“This is the marketing of the future. It is achieving a long-term return on the one asset that will save our business: an audience.”
This quote is the money-shot of Joe Pulizzi’s and Robert Rose’s Killing Marketing. If you don’t believe that audience is the fundamental asset – not employees, not products, not expertise, not some secret sauce – then the rest of their proposition won’t make sense.
But if, like me, you agree that audience is the one enduring asset, then you absolutely need to know two things:
- Who is your audience?
- How do you connect with them?
I acknowledge that as simple as these questions are, the answers can involve a complex of issues, challenges, talents, abilities, etc. But I just want to focus on one insight each.
To know your audience, understand their buying behaviors
I’m not talking about traditional psycho- and demographics. In fact, this kind of data may not only be unnecessary, but downright misleading. How do you really know that people clumped within a demographic actually buy in the same way, for the same reasons? Conversely, why should you believe that persons in distinct groups – say rural grandparents and urban street gangs – buy in significantly different ways? For all you know, they both might love to shop online for rainbow unicorn plush dolls. (Stranger things have happened.)
No. All you want to know, all you need to know, is how they buy. What motivates them to take action? Which outcomes do they expect as a consequence of making a purchase? What stands in the way of making a purchasing decision? What criteria do they use to compare competing options?
Simply put: If you’re going to build an audience, you better build a better understanding of who that audience is.
Use stories to connect your product to their concerns
Product descriptions won’t do it. Stats help, but won’t carry the day. Boasting certainly doesn’t work.
So what does? Stories.
Stories locate your product or service in the only dimension that matters to buyers: as the relief or means of resolution to some larger tension, be it a desire or fear. Here’s how, in three parts:
- You have to articulate the audience’s desire, some good they’d like to achieve (like white teeth or increased profitability) or some evil they’d prefer to avoid, such as bad breath or excessive tax burdens.
- Desire is the engine, but it can’t move a story (or an audience) on its own. To do that, every desire MUST be countered by a danger: some obstacle, problem or impediment that prevents the audience from realizing its desire. In other words, why hasn’t your audience been able to fulfill its desire already? What stands in the way? In fairy tales, it could be a dragon or troll. In the B2C world, it could be outdated fashions, poor nutrition, or limited automobile options. In the B2B context, it could be weak security, inadequate ventilation, widespread workplace ignorance, or overly complex chains of command.
- When you put desire and danger together, you have drama – a felt tension that must be resolved to give your audience satisfaction. At this point, and only at this point, does it make sense to talk about your products or services – and in a very specific kind of way: as the “magic ring” or “magic sword” that overcomes the dangers and fulfills the desires. When you craft your story successfully, you make the necessary emotional connection to audiences that can move them into action.
Focus on the one asset that lasts: audience. Get to know who they are, and tell stories that connect them to you.