For Noobs: 3 Keys To Building An Audience From Scratch
My Struggle With Building An Audience From Scratch
Do you know how long ago it was that I first tried building an online audience?
It was all the way back in 2007, when I was living in China.
That’s 9 years ago!
And it’s taken me this long to finally develop the mindset, skills, and determination, and to acquire the knowledge and understanding necessary to begin to succeed.
I’ve tried affiliate marketing in the health and fitness/weight-loss niche.
In fact, I’ve had 3 different websites in that niche.
I’ve tried my hand at building my own sites from scratch and then using paid advertising on Google and other search engines to gain traffic and build an audience.
I’ve even tried some of those scammer, push-button methods to make money online.
And I failed at all of them.
That was frustrating and discouraging.
So discouraging in fact, that I’ve quit over and over again.
In fact, I read recently that because of not being able to build an audience, the majority of individuals who start a blog give up within 3 months.
That’s a pretty sobering statistic, don’t you think?
I don’t want you to be in that category.
And that’s why I’ve written this guide on The 3 Keys To Building An Audience From Scratch.
So, if you’re a noob to this, this very long post is going to give you a tremendous head start to building an online audience.
The Reason I Was Struggling To Build An Audience
I love to write and creating content for my website and blog is really no problem for me.
How about you?
I’m assuming that you love writing too.
I also love reading on a wide variety of topics, which has given me a fairly wide scope of knowledge.
Yet, my love of reading, writing, and my knowledge on a wide variety of topics wasn’t helping me to build an audience.
It took me quite a while to figure out the reason I was struggling to build an audience.
What do you think the reason was? Any ideas?
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Simply put, I wasn’t focused outward, and caring about the people I was writing for, my audience.
Instead, I was focused inward, on myself, and frankly I was simply trying to make money and hoping that I would be able to make it fast.
And when I think about that now, it embarrasses me, because that’s not what I value.
But that’s okay, because I’m now using that experience to create something worthwhile for both of us, me and you.
Because I know that I have much more of value that I can contribute to your life and business and the lives and businesses of others.
And I love it when I’m able to help someone solve a problem, or cope with something that is irritating him or her, and to do it simply for the sake of helping someone else.
That’s a great feeling and one that gives me and will give you a deep sense of satisfaction.
It’s a feeling that money can’t buy.
So let’s get into the meat of this post, shall we?
For Noobs: The 3 Keys To Building An Audience From Scratch
So, the 3 keys to building an audience from scratch for noobs have nothing to do with your writing ability, reading, and scope of knowledge.
It also has nothing to do with how many connections you or I have.
The fact is, in today’s world you and I can build thousands of connections relatively quickly, certainly magnitudes quicker than we could have even dreamed of 20 years ago.
And anyone else with an Internet connection and a smart phone, tablet, or computer can do the same thing.
Building an audience also has nothing to do with how well educated you are, or how much knowledge you have about technology, the Internet, designing websites, or using Youtube.
So then, what is the best way to build an audience?
If it has nothing to do with your connections, education, or your knowledge base, what exactly are the 3 keys to building an audience?
Building an audience means developing, strengthening, and maintaining a relationship between yourself and the people who read what you’re writing.
And there are 3 keys to developing, strengthening and maintaining a relationship with others.
They involve 3 questions.
- Do you like me?
- Do you trust me?
- Do you respect me?
If your audience can answer yes to those 3 questions asked about you, then you’re going to be successful at building an audience from scratch.
So let’s get into these 3 questions, because they are the 3 keys to building an audience.
Key #1: Like Your Audience And Your Audience Will Like You.
Who are the people you like the most?
If you think about the question and boil it down to the most basic factor, what do you come up with?
We like people who like us.
Plain and simple, we have the best relationships with people who like us.
It’s called the reciprocity of liking rule. And in the book Social Psychology, Robert S. Feldman states:
“…there is a robust general finding regarding reciprocity of liking; we tend to like those who like us. Given information that another individual likes us, we tend to be attracted to that person.”
Can your audience sense that you like them through your writing?
That you sincerely have their best interests in mind and that you care about them and their problems or challenges?
Notice I said that you need to be sincere?
