17. Understanding Your Hero

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

As I mentioned before, empathy is the most powerful tool at your disposal when it comes to understanding your Hero.

However, most people kind of assume empathy is something that you just have but the reality is that empathy is something that you must continually practice and evolve.

So how do you practice it?

There are two main exercises that you can do with regards to empathy that can really help you dive deep into not only what your audience feels and thinks (I put “feels” first for a reason), but also how you view them.

Empathy as a Research Tool

First, what is empathy? Empathy is your ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

You understand their fears, their dreams, their hesitations, and their motivations.

You come to an understanding of their Worldview.

Seth Godin, in his book, All Marketers Are Liars, has this to say about worldviews:

Worldview is the term I use to refer to the rules, values, beliefs, and biases that an individual consumer brings to a situation.

If you can understand these things you can create a product the fits perfectly with what your audience both wants and needs.

I’m not going to lie, this is tough. You’ll want to go through these exercises by inputting your own biases and if you do that it won’t work.

You need a clean slate. You really have to pretend that you’ve entered someone else’s mind but you’re just there to observe.

Are you ready? Let’s go.

Step 1: The Questions

With these questions, you need to be ruthless. What I mean is that you can’t waffle on your answers.

They need to be solid and in most cases, only one answer will work.

You can’t fit everything under the sun into your answers because then you’re not going to be writing targeted messages.

You’ll just be writing messages that don’t resonate with anybody. Might as well go outside and post flyers on light poles hoping someone buys your product.

  1. What is the final transformation that you want your reader to achieve?
  2. What are the steps required to achieve this transformation?
  3. How can you help them move through each step on their way to this transformation?
  4. What do they see as their biggest problem preventing them from achieving this transformation and how does that make them feel?

Answer these questions and you’ll be surprised how much clearer your message becomes.

Step 2. The Empathy Map

Not too long ago, product designers didn’t have to spend time thinking about how something looked. They just had to design the perfect product for utility.

As the world became more global and people found how other cultures handled certain things, design tastes started to emerge.

No longer could you just design a light switch that was easy to use, you had to design one that looked good and was fun to use.

The actual use of the light switch had to make you FEEL something.

With this in mind, designers have been trying their best to find a way to understand the emotions and motivations of the people they are designing products for.

This is where the empathy map was born. Here is what it looks like:

The goal is to fill out as much as you can think about for each section. Here is how you can tackle each section.

What does she see?

Describe what your ideal person sees in her environment:

  • What does it look like?
  • Who surrounds her?
  • What types of offers is she exposed to daily
  • What problems does she encounter?

What does she hear?

Describe how the environment influences her:

  • What do her friends and family say?
  • Who really influences her, and how?

What does she really think & feel?

What goes on in her mind?

  • What is really important to her? These things she might not say publicly.
  • What moves her emotionally?
  • What are her dreams and aspirations?

What does she say & do?

  • What is her attitude?
  • What could she be telling others?
  • You might notice some conflicts between what they say and what they actually do.

What is her pain?

  • What are her biggest frustrations?
  • What obstacles stand between her and what she wants or needs to achieve?
  • Which risks might she fear taking?

What does she gain?

  • What does she truly want or need to achieve?
  • How does she measure success?
  • Think of some strategies she might use to achieve her goals

If you wish to print out your own version then you can download this template from xPlane.

Take as much time as you can with this step

Step 3. The Hero’s Origin Story

As you’ll learn later, your Hero needs a Guide. You are that Guide.

However, before the Hero can trust you as the Guide you have to fully understand where they are coming from.

This means that you have to speak their language and articulate their emotions.

Now, doing the first two steps can get you there, but it becomes a lot easier if you craft a Hero’s Origin Story.

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to come up with a whole backstory, but it helps to find the qualities in the empathy map that you want to target.

If you did a decent job you should have too many options to go through so what you need to do is narrow those down.


Find the qualities that you feel a large portion of your audience has in common.

You have to remember that each person coming to you is coming to you with their own story that they’ve told themselves.

However, if you get 100 of these people together, chances are, some of their Worldviews overlap.

Those are the Worldviews you want to target because if you’re going to sell and make money you might as well target the largest targeted audience you can.

I don’t have a set number of qualities you should aim for. Do what feels comfortable and experiment if you have to.

When writing your storyselling sequence you’ll be able to see if you can hit all of the qualities or not.

(Pssst: Here’s a secret, if you write a long enough storyselling sequence, you can eventually hit all of the qualities that you want)

Alright, now that you have all of this awesome stuff on the One (you probably have papers littered all over the place) what do you do?

Craft the One’s origin story.

The Origin Story

This step isn’t necessary but I find it very helpful.

Many marketers call this your customer avatar, I usually call it The One. It helps me focus on a single individual that I’m trying to reach out to.

The general idea is that you’re going to personify the qualities that you want to target from your empathy map exercise.

That way you’ll always have someone in mind whenever you work on your content.

It’s much easier to visualize a person with these qualities than just a list of qualities.

It’s important to keep in mind that most of the time the demographics you assign The One do not matter.

I say “most of the time” because if you’re selling a product solely meant for women, you don’t want to make Bob your avatar.

Now what you do is just tell their story. Incorporate the qualities from your empathy map as well as answers to the questions from the first exercise.

Martha wakes up every day not really happy about waking up. Waking up means she has to get ready for work. It’s not that she doesn’t like the people she works with and the actual job isn’t that bad.

She just envisioned more for herself. She had big dreams of traveling the world and learning through life experiences.

Unfortunately, she’s behind a desk.

She daydreams about starting her own business and has done more research on it to warrant her getting a Ph.D in theoretical business development.

The problem is she’s done so much research she’s paralyzed. If she begins will it be another dream that doesn’t make it to reality?

How is she going to compete with everyone else who is way better?

Also, any time she brings up the idea to her friends they smile politely and in no uncertain words let her know it’s a waste of time.

She gives up on the idea only to find it comes back even stronger the next day.

She’s stuck.

With this origin story, I can see a number of different messages that I can send to Martha that will resonate with her.

Your Worksheet

You don’t have to write all of this down. Here is a free worksheet for you to use. You’ll want to make a copy to your own Google Drive.

Example Exercises

It’s very easy to run through these questions and exercises but they should take you some time to go through.

If you want to see an example of how to tackle these Hero Branding questions then check out Marybeth’s Example and Stephanie’s Example (also be sure to check out Stephanie’s site, Financial Freedom Crew).

You’ll notice how you feel the emotions of the person they are talking about really jump off the page.

Powerful stuff.