Your Audience is who Shows Up

Category: Marketing

Published: 04/09/2010 08:55 a.m.

The internet is full of people giving great advice about your audience. Listen to your audience. Write for your audience. Speak to your audience. The problem is that most people don't understand who is really in their audience.

In business (and especially in marketing) there is lots of discussion of a target market. These are the people who you think would benefit from buying your product. Therefore, that is who you try to sell. You may talk about your penetration of your target market; the number of your possible buyers that are real buyers. This may be good for financial projects, but it is key to not confuse your target market with your audience.

Your audience is the people who hear you, and no one else. It's that simple. And your audience does not always correlate with your target market. This is where the conflicts start to occur. Most people hear "speak to your audience" and interpret it as "speak to your target market". That's bad, and will lead to less success and lots of disappointment. Let me illustrate this with an example.

The Party People

A few weekends ago I had a little get together at my new apartment. It was a combined hangout/house-warming/birthday party. I contacted my "target market", or guest list, via email, text, Facebook, or phone calls. I had a long list of invitees, so I planned accordingly.

After the party, we still had a fridge full of beer. This is because the real "audience" was not the same as the target market. Some people were unable to make it, and things came up, and in general "life" happened. I totally understand that, and am not upset or disappointed ( I add this because many of my readers are in this target market). This is because the only people I cared about were the real audience, or the people who came.

This is tricky to understand, because it sounds like I don't care about the people who didn't come. Thats not true at all. I still like the people who couldn't make it. I hope they can make it next time. But, on that night, I wasn't constantly looking towards the door hoping so-and-so would walk in at that moment. I was enjoying myself with the people around me, just as they were enjoying my company. I was excited when a new person entered, but (and this is big), I wasn't disappointed because someone else didn't enter.

Now, some of this falls under the "live in the moment" heading and all that other sophomoric thinking. But this isn't a lesson in philosophy of life. My message here is about understanding the difference between your real audience and your target audience and learning who to focus on. So many people in business, pleasure, or whatever waste time on their non-attenders, therefore ignoring the people at the party. I could have spent the entire night on my phone calling and texting and pleading with people to show up. That would have negatively affected everyone. I would feel upset, my real audience (the people at the party) would have felt ignored, and non-attending part of the target audience would have felt guilty. Everyone's unhappy. Nobody wins. Instead, I had a great time with my friends, and those that had to miss out really did miss out.

Audience in Business

How does this work with business? Well, it's about more than just parties. Think about your marketing efforts. Every minute you spend trying to acquire a new customer is a minute spent ignoring a current customer. I'm not suggesting you give up marketing all together, because after all, the town baker won't sell anything without walking the streets yelling "Fresh Bread!" I am suggesting that offering excellent service to your current customers will get noticed. The ROI and the immediacy are not there, but you're in it for the long haul, right?

People talk a lot about two things: things they love, and things that piss them off. If you neglect your current customers, they will probably tend to be more pissed off than in love. And they will tell others. However, if you spend more time delighting your customers (your audience), then they will do much of the marketing for you. And trust marketing from word of mouth is much more valuable than billboards and mass emails.

Care about your audience. I'll say that again, in case you get distracted with notions of billion-dollar growth and 100,000 followers. Care about your audience. Pay attention to them, bring them something valuable, and let things grow as they need. I had a great time at my party. I really love the people in my life. I'm sure the next one will be even better.