“Behind every piece of bad content is an executive who asked for it.”
— Michael Brenner
Do you struggle relating to others?
Last week I wrote an article on making compelling content without sacrificing your authenticity.
Among other things, it touched on this idea of being relatable and why it’s so important for your brand and audience-building.
During the process of writing it, I had a conversation with a couple of friends. I was sharing my content idea with them.
I made a couple of complaints about how tons of marketing messages press on people’s fears and insecurities, leaving them feeling discouraged.
I generally feel that great marketing is educational and helpful. And there’s lots of marketing out there that triggers people’s fears, making them easy to manipulate for sales conversions.
But one of my friends reminded me of an important marketing principle, “Meet your audience where they’re at… not where you want them to be.”
Behind this principle is a philosophy towards helping people through your business.
“Give them what they want, and then deliver what they need.”
To help someone, you need first to gain their trust and attention.
And this is why relatability is key.
And we do this by meeting people where they’re currently at.
For this reason… every marketing decision is an ethical dilemma. Gain their trust and attention to help them!
If that’s not your intent, then I encourage you to stop reading here.
For those still with me, let’s continue.
The Current State Of The World: Where Are People At?
Consider the current state of the world. Where are people at?
How are they experiencing life?
What types of thoughts keep popping up?
What emotions are they grappling with?
What’s going on in their environment?
Avoid the temptation to see what YOU want to see. Try putting yourself in their shoes.
There’s lots of fear and frustration. And there are also desires, dreams, and aspirations that they hope will improve their current life situation.
When you’re aware of other people’s thoughts, emotions, and physical environment (and you relate to them at that level), you’re respecting them.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was “hearing” you but wasn’t “listening”?
Instead of trying to understand you, they were waiting for their turn to speak. Doesn’t feel good.
If you’re only sharing your perspective on what’s going on, then you’re not respecting their experience.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your perspective! It’s a critical component to creating great content.
But there’s power in attuning yourself to their perspective.
It shows a level of empathy that says, “Hey, I understand where you’re at. I get where you’re coming from.”
So besides being a good person, how does this help your business?
It builds a connection with the person consuming your content. And once this connection is made, you have their attention.
And with this attention, you can guide them towards solutions that’ll ultimately help them (and help your business grow as a byproduct).
By attuning yourself to their perspective, you can create a bridge that leads them towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
If they aren’t connecting with your content, they won’t feel like they can trust you over-time.
And this will encourage them to ignore your content in the future (unsubscribing, unfollowing, or ignoring you altogether).
This will prevent you from building an audience of true fans.
IF you want to build a successful business online, you’ll want a strong audience.
For the rest of this post, I’ll share why this is happening and how we can practically get other people’s attention (and keep it).
The Psychology Behind Why Relatability Is So Important
As humans, we have this psychological mechanism called the “reticular activating system.”
This is a network of neurons in the brainstem that filters and mediates your overall level of consciousness.
In other words, if we have a thought or belief, we’ll selectively focus our attention on things that align with it.
As your brain consumes data from the outside world, your RAS filters this information to align with your existing thoughts, emotions, beliefs, etc.
Let’s say you’re driving an Acura as a rental car. Whenever you return it, you’ll likely be aware of more Acura’s while driving on the road.
They were always there. But now, your RAS is filtering data to focus on what’s most familiar and authentic to your experience.
We all do this as humans.
If you’re dealing with a specific fear or frustration, you’ll tend to focus on it (or aspects of it).
In terms of marketing, if you’re producing content on “achieving your fullest potential,” but your reader is just trying to survive and “make ends meet,”… then it may not connect with them.
Their RAS isn’t prioritizing how to reach their full potential. They want to survive right now.
And this is okay!
Again, it’s important to respect where somebody’s at and to speak to them at that level.
And understanding this idea of “selective focus” will help you better attune yourself to another person’s perspective (making your content more relatable).
Popular Models For Helping Your Content Be More Relatable
There are multiple models that we can use to help us better understand others. I’ll touch on a few.
These models are NOT meant to be taken dogmatically. No model is 100% correct.
However, these models definitely bring insight into helping you relate to others.
Discovering What “Level” Someone’s At
So the most popular model that most people are familiar with is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The typical visual that you’ll see is a pyramid.
I’ll relate them to everyday needs as they connect to business and marketing.
Physiological: At the bottom, you have physiological and more survival-based needs. Nowadays, in developed countries, you’ll find people here struggling with their physical health.
Security: If you go up a little bit, you’ll have security and safety-based needs. A popular aspiration here is making more money or acquiring wealth.
