Building True Connections with Your Audience: A Case Study with Natasa Lekic

NY Book Editors has gone from strength-to-strength over the last few years since its founding.

We spoke with founder Natasa Lekic on a recent podcast. The company has highly valued book editing expertise, but a big part of its success has been its ability to connect well with its clients.

How did the company build such great connections? One thing Natasa mentioned in the podcast stuck out about this: “You often take your knowledge for-granted, especially as an expert,” she said. “Take the time to get back to basics with your clients.”

We asked her more about how to connect with its target audience:

Meeting your audience on their level

Natasa talked about how we often take our own knowledge for-granted, as though because we know it, everyone else will too, or it’s not that special. This can lead to mis-steps in communicating with your audience. For example, you might assume that they know what you’re talking about, then when you do communicate, come across as though you’re talking “down” at them.

We asked Natasa about what steps NY Book Editors take to ensure its meeting its audience on the same level and she provided a few tips:

#1. Engage with people who are not in your industry

“Engage with people who are not in your industry,” Natasa says. “It’s the best way to experience how little people actually know about your area of expertise, and which explanations make their eyes light up.”

Great point! If you’re mostly only talking with people who understand your field well, you can quickly become out-of-practice when it comes to explaining what you do and why in a way that other people connect with. 

Most businesses will have target clients who are not experts in the field that the business serves. It’s important to get among those people and learn what you can about what makes them tick and what will really help them to connect with your business.

#2. Try the “toaster presentation”

How can you help your team to think about how they communicate their knowledge with others? “A good exercise to remind your team how they may be taking their knowledge for granted – and how far you need to go to explain things in a different area of expertise – is the toaster presentation,” Natasa says. 

How does this work? “Everyone is tasked with explaining how to make toast using drawings and a verbal presentation,” she says. “Once you do that exercise, you realize no one thinks of everything. Some people start at the grocery store to buy the bread, others don’t include plugging the toaster oven in. Communication is a challenge. This is a great way to reinforce that with the simplest process.”

Building connections

#3. Break things up into small steps

Everything at once can be overwhelming. For example, if you’re reading instructions, which do you prefer? A wall of text, or formatting like bullet points that break it up?

“Break as many things as you can into smaller steps,” Nastasa says.  “When you use industry jargon, define it or link to a definition.”

Heavy use of jargon can be another way that businesses talk “down” at their audiences rather than meeting on their level. It certainly makes it more difficult for the client that is unfamiliar with the lingo to feel like they’re included.

SMEs need to work to make a connection

During our podcast interview, Natasa spoke of an experience she had in the early days of content marketing for NY Book Editors. Initially, SMEs (subject matter experts) wrote articles, but those pieces turned out to be quite technical. They were great for someone familiar with the industry, not so great as pieces for connecting with any industry outsiders in the target audience.

Sometimes SMEs aren’t the best at communicating their immense knowledge well, but Natasa suggests an exercise to help them improve:

“The SME should explain what they do to someone outside of their industry,” Natasa says. “The next day, ask a colleague to follow-up and request that the person reiterate what the SME said.”

So, check for understanding. “People nod and think they understand, but when you hear what they actually gathered from what you said, it can be comical,” says Natasa. “As mentioned before, break things down into seemingly ridiculously obvious, simple terms and steps. Remember, what’s obvious to you is not to people whose expertise lies elsewhere.”

Reaching the right audience consistently

Once you’ve defined who your audience is and found effective ways to connect with them, you obviously want to ensure that you keep doing so! We asked Natasa what strategies NY Book Editors use to remain consistent:

“List hygiene is one of them,” says Natasa. “Deleting people who haven’t opened your correspondence in a while.” These are probably people who aren’t an ideal fit for your business anyway, or who won’t be for a while.

Practising list hygiene is also about delivering a better experience to those people who are left on your email list. For example, you might find that certain segments you thought were part of your audience are among those who aren’t opening emails – maybe you rethink your approach and can find a way that is more personalized to those who are left. 

Also consider what happens via email providers if your emails are consistently unopened, or even marked as spam (yeah, some people do that instead of unsubscribing). If you get too many spam reports or unopened emails, those email providers may respond by directing your emails to spam boxes, meaning that people who want to be on your list miss your emails, too.

Building connections

Natasa has another major strategy for ensuring things are kept fresh:

“The other one is surveys, making sure you understand who’s on your list and what they’re looking for,” Natasa says. “We also take ideas from our subscribers. They request topics and we try to accommodate them.”

That’s a big one that we often come across here at Audience Ops . Businesses often wonder about how to ensure they keep their content interesting for their clients, and simply asking them what they’d like is a great strategy. It might be a survey in your regular newsletter, or even just a simple call to action – “Is there a topic you’d love to see us cover? Let us know here.”

In terms of getting back to basics when creating content to appeal to your audience, Natasa says: “Use metaphors. Try to describe things in terms of visual experiences that everyone can relate to.”

Final thoughts

Are you connecting with your intended audience? Natasa raises excellent points about how experts often take their knowledge for granted and assume people will know what they’re talking about.

She’s right – in our experience, if you are too “high brow” for your target audience, you will rapidly lose them. The same can apply if you go the opposite direction and make things too elementary, however it usually pays to follow the “never assume” rule.

Importantly, get among other people, including your target audience and find out how well they understand what you’re talking about. This will give you a few clues on where to begin when meeting people on their level.