Why Your Blog Doesn’t Stand a Chance in Hell of Succeeding (and What To Do About It)

Why Your Blog Doesn’t Stand a Chance in Hell of Succeeding (and What To Do About It)

You dream of building an online empire.

A popular blog with hordes of loyal readers who hang on your every word.

You want to be as successful as your idols, changing the world and even getting paid to do so.

But you know you haven’t got a chance in hell of seeing that kind of success unless you can truly engage your readers and keep them interested over the long haul.

Of course, the big question is how? Engagement is an elusive creature.

Sure, you get the occasional nice comment, but it’s not like people are raving about your blog, or tripping over themselves to share your content.

You worry that you’re not connecting, that your words don’t resonate deeply with your readers, but you’ll be damned if you can figure out the magic formula.

And the truth is, unless you can find a way to connect powerfully with your readers, your blog is doomed to failure.

But there is a way to captivate and keep your audience’s attention, even if you’re a beginner, and even if you’ve tried before with limited success.

It’s a game changer, one that can take your blog from teetering on the brink of failure to achieving the success you dream of.

The Real Reason Your Blog Is Growing at a Snail’s Pace

You know the feeling. You’re reading a blog post and it grabs you and pulls you in. You relate to what the author says so strongly you feel like she’s reading your mind. So much so that you’re tempted to check your house for wiretaps!

The result – you feel compelled to respond. You leave a glowing comment, share the post with your friends, and bookmark it to read again later.

Then you wonder, how did she do that?

The answer is empathy – the master key to all doors leading to blogging greatness.

Simply stated, the better you understand your audience, the more enthusiastically they’ll respond to everything you do. Without empathy, your blog doesn’t have a chance in hell of succeeding.

But what if you’re not blessed with the natural abilities of Deanna Troi? Don’t worry: you can develop your mind-reading skills.

But only if you ignore some of the most common advice about empathy.

The Problem with Popular Advice About Developing Empathy

Conventional wisdom says that to understand your audience you should create a detailed profile of your ideal reader – their income, education, gender, hobbies, even what pets they own.

Then you’ll be able to write for that one person in a way that makes your entire audience feel like you’re reading their minds. At least that’s the theory.

But if you actually try this exercise, two problems usually surface right away:

  1. You spend way too much time obsessing about getting these details right.
  2. You end up concentrating on trivial information that doesn’t matter.

Of course, if you’re writing a personal finance blog aimed at 20-somethings, then yes, details like age will matter. If you are helping women with business, or men with style, then gender will be important.

But don’t create differences where none exist. Don’t fret over whether you’re speaking to a 32 year old with a master’s degree or a 38 year old without a degree if those things aren’t common characteristics of your audience.

Instead, turn your attention to the things that do matter.

Where to Focus Your Attention If You Really Want Readers to Stick Around

Here’s the big idea…

You can only develop empathy with your audience if you have a deep understanding of real readers, not theoretical “ideal” ones.

That means understanding the people who already visit your blog – and the people who may do so in the future but are currently hanging out elsewhere.

But what if you don’t know where your readers spend their time online? Then you must play detective.

Follow the people who share your content on social media and notice what else they’re sharing. And when readers leave comments on your blog, try to find other places where they are commenting. Those other sites will be a treasure trove of useful information about your readers too.

Will these sites have your exact audience? Probably not. But they will likely have a lot in common with yours. And even if you have to rely on educated guesses in the beginning, the more subscribers you attract for your own blog, the more you can base your writing on real evidence instead of crystal-ball gazing.

How to Become a Master of Empathy by Stepping Inside Your Readers’ Heads

The key to showing empathy is convincing your audience you know exactly what they’re going through. Show them that you understand (and even share) their concerns and preoccupations.

The basis for this is not some collection of ideal demographic characteristics, but four simple drivers of human behavior: dreams, desires, fears and frustrations.

If you know your readers’ biggest dreams, deepest desires, most paralyzing fears and most frequent frustrations, then you hold the keys to a passionately engaged audience.

So effective is this model that Jon Morrow – The King of Awesomeness (and Empathy) – insists that all of his blogging students must create lists for their own audience. They take two pieces of paper and write Dreams & Desires at the top of one page and Fears & Frustrations at the top of the other.

And here’s the kicker – the lists aren’t done until there are 100 points on each!

It’s tough, and it takes a while to complete. But it’s one of the most valuable exercises you can undertake as a blogger.

But where do you find the information to fill out your lists?

Where to Find the Clues You Need to Become a Masterful Mind Reader

Populating your lists requires a combination of educated speculation and careful research.

But start simple. Write down some dreams, desires, fears and frustrations based on your current understanding of your audience.

For example, no matter what your niche, your readers are probably afraid of failure. They may worry they’re not reaching their full potential, or fear they’re wasting their time pursuing something that has no future. They probably worry about what others think of them too. These are the high-level fears. Include these in your list, but then drill down.

Think about what failure means specifically to your audience. Bloggers, for example, can feel like failures in many different ways. They can work hard and yet never get comments or shares. They can fail to grow their lists, or sell their first product. They can fall short of the recognition they feel they deserve.

Drew Eric Whitman, in his book Ca$hvertising, identifies eight basic desires that all humans are born with and nine more that we learn.