Social: On the next level, you’ll have love, belonging, and community. Many businesses are serving people at this level by helping them with their relationships in all life domains (dating, marriage, etc.).
Self-Esteem: Then you have self-esteem and self-expression. Many people here are driven by mastering skills, creativity, and other aspects of life to improve their status in society. A key characteristic here is “self-expression,” so it’s likely you’ll find a hobbyist or someone interested in learning.
Self-Actualization: And then up at the top, you have self-actualization. This would be aspirations for “reaching one’s potential.”
Depending on where somebody is at in Maslow’s Hierarchy model, they’ll be selectively focusing on specific types of needs they want to solve.
If you’re talking to somebody who’s focusing on self-expression and creativity, then they may not resonate much with marketing that’s all about surviving and “making ends meet.”
They’re on a different level.
And as marketers, it’s our job to discover what level someone’s at (and relate to them at that level).
Discovering Audience Motives: Stick-Spanking Or Chasing Carrots
Another model that I habitually use is what Eben Pagan would call the “Achieve versus Avoid” model.
I picked this one up while I was going through his coaching program, and it’s handy when attuning yourself to someone else’s perspective.
It’s rooted in the traditional “carrot and stick” motivation model.
Imagine a donkey being motivated to move by either a carrot or a stick.
If you place a carrot in front of the donkey, it’ll be motivated to “move towards” it.
If it’s getting whacked with a stick, it’ll be motivated to “move away” from it.
Moving towards something is about achievement. Moving away from something is about avoidance.
So we can extrapolate this idea and use it for human motivation.
By simply asking someone what they want to achieve and avoid, you’ll gain some valuable insights into their perspective.
And with this perspective, we’re more equipped for being relatable.
Achieve = wants and aspirations.
Avoid = fears and frustration.
Relatability Is HOW You Bridge The Gap (And Get Attention)
I believe you have a message that can help people.
You have the knowledge, experiences, and wisdom that people would find valuable.
Perhaps you have a unique method or approach. Maybe just an idea.
Or it could be an idea that’s been around for a while. But you have an interesting way of sharing it (because of your unique experiences).
I call this authenticity. It’s a message that only you can bring to the world.
But here’s the reality.
If you’re not relatable, people won’t pay attention.
We have to earn the right to be heard by respecting another person’s perspective.
Again, the essence of what we’re talking about here goes back to a fundamental marketing principle, “Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.”
So how do we put ourselves in a position where people will pay attention?
First, create relatable content. This is something that your audience cares about.
Use the models above to start with what motivates them.
What do they value? What do they want? What are their frustrations?
What level are they at?
Use a compelling story. Connect with them.
Relatability is how you bridge the gap between sharing what you love and getting it to resonate with someone else.
What’s the opposite and less effective approach to this?
It’s first focusing on creating an authentic piece of content, product, service, etc.
This is basically having a “build it, and they’ll come” mentality. It’s this idealistic notion that people have nothing better to do than to consume your stuff.
I wish this were true. But it tends to be unrealistic.
Once this “relatability bridge” is built, they can walk to the side of authenticity. Now you have a platform to share authentic content (because they’re paying attention).
A great example of someone doing this is my friend Matt.
He teaches people how to transform their life with personality typing, cognitive functions, and much more.
But many people aren’t aware of how his content will benefit them. And only a small percentage of people are directly searching for that kind of content.
But he’s found a way to be relatable. For example, check out this video.
He uses Superman to get people’s attention. This helps bridge the gap.
It keeps people’s attention. Now they’re walking over the bridge.
And now he has a platform to share more about what he’s passionate about. Upgrading your life with personality type.
It’s a creative way to make a challenging topic relatable to more people.
Earning The Right To Be Heard
Have you ever read a book and just couldn’t put it down?
What about consuming content from your favorite thought leader and your eyeballs stay glued to the screen?
Consider why this happens.
And resist the temptation to say something along the lines of, “Because it’s great content.”
Though this may be true, dive a bit deeper.
From my experience, those pieces of content are not only valuable, but they resonate with me.
The content creator has found a way to attune themselves to my perspective… at least a piece of it.
They’ve found a way to be relatable.
Think about your favorite content creators, movies, or books.
How are they relatable?
I’ve even bought books because I resonated with the marketing message (though its quality was questionable).
They were able to attune themselves to my perspective. And they did this for a whole group of people.
Imagine if you could do this with your content.
When someone opens up your email, they keep reading.
They click a link. And continue to gain value from your content.
The key is in earning the right to be heard.
And we can do this by attuning ourselves to their perspective.
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