By Dawn Shuler
Some time ago, a former client explained to me what happens when some relationships end. She said it’s like walking with someone along a path. You both can see the same thing because you’re looking at the landscape from the same vantage point. You have a commonality.
Then, the two of you come to a river and stop. The paths diverge. You can either cross the river or continue along the river on this side.
Your path takes you across the river.
The other person, though…. her path is different. She can’t or won’t or doesn’t need to cross the river to the other side.
So, there you are… on one side of the river, while your former companion on the journey is on the other side. And she can’t see what you see, because her vantage point is different.
The problem is when the person who stays on the original side of the river judges you based on what she sees, and she doesn’t realize that you see something completely different.
Or you judge your companion for not being able to see what you can see from your new vantage point.
While this particular metaphor struck me in terms of relationships, it also shows up when talking about your ideal client, your audience.
See, we see things from our vantage point, and we might forget (or, really, not even think about the fact) that our audience is coming from a different vantage point.
You need to get on the proper side of the river in order to see the landscape that they see.
How do you do that?
1. Think about your Ideal Client in detail. To make it easier, think about one of your former or current clients/customers/readers. Who are they? Do basic demographics: gender, age, marital status, income level, schooling level, profession. This is the model you’re going to use.
2. What are the problems your Ideal Client faces? What kinds of things do you hear from your clients as well as people in everyday situations? What words do they use? What patterns come up over and over?
3. What might be going in their lives? For example, many of the female entrepreneurs I know have either gone through or are going through a divorce as they evolve and grow. Others have soon-to-be high school graduates, which means college or real life coming crashing in. (This is where the bridge metaphor really comes in handy… walk across the bridge and see what they see.)
4. Listen. Try to shut off that natural tendency to anticipate what the next words out of their mouths will be or to try to come up with a solution. Just listen. And immerse yourself in their words.
5. Ask questions. Go deeper. Make sure you understand their point of view. Mirror back to them what they’ve said. “So, if I understand correctly, you _____.” You might not have heard exactly what you thought you heard, and giving them the opportunity to elaborate or confirm lets them know you’re listening and that you care.
6. Understand that what they might be going through, believe, need, want, etc. can be very different from YOU are going through, believe, need, and want. As much as you might try to find yourself on the same side of the bridge, you won’t ever see the world EXACTLY as they do.
But you can try.