There are so many tools and distractions in the marketing world. It’s easy to get distracted and discouraged. But really it’s simple! Build your audience with these fundamental steps.
1. Go where they are.
If I may be Captain Obvious for a moment…If you want to sell something to someone, you must find a way to let that someone know that you are there.
Activity vs progress
Twenty years ago as a college student, I joined Amway. It was a nightmare for me in many ways. I had zero people skills and a strange thinking process. “Backwards” would be an apt description. After aggravating and annoying my family members and the few friends I had, I found myself in trouble. My upline would tell me to go find people to talk to. “Just make some friends and start that way!” That was the worst. But I had to try, for my dreams.
So I would go out to “find friends”. That usually meant I went to the local grocery store and hung out in the book section trying to work up the nerve to say, “Hello” to the other two strangers there. It was PATHETIC! I have a sense of humor about it now because meeting people is no longer that big of a deal (though I am still an introvert).
What never dawned on me was that I was limiting myself so much by going to a grocery store isle. Why didn’t I go to a park or some place where there was actually more than one or two people? I was fooling myself, confusing activity with progress.
Don’t join the old me in the grocery store book isle
In your business, you need to go where your customers are. Go find their hangouts either physically or online. Spend time getting to know people. But don’t fool yourself like I did going to the grocery store book isle.
Oh, you don’t do that? Maybe not, but ask yourself this. “Who specifically is my audience?” The correct answer is rarely “Everyone” but it is the most common one.
Maybe your product or service can benefit everyone, but there are going to be ideal candidates–those people who are MOST LIKELY to purchase from you. Those are the people you want to reach. You might think that you would limit your audience too much, but you will actually be better able to appeal to people by more clearly defining your audience–you’ll be much more likely to address their problems with the solution you provide.
How to define your audience
Ben Sailer at the coschedule.com blog (one I highly recommend) posted a fantastic article about defining your audience. He provided four simple questions to help you get started. By answering these, you can begin to see the kind of customer you are seeking.
- What problem does my company’s product or service solve?
- Who are our current customers?
- Who is my competition?
- What do customers stand to gain from choosing us (instead of a competitor)?
This is only a start. You need to keep thinking about your ideal customer’s needs, desires, lifestyle, and so forth. This research is important for the next stage in marketing…
2. Start where they live.
Optimism and the failed shoe-salesman
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the two shoe salesmen sent to Africa in the 1800s. One returned a miserable failure while the other broke sales records for the two years he was there. For them, perspective stole the show. One saw that the people wore no shoes and considered it hopeless while the other considered it opportunity. Optimism is often the difference between failure and success, but so is understanding your audience.
The pessimistic shoe salesman was only pessimistic because he did not understand what solution his product offered. And he didn’t understand that the people had a problem. He assumed knowledge of his audience.
Don’t be that guy.
Understand your audience
This step in marketing will help further clarify your audience if you took the time to think about the first point. The more you understand them, the more likely it is you will find ways they can use your product or service. We tend to think one-dimensionally about what we offer, but getting to know people will help you address the same solutions from different perspectives.
I recently spent time helping an author create an offer through MailChimp for her website. The only reason I even thought to ask her about it was because I knew she was writing a book and was looking to build an audience. Naturally I saw how that my expertise in creating landing pages and putting together social campaigns could help her. But until that point I never really thought of applying my skills to help authors attract readers. When you know your audience, you find their problems and can instantly show them how you can solve them.
Anticipating needs can be difficult, but the better you get at it, the more your audience will respond to you. The more they respond to you, the more likely you can influence them in positive ways. And that, in my opinion, is one of the most important principles of business. If you are not helping people then you are not going to grow.
But to help people, sometimes you need to provide some leadership.
3. Pull them to new places.
When you are building a business, you must build relationships. The more powerful the relationship, the greater loyalty the customer will have–and the greater responsibility you have.
We can only take this so far. No one should assume responsibility for others outside of family and dear friends when necessary, but a certain amount must be exercised. The more you get to know people, that responsibility also increases.
If your friend walks out of the bathroom with toilet paper on her shoe, you are going to say something. If a stranger walks out that way, you might say something. If someone who looks dangerous walks out sporting the tissue, you’re probably going to pretend you didn’t even see them.
People before paydays
If you build a relationship with people in your audience, whether they purchase from you or not, if you see their problems and you know or have the solution, it is at least your duty to tell them about it. This transforms us from sales to service.
We must honestly serve others in order to build relationships with them. In the end, you should be willing to send them to a competitor if you cannot provide the solutions they need. It’s people before paydays. In this way, good business can be one of our greatest expressions of love for others.
To offer help, leadership, love, we need to think honestly and sincerely about what our audience needs. Sometimes people do not realize what they need. They may be misinformed, or they may not be aware of proper solutions. In these cases, we can help them by teaching them.
Leadership is simple, but not easy
It’s nothing more than seeing a destination, plotting a path, and pulling people one step toward it. It can be slow and thankless work at times, but you know it’s right and that’s all that matters.
<rant>I want to say a special word about morality and ethics. Not to get on a high-horse and be judgmental here, but in my opinion we need to try our best to help people see the best of humanity. And we ought to be brave enough at least to practice standards we believe even when (or especially when) others seem to abandon principle for profit. Better to have ‘less’ with a peaceful conscience than ‘more’ with guilt. </rant>
This may sound all philosophical, but it should be practical: If you can provide better options, upgrade them!
Sometimes people are not ready to take steps though. They need to see that it will work and that they can trust you to tell them about it. Just plant the seed and let it work on their mind a little. Give them time to realize the importance of your product or service. Just be sure you accurately communicate both the problem they have and the solution you provide.
You’ve got this!
There’s an obvious difference between “simple” and “easy”, and this work is not easy. But if you keep things simple, and if you do these three things day after day, you will eventually accomplish your goals. The key to success is finding ways to help make other people successful. One step at a time builds a strong, lasting bond with your audience.