You do not have permission to use fake flattery or fake praise in order to get your audience to like you.
People know when you’re being insincere in your flattery or praise, and using it to try to get others to like you will only turn them off and drive them away.
In the same book on Social Psychology, Robert S. Feldman wrote:
“Another exception to the reciprocity-of-liking rule occurs when we suspect people are saying positive things about us to ingratiate themselves. Ingratiation is a deliberate effort to gain favour, often through flattery (E.E. Jones, 1964). If an employee tells the boss how much he likes her, the boss might feel that she is being flattered for an ulterior motive. Rather than forming a positive opinion of the employee, the boss may resist and begin to dislike the employee.”
Likewise, if your audience feels you’re using flattery for an ulterior motive, they’ll dislike you.
So, from a practical standpoint, how do you let your readers know, through your writing, that you like them?
How To Let Your Audience Know You Like Them
By the way you speak to them through you’re writing.
Are you speaking down to your readers, as if you feel they’re stupid or uneducated?
Are you focused on them, or are you focused on yourself?
Related to the question of focus, do you have “I” trouble?
I did this, and I accomplished that!
I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished!
I’m great at this and I’m great at that.
I’m awesome and you’re not.
If you’re constantly referring to yourself, and all of the great things you’ve accomplished with your writing, blogging, or in your life, then you’re not demonstrating that you like the people you’re supposed to be writing for - your audience.
You like yourself, for sure, but do you really like them?
Recall the quote I referred to earlier by Theodore Roosevelt?
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Let your audience know that you sincerely care for and like them by asking them about their problems and fears.
And then help them solve their problems and overcome their fears by providing them with the knowledge, experience, techniques, and tools to do so.
Show a real personal interest in your audience by asking them great questions about themselves so you can get to know them better and more deeply.
And do all of these things sincerely - because you really do want to help people through your writing.
Focus outwards, towards your audience, and they’ll know that you like them and, in return, they’ll like you.
Key #2: Your Audience Needs To Trust You.
How are you going to build trust with your audience?
That’s the 64 thousand dollar question, isn’t it?
Well, if your audience already knows that you like them and they’re starting to like you in return, then building trust with your audience is going to come easier.
Now, think about the person/s you trust the most.
The individual/s whom you would trust with your deepest, darkest secrets.
Or whom you would trust with your life.
What contributed to developing such a strong and close relationship?
If you said open and clear communication, then you hit the nail right on the head.
Because we communicate with other people day in and day out, right?
But open and clear communication is only reserved for the people we trust completely.
We don’t just tell anyone about our deepest and darkest secrets.
We don’t trust our life with just anyone whom we communicate with.
It’s only when communication is open, clear, and frank that we begin to trust each other.
And to have that kind of communication with another person, or persons, you’ve got to allow yourself to be vulnerable.
Allow Yourself To Be Vulnerable
People need to understand that you’re just like them, that you’ve faced the same problems that they’re facing, and that you’ve made mistakes, the same kinds of mistakes that they’re making.
That you’re not perfect.
You’re okay with people seeing your warts, blemishes, and scars.
When you can share these things within your writing, on your blog, in your emails to your audience, you’ll begin to see how people will start to trust you.
Because they can see that you’re genuine.
You’re being real.
And you’re also going to find that people will begin to be inspired by your personal struggles and how you’ve overcome them.
Let me refer to an example that will help you appreciate this more clearly.
Dion Almaer lost 115 pounds, and CNN featured an article about him - How “Fat Daddy” Lost 115 Pounds - back in 2013.
I would bet that if Dion created a website in the weight loss niche, he’d likely build trust a lot quicker with his target audience than a very knowledgable and experienced professional trainer who has never been obese.
I don’t know about you, but if I needed to lose 100 pounds, I’d likely trust Dion a lot quicker than I’d trust a pro trainer who’s never done it.
And that’s not to say that a professional trainer is not trustworthy because he or she may never of had to lose 100 pounds.
I’m just saying that you can build trust quicker with people when you open up to them about your own personal struggles, weaknesses, and mistakes.
And Dion Almaer was willing to do that.
And I’m sure that his personal struggle with obesity, and his weight loss story, has inspired many other people to do the same.
