Real talk: In the early days of any content project, there’s a certain amount of “throw all of it against the wall and see what sticks.”
You can do all the planning in the world. Planning is fantastic. But it isn’t until you start publishing that you find out what works, what doesn’t, and what needs a good tweak.
This is where the “make money while sitting on the couch in your y-fronts playing Super Mario 3D World” advice goes wrong.
One of the biggest hurdles on the road to that time on your couch is figuring out what works. And there’s no real short cut to that.
Every combination is different
Your combination of audience and VEP (values, expertise, and personality) are unique to you.
You can have two sites that look very similar from the outside, but they perform completely differently. And the same individual will make different buying decisions on one site over another.
There are two major variables at work:
- Who shows up
- How they interact with your VEP
It’s probably pretty clear that your values, expertise, and personality can influence a visitor to do things like sign up for your email list or make a purchase.
But your VEP also plays a key role in who shows up in the first place.
Send the wrong signals, attract the wrong audience
One of content’s most important roles is to act as an audience beacon — attracting the people who can and will take action with your project.
If you’re attracting folks who aren’t suited to your goals, your beacon needs some adjusting.
Here are a few signs that you’re attracting the wrong crowd for what you’re trying to do:
#1: They can’t afford you
Sometimes, this is a problem with your persuasion technique — you haven’t clearly conveyed the value of what you’re selling, so your audience is holding off for now.
But if you consistently get messages from folks who truly seem held back by finances, you may need to do a better job communicating where you are in the pricing ecosystem of your topic.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen clients and students who want to “help struggling nonprofits,” and then struggle themselves because no one in their audience can spend any cash.
The answer isn’t “sell harder.” Contrary to what some Dudebro marketers will tell you, some people actually don’t have the money.
(On Tuesday, I’ll be sending an email about what to do if you want to help folks who are short of funds, but you’re getting a little tired of being broke yourself. There’s actually a good answer to this, and it isn’t “get heartless.”)
When you’re running a business, create content for customers, not just people interested in your subject matter. And don’t be afraid to communicate your pricing level.
#2: They stomp all over your boundaries
If you have an “Oh, hell no” category, and those folks keep slipping in, you haven’t talked about it enough.
If you’re serious about keeping white supremacists, misogynists, homophobes, transphobes, and the like out of your community, don’t be shy about that. Speak up. (More than once.)
In fact, one of the lovely things about being more overtly political is that fewer of those people show up with nonsense to wreck your peace.
Rachel Rodgers’ has a question in the FAQ on her sales page, to the tune of, “Can I join if I love to say All Lives Matter?”
And the answer is, “No.”
Figure out what you want to say No to. Communicate it clearly.
In business or in life, no one will respect boundaries if you don’t draw them clearly, and restate them as often as needed.
#3: What they need ain’t what you got
Again, you may be able to work with this and adapt to what your audience is asking for.
But if they need kindergarten-level help and you’re best suited to working with masters and near-masters, you need to adjust your message to speak to folks with more complex problems.
If you’re a dietician who helps people recover from the physical and emotional damage of dieting, there’s not much you’ll be able to do with an audience still chasing that One Perfect Diet.
Speak to the ones who want, need, and are ready for what you offer.
It’s always a matter of speaking more clearly
When the wrong folks for your project show up consistently, it’s a sure sign that you need to clarify your message.
If you’re expensive, say so. If there’s something you find intolerable, let your audience know that you won’t be tolerating it. (And then … don’t.) And talk a lot about the problems you do solve, and virtually never about the problems you don’t.
This week’s SummerOfStrategy tips
This week in the Summer of Strategy emails, I’ll be sending some quick tips on:
- Discovering the right content formats for the audience you want to build
- Ways to filter out the people who aren’t appropriate for your project
- Using values to build a healthy boundary around your work
- Why you’re probably wrong about your audience’s real problems — and how to fix that fast
- When it’s time to start thinking about amplifying your message with ads
If you aren’t getting the Summer of Strategy messages, you can fix that by dropping your information into the box below. I’ll also send you instant access to my special report on 7 Thing Prolific Writers Do Differently — so you can start implementing the advice you’re getting.
See you there. 🙂
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Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
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