You Have Two Seconds to Answer this Question

There’s ONE QUESTION that’s always on your readers’ minds. The second they see your headline, they’re asking this question. You have two seconds, tops, to answer it. If you do, the chances of your blog being read increase by about 400%. If you don’t, you’ll be lucky if your reader gets past the first sentence.

And the questions is…

“How is this relevant to my life?”

This is the ONE QUESTION every blogger must answer in the first two seconds. True, your reader might not be literally verbalizing this question inside their head. But they ARE making a split second, subconscious evaluation based on it. Malcolm Gladwell talked about this in his book “Blink.” And it happens faster than you think.

In fact, even your reader isn’t consciously aware of how this works in their own mind. A 2008 study at the Max Planck Institute revealed that humans make decisions a full seven seconds before they’re even aware of it.

True, this might not apply to decisions we spend minutes, hours or days contemplating. But readers on the internet don’t have that kind of time. If they get the sense that your blog isn’t relevant to their life, they’ll be gone quicker than you can say…

“Come back!”

And to be clear, this question…

“How is this relevant to my life?”

…is different than the famous….

“What’s in it for me?”

True, your reader wants to know what your message has to offer them. But unless they honestly believe that you understand them, any promise you make will remain unconvincing. Here’s why…

Understanding is the FIRST STEP To Building Trust

Imagine you go to a doctor. You’ve never met this doctor. He walks into the room, and before you’re 10 seconds into telling him your problem, he tunes out and starts scribbling a prescription.

What would you think of this doctor?

That’s right. You’d think…

“He didn’t even let me finish. I wonder if he really understands my problem.”

If you doubt that the doctor understands your problem, how much will you trust his prescription? My guess is, not much. This is because we tend to trust people more when we honestly believe that they understand…

  1. Our Problem.
  2. Our Desire.
  3. Our Hesitations.

If you’re telling your reader how to solve a problem, they want to know whether you understand that problem AND how it’s effecting them. If you’re telling your reader how to get something they desire, they want to know whether you understand what they desire AND why they desire it. Most important, they want to know whether you understand their doubts, fears or hesitations.

Sure, sometimes you can get away with cutting directly to the solution. But you’ll reach a LOT more people if you demonstrate FIRST that you understand them. This is because understanding addresses a common, unspoken worry which nearly everyone keeps to themselves…

“No one understands me!”

If you know ANYONE with either an unsolved problem or an unfulfilled desire, I guarantee you they feel like no one understands it as well as they do. I don’t care how common the problem or the desire is. Everyone thinks their experience of it is either uniquely challenging or uniquely exceptional. It’s like the old song says…

“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

The truth is, millions of people DO know your troubles. They know your desires too. Not because they know you. But because they’re either experiencing them now, or have experienced them before.

Still, this doesn’t stop you (and me) from assuming that NO ONE fully understands the personal experience we’ve had with our troubles or desires. And when people feel misunderstood, they feel insignificant. Sometimes they even feel unappreciated or unloved.

This is because of our basic need to be understood. And when this need isn’t met, it’s damn near impossible to convince anyone that you can help them or that you even want to. They’ll just think you’re up to something.

Again, this is because your reader honestly believes that THEIR personal experience is unique or exceptional. At the core of this is the belief that they themselves are exceptional. If you try to convince them otherwise, you might was well be saying…

“You’re not unique or exceptional.”

What you want to say is this…

“You ARE unique and exceptional.”

And you do this by demonstrating that you understand their problem or desire. This is why you must answer this question as quickly as possible…

“How is this relevant to my life?”

Imagine our doctor scenario again. Only, this time, imagine the doctor spends several minutes listening to you describe your problem. When you’re done, he responds by summarizing your problem AND the pain it’s causing you. He describes it so well, you feel like he’s reading your mind.

What would you think of this?

That’s right. You’d think…

“Yes. He gets it!”

And how much would you trust THAT doctor’s prescription? I’m guessing, a lot.

So, let’s get back to our question…

“How is this relevant to my life?”

Here’s how you ANSWER this question…

Become The Voice In Your Reader’s Head

If your reader has a problem to solve, or a desire to achieve, you BET they’re having an internal conversation about it. Your job is to JOIN this conversation as quickly as possible.

For example, imagine following your reader around with a video camera. What are they doing? What’s going through their mind as they’re doing it? Most important, how are they feeling because of it?

