Goldenhour 2024 26 min

How to Build an Audience with Written Content


A lot of the buzz in Owned Media is around video content, but the truth is that people still want written content. In this workshop Chelsea Castle, Senior Director of Content at Close, talks about how to build an audience through the written word across articles, newsletters, and other formats.



0:00

My name is Chelsea Castle.

0:02

I'm so excited to be here with you all today.

0:04

I'm a senior director of branding content,

0:06

and I'll be talking about how to build an audience

0:09

with written content.

0:10

I'll start with a story.

0:13

In 1964, a man named Phil had an idea.

0:19

This idea, more of a hunch, really,

0:22

was about the quality of a pair of Japanese shoes.

0:26

So he went to Japan to check them out.

0:29

He eventually became a US distributor for Onizaka Tiger,

0:34

a Japanese brand of running shoes.

0:36

Back in the US, selling was slow at first.

0:41

He and his business partner, Bill,

0:44

knew that the best way to build demand and build trust

0:49

was to get well-known runners to wear the shoes.

0:53

So that's what they did.

0:54

Eventually, they stopped distributing from Japan

0:59

and began making their own running shoes.

1:02

They went on to become Nike.

1:04

But in 1984, when they were ready to expand

1:11

beyond running shoes, they had more business problems.

1:16

They were not well-known in a crowded space,

1:19

so they had little trust.

1:21

So this time, they took a big bet to build trust once again.

1:28

This time, by taking a big bet on a rookie basketball player

1:32

named Michael Jordan.

1:33

Now, this move will be forever legendary

1:38

in the marketing history books.

1:40

They spent their entire marketing budget.

1:43

Could you imagine?

1:44

The deal that Jordan almost said no to

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went on to become a brand worth more than $10 billion.

1:52

So you can see, I think everyone,

1:55

there's a large percentage of people here

1:57

wearing niggies on their shoes.

1:58

And what drives that monetary value?

2:01

The audience behind it.

2:04

Building an audience starts with trust.

2:08

In our industry, building trust starts with content.

2:13

So I wanna put it all out there.

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We have been doing written content wrong.

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And here's why.

2:25

The majority of B2B content is self-serving.

2:28

It's created to talk about us and our products and our company.

2:32

It's not about our customers.

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We're so focused on our own pipeline targets.

2:37

Second, much of content in our space

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feels and sounds inhuman.

2:43

A lot of the content doesn't have much personality

2:48

or an inkling of a vibe.

2:50

We're so focused on writing for bots and SEO.

2:54

I know y'all know exactly what I'm talking about.

2:57

And lastly, we have a trust problem.

3:00

The majority of companies who have public trust

3:07

outperform their peers by 400%.

3:11

And yet, our buyers don't trust us.

3:15

Here's proof.

3:17

According to a recent study by organic growth marketing,

3:22

buyers, 12% of buyers,

3:25

they're that software companies are trusted sources of information.

3:28

12% of our buyers trust us.

3:31

55% said that B2B content feels too similar.

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And 39% said that they zone out or glaze over our content.

3:40

I don't know about y'all, but that's pretty sad.

3:43

I don't want them to zone out or glaze over my content.

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All of this is a direct result of years of chasing rankings,

3:51

chasing MQLs, of sales and marketing misalignment,

3:55

and creating marketing to check a box.

3:58

And many other things, I'm sure, we can all bond over at Happy Hour Leader.

4:02

In this lack of trust that we see in the market,

4:07

Nike had the same problem.

4:09

They were well, they were not well known in a small space.

4:13

Here's how they fixed it.

4:15

They started by changing their mindset.

4:18

And I'm not sure what they did.

4:20

Meet my Mac framework.

4:25

If you're wondering why I walked out to return of the Mac,

4:29

it's A, a good way to remember my framework,

4:32

and B, to me, it's a great call for us all to remember

4:36

to return to what content should be.

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And that's what I'll outline in my framework here.

4:41

It's about mindset, audience, and content creation.

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And I'll share a few of these step-by-step.

4:48

And at the end, I will share a QR code where you can keep in touch with me,

4:52

but also steal all of my frameworks and templates

4:54

for you to take and use in your day-to-day.