The following eight basic desires are biologically programmed:

  1. survival/enjoyment of life/life extension
  2. enjoyment of food and beverage
  3. freedom from pain, fear, and danger
  4. sexual companionship
  5. comfortable living conditions
  6. superiority/winning/keep up with the Joneses
  7. care and protection of loved ones
  8. social approval

In addition to those, we learn to want:

  1. to be informed
  2. to be curious
  3. to have clean bodies and surroundings
  4. efficiency
  5. convenience
  6. dependability/quality
  7. to express beauty and style
  8. economy/profit
  9. bargains

Think how each of these desires manifests in your audience. And how failing to fulfill these desires could be the source of a fear or frustration.

For example, if you blog about sports and fitness, your readers will want to avoid the pain of injury caused by incorrect technique.  And if they’re runners, they probably obsess about the footwear that will help them to avoid that pain.

If you’re a nutritionist, you know your audience will care about having energy, avoiding sickness, and getting the highest quality food at the best prices, all of which stem from their desires for survival, life enjoyment and extension, quality, and bargains.

In my case, the audience is creatives – writers, musicians, artists, designers, etc. One fear we all have in common is making fools of ourselves in public (which relates to the desire for social approval). So, when I did this exercise, I had a main category under Fears & Frustrations called, “Making a fool of myself” and I included the following entries underneath: I’ll be criticized, people will make fun of me, I’ll be exposed as a fraud, I’ll screw up in public, I’ll waste money on bad advice, I’m not ready for bigger things, and I’ll look like an idiot.

Many creatives also have a strong desire to leave a legacy. So, in my “Leave a legacy” category under Dreams & Desires, I included becoming famous, being remembered for my work, being appreciated by my peers, being a trendsetter, changing the world, inspiring people, and improving people’s lives and situations.

Once you’ve made a start on your lists using this method, you can start to flesh it out with data from the real world.

3 Simple Ways to Gain Access to Your Readers’ Innermost Thoughts

You don’t have to steal your readers’ email passwords in order to know what they’re thinking. Instead, try these tactics.

1) Observe and take notes

Watch the interaction between readers in your blog post comments, on social media, etc. Collect and keep track of all the great nuggets – anything relating to fears, frustrations, or their most cherished dreams.

In “An Open Letter to Writers Struggling to Find Their Courage”, Jon wrote a controversial post that had readers not only replying to him, but also discussing amongst themselves.

For example, Leigh writes to Leah –

Fwiw, I am married with a kid and I don’t have a full time job beyond my writing. I’m building a business. I’m writing books. I’m guest posting.

It is scary, and I’ve made sacrifices to make it happen. But I also did it the other way for too long, and these sacrifices are far better than always wondering when I would finally write.

So here are some fears – around supporting a child, having to make sacrifices, and “wondering when I would finally write” – that are repeated by commenters several times in response to this post.

In the same post, you’ll find big dreams too:

Personally, I have a 2 year plan to write full-time which some people think is crazy. This post was just the rocket fuel I needed as assurance I’m on the right track!

Of course, not everyone has an audience as large as Jon’s, but even a modest following can yield useful insights. If your content is hitting a nerve, you’ll see those discussions played out, just on a smaller scale.

2) Listen to what they are already telling you

If you already have direct contact with some of your readers – maybe you have clients or customers who reflect your blog audience – then you already have a great source of insights for your empathy lists.

Collect and save any insights your audience gives you – whether it comes by email, in person, by phone or over Skype.

When someone tells you, “I’d love to work from home more like you do. I’d really love to set my own schedule,” you know that one of their desires is more flexibility. So add “flexible schedule” to your Dreams & Desires list.

And don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions until you get to a real understanding of the issue. Your goal is to understand not just what they think and feel, but why.

If a reader mentions that the hardest part of a project is getting started, ask “Why is that the hardest part?” Maybe they don’t have a process figured out yet, or they’re afraid they’ll fail, or they can’t find time in their schedule. Add their answer to your list under Fears & Frustrations.

3) Go right ahead and ask them what they think

Instead of waiting for valuable information to drift in, you can create a simple survey, email your subscriber list, canvas social media followers, or write a blog post to ask about people’s biggest dreams and scariest obstacles and to find out what they need to move forward.

Keep your questions open-ended to encourage responses. And remember that people won’t always feel comfortable sharing in public spaces like blog comments, so offer to take conversations over to the privacy of email.

I recently asked my readers about their visions in our Facebook group. Everyone wanted to change the way the world thinks in some way. They wanted to work from anywhere. Some wanted to write fiction. All of them wanted to help others. These are all dreams and desires for my list.

Build Your Empathy Muscles by Looking Beyond Your Own Blog

If your current audience is small you’ll need to look beyond your own blog to gather more empathy-building intelligence for your lists. And even if your blog is more established, casting the net wider will help you to understand the people who might read your blog in the future.

So use your earlier detective work to create a hit list of other blogs you suspect your audience reads in addition to yours. Chances are, those blogs hold clues to attracting and engaging a larger audience for your own blog.

Study their most popular posts and see what readers are saying in the comments. Use the process described above to distill their dreams, desires, fears and frustrations.

Use a tool like Buzzsumo to find content that has gone viral in your space. Notice people’s reactions to it and pay close attention to the emotions it triggered or any needs that it fulfilled.

Use Topsy to research viral Twitter content to find which which issues set your audience alight on that platform.

