Is Your Website Focused Too Much on Yourself and Not On Your Audience?

  • September 20, 2011 by Guest Writer
  • 27 Comments

Note from Corbett: This is a guest post by Adam Baker of Man Vs. Debt. Registration is open (this week only) for Baker’s brand new You Vs Debt (not an affiliate link), a 6-week class with daily video lessons, challenges, and accountability forums to help you CRUSH your debt.

As most of of you know, Corbett and team are in the midst of kicking off their Million Dollar Blog challenge.

What an amazing freakin’ idea!  I’m jealous I didn’t think it up and start it myself. :)

Courtney (my wife) is going to be taking the challenge, and heck – I’ve even considered doing this myself for a side project (the verdict is still out on this one).

But in the midst of all this excitement and energy, I want to share the biggest lesson that I’ve recently learned in my 3-year journey online.

It’s way, WAY too easy to shine your spotlight in the wrong direction online.

“Spotlights… what the hell are you talking about, Baker?”

Let me explain…

*****

I was listening to one of my favorite online-mentors-that-I-haven’t-yet-actually-met a couple weeks ago, Marie Forleo.

Marie was answering a video question on her blog (as she does each week), and this particular inquiry came from a LGBT business owner who was having a small business identity crisis.

In the absolutely brilliant video, Marie’s words shattered the lightbulbs in my brain:

“You have a spotlight. You can either shine that spotlight on who YOU are and what YOU believe. Or you can take that spotlight and shine it on your CUSTOMERS – or how you help THEIR problems, needs, or frustrations.”

Smack!

The words hit me straight in the face.

But before I could fully recover, Marie struck again:

“Most people who are selling information and advice online are failing because they have the spotlight on themselves rather than the problems and needs of their customers.”

Wham-wham!

Now, I don’t consider myself a failure – but I have plenty of room to improve my business, my blog, and my ability to help change lives.

Marie had just force fed me the hard truth I needed to hear…

I’d been shining the spotlight on myself so much, I was blinding myself from the real needs of my customers…

*****

Flashback two months prior.

I’m on the phone with one of my amazing-inspiring-mentors-I-HAVE-met-in-person, Danielle LaPorte.

Danielle was helping me understand some big changes in my business and life. We were passionately discussing my future world domination plans, when she interrupted me:

“Baker, I think you’ve got it backward. You’ve had success, but you’ve always lead with YOURSELF and your personal updates and sprinkled in some lessons that people can pick up on. I think you’re waiting for permission to flip that. To lead with LESSONS that can help people, while still sprinkling in some of yourself.”

Ouch. This hurt.

It didn’t hurt because it was mean… far from it! It hurt because it was so TRUE.

I’m proud of the style and manner that I built the community that I have online, but I was leaving a lot on the table by not stepping up and solving problems more directly.

Style, personality, and transparency are all fantastic ways to create community and stay true to who you are. Both Marie and Danielle know that more than most!

But there’s a limit to how far you’ll be able to go if you continually shine the spotlight on yourself.

Do yourself a favor, and as you start this challenge along side the Think Traffic team – hold your spotlight firm on the needs and problems of your target audience.

Be yourself. Be honest, open, and fun.

But don’t hog the spotlight.

Let your customers have it instead!

Adam Baker writes at Man Vs. Debt.


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Mars Dorian September 20, 2011 at 5:57 am

interesting, and I get your point, Adam.

I’m focused on myself, and often neglecting the audience because I think I’m such a hot personal brand ;)

And of course you want to provide ass-kicking results for your audience.

I mean – what about Lady Gaga, Gary Vaynerchuk and “The Bloggess” . It’s always about their personal brands, and the people dig because they want to be a part of it. I think that focusing on your dreams and being remarkable can be incredible value in itself.

Tom Ewer September 20, 2011 at 6:03 am

Hi Adam,

I think that there is a balance to strike. I am a big fan of ‘personalised’ blogs, just like yours – where you can learn what you can do in your life by reading about what others have done. So I am all for “here’s how I’m doing” posts, but I think the vital part is to ensure that you are addressing an issue that your audience has. This is what I try to do. When done right, I think you can actually use your personal updates as a means of addressing the needs of your audience, and shine the spotlight on both yourself AND them.

Thanks for the interesting read!

All the best,

Tom

Jamie Northrup September 20, 2011 at 6:28 am

My blog posts on my “personal” brand website are often spotlighted on myself, but I get the feeling this works better for this website, but maybe I’ll try and even it up a bit and see how that goes. Thanks for sharing!