4:56

I also have a surprise guest at the end.

4:59

The step one of the framework is going into it with the right mindset.

5:04

Having a lush mindset.

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Content should be likable.

5:09

Do you know what your audience likes and dislikes?

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Do you know what makes them laugh?

5:15

Do you know what lights them up?

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What motivates them?

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You know what keeps them up at night?

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Why they do what they do?

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All of these things together are important to ensure.

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You're creating content that they actually like,

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as opposed to thinking about,

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"Oh, will I boss like this?

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Will my friend, my colleague at work, like this?"

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We want to think about making it likable for our audience first.

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Second is user-integrated.

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Now, you won't be able to do this in every piece of content,

5:44

but we want to involve our users in our content whenever possible.

5:47

So you want to think about creating content by content requests.

5:52

This is one of my favorite ways to create content

5:54

by literally asking them what they want and what they need from you.

5:57

When we're selling SaaS to other SaaS companies,

6:00

at the end of the day, our goal is to make their jobs easier and to help them.

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So why don't we just ask them?

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One way to do that outside of content requests is to involve them in interviews

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user-generated content, that sort of thing.

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You want to think about integrating your user before you integrate your product

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I'm not saying not to integrate your product,

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you're saying to rethink your prioritization there.

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Third is you want your content to be shareable.

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If your content is compelling enough to share,

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it's going to be, of course, you're going to expand your reach,

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but you want it to resonate so strongly that they feel good to share it.

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It feels good to share something. It feels good to share a piece of content

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that is relatable to other people in your network.

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It also says something about YouTube.

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So keeping that in mind when you're creating content will create content that

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resonates.

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And lastly, you want to be human to human.

6:59

You want your content to ensure that you are speaking to the other human on the

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other end.

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People, you want to create content that people want to read

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and kind of think beyond writing for algorithms.

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The red thread throughout the mindset is to create content while thinking about

7:19

the human or the other end.

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Now, it sounds simple, but we don't see this in practice very much.

7:24

So speaking about humans,

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one of the best ways, or I guess this is the A and my Mac framework.

7:34

So we've talked about having the right mindset.

7:37

People talk about how we're actually getting to know those people.

7:40

There's actually been a theme in some of the conversations we've been having

7:44

since this morning

7:45

around trust and brand and speaking like a human.

7:50

And I think we can all talk about it and say that and know it, but how do you

7:55

actually do it?

7:55

So this part is really key here. It's the audience research portion.

7:59

I have two prongs in my audience research work versus internal.

8:05

You want to think about having one source of truth that's usually like a

8:08

spreadsheet.

8:09

Like I mentioned, I have some templates and frameworks at the end that I'll

8:12

share with you.

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I have one really great system for organizing this research.

8:16

So definitely check that out.

8:18

Your internal research is anyone who is internal.

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So sales and CS can come from anyone in the company, but usually those two

8:26

functions within the company.

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And this is where kind of aggregating any common objections from the sales team

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, any content requests that come up.

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What are some of the most frequently asked questions to support?

8:38

You also want to share the spreadsheet so that it's easy for them to dump

8:43

anything that they're hearing in their conversations into the spreadsheet.

8:46

Now, not everyone will do this, right?

8:48

Because you know, I'm going to be speaking, you know, when Arthur was in sales,

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I'm going to be like, "Hey, Arthur, on top of everything else you're doing, can you also like add

8:55

some ideas to my content list?"

8:57

I think that's not feasible.

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But it is in their best interest if I create a piece of content about a common

9:04

objection that he hears,

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and then we can share that to hopefully mitigate that process and speed up the

9:09

buying process.

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So it's very beneficial, you know, it's mutually beneficial, but you want to

9:15

make it as easy and frictionless as possible for them to contribute to the

9:18

spreadsheet.

9:19

The second is external.

9:22

So these are all of the customer calls, customer interviews that you might have

9:25

, where you're sourcing questions, common challenges, what you're hearing,

9:28

and the market.

9:29

Ideally, you should be having some customer, like the common cadence, customer

9:34

conversations, and some capacity.

