Two Simple Ways to Know Exactly What Your Audience Wants

  • February 14, 2012 by Corbett Barr
  • 27 Comments
What does your audience want?

What does your audience want?

As someone who produces content, you have to do the impossible.

You have to see inside the minds of your audience members.

As you sit in front of a blank screen, you have to know what your audience craves so you can produce truly epic content.

You have to be intimate with their hopes, fears, insecurities, needs and desires.

When you give your audience exactly what it wants and needs, magical things happen. Your content goes viral. Your email list grows. Your profile is raised. You make a difference in people’s lives.

When you miss the mark and produce content no one really wants or needs, your site becomes stale. People stop coming by. Your influence wanes.

This is one of the greatest challenges you face.

If producing your best content has to start with understanding your audience, how do you get to know your audience so well?

How can you see inside the minds of your audience and know what they REALLY want from you? How can you know what kind of content will make them tweet, comment, share and engage like crazy?

You might just guess, but you probably already know that doesn’t work very well.

We’re more interested in sure things. Luckily there are a couple of simple techniques that will outperform guessing and your Magic Eight Ball any day of the week.

Here are the two easiest ways to know exactly what your audience wants:

1) Let your audience write your headline for you.

What could be better than having your audience write the headline of your next post for you?

In a way you can have them do just that.

If you listen carefully to people who read your blog, you’ll notice certain patterns in the language they use and the topics they bring up.

You can create powerful content by starting with the exact language you’ve heard your audience use.

For example, I used this technique to write the recent post: Kicked, Beaten Down, Back Up Against the Wall, Now You Have Nothing to Lose

This post was a departure from typical content here at Think Traffic, but it elicited a deep response from many of you who don’t normally leave comments here.

This post helped connect with new audience members on a deeper level than normal because I tapped into some significant challenges many of you are facing.

How can you develop post ideas like this?

In this case, I was reading responses to a survey we send out to new members of our How to Start a Blog that Matters course.

In the responses I found several people who revealed they started blogging because they thought it would be “a sure and easy way to make lots of money.” I found several more people who felt like they’d fallen down so many times trying to create an online business that now they had nothing to lose.

When your audience tells you things like this, you should explore them as blog topics. Take the exact language and use it within your blog posts.

It might just touch a nerve.

Where can you find responses like these?

I gather these hopes, dreams, desires and emotional hot buttons from all of you through blog comments, surveys and in one-on-one sessions.

The key is to ask the right questions.

For example, I collected dozens of incredibly useful insights by asking you What Are You Struggling With on Your Website or Blog Right Now?

You can survey your audience or customers by asking things like “Why do you want to start a successful ______?” Fill in the blank with whatever you’re helping your audience achieve.

Of course, the bigger your audience, the more opportunities you’ll have to gather responses. BUT, realize that over a certain size the responses start to resemble one another. You won’t learn much from 200 responses that you couldn’t learn from 20. The 80/20 rule is at work here.

No matter how big your audience is, try paying special attention to the pain points and deep desires people reveal to you.

Ask people outright what they’re struggling with, and what you can do to make their situation better.

2) Use past behavior to predict future results.

Once you’ve produced a decent amount of content (say 20 or more articles/videos/podcasts, etc.), you have a great opportunity to learn from how people reacted to that content.

Think about the actions you would like your audience to take after reading your content. You probably want them to leave comments, share your content, open your email and refer back to your content over and over again.

Each of these actions leaves evidence.

You can use this evidence to help you create more great content.

Here are several indicators you can use to find past content that performed especially well:

  • Mailing list open rates
  • Retweets/shares
  • Comments
  • Page views

Go back over your old content and take note of which pieces attracted the highest open rates, the most shares, the most comments and the most page views.

You’ll find little gems in there.

The content that garnered the greatest reaction can provide wonderful clues about what you should produce in the future.

Examine the structure of this subset of content, the headlines, the topics and how you framed each discussion.