Dan Cassaro, a graphic artist, had a tweet that went viral when he responded to a network’s request he submit his art to a contest without compensation. This one caused a reaction among creatives who are often asked to work for free – a huge frustration for that group.

When a topic blows up like this on social media, it can be a powerful addition to your lists.

Using Empathy to Create Content that Grabs and Holds Your Readers

Once you have your two lists, you’ll use these insights to guide everything you write.

Think about which items on your list keep your readers up at night. Fears that keep them awake with worry. Dreams that keep them awake with excitement. Your headlines and post content will flow directly from these points.

Use your lists to craft headlines that hook readers in and openings that tap into their deepest thoughts. You’ll build loyalty and credibility because your readers will know you understand them, and you’ll inspire change because your readers will trust you to guide them.

The following examples (one real, one imagined) show headlines and post openings that channel readers’ fears of criticism:

How to Feel Confident Sharing Your Creative Work in Public

Putting yourself on the line publicly with an idea you’ve hatched or art you’ve created is one of the toughest things you’ll ever do…

Are you terrified of public speaking or performing? Do you have a collection of poems or short stories you never show anyone? Maybe a basement full of watercolors you keep safely hidden away? If fear is getting in the way of your sharing your work with others and you’d like to change that, I have a solution for you.

10 Surefire Ways to Bounce Back After Unfair Criticism from Family and Friends

You know what it’s like. You put your best effort forward and think you did a pretty good job – that is until your overly critical parent decides to point out all your mistakes and failures.

It’s one thing when you know that you’ve messed up, but quite another when you know you’ve done good work and that some people around you simply don’t understand.

And these examples are driven by the desire to leave a legacy:

How to Be Unforgettable

Can I tell you my worst nightmare?

It’s not just dying, although that’s certainly gruesome. It’s being forgotten. Down deep, I believe all of us have a primal need to be remembered, to pass something on to future generations, to leave some mark on the world saying, “I was here.”

4 Smart Ways to Make Sure Your Work Is Never Forgotten

It’s scary, isn’t it? The thought that a lifetime of hard work won’t be remembered or appreciated after you’re gone. The possibility that everything you’ve created only mattered to you but not to anyone else.

It’s not magic. Even though we like to believe that we’re all completely unique individuals, when we cluster around a topic, we’re really very much alike.

Follow this process and you’ll see that the closer you get to your reader’s “hidden” secrets, the bigger a reaction you’ll elicit and the more they will love you for it.

And you’ll know you’re on the right track when you get comments like this:

  • “Thank you so much; this was perfect timing!”
  • “This was exactly what I needed to hear today.”
  • “It’s like you were reading my mind!”
  • “I’ve been putting this off, but I’m going to get started right away.”

So revisit this exercise often. Toss out your old notes and start over again. Each time, you’ll be strengthening those empathy muscles.

Do You Want a Blog That’s Thriving or Just Barely Surviving?

You don’t have to settle for a blog that’s met with modest enthusiasm and lukewarm engagement. Empathy is not just a born talent – it can also be a learned skill.

Empathy allows you to connect with your readers in a way that will excite them, build loyalty, and have them hanging on your every word.

So put your lists of dreams, desires, fears and frustration at the heart of your writer’s toolkit – they are as important as your thesaurus or your battered notebook of ideas. Use them to guide everything you write – blog posts, emails, even your About Page.

Repeat the exercise a couple of times a year and you’ll be blown away by the reaction from your readers. You’ll understand them so well that they’ll wonder if you’re now the one setting the wiretaps.

So grab two pieces of paper and get started. Your wildly popular blog awaits.

About the Author: Leanne Regalla teaches creative people of all kinds to pursue their passions without going broke, living in their cars, or starving to death at her blog, Make Creativity Pay. Download The Rebel Artist’s Manifesto: Having the Audacity to Make Good Money From Your Creative Work and follow her on Twitter.

98 Comments

  1. Tom Southern
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 09:35:34

    You give some truly excellent tips and steps here, Leanne.

    It all comes down to reaching out and looking for those people who share a common bond with you. Those people still struggling through what you’ve found answers to and want to give them. The secret is: Finding a way to convince them you can help them.

    In the end, it is all about you. It’s about you and how much you have in common with your readers. How much you share your list of dreams, desires, fears and frustration. This is important for building empathy and becoming adept at meeting your readers at their greatest pain. This means realising that your readers want to know you listen and share their stories and understand what they’re going through.

    And you’ll know when you’ve succeeded in doing this when they keep coming back to ask you questions and seek out your advice.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:24:47

      Thanks, Tom. You’re right – it’s about the bond and the ways you connect with your readers. Empathy builds trust and loyalty, which is our goal, right? 😉

  2. Andrew M. Warner
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 09:42:57

    Hi Leanne,

    Great post.

    The points you made here are certainly something to pay attention to .. especially regarding empathy. When I actually think about it, if you do manage to create empathy and connect with your readers on that level, they will more than likely have a deeper connection with you and be more willing to comment and share.

    “The basis for this is not some collection of ideal demographic characteristics, but four simple drivers of human behavior: dreams, desires, fears and frustrations.”

    You’re absolutely right about this. And this is something I have to spend more time on and actually present in my content that I create. If I do that and focus on those drivers, then I’ll have much more of a connection I believe. And Jon, Glen and many others that post on this site do that … so I know it works because they’re successful.

