a gimmick or just some clown?

  • Do they know you? Do potential clients or customers see you as just a character in a costume with a made-up personality?
  • Do they like you? Are you doing the same predictable gimmicks over and over, or are you engaging them with something they’d want to tell their friends about?
  • Do they trust you? Does it look like you’re just there to collect a big roll of money, like the peanut vendor who makes sale after sale by just showing up?

How Can You Find What Gets The Crowd Excited?

Are you so far away from your audience that you can’t see them as individuals, only as dimly lit bodies filling up seats?

In addition to noticing which of your efforts is paying off in social shares, comments, opt-ins and sales, you can use several tools to help with audience analysis.

  1. Storify allows you to gather opinions on any topic or capture reactions in real time.
  2. Alltop lists the latest stories from high-ranking sites in hundreds of niches. It saves you time and provides insight about developing trends.
  3. Pop Survey  enables you to easily create and embed surveys into your blog to help you better understand your audience and customers.
  4. Five Second Test tells you what makes an impression on readers when they first look at your site.

With a few new tricks up your sleeve, you can find out if you’ve got a crowd-pleaser on your hands. You’ll be more likely to dazzle and delight your audience, and not scare them away like some clown.

What’s your best tip for making sure that your audience understands you?

Has your marketing message ever been completely misunderstood?

About Carol Zombo

Carol Zombo gives writing, grammar and blogging tips at Writing Revolution. She is the author of Grammar Rules!: How to Avoid the Most Common Grammar Mistakes, and The Copywriter's Cheat Sheet: 1500 Persuasive Words and Phrases for Writing Smart Copy That Sells.


  1. Your metaphor is bang on – and includes the idea of a clown as literally a joke – a dud idea or strategy that helps in no way whatsoever 🙂

  2. Thank you, Zeus! I’m glad you found it useful. You’re right, there are probably too many marketers telling people what they need instead of asking what they need.

  3. I like the observations. Quite useful. Your perception and importance often does not match up with the perceptions and needs of your audience. Therefore, it is important to engage in a conversation, not to “sell” per se (convince them they need your product), but to “supply” people with something they need and genuinely ask for.

    I really like this example of not distinguishing between a “clown” and a “person in a clown costume” because I think the same example applies to the hype around online marketing. The people who do these things are not business gurus and if you look beyond the costume, you will find them making mistakes, struggling, getting bored, and failing as well.

    The litmus test is this: Are online marketers asking us about what we need and designing products around that (like Tea at The Word Chef), or are they telling us what we need and promising us the moon. There are too many in the latter category. Let’s find, share, and support those who are in the former category.

  4. Hi Beatrix!
    An Alltop account lets you create a “personal, online magazine rack” of your favorite sites. Under their Tech menu, there’s a Software Development option. There are more than fifty sites listed. If you don’t see what you’re looking for there, you can also suggest sites to be included at

  5. What a great post! I like the circus analogy pointing out that everyone sees something different, and what they focus on is not always what you WANT them to focus on.

    This post made me laugh (I was terrified of clowns too – although I knew they were people, I just didn’t trust anyone who smiled that much) but like many of the posts here it gave me a new angle to look at my blog, business, and brand with.

    Example: I’m about to hire someone to create a “cartoon” image of me that will be my logo. It’s going to blend smart with sexy, and while this post isn’t making me rethink the design, it IS giving me a new view on what some people might think when they see it, and how I can counteract any negative views.

    Thanks again! I like your style and I’ll have to look up your blog. 🙂

  6. Through the Eyes of the Child or your customer! Just listened to Derek Halpern 5 minute video last night saying the similar thing in a post yesterday on Social Triggers. He mentioned the success of LuLuLemon store and that the owner and all employees Eavesdrop on what customers are saying. Great Advice and funny hearing it 2 days in a row.

    Thanks for the tools at the end also!

    1. Hi Mike!
      Yes, eavesdropping on your customers, whether it’s in person or virtual, can help you adjust your message and decide which products to promote. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hello Carol,
    Very good point. I am at the beginning of the process. So I especially appreciate the tools /links to learn more about my potential customers.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Tania!
      It’s smart that you’re thinking about this as you begin your business. Finding out what your audience wants will save you time, effort and money. Good luck!

  8. Hi, Carol, it’s Carol (LOL)

    Good idea – I’ll incorporate that as soon as I can.

    Love the “recovering scrapbooker” designation. One of the reasons I went to digital scrapbooking is because I’m a paper hoarder – never met a paper pattern I didn’t like and the craft room is FULL!

  9. Hi Carol!

    Great points! I noticed something last night that ties in with the point you make so well. I sell digital scrapbooking software and training (in person and online), and I showed some friends at a Girl Scout leader meeting some of the scrapbooks that I have made… with a terrific, positive response. They believed that I could help them learn how to do this on the computer.

    But, here’s the key: after ten years as a Girl Scout leader and many years helping to organize scouts in our town, they already knew me as someone they trust, who works hard to help people, is easy to talk with and willing to answer questions. But to the people visiting my blog, I could just as well be wearing clown shoes or a scary mask. I need to get this same supportive image across on my blog, where visitors do not have the same benefit of knowing me for years!

    Thanks for a great post.

    1. Hi Carol!
      Maybe some testimonials from some of the people you’ve worked with in person could help establish trust with your online customer base. As a scrapbooker, you already know how to put words and pictures together to tell a story. Your blog pages can do the same thing to promote your business and show off your products. Thanks for your comments. I’m a recovering scrapbooker myself. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

[gravityform id="84" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="80" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="82" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="81" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="78" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="24" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="72" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="71" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="66" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
[gravityform id="64" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]