If there is one thing you can do to understand your audience, to come up with topics that they really care about, it’s to talk to them.
I used to shy away from talking to people in my audience. I thought that they wouldn’t want to talk to me. I worried about bothering them.
I knew that I needed to get more feedback from other people, so last March, I decided to interview 101 people about building business relationships. So far, I’ve interviewed 30 people, and learned a ton from each and every one of them.
I also learned that interviewing people isn’t all that scary.
In fact, it provides a perfect opportunity to connect and discover new ideas.
You don’t have to talk to 100 people, or even 30. 5 honest conversations can make a big impact.
It can help you think of blog articles to write about, about how to communicate so that people really “get” what you’re offering, and about how to help people with what they need the most.
And here’s how to make it happen.
1. Find people to talk to.
This was the part that scared me the most at first, but it’s actually really easy. And it has the added benefit of making “networking” easier, because instead of asking people for a coffee date, which may make them worry you want to sell them something, you can tell them you want to interview them to help you with your blog.
Here are a few places to find them:
- In your circle of friends.
You probably already know a few people who are interested in what you blog about. Even your good friends…especially your good friends are perfect people to interview.
- In person gatherings.
These can be Meetup groups, conferences, even potluck dinners.
If someone mentions that they enjoy reading your blog, or even blogs on similar topics to yours, or if they bring up something that fits into what you write about, they will probably be a good person to interview.
- Facebook groups
I am seriously addicted to Facebook groups. I can spend my entire day on them. And it’s so easy to find and join groups where your potential audience members hang out.
Join a Facebook group or 2, hang out in them, ask questions, give feedback, share people’s blog posts. And then, pick a few people whom you think would be up for an interview.
If you are using Twitter correctly, you are having conversations with people and getting to know them. If not, start. Comment on people’s tweets. Start dialogues. You will probably run into a few people you really like. They will make great interviewees.
- Your email list
If people are on your list, you can assume they are audience members, and would make great interviewees.
2. Invite them to interview with you.
You can do this one of 2 ways:
- Approach it as a way for you to gather information from them.
- Present it as a free consulting session that you are offering them.
Here’s what worked for me (and what I wish I would have done in addition):
- I messaged specific people, told them about my project, and asked them if they would be willing to chat with me for 30 minutes. (I also posted a general request in a Facebook group. I got about 4 people from that as well.)
- I scheduled a meeting with them over email.
- I followed up with them the day before the interview to make sure they were still up for talking.
- I gave them specific questions to think about beforehand
- I let them know that I would be calling them, and got their phone number/Skype name.
3. Do the interview.
A few things to consider during the interview:
I used Skype to call my interviewees’ phones, and then recorded the conversation on my Mac using either Evernote or Quicktime. You can also use an app to record phone conversations on your phone, but it’s a little bit more cumbersome.
Let the conversation flow.
Some people probably use the same questions every time. I found that it was more natural and organic to have specific questions in mind but to let the conversation go where it needed to go. Everyone had unique insights to offer, and I let those insights guide our conversation.
Take minimal notes.
My sweet spot was taking notes, but not too many notes. That way, after the conversation, I remembered the bigger points, and during the conversation, I could really focus and listen.
4. Spend some time reflecting on the interviews and writing down the main take-aways.
I published all of my conversations online, so I transcribed them to try to include all of the great insights.
If you are doing interviews to better understand your audience, and don’t plan on publishing them, you can probably listen to them again and just write down blog post ideas as you listen.
You can also create a chart with the main topics that come up, and add in tally marks for each interview that hits on the same points. That way you’ll know which topics are relevant to the most people.
5. Follow up and thank your interviewees.
Send them a thank you email, a list of next steps for whatever you coached them on, a personal handwritten note, a gift card, or anything else you think would be appropriate.
6. Write the blog posts and share them with your interviewees.
If your interviewees inspired a blog post or 2, don’t be afraid to share the posts with them. They will probably be more than happy to read your insights, because you are responding to topics that came up in your conversations.
A final note:
You don’t have to interview a lot of people to get great material for your blog. If you feel stuck on topic ideas, just one conversation can spark ideas for a month of blog posts.
Try it out. You’ll be surprised at how powerful a simple conversation can be.