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7 Ways to Better Understand Users and Hone Your Marketing Message 16 July 2015 | Nathan Thomas

If you’ve painstakingly built a fantastic product and are marketing your ass off but aren’t seeing the results you want, then the cause could be simple:

Although you try hard to understand your audience…

… you don’t really understand users.

Let me explain why. There’s a concept called the Curse of Knowledge.

Cursed Book

Photo Credit: The Cursed Book

What this means is that because you are an expert in your product or service, it actually makes it harder for you to communicate the value to people with less experience than you.

You spend every day thinking about your product or about improving and delivering your service. You’d think this means that no one is better qualified than you to explain its benefits and the problems that it solves.

The trouble is that because of your expertise, you have probably lost the ability to see your product through the eyes of a newbie. Because of your knowledge, you struggle to anticipate a potential customer’s objections, or really get inside their confusion or pain points.

Because you’ve spent months or years developing a piece of software, for example, you intimately know the effort and resources that went into building it, and the painstaking quality and complexity of the end product. To you, it’s obvious that your software should demand a high price

A new user, however, wasn’t there with you at 5.30 in the morning when you crawled out of bed, gulped your coffee, and worked yet another 14 hour day writing code and fixing bugs. All they see is the finished product, so they may not understand why something that seems simple to them should cost so much.

In order to explain this you need to get inside their heads and walk around in their shoes. This means that…

You Need to Break the Curse of Knowledge

The good news is that the first step is awareness. Now that you are aware of this cognitive bias, it could already help you to understand the root of some of the problems you may have been facing in terms of communicating the value of your product in ways that your users will understand.

Here are 7 more ways to break the curse to better understand your users, target your content and hone your marketing message.

1) Polish Your Customer Persona
Tasty Treat

Photo credit: Tasty Treat via photopin (license)

Who are your users, exactly? A vivid buyer persona should give you an engaging character to see in your mind’s eye as you write content and work on your value proposition. Instead of writing to ‘the world’ or an abstract group, by creating a buyer persona you can write with precision as if to a real, unique individual. If your persona is accurate, your users will feel like your content has been written exactly to them, because in a sense it will have been.

This will help you break the curse of knowledge by reminding you who your users really are. This can also help take the focus off your product, and put it back on them.

2) Ask Your Users Some Questions

The more you know about your users, the better! Send them a survey and ask them to describe themselves. Get demographic info that helps you know who they are, as well as specific questions about your product and service. Ask them where they are confused, and how much they think your product is worth to them.

3) Meet Them in Person!

Where do your users hang out? What conferences do they attend?

Show up – either as an expert contributor or even just as a regular participant – and interact with them. Don’t worry about selling, just focus on befriending people in your target market. Seeing them as real, 3D people rather than just ‘users’ on a screen will better help you target your content and message.

The more you know about your users, the easier it will be to ‘break the curse’ and communicate better.

4) Remember Your Humble Beginnings

Before your product was your full time job, before it was the obsession of your every waking hour, there was a time when it was just an idea.

Think about the excitement that idea gave you. How did you sell your business partners or investors on this concept? How did you explain it to your friends and family? Think back to the start to help reconnect with what you already know about communicating the value of what you have built.

5) Try Explaining Your Product As If To a Child
Always be ready for a little creativity (CC)

Photo credit: Always be ready for a little creativity (CC) via photopin (license)

They say if you can’t explain something in terms so simple a child could understand it, then you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s easy to laugh this off if you’re selling something complex, but the fact is this cliche contains some value. Try and communicate your product in as simple terms as possible.

For example, UsabilityTools sells website analytics tools to help people improve UX and optimize conversion. It would be a special or a terrifying 5 year old who understood that statement, but how about simplifying that to “we help make websites better.”

It’s far too simple and general for a complete marketing plan, but it hits to the core of our value in simple, plain words. Building on this we could create our value proposition.

6) Get Outside Help – Hire a Copywriter

Hiring someone who is new to your service to write your website copy / value proposition is a great way to reeducate yourself as to the value of your service. Even if you don’t run with what they create, hiring someone with writing and marketing skills but with zero ‘curse of knowledge’ bias about your service could be a very useful and refreshing way to recalibrate your message with your users.

Best places to find a good copywriter…

  • Freelancer.com – check reviews carefully, but explicit with your offer and requirements
  • ProBlogger.com jobs board – a home for experience writers
7) Immerse Yourself in Reviews (of your product and the competition)

There’s an old hand copywriting trick which involves going on Amazon.com or eBay.com or any popular market place, and exhaustively reading reviews of all books and products relevant to your niche.

As you do this, a few things will start to emerge

  • The keywords that your audience are using
  • The pain points and problems that keep coming up
  • The style in which the write

Create a swipe feel of key phrases and pain points, and use these in your copy. The closer you can imitate the voice of your users to more your content and marketing message will connect with them.

With these 7 tips you’ll be able to break free of the curse of knowledge and start reconnecting with your users. Craft a marketing message and create great content targeted specifically at them, and you’ll be able to communicate the value of your service in a way that actually hits home to make more sales and increase your revenue.


Nathan Thomas

Written by Nathan Thomas

Nathan started his first online business whilst still in high school. When he's not helping companies reach more people on the internet, he enjoys exploring the world and writing about travel on his blog, Intrepid Times


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