To make this clear, let’s say your readers are men between the ages of 45 and 60. You’re planning to write a blog about how to increase their energy level. What are your readers doing before they get out of bed in the morning?

What’s going through their mind as they hit the snooze button for that fourth or fifth time? Maybe something like this…

“Why am I so TIRED? I went to bed early. Am I just getting old?”

Now, imagine opening your next blog like this…

The Surprising Reason You’re So Tired Every Morning

Ever asked this question as you hit your snooze button for the 4th time in the morning…

“Why am I so TIRED?”

Are you secretly afraid that you’re just getting old? Is going to bed early not helping? Can you do anything about it? If you’re asking these questions, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what I’m about to tell you.

This message connects DIRECTLY to your reader’s every day experience. And by opening your blog like this, you literally BECOME the voice inside your reader’s head. This is the most familiar voice in your reader’s life. It’s a voice they trust. And that makes YOU a voice they trust.

Even people with low self-confidence trust the voices most familiar to them. And no voice is more familiar than the one we hear inside our heads every day. And when you become this voice, you can steer your reader’s internal “conversations” in a more positive direction.

For example, you might ask your reader how it would feel to be focused, confident and productive every morning. Ask them how they’d like to jump out of bed every morning at the FIRST sound of their alarm, feeling excited about their day. You think they’d want to hear that? You BET they would.

And if you’ve joined the conversation already going on in their head, they’ll gladly listen to what you have to say next. This is why your FIRST JOB is to join the conversation already happening in your reader’s mind. And by doing this, you give the perfect answer to this question…

“How does this relate to my life?”

Marketing statistics from the classified ad days of the 70s right up to the modern age of social media tell us that about 90% of your readers will only read your headline. Why do so many readers stop before reading further? Because they assume that what’s written isn’t relevant to their life. And no one has time to read irrelevant information anymore.

If you’re convinced you can go do this now, feel free to stop reading. But, here’s one more tip for those of you who already knew this, but can’t quite make it work…

“Why Don’t My Readers ‘Get It?'”

It’s not your readers. It’s you. Sorry, but I can only help by being honest. In his book “On Writing,” the legendary fiction writer Stephen King said he believes all “bad” writing is born out of fear.

I believe this is true. And the most paralyzing fear is that your readers won’t understand you. This does NOT mean your readers are stupid OR that you’re an ineffective writer.

More often, its one (or both) of these two causes…

  • BAD WRITING CAUSE #1: Unrealistic Expectations

You should never expect ALL your readers to understand you. Especially if you’re introducing them to new ideas. Sure, if your readers don’t understand you, you might need to work on your technique. We’ll talk more about that in other blogs. But, no matter how good you are, someone will ALWAYS misunderstand you.

Ironically, people who misunderstand you will often be your loudest critics. They’ll leave comments on your blog or email you critiquing your work. Many times, their critique will demonstrate that they just don’t “get it.” But, if you find a common, recurring theme in these critiques, you should take their feedback to heart and work on your delivery.

But don’t change your style based on what a small minority of outspoken critics say.¬† People are going to misunderstand you. Some people just like to complain. Others will dislike you or even attack you. That’s the risk of being a writer. If you try to please everyone, not only will you lose your voice as a writer, you’ll still fail to please 100% of your readers.

  • BAD WRITING CAUSE #2: Your Audience is too General

There’s an old marketing maxim that says…

“If everyone is your audience, no one is your audience.”

In other words, the broader your audience is, the harder it is to connect with them. On the positive side, the more specific your audience is, the easier it is to connect with them.

For example, let’s say your audience is men between the ages of 45 and 60. By choosing this specific audience, you’ve already increased the odds that your readers’ life experiences will be similar.

Now, let’s assume you’ve further narrowed your focus by deciding to write only about health and wellness topics. Your next job is to find out what internal conversations your readers are having about their personal health.

Go to a forum, a Social Media group or a blog where your target audience “hangs out.” Make sure those forums or Social Media groups are related to your primary topic. Then, start reading the discussions. Pay special attention to how your audience talks about…

  1. They problems they want to solve.
  2. The desires they want to achieve.

Pay attention to what they say AND how they say it. Build a lexicon of common words and phrases. Start incorporating these into your writing. The more you do this, the more you’ll learn about your readers. And the more you match your words to their¬†words, the more interested they’ll be in what you have to say. That’s how you answer the question EVERY blogger must answer in the first two seconds.

-Stay Awesome,

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