3 steps to discovering your audience’s most pressing problems and writing great content

Whenever I work on a project, I like to be as thorough and meticulous as possible and deliver complete work. What if there’s another tactic out there that I didn’t include in my article? What if there’s a better or easier way to do a certain thing? I try to learn as much as possible about the subject from several different sources and I like the information I gather to be comprehensive.

This is actually one of the reasons that my colleagues named me “the machine.”

The same should apply when you’re researching your target audience – you need to be a MACHINE and your research should be as thorough and comprehensive as a machine’s.

Why do you need such research?

The simplest way to answer this is by looking at another question – Who are you serving? Who are your products and services for? The answer is: your audience; whoever that might be. It depends on your industry.

And why is that important? Because in order for you to sell more and keep your customers happy, you need to know everything about them.

Yes, yes, you’ve heard this a million times before, but it’s how things work in every relationship. That’s the secret to any successful business and marketing campaign: know what your audience wants and give it to them.

We won’t focus on how to create a buyer persona today rather I will show you the method I use to find out more about your audience’s problems and challenges and more importantly: how they describe and phrase their problems and challenges, how they talk about them, and what words they use.

How can this information help you?

By having this type of information you can use the same language on your website and on your landing pages and sales pages, so that when they visit your website they will identify themselves with the pain points and it will be easier to: 1) trust you, as you “speak their language” and 2) move them through the sales funnel, as you have more clarity of what they need and how to provide solutions for them.

Furthermore, from that information you will be able to distill ideas for resources like eBooks, webinars, videos, podcasts, etc., that you can use to attract even more prospects and customers because you will be writing about topics that concern them and providing solutions to their problems.

Let’s look at a few examples to prove the importance of knowing the most pressing problems and challenges of your audience.

Let’s assume that your target profile is a 30 something-year old entrepreneur that is just about to start a business and one of his biggest challenges is not knowing the steps he should take to register his company.

Because you didn’t do proper research you assumed that their challenge would be invoicing their clients, and so your blog covers mainly topics such as “the benefits of using an invoicing program” and “how to personalize your invoices.” Instead, your target persona is just starting their company and for them that information would be irrelevant.

That’s an example of a big discrepancy between what you know about your clients and what their biggest challenges really are.

Or it could be a phrasing problem – you’re using keywords and phrases all over your website that your target audience never uses to describe their problems and challenges. This could have an impact on organic traffic, too. Imagine you’re using a keyword in your copy with 200 searches per month instead of its synonym or a variation of that keyword which has 1000 searches per month. You’d never know this, though, without doing keyword research for your business.

As you can see, the implications are serious.

We won’t concentrate on keyword research in this article, even though it’s the stepping stone of knowing what people are searching for in your industry. Let’s assume you already have a list of keywords in place. If not, check out this free guide that teaches you to do that and much, much more.

Now, let’s go through the exact process I use.

We will assume you want to write an eBook about language learning and you want it to include all the relevant information that appeals to people interested in learning a new language.

      1. Quora

Go to Quora and search for “language learning” to see what kinds of questions people are asking on this subject and how they formulated their questions.

You might see questions like:

What's the best way to study a difficult grammar topic in a new language?

What is the best method to improve listening skills for a foreign language?

How do you learn a language if you don’t have someone you can communicate with in that language?

The next step is to look at how many people followed those questions to see if there’s a general interest in the subject. Also, look at how many views and upvotes they got – this gives you an idea of how popular the questions were and if it’s really a topic of interest.

Look at the date to make sure the answer is still relevant and the question was not answered a long time ago. Pick only the questions and answers that were published in the last 6 months – 1 year.

Go through the questions and write down all the problems and pain points you encounter.

When you open a question on Quora, the website also provides you with a list of “related questions” (right-hand side). Go through those as well and write down whatever sounds like a challenge or a problem to your audience.

Repeat the search with other keywords related to your business.

      2. Amazon Reviews 

Now we’ll go to Amazon and see if there are any books written about “language learning.” Of course there are.

Go to amazon.com, type “language learning” in the search bar, and select “Books” from the drop down.

Go through the list of books and pick the ones that are the closest to your topic.

Based on our example about language learning the book “Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It” sounds like a good fit.

The goal here is to go through the reviews and pinpoint ….you guessed it 😊- problems and challenges people might have with language learning.

The secret is to look at 2 or 3-star ratings as those are people that are usually signaling any challenges they have had with the content.

Alright, so for that particular book I’m noticing several reviews that mention problems like:

  • Flashcards are incredibly time-consuming to implement
  • Too much emphasis on studies and research and lack of practical methods to learn a chosen language

What you want to do is to copy/paste the entire review with the original phrasing and not summarize it in your own words. What’s really important here is to see also how people are phrasing their problems and what words they use.

Pick other books from the list and repeat the process until you have a detailed list of problems.

       3. YouTube

Go on YouTube and type your keyword in the search bar.

Analyze the list of videos and select the ones that are closest to your theme.

Go through the comments and write down the problems that people are mentioning.

Based on our example on language learning, here are some comments that are relevant to our research:

  • I don’t have anyone to communicate with so it makes it even harder to learn the language
  • Flashcards are very complicated and time-consuming

Repeat the process until you’re happy with your list of problems.

Now that you have your list of problems, create a Google Sheet and separate it into 2 main sections: “Problem in original phrasing” and “Problem summarized.”

Copy/paste all problems from the 3 platforms into the first column “Problem in original phrasing.”

Try to summarize each problem in a few words in the second column “Problem summarized.”

Now go through the list and highlight where the problems repeat themselves and pick the top 5 most common problems.

From our few examples above, we can already notice 2 common themes: “How can you learn a new language if you don’t have someone to communicate with” and “Using flashcards is difficult and time-consuming.”

Those would be 2 relevant topics to focus on in your eBook about language learning, as they describe the real problems your target audience has.

If you want to be more thorough, you can take your list of top encountered problems and double check them through a survey.

You can create a list of questions based on your findings and verify them with your target audience on the platforms they spend their time on, to make sure your data is correct.

Of course, it would be much easier if you had a customer base, as you could go and ask them directly, but this method works best for people who don’t have clients yet or they’re just beginning.

But won’t this take a lot of time and effort?

It will definitely take longer than not doing it at all, but such powerful insight that will help you position your product correctly doesn’t come from sitting at your desk and making up problems so that you can finish your work for the day; it comes from research and putting in the work.

There’s nothing more rewarding than putting your mind to it and starting to see results!

Now you have it – you’ve learned my way of discovering your target audience’s most common problems – the MACHINE way😊.

There are several other methods of gathering this type of data, but this is the one I find to be the most effective and have the richest information. This is my favorite by far. You can extend the list by adding networks like: Facebook groups, Slack groups, different forums, etc. where you know your audience is spending their time.

That’s it, folks!

Stay tuned, there will be more guides and articles to come.

Tell me in the comments below how you are researching your audience’s problems!

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