FOCUS: The Trouble with Your Audience

Audience Research and Stage Fright

Is this you in front of your audience?

Can there be stage fright when there’s no stage?

In a previous life, I was a professional musician. Thanks to my family and predisposition for wanting attention as a kid, I have been lucky when it comes to getting butterflies in my stomach before going before groups. A certain amount of “on edge” is good, since it helps me to focus (I have to be careful about amping up too hard, but that’s another story…). However, over the years I have met many more people for whom performing or speaking to a group, regardless of the size or safety of that group, is met with the same enthusiasm as a long overdue, serious discussion with their dentist (apologies to dentists everywhere….).

Do all the hard research. Discover where your audience is living online. Figure out what they’re passionate about and how you can provide them with some world-class, relevant, useful, valuable and entertaining stuff. Create and start executing on your plan.  Great!

So, now you’ve got a problem, although it’s a good one to have. You’ve set some expectations for these folks. You need to deliver…..consistently. Maybe not every single hit will be “out of the park”, but most of them need to be. Now the stage fright starts to set in, right? what if you’ve already delivered what you think is the best that you have to offer? What then?

As I work with my clients, I give them both sides of the situation. On the one hand, you are stepping into a world of marketing where you can have the same degree of attention and clout as the Big Boys. The Internet provides a great leveling effect when it comes to being noticed by the right people. Do you own a three-location coffee shop business in central Iowa? Do it right and you can gain as good or better visibility than That Big Coffee Chain to your market and audience! Tasked with gaining visibility and credibility for your regional credit union? Work with an expert to nail the strategy and build the plan, execute flawlessly, and your target audiences will take notice and you can gain the right kind of mind-share over and above the International Banking Behemoth! This is so cool….

Of course, the other side of the situation is “once you get on this horse, you cannot get off.” What does that mean? Well, a few days/weeks/months of planned posts, conversations and content development is not enough.

Not even…..

The strategy is revisited periodically and tweaked, based on data, trends and opportunities. The plan is adjusted accordingly. Data is monitored and taken advantage of (if something performs well, boost it and find out why; if it tanks, take note and find out why). Track what is trending and what isn’t. Nurture engagement and conversation with your audience and customers, finding out their likes, dislikes and passions. Be responsive, but not creepy. Begin looking for that budding community of customers and audience members that LOVE you, your services and products.  Just like your business, this just keeps going.

I find it interesting that many business owners, while easily accepting the ongoing requirements for marketing and advertising, somehow believe that digital and social media marketing is something they should be able to “set and forget.” The reality of today’s marketplace is that the customer and audience are driving now, not you. Broadcast advertising, while still readily available (and it can make certain amounts of sense in certain scenarios…) is instantly recognizable by the public and readily ignored or even scorned. No one wants to be “talked at.” Our fragmentation in attention and ever-more-finely defined interests makes us more amenable to conversations and relationship-building. Great news for our audience, tough for businesses. How can you scale to meet Every Single Individual that could be interested in what you have to say and provide?

There are still causes and interests that have a more general place to start. Before you get to the people who have a true passion about a particular model of Harley-Davidson motorcycle, you have an interest in motorcycles. Before you get to people with a passion about non-GMO foods, you have an interest in nutrition. You can think of other examples, I’m sure. The point is, you have an avenue to reach out to both broad and more narrow audiences IF YOU DO THE RESEARCH….with the knowledge that interests grow and shift. Research is not “set and forget” either.

So, we return to the stage fright….that “empty page” fear that many authors have (if you’re writing and creating other content, you are some kind of author, so get used to thinking that way…). First realize that not every piece of content you create or curate is going to thrill everyone. Get used to it….and it’s OK. Not that you shouldn’t approach every publication with the aim of making it the best it can be. That goes without saying. Just keep creating and publishing. Note the feedback and the analytics (what others are doing with your content: liking, favoriting, sharing, commenting, etc.). Keep at it…..make it a “breathing” part of your marketing.

I have a friend and colleague, Steve Wiggins, who does something I deem a miracle of coherency: he publishes a blog post EVERY SINGLE DAY!  He doesn’t do “Top 5” lists or other kinds of posts you would think of as click-bait. The blog name is “Sects and Violence in the Ancient World – Musings on religion ancient and modern” (I highly recommend it – well worth a regular read). The title is a bit misleading at times, but I like his style and sensibility. My point in noting Steve’s work is that not every post is, if you will, worth an award. Some are better than others, and some are “I’ve got to share this…” worthy. He keeps writing and doesn’t worry about the reach. He responds to comments in a timely fashion with much more than “Thanks for the comment.” He cares about your response, and demonstrates it in a meaningful way.

Again, the point is, take note of your audience and customer feedback, respond and adjust, but keep creating. After awhile, getting up in front of the crowd actually becomes fun and a little addicting!
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