Mary September 20, 2011 at 6:34 am

You make great points Adam. The challenge is turning it around in our writing; it’s easy to start writing about ourselves as we have so much material!! It’s also a challenge to figure out exactly who your readers are especially in the beginning when they aren’t commenting much. If you don’t know exactly who your audience is, it’s harder to pinpoint their needs.

As I hear myself commenting, I think the challenge of a new blogger is to draw the readers out and get them to comment.

Srinivas September 20, 2011 at 6:58 am

Adam,

I learned this one the hard way. AS somebody who interviews people as the core part of what I do online, I have to be very conscious of this, In the earliest days of running BlogcastFM I had a listener email saying “you need to shut up during your interviews.” It hurt but it was true. So I took his advice, and a few months later he emailed me saying that he had been listening the whole time and was really happy I took his advice.

Steve@Earn Money Online September 20, 2011 at 6:58 am

Adam,

This is certainly a delicate balance. People want personality. Dull recitation of facts that people can read in a library book…well people can go to the library.

You make a good point, though. It needs to not just be the blogger sitting on a soapbox. Personality is great but the desire is to have that personality AND really connect with your audience.

Good luck with your upcoming course!

-Steve

Conni September 20, 2011 at 7:30 am

It is probably quite scary in the beginning..taking that spotlight away from us and onto our audience. I’m sure it will feel weird at first but that’s what we’re here for – developing a blog that helps other people or fulfills a need or desire. I am going to start writing content in the next few days and see how I go!

I read the other day (maybe even on this blog) that when you read through your blog posts and there are more I’s and We’s than You’s than you’ve got it wrong…

Cheers for your input, Adam! And good timing, Corbett – it is important to consider before we start heading off in the wrong direction…

Have a fab day everyone

Conni

Alexander H. September 20, 2011 at 7:45 am

Adam,

What do you think about this (potentially flawed) assumption:

What if your blog is written about people ( and for people ) in a situation similar to yourself. Does writing “what you are thinking” then constitute useful information that benefits others?

I’ve often wondered about this myself. I mean, if you’re going through the same trials and tribulations, you’re probably thinking similar things.

But if you’ve already conquered your own problems and now you’re writing about them, then yeah, that’d be a different can of worms.

Just some thoughts..

Alex

Amy September 20, 2011 at 8:04 am

Hey Adam!

Hope you’re loving NC!

I can definitely attest to the importance of shining the spotlight on your audience rather than on yourself. My site is based on helping people overcome their obstacles, but I often inject some of my personal life and history into the posts to show that it’s possible. However, I get the best response the more personal I get. Case in point: I recently took Corbett’s challenge from “33 Things I’ve Never Told You” and published a similar post on my site: “Meet Amy: 27 Things I’ve Never Told You.” It got the most comments to date, and the most views on one of my own posts since the launch of my blog. I think there’s a balance to find between relating to your readers through sharing your own life and personality, and making it all about them.

Thanks for the great post! Say hi to Courtney for us!

Yayson Potter September 20, 2011 at 8:25 am

Great advice, I’ve tried to stay away from here’s what I have done posts and instead tried to focus on things that have helped me learn. I’ll have to keep this post in mind as I write more posts. I’ve found it is hard to exactly figure out what the readers want as I’m currently receiving few comments. But as I get more I’ll have a better measure and in the mean time I’m focusing on things I’ve learned that might help and also try to draw out comments from readers.

Crystal September 20, 2011 at 8:37 am

I think once you become comfortable with sharing yourself with your audience and you’ve built an audience that enjoys engaging with you, it’s only natural to get comfy and talk about yourself. But most customers are thinking “what’s in it for me?” It is about finding that right balance of being transparent while also tending to your customer’s needs. And I agree that Marie and Danielle are both awesome.

Dr. Bob Clarke September 20, 2011 at 8:56 am

Hey Adam,

Like you, Marie’s video had a huge impact because, (again) like you I have become blinded by shining the spotlight on myself, foolishly believing that anyone else except my wife would care.

Appreciate this post! Very timely for me to read right now!
Bob

Lucy September 20, 2011 at 9:37 am

Writing is very difficult for me, I go back to all my old stuff and I realize how SELF-CENTERED I am! It’s a little emberassing but it’s just the easiest way to explain something, through my own experiences.

To combat my tendencies I have put a sign in front of my bed (where I write) that says:

Audience: x, y, or z
Purpose: x, y, or z
WHAT PROBLEM IS THIS SOLVING?

Kenneth Ashley September 20, 2011 at 11:58 am

Hey Corbett,

Im pretty sure i’m just a straw in a haystack and these comments are over looked by many and maybe even you. I don’t care about getting traffic for money, i just want people to listen to what i have to say. It’s very frustrating. You feel insignificant.