    So when you get them to tell you their problems, or you listen effectively and find out their problems, fears, etc. through scanning precious comments or doing thorough research, are you then sprinkling those same fears in your blog posts? And how often should you do so?

    Thanks for this awesome post.

    Have a great week.

    – Andrew

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:34:35

      Hi Andrew,

      Yes, but it’s even more than sprinkling those things throughout the post. Look at the examples I provided. Use these to write your headlines and openings – basically make your entire post revolve around getting past their fears or achieving their dreams. How often? Every post. Everything you write, really. Because if you’re not writing about things that matters deeply to your audience, what’s the point? 😉

      • Andrew M. Warner
        Nov 13, 2014 @ 14:48:03

        Hi Leanne,

        Thanks for the response. I’ll be making these changes … and actually, it really does sense. The research part is the key, and I’ll be making sure to implement it in every post possible.

        Looks like I need to make some changes in my writing. But I’m willing to do it because I want to get better.

        – Andrew

  3. Nat Coalson
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 10:19:57

    Great article, Leanne. “Spot On” as they say here in jolly old England. I’m really enjoying your work… thanks so much for all you do for us creatives!

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:35:23

      Thanks so much for the kind words and for sticking with me, Nat.

  4. Jake D. PArent
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 10:26:19

    Great post Leanne! And 100 extra points for mentioning Deanna Troi. 🙂

    Keep up the great work.

    -Jake

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:36:03

      Haha! I’m a big geek, Jake. Don’t tell anyone! 🙂

  5. Nikshep
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 10:27:49

    Hi Leanne,

    Awesome Post. Like Sun Tzu who said ‘Knowing yourself and knowing the enemy , you need not fear the result of a hundred battles’, you seem to have cracked the way of using this philosophy with readers! Empathy is a very powerful tool once you manage to infuse your communication with it 🙂

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:56:41

      I love that quote, Nikshep. Very appropriate!

  6. Darin L. Hammond
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 10:29:23

    Hi Leanne,

    Great advice, and I am really big on empathy in blogging. I’ll confess though, I almost didn’t read this one even though I’m a regular reader. Using empathy in a negative way in the title undermines your fundamental message. You tap into a readers fear and insecurity just to get them to click. Politicians use this negative tactic all the time, but we bloggers are above that, aren’t we?

    I did truly enjoy the in depth piece though. Here is an example of what I do with empathy on my blog, “How to Stalk and Create a Blog Audience Through Empathy” http://www.zipminis.com/blog-science/how-to-stalk-and-create-a-blog-audience-through-empathy.

    I hope I didn’t sound too negative in my comment 🙂 It’s really a super piece of writing.
    Darin

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 12:02:15

      Thanks, Darin. A lot of people have this question, actually.

      Taking a negative spin can turn off some people and of course we don’t want to be sensational. These headlines are best used sparingly. But the truth is they do work. (Have you downloaded Headline Hacks?) I think the topic is important enough to be strong about it. I’m not afraid to shake things up a bit. Besides, Jon suggested it and I loved it. 😉

      • Darin L. Hammond
        Nov 13, 2014 @ 12:37:46

        Well, I trust you both. Thank you again.
        Darin

  7. Kimberly Houston
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 10:39:30

    Great post Leanne, and such an important idea!

    I completely agree that creating a detailed profile of the ideal reader/ideal client, etc., can only get you so far, and that “you can only develop empathy with your audience if you have a deep understanding of real readers, not theoretical ‘ideal’ ones,” as you say.

    When I was starting out, I developed an extremely detailed profile of my ideal readers & clients, and it was a great start — it helped me focus my website content, blog posts, email newsletters and offerings on what (I was pretty sure) my audience (incidentally, creatives much like yours) wanted, which resulted in more email opt-ins and so on. But it wasn’t until I interviewed a dozen people in my actual audience that I got a true bead on what they were really struggling with, and importantly, what “success” looked like to them. And while some of what I learned was what I expected, I gained several surprising insights I never would have gained otherwise. I created a master document of all these interviews transcribed, and I’m in the process now of using it to hone my website copy and revise some of my offerings. And while I feel like I had empathy for my audience before, this process took it to a whole new level.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful and detailed post!

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 12:06:24

      You’re welcome, Kimberly. I’ve been in business for myself probably over 15 years now and I always found that ideal customer exercise, on its own, to be somewhat lacking. (Actually I felt I was a miserable failure at it – despite multiple attempts over the years). When I started speaking to my actual customers’ concerns, that’s when everything opened up for me. Glad you are already on your way. Good luck to you!

  8. Marsha Stopa
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 10:46:15

    Sigh.

    Leanne, thanks. This is a fabulous explanation of how to gain empathy and develop real world people skills, not theoretical skills. I will be referencing it all the time when I review blogs and work with our blogging students.

    You rocked it, girlfriend!

    Many thanks for the effort to write this.

    Marsha

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:05:47

      Aw, shucks, Marsha! You’re making me weepy-eyed! Thanks and you are very welcome. 🙂

  9. Ion Doaga
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:00:08

    Internet is full of comments from people shouting out for help. Today it should be easier to figure out someones fears and desires, but we wanting to help need that helping hand even more than others. This is why I’m reading Jon’s every single post. When I read your post I feel the empathy, Leanne. Thank you!

