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
- 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.
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