Want to know the question most bloggers have the hardest time answering?
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“Who are you writing for?”
Most blogs muck this up because they're writing as if they already have the attention of their audience and not like they're trying to earn it.
When you already have someone’s attention, you can work to mold opinions and behaviors, as they already appreciate what you do. But when you’re trying to earn it, you have to first know their opinions and behaviors as they are now.
Great blogs and (more obviously) great bloggers are obsessively focused on the interests of others, not so much their own self-fulfillment as a writer or marketer.
The point here is to challenge you to think a little more about earning attention and what that means for your blogging efforts: Are you writing as if the right people are already paying attention? Or are you writing to earn it?
What’s the difference?
"Engagement is the reward you get when you meet the needs of your customers with pathological empathy for their perspective, problems, and points of view,” Ann Handley told Business 2 Community recently.
You’re a writer. (Like Ann says, everybody is.) You really only have two points-of-view to revert to when the proverbial pen hits the paper.
The one relating to your customers, or
While your intention may be to appeal to the POV of customers, it’s much easier to convey your own. This isn’t narcissism, it’s natural. You’re working with a knowledge bias that makes it harder for you to relate with people who don’t already know what you know.
I promise it’s a compliment.
Problem is, it doesn’t compliment your customer’s POV, you know, the one that really matters. So what happens is you fill your editorial calendar with crap like this:
How to Transform Your [Insert something personal] with [insert our service.]
I’m usually not searching for transformation. I have very specific problems or interests. Sweeping generalizations like this don’t work.
5 [Insert No-So-Obvious Tactics] You’re Ignoring
Well if I’m ignorant to them, would I really be searching for them? Would they even grab my attention?
What Beyoncé Can Teach You About [insert industry.]
This one doesn’t need much explanation. Stop it. You’re better than that.
All of these posts assume more than they empathize, a common thread that could make blogging more of a time waste than valuable time spent.
You’re assuming people know you can transform them in some way. You’re assuming people are aware of tools they’re ignoring. Lastly, you’re assuming people love Beyoncé as much as you do.
"Attention is the most valuable commodity in marketing and the most taken for granted," says Doug Kessler, creative director and co-founder of Velocity Partners. "Content creators who assume it's easy to earn or keep are the ones responsible for 99% of the crap on the internet."
"Most marketers are still marketing as if their target audience was their mother," adds Kessler. "Someone who loves everything you do and will go out of her way to get more of it."
So how do we earn people’s attention?
Remember that pathological empathy Ann Handley talked about earlier? (It may sound creepier than intended. But don't worry, you don’t need binoculars or anything.)
The way to get people’s attention is by learning their interests, challenges, and points-of-view. And obsessing over them.
Hard work, sure.
But really, if you're in the content game, it’s more of a responsibility than a choice. No one has to read your blog, but there is a way of making it pretty dang hard to resist.
Talk to your customers
This doesn’t have to be limited to a 30-minute phone call. (In fact, it’s preferable that it isn’t.)
Get to know these people on a more personal level. Sure, I know that one of our customers loves content that helps him plan and budget his marketing program, but I also know of his healthy obsession for Star Wars. I know him as a person, not as a consumer, user, or whatever other soulless label companies use.
Talk to customer-facing employees and schedule regular video chats with some of your best customers. The ones you’d want dozens – or hundreds – more of. (You’ll be surprised how willing people are to have calls like this.)
Empathy is a very human emotional response, so it’s best to uncover the human element behind the people who buy from you. Even if they are from a galaxy far, far away.
Adds Kessler, "Knowing not just who your audience is but what they feel, what their prejudices are; what they hate – that's gold dust for a blogger."
Stay customer focused
Think of the personalities, opinions, and interests gleaned from your customers as colors on a palette and your blog as the blank canvas.
Sure, there are tons of other colors you could use to paint something beautiful, but that’s not the point. Use only the colors that make up the people who really matter.
Value is in the eye of the beholder.
You’re not trying to create content that appeals to the everyone. Take what you’re learning from your customers and make that the focus of your blog. This is what separates customer-focused blogs from the company-focused ones.
The right people will find it helpful.
Time well spent
Blogging is one of the most important and time-intensive marketing activities you engage in. No one wants to be wasting time. But if you're not even sure who you're writing for, it’s not a good allocation of time.
The idea is to get to the point where answering “who are you writing for?” is as seamless as unlocking your phone.
It’s the only way to attract the attention we all need.
P.S. If you're looking to get a jumpstart on this whole empathy thing, you can access our free buyer persona templates by filling out the form below. (They're what we use.)