    Empathy doesn’t come at once. I really don’t know if it can be trained when you never felt deep inside your heart the need be an empath. The need to understand someones pain and being willing to help without waitng for a recompence.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:35:15

      Good question, Ion – can people learn empathy? I think so, which is why I wrote this post. For me, my skills grew with experience and also because I really cared about my work and serving my clients.
      So even if you don’t feel skilled yet, I think if you care deeply about helping people you’re on the right track.

  10. Sumitha
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:10:27

    Loved this post, Leanne! For where I’m at with my blog, this is exactly what I needed. I’ve bookmarked it to revisit again and again. (And therein lies the proof that you nailed it!)

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:42:32

      Happy to help, Sumitha and thanks!

  11. Rob
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:24:47

    Leanne- Thanks, this is a great expansion of Jon’s concepts. Tim Ferris said that when he wrote the Four Hour Workweek, he had to trash the first 2 attempts. On the 3rd try, he wrote it like he was writing an email to two different friends, friends that he had in mind and could picture. I’m using that tip for my own book.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:40:00

      Yeah, Rob – I think I’ve heard that from Tim also. It’s good advice, and similar to what I do myself. I often have 2-3 specific people (that I know really well) in mind when I write.

  12. Joe Arak
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:33:54

    Thanks Leanne – Empathy is the key to connection. That understanding isn’t really new of course. Norman Vincent Peale’s classic How to Win Friends & Influence People is all about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. In his recent book on sales, Daniel Pink calls that ability atunement. I like the phrase, Ride the horse the direction it’s going – same idea. Indeed, it all comes down to empathy.

    What you’ve done here is point to ways we can all get a better sense of what drives the people we aim to connect with. Making lists and breaking it down reveals the stepping stones we need to follow as we walk in our audiences’ footsteps. So, thank you for illuminating the what and giving us lots of how to get close to our readers, our prospects, our tribe.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 14, 2014 @ 11:10:45

      You’re welcome, Joe. And thanks for mentioning Daniel Pink’s book. It looks good – think I’ll pick it up!

  13. Elizabeth Barone
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:40:12

    Get out of my head! 😉

    Thank you for this post, Leanne. This is exactly what I needed!

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:37:27

      Happy to hear it, Elizabeth and thanks for the laugh! 🙂

  14. Abbey
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:43:49

    Leanne, Outstanding post about how to understand your audience, develop an empathy for them and make them feel unique by writing what is going inside their mind.

  15. Michelle Russell
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:48:30

    Wow, Leanne, you really nailed this! So much to think about here that anyone who really studies this post and gradually implements everything it talks about will be priming themselves for real blogging success. It’s funny–I’ve never really resonated with all the advice about defining your specific “reader avatar,” and not only have you explained why that advice falls short, you’ve told us what to do instead. AWESOME, meaty, and very actionable post. Well done, and thank you! 🙂

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 14, 2014 @ 11:13:12

      Yeah, the avatar idea never really resonated with me, either, Michelle. I know why people advise it… but this works much better for me.

  16. Joseph Robinson | InsideOutWisdom
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 11:57:58

    Leanne, Great post. Wonderful writing and the content is awesome. Love the summary of one of the most important things in human connection – Empathy.

    Standing in the other person’s shoes and really feeling the pain, concern, desires, and wishes in an authentic way is so powerful.

    I think we underestimate how doing this well impacts all things like popularity and growing your blog, but also business negotiations, personal relationship growth, and peace with your neighbors. (of all kinds.)

    The only thing I could hope to add to this comprehensive inquiry is to remind readers to be mindful to do all you say from the highest level of authentic caring and personal trust. From my humble experience, if there is even a small hint of manipulation it will show and alienate those very same people one might be hoping to connect with.

    Authentic, real, empathic, trusted connections… Nothing can beat that.

    Your context of this truth is truly great. Thank you so much for the work you put into this post. I’m blown away.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:48:43

      Very true about authenticity vs. manipulation, Joseph. The tricky thing about that is that many tactics can feel awkward to us until we grow into them. But I think we can find a good balance by keeping our integrity while still strongly urging people to move off the couch. 😉

  17. Rob Lawrence
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 12:01:11

    Deep insights, Leanne, wow!

    Ca$hvertising is a superb book to learn more about this stuff. I’m delighted to be reminded of those powerful themes, thanks Leanne.

    I’d add the book, Influence, too, by Dr. Robert Cialdini for a deeper insight into how desires manifest within audiences.

    You’ve convinced me that understanding the needs, desires, and fears (and concerns) of our audiences, readers, listeners and customers is a fundamental skill for growing an empire of empathy today.

    BTW love your website!

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 14, 2014 @ 11:15:30

      So right, Rob. I studied Cialdini’s book for this post too. But the post was already long & we didn’t have room for everything. 😉 Thanks for the kind words!

  18. Michelle
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 12:45:20

    Leanne…I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to targeting an audience; I wonder if I should only target those with whom I can identify in terms of income level and spending styles when it comes to pricing my work, or whether I can target way above my own income level/lifestyle so I can price my work where I need to to make a living?

    Trouble is…I question my ability to accurately empathize with life styles that spend $500-$1,000+ on art on impulse. I honestly don’t know whether the motivation comes from feelings I experience and *hope* my art conveys…or just a huge desire to match the decor. Thoughts?

