A few months ago, I ran an experiment: I emailed my mailing list and asked if anyone was interested in having a 15-minute consulting conversation with me via Skype.
I offered to help them with questions about Web design, freelancing or self-publishing. They’d choose the topic and they’d have my ear for 15 minutes.
I did this to see how I could better help the people already interested in what I do and who had probably bought at least one item I created, since most folks are on my mailing list because of books I’ve written.
Thirty-five people replied within a few minutes, and I spent the next few weeks scheduling and taking calls with them, one by one.
But they weren’t the only ones who benefited
My intent was to help with whatever they were working on or struggling with. What ended up happening was that these calls helped me.
I became more clear on the specific topics my audience was interested in. I got to learn exactly where they were struggling and looking for help with their own work.
I did my best to help each one, but I also made meticulous notes so I could see if there were any trends. Thirty-five isn’t a huge chunk of people to get very scientific with, but it was enough to detect a general pulse and notice common themes.
The commonalities between these people helped guide my writing for my upcoming book and helped me figure out what type of course would be most beneficial to create. Both creations, after all, would be targeted primarily at my mailing list.
It’s helpful to know more about the people who wanted to know more about me and the products and services I offered.
And it wasn’t done in an obtrusive way, either — these were just informal conversations with people who were happy to share. I had nothing at the time to sell, only genuine help to provide for free.
Your audience matters
Obviously, in business, it’s important to know what your customers want and how you can serve them in the best way. This leads to things like revenue, which is always a good thing.
It also creates a connection between you and them and shows them you aren’t blindly creating things to sell at them. You’re listening to them. Because they’re the people who are listening to you.
Too often with passion-driven entrepreneurial projects, we focus on what we’re stoked about or what drives us. But if it’s an interest we want to turn into a job, it’s just as important that a potential audience finds it equally interesting and of value. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
How do you listen to what your audience is interested in or needs help with?
Paul Jarvis is a Web designer and bestselling author who’s obsessed with nature and hairless rats. His latest book, Everything I Know, is a guide to freelancing as a creative professional (without living on Ramen noodles or settling for bad clients). Follow him on Twitter @pjrvs.