I like to imagine readers as picky babies. Just as newborns are quick to squirm and frown at being offered unsavory food, an audience is easily repulsed by irrelevant content placed in front of them. Both the baby and the reader know what substance they prefer, and anything else will most likely be ignored.
To prevent any squirming form your potential audiences, you must focus on delivering value with your writing.
Value is one of four concepts and can only be understood in the context of them all. The other three are customer, supplier, and waste.
Think of your audience as your “customers” and yourself as the “supplier”; you’re providing (supplying) them with content. They are your customer because they see what you’ve offered (perhaps a blog headline with a link on social media, or the first few words of a post). But simply seeing that you have produced something doesn’t mean they will consume it.
To create something that your customer will embrace, you must know what they value. This is synonymous with the idea of audience evaluation – figuring out interests, preferences, etc.
If the initial snippet of your content that the customer sees is irrelevant to what they value, they’ll never attend to it. And if a headline or the first few words does attract them and the content doesn’t deliver on the initial promise, they won’t finish your piece.
This is where the idea of “waste” comes in. Waste, in writing, can be defined as any material that the customer doesn’t care about – anything they don’t want to read and that is not necessary for understanding the thrust of the piece. This includes “fluff” but also succinct information that is irrelevant to the desires of the customer.
I witness suppliers offering waste all the time, especially where I work at a niche ice-cream trailer. Granted, it’s in the form of verbal communication, but the concept still applies.
When a first-time customer asks the cashier what the low-down is, so many times they will go way back to the beginning. The cashier will start explaining who started the business, what the processes are on the truck, who is working in what positions, where the name came from –an endless dribble of information that the customer does not value. And they don’t value it because their original intention behind asking about our offerings was to understand what desserts we can give them – they came for a sweet treat, and any information offered to them that does not help them obtain that item is waste to them.
Now, those customers probably won’t leave in the middle of the four-minute shpleel; they’ll muscle through so that they can get their food. But the online world is exponentially more volatile, and losing customers halfway through is absurdly easy. That’s why it’s incredibly important to know what your reader is looking for, and ensure every word is catering to that desire.
In sum, you will satisfy readers by ensuring your written content contains only information that the reader values. Everything else is waste and will push the reader away. They are your customer, and you are their supplier – give them what they want!