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You’re an entrepreneur. You’ve identified a need that aches to be filled, and you’re building a business designed to fill the gap. The question is, how are you going to connect with the people who will become your allies, champions, loyal customers and clients? In other words, how are you going to discover and grow your natural audience?
Writers, artists and professionals face precisely the same challenge, and they face it directly, because it’s their personal work and personal reputation on the line. Just like artists, as winning entrepreneurs, we must build good relationships with the people most likely to have an affinity and a pressing need for our products. Our livelihoods depend on it.
A couple of months ago, I published an interview with creative development advisor, Marc Zegans, whose book, Intentional Practice & The Art of Finding Natural Audience, presents a powerful approach.The article hit a nerve with my readers; they couldn’t stop talking about it.
Zegans suggests that every product, service, song, film and book has a natural audience, and that defining and reaching this audience is integral to the creative process, and to professional success. If your product has mass appeal, hallelujah, your results will be huge! If your product has niche appeal, then your livelihood depends on powerfully attracting each person in your niche. Either way, for your business to succeed, you’ll have to communicate in a way that is authentic, intentional and resonant with your natural audience.
Put simply, every person who receives your message should feel like you’re speaking directly to them, and they should be delighted that you are. If they’re not delighted, either you’re sending the wrong message, or you’re speaking to the wrong people.
Why does this matter to you? Interviews with over 40 young entrepreneurs at Under30CEO taught me that start-up founders require the same creative, adaptive, and improvisational skills as the most successful creative artists. That’s why you can gain a big competitive advantage by learning how successful artists and top-notch creatives cultivate their natural audiences.
Here then are some lessons from the creative world that Marc and I agree should be part of any creative entrepreneur’s outreach repertoire:
1) Be Intentional.
Your ideas and the way you implement them are a good indication of the substance of your character. Whether you are launching a tech start-up, a fashion line, a non-profit, a social enterprise, or a conventional LLC, it’s important to have a vision that contains a clear intention. This forms the foundation for a well thought-out message that will resonate strongly with your audience. Integrity is something that can’t be faked. When it’s real, it comes across in everything you do.
2) Know Your Audience.
When you’re clear about whom you’re talking to, everything you create will be in sync. Your product, your messaging, your graphic design, logo, website – all of it will go towards supporting the development of strong relationships. Take some time in the early stages of your product development to think about your end users: What do they look like? Where do they live? What do they do for fun? What do they eat, read and watch? How do they see the world and your product or service in it? The more you can put yourself in their shoes, the better your chance at a successful reception on the back end.
3) Identify Your Supporters and Your Champions.
You’re going to need people in key positions who will help you take your work to the next level. They may be angel investors, or they may be friends willing to host a networking party for you and other potential funders. You will want to connect with individuals in positions of influence in your industry, as well as unlikely allies from further afield. You will need friends and colleagues, sponsors, brand ambassadors and collaborators. Map a path towards connecting with them during the early stages of your business, when there’s time to interact with them in a way that can help the development of your business.
4) Think About People You Can Help.
It’s not all about what you need. For you to thrive, you have to think about what you can give back. Paying it forward is as essential to developing your brand as picking the right font for your company logo. The need for collaboration and mutually beneficial exchange may not be as obvious as it is in say, theater or film production, which cannot function without good will and reciprocity, but the fact is, you will need the support of many creative people in order to make your project fly. Winning creative entrepreneurs look out for their people, both inside and outside the firm. Start thinking about how you can help other people and you’ll find yourself in many more win/win situations.
5) Be Humble.
What? That’s right, I said it. You think it’s all about confidence, and of course, that’s a big part of it. But if you reach out humbly to your natural audience, putting your focus on them, they will forgive you when you make mistakes, and face it – you’re going to screw up. (Everyone does at one point or another.) Learn to love your people and to love humbly learning from your mistakes, and, as any actor who has blown a line in front of a full house will tell you, you’ll be way ahead of the curve.
If you want to learn more, have a look at Marc’s ridiculously inexpensive e-book, and take a few lessons from the world of artists and other creative professionals. The lines between art and commerce are getting more and more blurred, and as a creative entrepreneur, you’ll do well to get acquainted with as many tools used by cutting edge creative artists as you can – Finding Your Natural Audience is a great place to start.
Deborah Oster Pannell is a past editor of Under30CEO and the founder of Project Mavens, a content branding and promotional firm. She works with entrepreneurs, writers, artists, entertainers, healers and advocates on social media campaigns, live events, books, and other creative projects. Contact her if you want to build community and find your true audience in the real world.