A deep understanding of your Ideal Customer is the most powerful tool for growing your business.
Knowing who wants your product or service and why makes all the other things easier — like messaging, offers, email marketing, recruiting, social media, press pitches, etc.

Sales and marketing are not the same thing.
Sales is about your product.
(Great) marketing is about your customer.
Marketing creates demand.
Sales cashes in on that demand.

Every sale starts with a connection.
To make that connection, you must know what matters to your customer.

Be curious.
See the world through their eyes, not just through the…

Let’s play a game.

Imagine you’re selling a high-end insulated travel mug. ⁣

⁣Who’s your customer?⁣

CeCe. 38. Coffee lover. Married. MBA. Commutes from the suburbs to her corporate job in the city. Household income > $150K.⁣

Erin. 38. Coffee lover. Married. Masters Degree. Commutes from the suburbs to her corporate job in the city. Household income > $150K⁣

⁣Based on demographics — education, age, commuter, income, job — and their affinity for coffee, CeCe and Erin both look like your Ideal Customer. ⁣

What if you also knew…

⁣⁣CeCe owns a large automatic coffee maker that she loads up…

Ideal Customer Discovery is the foundational messaging work that every business should do.

It’s the most underrated, underestimated, secret sauce skill for growing your business.

It informs who you sell to, how you sell, and even what you sell.

It makes all the other things easier — like sales copy, crafting offers, pitches, recruiting, partnerships, etc.

The good news is…

There is a proven step-by-step process.

Universal enough to work for any business.

Nuanced enough to be specific to your business.

The bad news is…

There is no one-size-fits-all demographics + pain points + rosy future formula or worksheet.


One of the most common misconceptions about Ideal Customer Discovery is that you need to know all the nitty-gritty details of our Ideal Customer’s personality and lifestyle.

Ummm, maybe.

No offense, but for my Ideal Customer, I don’t care if you drive a Range Rover and love the Real Housewives of wherever. It might be interesting for some chit-chat, but it has zero bearing on the work we do together.

Those details might be important for your business. Or not.

My point is, don’t blindly go down this common path of lifestyle demographics.

Instead, search for the details that…


Your Ideal Customer is the sweet spot where your expertise, your style and the things your customer cares about relative to your product intersect.


A deep understanding of your Ideal Customer is the most powerful tool you have to grow your business.

It’s the one thing that makes everything else easier — like messaging, recruiting, writing copy, sales pitches, partnerships, etc.

It’s not hard work, but you do have to actually do the work.

It’s never too late.

You can start today by grabbing a free copy of my 10 Crazy Simple Hints To Attract…

Ideal Customer Avatar, or ICA, is a very common term, especially in the online marketing space. Or sometimes folks will talk about their “target market.”

I’m not a big fan of the term avatar or target market.

They are impersonal.

And that’s dangerous.

The moment you slap one of those labels on your customer you start to dehumanize the person you’re selling to. Then everything you create around that label — like your website copy and emails — gets dehumanized too, one small word at a time.

It’s a slippery slope to an Us vs Them scenario.

It separates you…

Summer in Central Texas means months of long, hot, dry days. Temperatures regularly soar above 100 degrees and by late July the Earth will crack right open, begging to be quenched.

Relief comes, eventually, and usually in the form of a torrential downpour. Without warning that well-prayed-for rain can turn into a fast moving wall of water with no regard for anything in its path. Newcomers, certain tales of flooding are just that, Texas-sized tales, quickly learn why this region is known as Flash Flood Alley.

For a long time I thought the creative process was like those long Texas…

Denise Cornell. Reading, Berkshire, England. December 2002.

Please note: This post covers the subjects of pregnancy and loss.

That’s me in the picture above. December 2002. Wearing my bulkiest sweater and trying my best to create the illusion of more than a tiny 10 week baby bump.

Oh, the adventures Baby D and I had already shared. We braved the bitter cold at the Newark International Antiques Fair in Nottinghamshire, lugging our many finds on and off trains, The Tube and a bus. We marveled at the Pont du Gard and all things Provence including an unforgettable meal at La Fourchette in Avignon. …

Always bring a pencil to class.
Take an umbrella.
Do your research

BE PREPARED (bee-pri-paird) verb a command, threat or warning. Disobey at your own peril.

But imagine for a moment…

You forget your pencil.
You get caught in a downpour without your umbrella.
You go to the movie without reading a single review.


You get to write with a fat shiny marker.
You pretend you’re the star of Singin’ in the Rain.
You howl at a scene the critics found “utterly derivative.”

What if the best moments of the trip aren’t the ones you scheduled and mapped out…

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

I’m writing this in response to a conversation between Tim Ferriss and Mike Maples. Before I start, if Mike or Tim is reading, I want this part to be unmissable: THANK YOU. To Mike for being inclusive and kind and generous. To Tim for his endless curiosity.

I was flipping through Tim Ferriss’ new book, Tribe of Mentors, and saw that Mike Maples is featured. It’s cool to see someone you know on the pages of a best-seller. A couple weeks later at a book signing in Austin, Tim told me Mike is one of his favorite people. That makes…

Denise Cornell

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