What can you borrow from these tried-and-true pieces of content? Which well can you draw on again and again?

You might be surprised at how often you can repeat yourself or rehash an old topic.

Sometimes your audience just can’t get enough.

Now: Put This Technique to Work

Here’s what I’d love you to do.

Choose one of the approaches above.

Either gather responses from your audience OR look over your most successful older content.

Use one of these approaches to come up with your next blog post idea.

Then, come back here and let me know how it worked for you.

If you’ve already done this before, please share your results below as well.

And as always, I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

Have you signed up for updates from us yet? Get more tips just like this for building a thriving online audience twice a week.

Thanks for reading!

photo: tochis

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Kris @ MyHealthyWeightLossJourney.com February 14, 2012 at 7:30 am

Really good article. It’s good to learn how to interact more with your readers, but I’ve never really thought about reading in between the lines enough to attune my posts more to their liking.

I guess it can be something of a tight rope because not everybody likes the same thing, but experimenting to find a happy medium for everyone isn’t going to harm anyone.

Corbett Barr February 14, 2012 at 9:25 am

Yeah, definitely, the people who read your blog are all individuals. BUT, there are often strong sentiments shared by groups within that audience.

Andrea Hypno February 14, 2012 at 7:53 am

Great ideas, both of them. Especially looking at old content performances. Strange as sometimes the simplest and most useful things pass unnoticed. Great hints, thanks.

Corbett Barr February 14, 2012 at 9:26 am

That’s a great tip for producing content as well. Don’t overlook the simple things.

Ryan Biddulph February 14, 2012 at 8:24 am

Hi Corbett,

I like your tips.

Finding patterns works well for me. Checking open rates on mailings or simply blog shares on social networks shows me what works, and reminds me not to stray from what works.

Your audience is perhaps the best source for post ideas, because you write for your audience. Makes total sense, but I strayed from this basic truth for way too long. Now I only publish what my readers or prospects express to me on a daily basis. I post stuff in response to questions, concerns, etc, and my posts are becoming more popular these days, because my listening has improved quite a bit.

Thanks for sharing Corbett!

Ryan

Corbett Barr February 14, 2012 at 9:28 am

It’s funny how effective listening can be :)

Tommy Walker February 14, 2012 at 9:26 am

Corbett, excellent points here!

I’m more for the seeing what worked before, and building on that for my own site, but will tend to use the comments and reader response for when I guest post.

So far so good though, I was able to close a 5 figure deal off of a guest post on remarkablogger using that tactic.

I’d also like to add on a long term content development side, it’s important to cut out what isn’t working too. If a piece tanked, cut that stuff out in the long term. As you cull the content over and over, you will create the most engaging stuff for your readership.

Praverb February 14, 2012 at 9:55 am

Nice content! Keeping the audience in mind is important if you want to continue to appeal to their needs.

Last year I posted material that appealed to my audience yet I forgot to focus on my own content (I have a personal music blog). I focused on the music that I like and love and thus my readers and views increased significantly.

Recently I noticed that the dot net should be a hub for everything Praverb related and promoting my efforts should be priority number one. I also love blogging though, so I need to find a medium.

katherin February 14, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Excellent tips..
Especially i like second one “Use past behavior to predict future results”.
Definitely we must consider the past results what are the things made to achieve a good result,so that we can predict some ideas to proceed it further..

Megan February 15, 2012 at 5:30 am

Great advice Corbett.

I love the point about rehashing old topics that your audience can’t get enough of. Every time someone hears something, depending on where they’re at psychologically and emotionally, they get something new from it.

I often re-read books and notes I’ve taken on courses because every time I do it, something new clicks.

The truth is that, in any space, there is usually only a handful of core concepts that are really key to grasp. You can reframe and rename the ideas, but the core few remain the same.

If you look at any of the most influential teachers in any space – like a Tony Robbins or a Dan Kennedy – a common factor is that they have a strong, key message that runs through everything that they do and never really changes. They have the experience to know what the key concepts are and they have the confidence to focus on them.