And I’m also sure that those people, perhaps without consciously realising it, trust Dion and would also be willing to share their struggles, weaknesses, and dieting mistakes with him.
You see, when you’re not afraid to be vulnerable with your audience, your audience will appreciate your honesty and will start to trust you.
And they’ll start to open up to you also.
They’ll start to share their struggles, weaknesses, and mistakes.
And that will create a connection and start a dialogue with your audience.
Pretty amazing how that works, isn’t it?
Give Your Audience What You’ve Promised
You know that the quickest way to build trust is by being trustworthy, or worthy of trust.
The quickest way to damage trust is by not keeping your promises.
Think of an occasion when someone promised you something and then didn’t deliver on that promise.
How did that make you feel, and how did it affect your view of that person?
Well, although it may not have completely destroyed your trust in her or him, it certainly didn’t strengthen your trust either, did it?
So delivering on what you say is vital.
For instance, if the content you’re creating and the website you’re running is to provide people with advice, techniques, information, and tools to help them succeed in life, then you should deliver on that promise.
You should be providing the people who visit your website with a lot of FREE stuff that will actually help them in a practical way.
If you’re not doing this, and only ever asking people to pay for your content, they’re going to realise that the only thing you care about is the financial rewards you can reap and that you’re not really interested in sincerely helping others.
This doesn't mean that you shouldn’t make money or that your audience should never become your customers.
There’s nothing wrong with earning a living as a writer, or by providing truly valuable instruction to others who can use what you’ve taught them to improve themselves personally and professionally.
But your main focus should be on helping others and doing so sincerely and willingly.
An example will help you understand what I mean.
At the current time, my main source of income is not from writing or blogging.
It’s from working as a freelance business and sales coach.
The clients we work with are primarily in the pharmaceutical industry, and we provide consulting services, coaching and selling benchmarking skills and services, as well as training for sales managers and sales representatives.
I am paid very well for the work that I do and my wife and I are able to live very comfortably on my income alone and with me working only 6 to 8 days per month.
However, I do not provide services and advice to our customers only if I’m paid by them to do so.
Even when I have completed work I have been paid for, I have an “open door” policy with any of the people I have worked with.
If they ever have questions, challenges, or problems that they need assistance with, they know that they can call or email me at anytime and I will gladly give my time and other resources to help them out.
I recently received a telephone call from a sales manager in Sweden who I have worked with, and we spent approximately 45 minutes on the telephone together because she wanted some feedback and advice on a specific issue she was dealing with.
That 45-minute telephone call isn’t something I’m going to charge her or her company for. It’s FREE. It’s part of the service and the promise that I give to all of my customers.
And because they receive a lot of FREE resources from me and the company I freelance with, our relationships with our customers are strong and our business is booming.
They trust us because we deliver on what we promise, plain and simple.
You must do the same thing as a writer, content creator, blogger, website owner.
Then your audience will trust you.
And if people trust you, they’ll start to read what you’re writing and eventually they’ll start to follow you, and in the end they’ll start sharing what you’re writing about with the people they know.
In one sentence:
"Focus on your audience and provide them with something of value."
That is what builds trust.
Key #3: Your Audience Needs To Respect You
If your audience likes you, and trusts you, shouldn’t they automatically respect you?
In most cases, yes.
But I want you to look at this from another angle.
In order to get your audience to respect you, you’ve got to respect your audience.
This may seem like common sense to you.
And yet, many writers, bloggers, and content creators do things, often unknowingly, that cause their audience to lose respect for them.
Following are two examples of how you might start to lose the respect of your audience.
You’re offering your audience a premium product or service. And because your audience likes, trusts, and respects you, many of the individuals making up your audience are willing to purchase the product or service from you.
So, on your site, someone fills out the necessary information to purchase and download the item, but when they press the purchase button, another window pops up with another offer, an add-on product or service, at a special price if they purchase it along with the original item.
But that’s not all.
Even after they’ve declined the first add-on offer, and pressed the purchase button a second time, another add-on is offered to them, at a special price, if they purchase it along with the original item.
They decline that one also.
But that still doesn’t end the attempt at up-selling.