Kenneth Ashley

Lucy September 21, 2011 at 10:23 am

I think the point was that the blog isnt supposed to be about you it’s supposed to be about the reader. (with or without money). The blog is supposed to help the reader in some way, your need to be listened to, however real, are not the concearn of strangers who visit your blog.

Jason September 21, 2011 at 11:51 am

Kenneth, have you told your readers why they should care to read what you have to say? :) What are they gaining by listening to you?

-j

Corbett Barr September 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Hey Kenneth, you’re no straw in these comments, we read every one :)

Why do you want people to listen to what you have to say? What do you hope to achieve with your voice?

Kevin September 20, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I personally like reading from the personal perspective, but I get the point. Sometimes it would be helpful to both the reader and writer to get out of our comfort zones. As mentioned earlier, a balance is needed. I prefer reading someone who seems to be in the trenches with me than preaching to me.

AstroGremlin September 21, 2011 at 12:12 am

The first-person perspective can be compelling in the case of a unique or rare experience or anecdote: “I grew an extra finger commenting, and it helps.” People are interested if you’ve tried something they are considering: “I Feed My Mother in Law Only When She Completes a Blog for My Site.” But for the most part, people who seek out the personal approach are lurking for their chance to spill their own details to the world. No one really cares about me or you or Kenneth. People mostly care about themselves. Write accordingly.

Ryan September 21, 2011 at 6:29 am

Great post and perfectly timed. I’m currently migrating content and ideas from an old blog to my new one. The old one was too much about me, whereas the new one is 100% based on my experiences but i’m working hard to try and put a spin on the content so that it has some value and impact on readers. Like others above say, it’s about finding the right balance…………content with value & personality is where it’s at I reckon!

On a related note: do many people use virtual assistants for article writing? I’ve got so much I want to write about that i’ve considered tasking a VA to draft the content…….but as I said above a lot of what I want to write about is based on personal experience so I suppose I would only ever receive back facts gathered from a bit of online research without the personal touch. Curious as to how people use VAs if at all?

Jason September 21, 2011 at 11:50 am

Baker was the first guy to give me blogging advice. What he said was simple but has made a huge difference. We all know it, but it’s good to remind ourselves: “#1 Tip: Focus on solving a problem for your readers.”

Maybe an exercise that will help (I’m making this up as I go, but it sounds good) is to write the post like we normally would. Then go back and see how it looks self-centered. Use that to determine which problem we’re solving for the reader, and then rewrite the post so it does that instead of showcase what we’re doing.

It’s great to start with personal experience, but in the end a reader’s going to want to know a step to take to help them solve the problem them came to you for.

-j

Farnoosh September 22, 2011 at 5:40 am

Love Danielle’s advice, but it’s so hard to know how to implement it. Any update, any blog post, CAN be taken both ways. It all depends on how you say it (yes) but also on people’s perceptions. No matter, I think the point is well worth making, thank you! I am going to find that spotlight and point it in the right direction :) !

Danielle Lynn September 22, 2011 at 9:36 am

One of the first things that always comes up when I’m helping clients fix their sales strategy is how there’s too much “I” in the writing and not enough “you.”

People get this idea that others will trip over themselves to order from you when you reveal that you have *gasp* 20 years of experience or that you have many happy clients. While these factors can add to your selling value, they’re not enough to build your sales FROM.

This article is right on the spot: people love to hear about themselves – and this is true for sales writing, conversations, and even blog posts.

But that being said… we are people ourselves. So we love to write about ourselves. The happy medium is where we get to share our experiences in a way that draws direct solutions that are meaningful to the reader- and to spend more time focusing on them. :)

Peter Write October 1, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I think benefiting your readers should be your main course of choice.Giving them something they can use or relate to is a key factor weather it be information or products,You must give them something of value that they need. Also gain their trust and respect for being a authority in your niche by doing this they will tell others which will tell others and your line will grow continuously these people are here to benefit them..

Daniel October 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Good Points, Corbett.

I do tend to post about my Blogging experiences, as to what has worked so far, and what has not.

Though, for the most part I encourage readers to relate their experiences in regards to those issues.

I throw in a few tech fixes, along with personal observations of what is being taught out in the Blog-o- sphere(The so called cardinal rules) and whether these so called “must do to succeed” rules actually work, or not.

Gill October 5, 2011 at 9:49 am

Excellent points! Its so true, its very easy to get caught up in your experiences and begin to ‘story tell’. Its a good reminder to stay close to the point, problem and solution your customers are looking for. Thanks

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