A lot of the time, it’s a lack of confidence that drives people to always feel the need to be writing about brand new stuff. So this point about revisiting topics that get a great reaction to really give your audience what they want is really important.

Thanks for the great article,

Megan

Stephen Peters @ Leaders and Lollipops February 15, 2012 at 8:44 am

Hi Corbett,
It can be easy to miss the most obvious way to interact with the people you want to attract. You just reflect what they tell you. And they love it because you understand them. Thanks for this reminder!

-Stephen

Anshul @Nichesense Niche Marketing February 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Hi Corbett,

Point number 2 can be very effective indeed in knowing and understanding your readers. Just looking at the email open and click rates has really helped me understand subscriber behavior and write interest content my readers actually enjoy.

Rosemary Jayne February 15, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Great post Corbett. I love the tip about using the exact language your audience uses, for regular readers this will really show them that you’re listening to what they want!
Something else I’ve done is put my site URL, and the site URL of fellow sites in my niche into the Google Keywords Tool. You can see exactly what people are searching for and it allows you to see what is popular – I really love it.

Spatch Merlin @ More Web Site Traffic Guide February 16, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I think this is where comments come into the picture. You’d know what they like by the remarks they leave. If you want to monetize your blog then the blogger should always think about what the readers like the best.

Great post!

Spatch Merlin

Wasim Ismail February 17, 2012 at 1:26 am

using past behaviours to predict future tips – great point.
We can all learn from our experience, what’s working and what’s not working, so that we can take the next step to be more of a success.
Many business neglect analysing past behaviour, all in the rush of going forward, if we can allocate even hour a month and review what’s worked and what’s not so that we can improve our user experience in the following month.

mike February 18, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Great take… It’s about the reader, the consumer the customer… They create the market and the question is can you fill it… Can you fill it with the information/content that they’re looking for, that solve their problem… It’ has more to do with what’s in it for me and why do I care, and you did an awesome job of pointing out how we need to remove ourselves from the situation and think more like the reader..

How to Speak Japanese February 20, 2012 at 2:41 am

Corbett, what do you use to do the surveys? Selfhosted survey script or 3rd party solution?

I used to refer to my logs finding keyphrases stating questions or looking like someone for searching for a solution to a problem. Quite time consuming as the site didn’t have that much traffic (it took quite long to get a big enough sample).

Introducing a survey is a wy of adding interactivity – even if the visitor doesn’t fill out the survey, they probably get the impression that the site offers more/is more interesting than a plain webpage.

Corbett Barr February 20, 2012 at 11:11 am

Try Google Docs, Wufoo or Survey Monkey. All work well.

Radu February 22, 2012 at 4:37 am

Hey Corbett,
What a great post :)
Few month ago it was a real struggle for me to come up with content that generate more interaction and social buzz. There were comments but the people weren’t so open..great post, nice tips, thanks..that was the majority of comments. I realized that is a pure ” Mission Impossible” to blog separately from my audience. So I started to ask 1-2 questions at the end of each post. It works.

Recently I was inspired by your Ask the readers post series..Thus I decided to do something similar called Your thought matters. Hope that you don’t mind :) It’s great to see now how well people respond and how many post ideas are generated now starting from their needs.
The second idea sounds great as well…monitoring the trends. I’m going to pay more attention to them.

Thanks for sharing Corbett. You’re doing a great work on this site.
Cheers,
Radu

Corbett Barr February 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

Awesome Radu! Thanks for sharing your success. Congrats on getting the additional buzz and feedback. It’s great when something simple can lead to immediate results.

Alden October 19, 2012 at 3:03 am

Hey Corbett,

Great post! However, do you think it’s different and more complicated when it comes to finding out what the audience wants to buy?

Is a new technique needed when money is concerned?

Thanks,
Alden

How to Speak Japanese February 22, 2012 at 7:23 am

Thanks for the reply – will check them out.
Y.

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