9:36

And you're dumping all of that in the same spreadsheet, so you have one source

9:40

of truth.

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Also think about doing some research, or sorry, some surveys, and audience

9:45

research tools like Spark tutorial.

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So you're dumping everything in this one spreadsheet.

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To me, this is all of your gold.

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This is your data mining.

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So you're collecting all of these inputs, all of this gold.

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Now, what do you do with it?

9:57

Does anyone ever heard of empathy maps?

10:01

One person? Okay, cool. I'm going to show you.

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I'm going to first talk about empathy versus sympathy.

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You know, I think a lot of people get those too confused.

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I want to be me, if I didn't talk about Bernay Brown, who describes empathy as

10:19

being, you're talking about how someone, you're not talking about an experience

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You're talking about how someone is feeling about an experience.

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So that is a great mindset to have, and that is one of the most important

10:33

aspects of why it's important to do the audience research.

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So again, that's all of your mind, all of your gold.

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Now you're going to mind it in a map.

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There are a whole bunch of different kinds of empathy maps that I use in B2B.

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This is one of the most basic ones.

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It gives you a holistic view of what your ICP is saying, thinking, doing, and

10:52

feeling.

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When it comes to the intersection of them and you and how you help.

10:58

Nike has a great origin story, right?

11:02

They have a great story, they have a great brand, they're very successful, but

11:06

they're not infallible.

11:07

When they make a mistake or they have a public blunder, they lean on empathy to

11:11

course correct.

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Empathy drives connection, and connection and empathy drive trust.

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We get so caught up in conversion in our work that we often miss the

11:24

opportunity for connection.

11:26

When you think about some of the marketing that you've put out in the last year

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, did you ever think about how the other person on the other end is going to

11:36

feel?

11:36

How do you think they feel about your passive CTA on the side of your blog?

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How do you think they feel when they read your newsletter and they click on a

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link to a gated piece of content?

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You kind of think about the feelings there and you might be thinking, "Yes, I

11:56

totally have empathy in my audience.

11:58

Why else do I do what I do?"

12:00

But here's the thing, would your marketing agree?

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Do you think your marketing aligns with that mentality?

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Seth Godin has a really great quote around this where he says, "I don't think

12:14

you have any business being a marketer if you don't have empathy for the people

12:18

you're seeking to serve."

12:19

I think that's a great way to kind of round out understanding how empathy map

12:24

works.

12:24

I love doing this example, sorry, this empathy map in Miro, literally, or in

12:30

person, if you get the opportunity to work with your teams in person.

12:34

Add some stickies into each quadrant. Again, if you're thinking about your

12:38

audience research as your inputs, this is your output.

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So you're thinking, "Okay, what is our ICP saying, thinking, doing, and feeling

12:46

?"

12:46

This is a great example of a very simple empathy map in terms of what would be

12:53

your ideal buying process.

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So maybe they're thinking, "Oh, yeah, how do I buy this? I'm ready to buy. That

13:01

's what they're saying."

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When it comes to thinking, they're saying, "Okay, like, wow, this sales process

13:07

is great."

13:07

This is obviously what you want them to say. They're feeling, hopefully, they

13:11

're feeling excited and feeling empowered.

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And what are they doing? Hopefully, they're telling others about the experience

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So this is a great example of what that empathy map can look like. A full map,

13:22

of course, has a lot more to it.

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I'm going to be doing a deeper demo of an empathy map near the end, but I'm

13:29

going to talk about the "C" in my content creation framework

13:32

so that you can see how the empathy drives into your content.

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So by a raise of hands, how many of you have spent some time ever writing an

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article or a blog?

13:46

So a good bit of you, okay?

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So you know that there are a lot of things that you have in mind when you're

13:53

writing, right?

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You're thinking about not just SEO keywords, you're thinking about your hook,

13:59

your data, your stats, and how and where to include them.

14:03

Probably some storytelling, some personal anecdotes that you have, you know,

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graphs and charts and photos and gifts.

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You have all these things that are already in your head.