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 16:45:20

      Michelle, try not to think about it as empathizing with “lifestyles” or income levels. It’s all about people. Money comes and goes, it doesn’t define us.

      Think about the last time you splurged on a purchase, spent more than you wanted to, or just bought something you didn’t need. Why did you do it? Many times, it’s because you really want to support someone with whom you’ve built a relationship AND because their work resonates with you.

      Answer these questions from your own experience and I think you’ll be a little closer to understanding your own customers.

      I’m a musician. I think it was Seth Godin who made the point that musicians who don’t buy music can have no way of knowing what it is that makes other people pull out their wallets and buy music. It’s a powerful point.

      • Michelle
        Nov 13, 2014 @ 21:19:17

        Thank you. That I can do. Big relief because I buy other artists’ work and can tap into that, for sure! I thought impulse purchase amounts larger than my own held secrets I couldn’t access…

  19. Sonya
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 13:24:59

    Great post. I was taught that building empathy is the same with fiction writing too. I heard it as “No emotion from the writer, no emotion from the reader.”

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:29:44

      Absolutely, Sonya. It applies to everything we do really.

  20. InternetLocalListings
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 13:54:13

    Just like you said in your post–this is exactly what I needed. Sometimes it’s frustrating as a blogger, because you lose sight of what YOU want… and how can you help an audience when you don’t even have a clear focus yourself? Posts like this help me refocus. Thank you thank you thank you!

  21. Brenda Spandrio
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 14:04:16

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!

    My blog got stopped cold by the very thing you said: “Conventional wisdom says that to understand your audience you should create a detailed profile of your ideal reader – their income, education, gender, hobbies, even what pets they own.”

    I let that be a road block to moving forward. I so appreciate your permission to blow that off and find a different — better — way to connect with my readers.

    I’ve got my two sheet ready!

    Thanks, Leanne!

    • Rob Lawrence
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:27:27

      Brenda,

      I, too, got stuck there for a long time.

      Some of the best advice I received on that, if it helps, is to not get stuck on the details (if they don’t matter…) and ask:

      What is the biggest frustration they (your prospective clients) are facing that they want an immediate solution for?

      Ideally, you want to meet your ideal prospect where they are at in their process – sometimes we take for granted how advanced we are in our own work and we forget what it’s like to be stuck at an earlier point in the process. I believe the two column process suggested here by Leanne will help remind us. Looking forward to trying it!

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:50:53

      You’re welcome, Brenda! I know what you mean, because I got tripped up on this exercise myself more than once over the years. Keep on keepin’ on! 🙂

  22. Angela
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 14:20:49

    Great resource Leeann! I’ve imported it into Scrivener so I can pull it up on the split screen while I work on lists. Thanks for the inspiration.

  23. Zara.
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 14:32:48

    Well, thank you, Leanne,
    Like so many, I found that the advice to: ‘create a detailed profile of your ideal reader’ was not just limited but made me feel as if I was needing of ‘an imaginary friend’. Two problems with that: I am no longer 3 years old and George Clooney has recently married.
    I am truly grateful for your most useful, and oh so practical, advice, and succinctly put.
    Thank you and please accept my warmest regards.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:53:49

      Thank you, Zara, and I agree. Serious bummer about George Clooney! 😀

  24. Elle
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 15:14:45

    Thanks for this post Leanne. It’s filled with so much awesomeness it takes my breath away. I’m filing this away in my notes of reference it’s so damned good. 🙂

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 15, 2014 @ 14:57:12

      I’m honored, Elle. Thank you!

  25. Ann
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 16:09:17

    This is wonderful! I have been frozen in place, trying to create that “ideal reader;” thanks for a real working solution to get past the road block.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 13, 2014 @ 16:46:56

      I’ve been there, Ann. Glad you are now officially “unstuck”. 🙂

  26. Sophie Lizard
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 16:49:47

    Leanne, thank you. I needed a reminder about this! I haven’t added to my empathy lists in ages. Gonna go do that now. 🙂

  27. Financial Samurai
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 17:10:11

    Empathy really is important.

    What is your definition of succeeding or success in blogging?

    Also, what is your blog (not marketing business)? I’d love to check it out!

    Sam

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 15, 2014 @ 14:56:16

      Hi Sam,

      My blog is http://makecreativitypay.com.

      And to me, success in blogging means working from wherever I like, and making a good living helping other people to make money doing what they love. 😉

  28. Ocso
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 17:17:12

    After all said and doing, if you don’t put real good money into promoting your blog; it will remain in hell. let’s not go over the moon with these tips because they’ll amount to nothing if you don’t spend money on your blog promotion.

    OP thanks for sharing some <3

  29. Elna
    Nov 13, 2014 @ 18:06:32

    Leanne,
    Thank you so much for reminding us about empathy! It certainly a trait we must access on a daily basis when we write!

  30. Sarah Laker
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 03:52:11

    I like your tips. Even in real life, empathy can move mountains – so why not use it garner readers? It’s like the old saying goes: ‘no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care’. Applying that to blogging and SEO, it just goes to show that today’s strategies should also be helpful, engaging, and comprehensive. Thanks for a great post!

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 15, 2014 @ 14:59:48

      I use that quote all the time, Sarah. You’re absolutely right.