In fact, after pressing the purchase button a third time, a third extra bonus offer pops up. The same type of deal as the first two bonus offers.
But, for the third time your potential customer declines, and finally is taken to the check-out page to pay for the original item they were interested in buying.
This scenario is one that I’ve personally experienced a number of times.
And I don’t like it one bit, and here’s why.
I may already like and trust a particular writer or blogger.
So much so that I’d be willing to purchase something from him or her.
But when I see all of the pop-ups that I wasn’t expecting, for add-on items that I can get for a special discounted price if I buy them now, I suddenly feel like I am no longer a valued and respected customer.
Instead, I feel like I’m really viewed as an open wallet.
I feel as if all of the work that particular writer/blogger/website owner did to build a relationship based on liking, trust, and mutual respect, just dropped a notch lower because of trying to PUSH too many things on me at one time.
That causes me to feel disrespected and, in turn, I lose some of my respect for that person.
I’ve had the experience of purchasing an online course that was advertised to be 8 weeks long.
One module delivered to my inbox every Monday.
I purchased the course, which was priced at over $1,000 dollars, expecting that I was going to be getting 8 weeks of modules.
However, the actual course only contained 4 weeks of modules.
What happened to the rest?
Well, we did receive some other information over the next 4 weeks, e.g., some videos with interviews of other individuals who had previously taken the course and were able to grow their audiences and improve their online businesses.
But it was not an 8 week course, not in my mind, and I know that some others who paid for that course were a little surprised, and perhaps even disappointed because of that.
I’m not accusing the individual who sells that course of cheating me or ripping me off.
What I am saying is that you should make crystal clear to your audience all details of any premium product you may be offering them.
So, if you’re selling an 8-week course, make sure it’s really 8 weeks of training. If it’s not 8 weeks of actual training by you, or someone on your team, then don’t advertise it as such.
If it’s 4 weeks of actual training and course materials, and then 4 weeks of follow-up with a few video interviews, explain that in your marketing materials.
Don’t wait until people start asking where the 5th week of training is to explain that the rest of the “training” time is going to be some video interviews.
Even if your audience can learn something from those interviews, you should explain it clearly in your marketing materials.
If you neglect to do this, some in your audience will begin to lose respect for you.
And if this type of thing happens more than once, you’ll start to lose the trust of your audience, and once the trust goes, your audience will start to go also.
Do you enjoy seeing your mailbox full of flyers?
Likely not. Nowadays, most people have a sign on their mailbox that says: No Flyers Please, or No Junk Mail.
Yep, we refer to uninvited mail as junk.
Well, the same goes for you and your writing when you’re trying to build an audience.
Never, ever, resort to spamming people.
I mention this here because there are a lot of paid services you can use to try to get your writing, or content, in front of potential readers.
They’re spammers, and it’s a very common method of trying to build an audience.
I get spam into my email inboxes everyday.
People even spam my Skype account, trying to get me to connect with, or interact with them.
As soon as I see spam, I click the block button, and I also report the abuse to Google, or Skype, or whichever service the spam has been sent to me through.
I never invited that person or that company to email me. They didn’t get my permission first.
So they’re gone out of my email box and they’re reported as abusing my time and space.
The lesson here is, if you want people to respect you, then you need to respect their time and their space.
You must earn the right to send them information.
You must receive their permission to interact with them through email, or through your blog, or whatever means you’re using to help people.
So get their permission first. Respect them, and your respect in their eyes will grow.
So, let’s review real quickly.
KEY 1: Like your audience and your audience will like you.
Remember: No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Focus outward, on your audience. Talk like a real person and be accessible to your audience.
KEY 2: Your audience needs to trust you.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable. It’s okay for your audience to know that you’re not perfect. Also, deliver on what you’ve promised your audience. Focus on them and provide them with something of real value.
KEY 3: Your audience needs to respect you.
Show respect for your audience by never pushing paid products or services on them.
Be crystal clear about all of the details of any premium product you may be offering them so they know exactly what they’re getting when they push the purchase button.
Never spam people. Only email individuals who have given you permission to do so.
And that’s the 3 Keys To Building An Audience From Scratch for all of you noobs.