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And that's not even to think about, okay, what about my goals? How am I

14:16

distributing that? So there's already a lot.

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Writing is hard because it's a distillation of information.

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So that is to say that my content creation framework is simple by design.

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It's simple so that you're entering it with the right mindset.

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You're doing the work of deeply understanding your audience through research,

14:33

talking to them directly, talking to the internal teams who are speaking with

14:37

them directly.

14:37

And then the content framework is how you apply all that when you're actually

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writing.

14:42

On top of everything else that's in your head when you're writing, right?

14:47

Notice to say that my framework is simple as pie, which I don't know about you,

14:52

but last time I made pie, it actually wasn't that simple.

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So I should probably rethink that phrase.

14:57

So this is a great example of my content creation framework, where I call it a

15:02

flow.

15:03

They are your friendly signposts, right, that guide you through to think about

15:08

what your audience is feeling, per section of your article.

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To the left-hand side, your headlines, intros or leads for any of my fellow

15:17

former journalists out there.

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And then, of course, every article is going to look different.

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You can also apply this to video scripts. I was speaking with someone earlier

15:25

about video scripts.

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You can apply it to a LinkedIn post. You can apply it to anything that's

15:29

written and non-written, honestly.

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But the goal is to think through each section.

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And you're mapping out the desired sentiment next to it.

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You're guiding through. You're really trying to think about the necessary

15:44

ingredients to resonate and serve value.

15:44

Your core idea here is to make them feel something.

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Your goal isn't an action. It's a reaction.

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Your goal is to provoke, and this helps you do it.

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So if you're thinking about a headline, I probably want my headline to be

16:01

something that creates a desired sentiment or -- oh, sorry.

16:06

There you go. You want to integrate your headline to be something that has

16:11

intrigue, right?

16:11

I want them to see it, and I want them to have some intrigue, and probably a

16:15

desire to learn.

16:16

In the intro and hook, I want them to feel seen.

16:20

This is my favorite way to approach content.

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I want it to be relatable. I want them to feel seen and heard and understood,

16:26

and hopefully affirmed in whatever the topic is that I'm speaking about.

16:30

In the supporting graphs, it's really important to build trust.

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Now that I've gotten them to be interested to feel something, I then want them

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to say, "Oh, I see them as the credible source to be listening to on this topic

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."

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And then you're following subheads.

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I like thinking about the content flow, like a heartbeat, kind of like having

16:52

an up and down and an overall experience, right?

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So in that first subhead, I want them to have an aha moment, like, "Ah, yes,

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they get it. They get me. They understand what my day-to-day is like."

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Hopefully I'm answering a question, too, in that subhead, in that section.

17:09

In the next section, I love the idea of an eyebrow raise.

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A researcher, Sam Horne, created this thing called the eyebrow test, where

17:17

essentially you want someone to raise your eyebrow when they read your content.

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It's just kind of a way of expressing curiosity, intrigue. You're like, "Oh, I

17:26

'm raising my eyebrow here to say, "Okay, you've got me. You've got through my

17:30

mental door."

17:31

And then the next section would be something like surprise, okay?

17:35

I want them to have a surprise in the light moment, and they learn something

17:39

new.

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And then the ideal conclusion, you know, all of these things are your desired

17:43

and ideal sentiments.

17:44

On that conclusion, you want them to feel empowered, and you want them to feel

17:48

hopefully grateful.

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That might be a bit of a stretch, but hopefully it was so helpful that they

17:52

feel gratitude for having that piece of content now.

17:55

So that's how the content creation framework works.

17:58

So we went through mindset, audience research, and content creation.

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Now I'm going to bring up a special guest to do an empathy map demo, so you can

18:11

see how those two things intertwine.

18:13

Without further ado, I'll introduce my friend and former colleague, Kaylee Ed

18:19

mondson, who needs no formal introduction.

18:22

[applause]

18:25

Is that on?

18:27

Can you all hear me? There you go.

18:29

Hi. Yeah, we're going to walk through how to build an empathy map with one of

18:33

Kaylee's core clients.

18:34

Kaylee, tell us a bit about your core client and their ICP at a high level.