  31. Delwar
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 04:01:17

    Whatever you write there is no point of it, if you can’t market it. In these days you have to be a marketer too. Simply blogging do not help anyone. Its a plus point when you blog about the peoples need, but they have to know you have answered their questions.

  32. Brar
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 04:30:18

    my website very low traffic i hope your team help me am always read your posts.

  33. Reinaldo Lopez
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 05:09:41

    Awesome blog post and some very valuable nuggets that I will implement into my blog. I really enjoy blogging and sharing valuable content to help others but have struggled with exactly what was discussed here.

    Love the idea of creating a list of Dreams and Desires & Fears and Frustrations…Brilliant! I will start to work on mine immediately. Thank you for sharing this valuable information and looking forward to more golden nuggets.

  34. Bryan Collins
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 05:33:16

    Great post Leanne. I liked the way you used Jon’s desires and frustrations exercise. Your examples of content demonstrating empathy were inspiring.

  35. Martin Edwards
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 07:12:47

    Just checked all my security settings Leanne!
    I don’t know how you did it but you’ve read my mind!
    Well actually I do know how you did it now 🙂
    A great post about one of the most important aspects of being understood. If you take the trouble to understand what motivates the people you are talking to it makes it so much easier to understand their point of view.
    The ideal avatar thing has always worried me and I think I finally understand why. The tendency is to try to create it from internal resources. When I did it I ended up with someone very like me. So talking to my self is not going to work!
    The Desires/Fears thing focuses on researching the world outside, discovering and being prepared to be surprised and educated by those around us. Therefore it is easier to identify those universal motivations that appeal to a much wider audience.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 17, 2014 @ 09:41:18

      Yes, Martin! Many people find after they create their avatar that they are speaking to clones of themselves. Glad you like this approach instead.

  36. Ryan Biddulph
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 08:54:02

    Hi Leanne,

    Sell a dream. Identifying problems works too. I dig selling dreams because I live my dream.

    I blog from Bali. Now. Last month I blogged from Fiji. I blog from paradise, or Blog from Paradise. Meaning I explain how my readers can retire to a life of island hopping through smart blogging.

    I built my blog on the “before you go to sleep” test. Example; many dream big dreams before they sleep. At least my audience does. Knowing this I built my blog around my dream life/reality which is what they think about before sleeping. I sell the dream they’re dreaming before the nod off.

    Some think of their fears before sleeping but many folks dream of leaving their current life to either vacation in paradise or to flat out like where I live, whichever tropical spot I happen to be frequenting at the time. This empathy, or more accurately, this resonance with what they want feeds fully into my posts, my sidebar, my design and my brand.

    Sell an inspired dream and if you’re not living in yours yet, share your soon to be manifest dream to strike a chord with your readers.

    Ryan

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 17, 2014 @ 09:42:14

      I like that, Ryan. Dreams are powerful motivators, I know. 😉

  37. Phyllis
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 14:01:16

    I have to say Wow! Today seems to be a great day for receiving answers to some questions I’ve been having for a while now.
    I like the part about fears and being judged for what you write so never really getting started. Also, reading everywhere that content is key, so feeling like everything has been said and my writing isn’t important enough, stops the pen to paper, so to speak.

    Empathy is such a huge part of life or certainly (should) could be and yet I never thought about writing in this way.

    Love your writing and examples. So easy to read and relate to. Thank you for this article. I am certainly going to do the exercise, dreams, desires, fears, frustrations.
    Not only is it a great writing exercise for the readers but a great exercise in self awareness!
    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison

    Excellent! Your article has give me Peace of mind and opened my Heart!

    Phyllis

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 17, 2014 @ 09:46:48

      Yes, Phyllis – I think self-awareness is a really important step toward understanding others… and 10,000 ways that won’t work – ain’t that the truth! 🙂

  38. Jeff
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 15:32:31

    This was a seriously great post. I’ve been struggling with wondering how I can write content that people will actually want to read. Your solution is so simple and seemingly obvious, but I would wager that most writers don’t even think about it.

    I can’t wait to try this out. I’m going to go to other blogs and start my Dreams & Fears lists right away!

    Thanks so much for writing this.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 17, 2014 @ 12:03:30

      You’re welcome, Jeff. Hope it helps (I bet it will.) 😉

  39. Nuri Ramadhan
    Nov 14, 2014 @ 16:59:00

    Previously I read How to publish more content using a simple habit writing 50 words a day. With this empathy tips, I would have ideas to write more. Thanks Leanne

  40. Lisa
    Nov 15, 2014 @ 14:09:12

    Leane, great post. I think it is about connecting with your readers and understanding their struggles. It’s also about letting yourself become a little vunerable to be open to share your past mistakes etc in order to teach them or inform them.
    It does get harder with time if you continue to blog to come up with new and inspiring ideas but going back through the comments does help trigger some things that your readers want to read more about or learn more about.
    I loved your examples and ways of explaning each point – makes it easier to follow and understand with these kinds of concept.
    Thanks for sharing with us and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

    • Leanne Regalla
      Nov 17, 2014 @ 12:06:22

      Thanks, Lisa – and I agree, approaching my writing this way has given me loads of ideas. Even if the topics start to get repetitive over time, we can always look at things from a different angle – things we’d never think about if it weren’t for the feedback we get.

