Venn Zen: Authors, be one with your audience

Venn Zen

Can you envision your ideal reader? What are their interests? Why do they need your book? Use our Venn Zen to help understand your audience.

I was mightily inspired recently by one of our authorpreneur clients who tested us on our theory of building an Audience Avatar. (I love it when they do that! It’s what keeps us on our toes.) I’ll get to that test in a moment, but first I want to share with you the two-phase process we go through. Step one was to have her coach (me, in this case) interview her as if she was one person at the centre of the most likely audience for her content.

I asked her to envision this person, give her a name, and describe her demographic characteristics. “How old are you?” I asked. “Where do you work? Are you married? Do you have kids?” We went on like this for about a half hour, exploring her Avatar’s life—her beliefs and behaviours, as well as spending, reading and communication habits. We dove into her key influencers, and discussed her hopes, dreams and pain points.

In the end, our client looked at me and said, “I know my audience pretty well, but you asked some things I really was guessing at the answers to. And I wasn’t being her when I answered; I was me guessing at what she would say.”

Testing assumptions

Step Two of our process is to test those assumptions. We work in tandem with our client, but with the authorpreneur doing some of that questioning themselves, with real readers and potential purchasers of their content. We have a survey tool and interview guide we customize for each client, so that they can conduct interviews in a variety of ways, and collect data. Then, we take a good look at where their assumptions held up, where they were faulty, and the goldmine of new information we have; all of this fleshes out that imagined consumer into someone very real.

The composite built from those interviews becomes the basis for a critical analysis and recommendations. We create a strategy around this composite that is the foundation for how clients build their content, and, in some cases, a content-based business model built around their subject matter expertise.

Sometimes we test personal and book brands using these tools; sometimes we test content outlines; and sometimes cover designs.

Whether you want to write books, market online content, be a speaker, consultant, coach or teacher – or some combination of these, you can’t do it successfully without a very clear understanding of what I call the Venn Zen Diagram of Content Development.

You need to find a balance of providing your audience with information that you need to say, but is also want they are desperate hear.
You need to find a balance of providing your audience with information that you need to say, but is also want they are desperate hear.

Getting some Venn Zen

This Venn diagram helps content creators remember that two overlapping concepts (what you need to say and what your audience wants/needs to hear) are where the magic happens. Ignoring the “what they want/need to hear” piece of the puzzle is potentially disastrous in terms of disinterest and lost sales – disregard at your own peril!

As BookBaby blogger Chris Robley points out, you need to investigate the space where your purposes and your audience’s interests overlap before you write, before you structure, before you determine your voice and appeal. Even before you attempt to sell or pitch your ideas to an investor, a publisher, or the crowd in a crowdfunding campaign. (Got that? Before!)

And to do that, you need to know who you’re best suited to serve, and then you need to find out what they want. Not guess – ask! There are simple ways to do that without dropping a few thousand in market research, or you can spend a little money and get some professional help and support. We do it with our clients using research tools and processes that work for us.

The End Result

So how did our client test us and what were the results? She conducted a Facebook ad campaign targeting her new Avatar, and quadrupled her email signups and likes in one week after having done a year’s worth of work to get her list to that point. Here’s a video of her explaining what she’s learned:

At the end of the day, a little Venn Zen goes a long way when you’re looking at investing thousands of dollars and hours, and betting your future direction and purpose on that sweet spot between what you have to share, and what people want to hear.


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