18:39

Yeah, absolutely. So I partner with several clients, and this one in particular

18:42

that I chose for this exercise

18:44

is a series C B2B SaaS company that is firmly seated in the InfoSec compliance

18:50

automation space.

18:51

Not necessarily the sexiest space, but nonetheless the requirement.

18:55

So I thought it would be good to choose for this exercise.

18:57

Beautiful. So as you can see here, this is a real mirror screenshot of when we

19:04

walk through this exercise.

19:05

Now Kaylee's already done the work of having the right mindset, doing the

19:09

audience research, and now we're going to walk through each

19:11

quadrant in terms of understanding what they're thinking, feeling, doing, and

19:15

saying.

19:15

And then all of this will directly inform content. Beautiful.

19:19

So here we started in the think and feel space. So go ahead and tell me a

19:24

little bit about what these people are thinking and feeling.

19:27

Yeah, and I'll start with this too. When Chelsea asked me to do this assignment

19:31

and do some research for this client in particular,

19:33

they have several market segments that all operate, live, and breathe very

19:37

differently.

19:38

All with very different personas that act as their primary buyer for each of

19:42

those segments.

19:43

So for this exercise, I specifically chose their S and B segment, and we'll go

19:48

deep into that.

19:48

So this persona is typically someone at a smaller sized company, normally who

19:54

finds themselves in a sales cycle where one of their prospects has come to a

19:58

sales rep to say,

19:59

"Eee, I really like to move forward, but doesn't look like you're a sock-to-

20:03

compliant."

20:04

That puts that sales rep, that sales manager, most likely your CEO at that

20:10

stage, in a position to think, "Honestly, oh shit."

20:15

We don't have this. Hence the "o shit sticky."

20:19

Yes, so that's the "o shit sticky." But normally, a CEO at an early stage

20:25

company is faced with this feeling of "o shit."

20:27

Now I'm in a reactive scenario where I don't know if I'm the best person to be

20:33

leading this forward, but I know I need to go and find a solution to get us

20:36

compliant.

20:37

So they also might be thinking, "Okay, we also know we need it, but it's not a

20:42

top priority."

20:43

So that is one example. Having that in mind when you're creating a piece of

20:47

content, that is a really great mindset and little nugget to have.

20:51

When you're like, "Okay, now I can speak to that directly in a piece of content

20:56

."

20:56

They're also probably questioning their order of priorities, which can also

20:59

inform content.

21:00

Yes, probably questioning why they didn't prioritize this sooner, but obviously

21:06

they're also a startup.

21:07

So sometimes that's just the reality of the beast. All of this I think leads to

21:11

feelings.

21:12

They're probably feeling maybe a little inadequate for the job. Most CEOs have

21:17

probably started a project, started a company based on a passion of theirs, and

21:22

arguably, info set compliance probably isn't that passion.

21:25

So they're probably feeling a little out of sorts, a little out of their

21:28

comfort zone.

21:29

In that piece of inadequacy, you may not have known that without doing that

21:33

research and doing this process.

21:35

So if you're understanding, "Okay, they have that feeling of an inadequacy,"

21:39

you might be a little more gentle when you're writing about a certain topic

21:42

that is in relation to what they might be feeling inadequate about.

21:45

They're also probably feeling a bit of competitive fomo. If you know that they

21:50

're in a deal cycle with you, considering buying your product, they're also

21:53

probably in a deal cycle with your competitors.

21:54

Let's be real. And if your competitors are compliant, but you are not, you

21:59

might lose by default.

22:00

I love that one because I could inspire a whole campaign. If you know they're

22:04

feeling that competitive fomo, and if you approach it in the right way, that

22:07

could inspire a whole campaign of content, I think.

22:11

I think the other stickies that I'd put on here are probably straightforward,

22:15

but nonetheless, feeling a bit of momentum and adequacy.

22:19

We should have been moving faster. We should have been doing this. We should

22:22

have been doing that. I think maybe we all feel that to some degree, but

22:24

definitely this persona in this instance would probably also feel just a little

22:28

bit of lack of momentum about why this probably wasn't already done or wasn't

22:32

already prioritized.

