A few months ago, I met with a former coaching client for a lovely dinner, and we spent some time catching up since it had been a couple of months since we had connected. We told each other our stories, including how some relationships, business and personal, had ended.
She said it's like walking with someone along a path. You both can see the same thing because you're looking at the landscape from the same vantage point. You have a commonality.
Then, the two of you come to a river and stop. The paths diverge. You can either cross the river or continue along the river on this side.
Your path takes you across the river.
The other person, though.... her path is different. She can't or won't or doesn't need to cross the river to the other side.
So, there you are... on one side of the river, while your former companion on the journey is on the other side. And she can't see what you see, because her vantage point is different.
The problem is when the person who stays on the original side of the river judges you based on what she sees, and she doesn't realize that you see something completely different.
While this particular metaphor struck me in terms of relationships, it also shows up when talking about audience. And whether you're writing or marketing or both, audience is crucial, and only second to knowing what your purpose is.
See, we see things from our vantage point, and we might forget (or, really, not even think about the fact) that our audience is coming from a different vantage point.
You need to get on the proper side of the river in order to see the landscape that they see.
How do you do that?
1. Think about your audience in detail. To make it easier, think about one of your former or current clients/customers/readers. Who are they? Do basic demographics: gender, age, marital status, income level, schooling level, profession. This is the model that you're going to use.
2. What are the problems your Model Client faces? What kinds of things do you hear from your clients as well as people in everyday situations? What words do they use? What patterns come up over and over?
3. What might be going in their lives? For example, many of the female entrepreneurs I know have either gone through or are going through a divorce as they evolve and grow. Others have soon-to-be high school graduates, which means college or real life coming crashing in. (This is where the bridge metaphor really comes in handy... walk across the bridge and see what they see.)
4. Listen. Try to shut off that natural tendency to anticipate what the next words out of their mouths will be or to try to come up with a solution. Just listen. And immerse yourself in their words.
5. Ask questions. Go deeper. Make sure you understand their point of view. Mirror back to them what they've said. "So, if I understand correctly, you _____." You might not have heard exactly what you thought you heard, and giving them the opportunity to elaborate or confirm lets them know you're listening and that you care.
6. Understand that what they might be going through, believe, need, want, etc. can be very different from YOU are going through, believe, need, and want. As much as you might try to find yourself on the same side of the bridge, you won't ever see the world EXACTLY as they do.
But you can try.
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