Want to Write Inspiring Blog Posts? Help Your Readers with Office Hours

Summary: Anyone who reads my blog can get additional startup help by booking office hours with me. In these meetings we talk about their day-to-day challenges – conversations that are inspiring my most popular blog posts. Office hours have helped me realize that seemingly obvious solutions to me are not obvious to everyone.

In this 4th issue of Kevin’s Helpful Marketing Newsletter I’ll talk about another benefit of having office hours: better writing that engages your readers on their problems.

Why People Read Blogs

Everyone who visits our blogs has one of two objectives:

  1. Solving a problem.
  2. Satisfying a need (e.g. entertainment).

For those of us selling products or services, our primary goal is to build an audience of people who come to us to solve their problems.

While I hardly feel like an expert in anything, relative to 99.9% of entrepreneurs who spend very little time thinking about Lean Startup and Customer Development, I am an expert.  But unless I can regularly deliver on my promise to solve their problems they won’t come back to read what I write.

They don’t care about what I know. They care about solving problems.

What is Obvious to Me isn’t Obvious to My Audience

We spend a lot of time thinking about our area of expertise. While this knowledge is incredible valuable to our customers and readers, it is easy to forget that solutions that are obvious to us are not obvious to them.

As a result of helping entrepreneurs through my office hours I recently realized that most want me to talk about how to solve basic, day-to-day problems. While I was writing about step 10, most are stuck on steps 1 and 2.

I was failing them.  Here is an example.

Before Office Hours – A Theoretical Post Nobody Read

I’ve spent a good deal of my professional time in the last 4 years reading everything written about Customer Development and had interesting, theoretical conversations over drinks with Eric Ries, Steve Blank, Ash Maurya, and just about everyone else in the community.

A few months ago I thought about my own experiences doing Customer Development and the challenge of getting introductions. I realized there were correlations between the process of getting quality introductions and viral marketing coefficients.

It is, to my knowledge, a purely original thought and I was quite proud of it, so I wrote a blog post about it.

Hardly anyone read it and until I started having open office hours I didn’t understand why: most entrepreneurs are dealing with more fundamental challenges of doing customer development interviews.

A Popular Post Inspired by Office Hours Questions

Last week I wrote another blog post about Customer Development.  This time the ideas came from dialog with my readers and not from inside my head.  Slowly, over years of trial and error, I had developed a solution for managing the tedious process of getting introduced to people and scheduling calls. I don’t even recall creating it, it’s just something I do.

But during my office hours entrepreneurs started asking me about the process of getting introductions – how to track everything, write emails that get a response, thank people etc.  When I started answering their questions I realized that they had no process like mine. They – like me 4 years ago – didn’t know how to write an email to ask for an introduction.

So I wrote up a blog post last week describing my process and even after 1 week it is on track to be the most widely-read post I’ve written.

I tried to solve a real problem, apparently one that lots of people have.

My New Process – Listen, Take Notes, Get Inspiration for Writing

When I’m asked a question by an entrepreneur during my office hours I usually try to help by pointing them to answers or explaining how I’ve addressed the same challenge myself.  I now write down their questions and keep a running list. As I start to see patterns I use conversations to inspire future blog posts. Turns out, lots of other people have the same problem.

It’s the most effective way to deliver on the promise of my blog: solving their problems.

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3 Comments

  1. Cesc February 7, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Interesting post Kevin.

    What you describe here it’s a key concept in my opinion:

    “We spend a lot of time thinking about our area of expertise. While this knowledge is incredible valuable to our customers and readers, it is easy to forget that solutions that are obvious to us are not obvious to them.”

    It’s so common that it even has a name!

    http://idratherbewriting.com/2007/01/24/the-curse-of-knowledge-the-more-you-know-the-worse-communicator-you-become/

    • kevindewalt February 7, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      Cesc,

      This is awesome, thanks so much for passing along. I think I need to re-write the article, inspired by your comment. The key point of my post is the question raised in the link you provided:

      “The trick is, how do you know what you do not know? How do you maintain the fresh perspective of one who is seeing for the first time?”

      My answer is … engage your audience.

      And what is so amazing to me about your comment is that WE MET THROUGH MY OFFICE HOURS! So by leaving a comment here you’ve helped me make the key point of this post .

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write this. You’ve made my day.

      • Cesc February 8, 2013 at 8:15 am #

        I’m glad you found it useful!

        I guess the point is:

        1. Finding what’s the problem that people need to solve AND that you can and enjoy solving.

        2. Then discovering what’s the product (in this case blog posts) that solves that problem and that can be usable for your customer (in case of information products, I guess that “usable” means “understandable and actionable”).

        It’s probably not that easy since different people will have different requirements depending on what they already know.

        Here’s a great post that deals with this former problem:

        “Better for whom” (http://blog.asmartbear.com/better-for-whom.html)

        Customer discovery to the rescue once more 🙂

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