22:33

And understanding why that lack of momentum, that's a hard word to say,

22:38

understanding why that lack of momentum is happening will then inspire more

22:42

content.

22:42

Why is that? And then how can we speak to it in a way that is still being kind

22:46

to where they're coming from, so that we're not being too salesy, too pushy, we

22:50

're understanding the feelings that they're having behind that experience.

22:55

And then what are they doing?

22:57

Well, they're probably doing a lot. I hope, as a CEO at a small growing startup

23:01

, they're probably doing a lot.

23:03

But in this specific instance, I'm hoping that they are understanding why they

23:07

didn't prioritize InfoSec beforehand, right? So they're probably rushing to

23:11

take action, maybe with an external legal counsel or a lawyer of some sort,

23:15

trying to build themselves, some type of sounding board to make sure that they

23:18

're moving forward with confidence

23:19

and solving this problem, not only for themselves, for the pipeline they're

23:23

leaving on the table, for the clients they hope to serve, but also for their

23:26

reps that are trying to get the steal off the line.

23:29

They're also probably trying to rush the process, right? Because they've had

23:32

that "Oh, shit" moment, and then they're like, "Okay, we should have priorit

23:35

ized this sooner."

23:36

And then they're trying to rush it, right? But as we know, or at least the

23:40

little that I know from this space is you can't really rush a sock to audit.

23:44

But you can maybe create content of like, "He works and things to be thinking

23:48

about while you're waiting for that audit to clear, while you're waiting to

23:51

become compliant."

23:51

So having the understanding and knowing what they're feeling about it will help

23:55

you write content that is more resonant and kind.

23:58

And effective. Beautiful. And then what are they saying?

24:01

Well, we already said "Oh, shit." But we're saying again just for jokes.

24:04

Probably still at this point, they might be saying out loud "Oh, shit."

24:07

While in their head, they also know that they need to be reassuring their team.

24:11

Don't worry, we've got this. Everything is fine, right? And in this exercise,

24:15

we would need to be some type of confidant in them to help give them that

24:20

confidence

24:20

and reassurance to be able to say confidently to their team, "Don't worry, we

24:24

've got this."

24:25

Yeah. They're also probably seeking legal counsel at this part, right?

24:29

Yes. They probably need some additional help outside of a client.

24:33

Yes. And we all know every good CEO is in 14 no less Slack communities, so they

24:37

're definitely checking those Slack communities for advice from their peers

24:40

and from other successful CEOs and founders.

24:43

So this is all pretty in-depth knowledge, I would say, that you might know some

24:49

degree of this level of information about your ICP,

24:52

but I'd be curious if you understand, yeah, if you know all of that and feel

24:56

like you know what they're feeling throughout the whole process.

24:58

So that is a full empathy map for the most part. Thank you, Kaylee. Thank you

25:02

so much.

25:03

[applause]

25:08

So I went through this pretty quickly. What do we learn today?

25:12

Today we learn that trust is the most important aspect of building a brand, and

25:18

we do that with content.

25:19

In order to build an audience with written content, you need a bit of Mac.

25:24

You need to have the right mindset. You need to deeply know your audience, and

25:30

you need to create content that they like and want to share and want to read.

25:35

And all of these things help build an audience and build a beloved brand, and

25:39

if you do all of this well, then that leads to revenue.

25:42

Start using this framework if you want to start making more money with your

25:46

content.

25:47

Here's the QR code. You can keep in touch. You can steal all my frameworks,

25:51

templates.

25:51

I think the most valuable one that I've seen, at least in use, the feedback

25:56

that I've gotten is around the audience research portion,

25:58

where we're all trying to gather, write all of these inputs, all of these ideas

26:02

that we get from all of the meetings we're in every day.

26:04

It's a really great and helpful system. Kind of organize all of that so you can

26:08

actually take action on it and not get lost in your day today.

26:11

And yeah, thank you so much for having me, and have a good day.

26:17

[applause]

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This is a longer test comment to see how this looks if the person decides to ramble a bit. So they're rambling and rambling and then they even lorem ipsum.


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