  41. Bill
    Nov 17, 2014 @ 03:32:00

    Making connection is always about showing your deep concern – putting yourself in their shoes, and feeling the same way as they do. Thanks for your great tips Leane. You have shared tips every content marketer should consider.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Dec 15, 2014 @ 12:16:09

      Thanks, Bill. I definitely hope that it helps my fellow content marketers. 😉

  42. ScrewtheSystemJoe
    Nov 17, 2014 @ 05:00:05

    I really like these suggestions. It sounds like a much more natural way of connecting with your readership than profiling. Often connecting with someone is instinctive so what better way of sharpening your instincts than by using these tips.

    • Javed akhter isaac
      Dec 10, 2014 @ 00:17:13

      Last some year past i have created many kinds of blog in the blogger, on the content of some softwares games hp picture , ans some article on information , so due to non idea to how to increase the traffice am so woried , and hopless , some day ago i have a read an artcle on some site to how to increase all the possible steps that are mention to increase the traffice , and i have apply all of these now a day my website traffice going to increasing day by day and when i have read your article then i have found some an other trick to increase the traffice i hope your article will be help me , to more traffice

    • Leanne Regalla
      Dec 15, 2014 @ 12:17:11

      Hi Joe,

      I agree – the approach felt much more natural to me, also. And it works – so what’s not to love?

  43. Dennis
    Nov 17, 2014 @ 08:23:32

    Wonderful advice Leanne. I’m actually just starting to work on my company’s blog area. My topic is a pretty boring one, and my audience are business owners which makes it trickier. If you have the spare time, I’d love it if you could check it out. I’ll definitely apply your tips, I hope I could do your words justice 🙂 Thank you!

    • Leanne Regalla
      Dec 15, 2014 @ 12:20:51

      Looks like you have a nice blog, Dennis.

      You know, I come from a corporate background full of technical and potentially boring topics. Still, there were things I was excited about. These came through in my speaking and writing on the topics. There are things that your audience will be excited about. If you always tie the technical explanations back to why they matter to your audience, and what results they deliver, I think you’ll do well.

  44. kameteltayar
    Nov 18, 2014 @ 12:25:58

    I really like these suggestions. It sounds like a much more natural way of connecting with your readership than profiling.

  45. Priscilla Cooke
    Nov 27, 2014 @ 13:26:25

    Totally agreed about authenticity vs. manipulation,
    Thanks for posting such a great article.
    Going to bookmark this site.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Dec 15, 2014 @ 12:22:00

      Thanks, Priscilla! Glad you found it useful.

  46. Osamudiamen Azamegbe
    Dec 05, 2014 @ 04:20:32

    this was indeed very helpful. at least now I have an ideal method to start writing blog posts. thank you do much Leanne

  47. Fuad Hassan
    Dec 10, 2014 @ 06:14:51

    Creating controversy in tour content will hit your readers head and push them to talk about what you wrote and create promoters for your blog. Anchoring others content with in the post add more value to your blog by providing more information to them will definitely derive more traffic to your blog.

  48. Jeannette Koczela
    Dec 10, 2014 @ 12:59:51

    I’m so happy to read this post because I agree with you that defining a target market with statistics is not useful. I love the idea of the two lists—Dreams & Desires and Fears & Frustrations —it’s such a better way to determine how to relate to your audience. I was looking for the elusive “thing” that was missing in most “find your target/niche” instructions and “empathy” was it. Now when I help clients define their target, I can explain this empathy concept to them, get them to create the two lists instead of all those stats, and solve this problem in an entirely different way. Thank-you so much for all of this valuable content on this subject, Leanne.

    • Leanne Regalla
      Dec 15, 2014 @ 12:24:54

      My pleasure, Jeanette! I know I’ve had great results with my clients recommending this approach – I imagine you will also. And we all want happy clients, right? 🙂

  49. Louis Hayes
    Dec 15, 2014 @ 10:16:28

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  50. Mustafa Gaziani
    Dec 15, 2014 @ 11:50:45

    Hey Leanne,
    One word for this post “Fantastic”. It happens because of lack of attention and blah blah. Your advice hit my head and it comes to know about how to gain more attention from readers.

    Thanks for sharing post that really helpful.
    -Mustafa

    • Leanne Regalla
      Dec 15, 2014 @ 12:26:14

      You’re very welcome, Mustafa. Good luck with it!

  51. Siddharth Shanker Mishra
    Dec 17, 2014 @ 22:05:46

    Nice article. The only problem is to apply these tips effectively. Maybe i’ll have to read this 3 or 4 times more. So i’ve bookmarked this post.

  52. Meenu
    Jan 11, 2015 @ 23:35:52

    Very informative, Thanks for sharing…. I will visit again to check on some more articles

  53. Matthew Ruano
    Jan 12, 2015 @ 02:30:27

    We at the MyInnerGreatness site actually just started implementing this and are seeing great results. We learned you have to get very personal and truly think about the readers experience on your blog. Also trying to answer the readers question in the first couple of sentences really improved our bounce rate.

    This is some great advice thank you and much success from,
    The MyInnerGreatness Team.

    We also offer blog/online marketing/work from home help as we understand the struggles of trying to build a successful blog and business online.

    feel free to visit our site
    MyInnerGreatness.com

    • Leanne Regalla
      Jan 12, 2015 @ 11:59:45

      Glad to hear you are seeing such great results, Matthew. Using this approach definitely makes a positive difference. All the best to you.