Most of us, no matter our job or age, have had extensive training on how to write for others, and often in a way that made us hate every minute of it:

In the classroom.

For years and years, we wrote for an audience of one—our teacher. For some, this has been an adversarial relationship—writing something for that teacher we hated, the one who was going to rip us apart no matter what we do.

For others, it was a joy—writing for that awesome teacher who you respected, who helped you grow, who inspired you.

But I feel like, for a lot of us, it was more like this:

“I need to write something that will get the grade, won’t make waves, and will get me through this class and on to the next one.”

When I would write this way for a teacher who just sort of fell in the middle (ok, maybe the above is all about me), I didn’t need much imagination—I was writing for one person, a person I knew intimately (I’d see them three to five days a week, and this was true in high school and college). I already knew what they wanted because they told me, over and over, precisely what they wanted.

And if they didn’t?

I just asked.

After all, we were in class for hours together—why not take advantage and make sure I’m on the right track.

I wouldn’t want to write something they didn’t want to read.

But Now We’re Free of the Classroom! We Can Write Whatever We Want! And it’s MY Website! I’m Going to Create Content that Makes Sense to Me!

Gear it down big shifter.

Writing for yourself is a beautiful, magical, wonderful thing, filled with existential bliss, fulfillment, and internal peace and happiness.

And it has no place on your damn website.

This is still a really hard concept for me to get my head around, but here’s the truth:

Your website isn’t for you—it’s for your customers.

Every week, I have 10 or 15 seconds of free time—I sometimes use that to work on my website. I’ll invariably write something that is stupid and silly and that I laugh at.

Then I lean back for one of those free seconds and think, “Dang—that’s probably confusing, annoying, or just plain useless to my audience.”

Now, maybe I’ll get a laugh, but a confused laugh isn’t exactly useful to them.

Then I try to write something they can actually use.

And you should do the same—but you probably know that by now. You’re probably thinking about what information your customers need, how they’re going to use your website, how you need to structure the information so it’s easy to use and find…

But do you really know who your customers are?

You Know Your Customers, but Getting Feedback from Them is Pretty Tough

Even your best customers aren’t exactly going to be inclined to talk to you for hours about what they want to see on your website.

Generally, you’re lucky to just find out how they found your business. Learning what blog topics they’d be most interested in is beyond any info you’re likely to get.

Even if you were a large corporation with tons of resources, consumer research is a tough business—you need experts, processes, and systems that you just don’t have access to as a small business owner.

Or even a medium-sized business owner.

However, you’ve got something that’s pretty powerful:

Your imagination.

My Imagination? What am I, a Kindergartener?

I could write a whole post about the lessons we could learn from kids in kindergarten but now isn’t the time.

One lesson we can learn is the power of imagination, especially when it comes to our customers.

We can’t get a whole lot of info from them—but we can put ourselves in their shoes.

And we can go further—we can create a character who represents our customers. We can take a trick from the creative writer’s bag and base these fake characters off a real person.

Then we can develop our character, complete with traits like gender, income, worries and cares, technological experience, or education.

We can even write little quotes for them—something that displays their core beliefs when it comes to our products and services.

Our little character is called a customer persona, which you can download a template for (for free) here.

Playing Pretend—Let’s Get in the Mind of Our Audience

One we’ve fully developed our character, we can return to the content we’ve probably already written. We can start thinking about how useful this content actually is to our little person. We can even ask questions about how our persona would react to certain types of content.

Let’s imagine our persona is named Dave—we’ve spent some time thinking about ole’ Dave, his hopes, his dreams, his needs.

Now, let’s think about what Dave would be interested in—what does Dave need from us?

For instance would Dave want to know about my friend’s service that complements my own? No he would not, because Dave likely already has such a service, which also means I might want to shy away from offering that service myself, sticking to my core product.

I know that because, when I built the Persona of Dave, I thought about services and products related to mine that Dave might already have.

It’s all a mind game, but it’s a useful one, because I’ve based Dave off an actual customer of ours. And it makes writing blog posts and other types of content so much easier—I just ask myself, “What Would Dave Read?”

Creating a Persona Only Takes a Little Imagination—But it Pays Off in Time (And Money) Saved

If you’re writing your own content, spending an hour or so creating a persona can mean saving yourself countless hours writing content your customers could care less about.

If you’re paying someone to write your content, using a persona means not wasting tons of cash on content that’s useless.

But personas do more than that for you—they make you think about your business from a different perspective. They help you get out of your head and really start to think about why you’re doing what you’re doing.

If you need a template to create a buyer persona or a customer persona, you can just fill out this form and grab one here.

And the next time you go to write some content, or come up with a new product, or consider a new service, ask yourself the question:

What Would Dave Want?