“Little surprises around every corner, but nothing dangerous!” - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The mountain is high for people’s attention and getting higher every day and failure to connect with an audience ensures an expedient trip to irrelevance. With the seemingly endless tide of marketing flooding the market, how can you keep up? How do you get people to join you? How do you develop a passionate, sustainable audience?
It may sound simple, but it all comes down to inviting people to the party.
The word invitation is very intentional. Invitations are active calls for people to join you as participants on a shared journey of value creation. It’s much more than “messaging.” An invitation is about asking people to listen, to react, and to participate. While inviting someone to join you is a simple concept, there’s a lot to creating invitations that work.
Who Are You Talking To?
Ask any first-time entrepreneur who they plan to sell their product to, and the most likely answer will be, “Everyone!” Unfortunately, they’re not alone – the publishing, marketing, branding, social media, and content industries often fall trap to the belief that their audience is an enthusiastic, “Everyone!”
To find success today, you must start by focusing on who you believe will be most passionate about their relationship with you. These are the people that will instantly connect with you, understand what you have to say, and want to share your content with every one of their Facebook friends. Who is the single most passionate customer you have? Do you know their name? What makes them so passionate? If you can understand that one customer, you’ll be much more likely to know how to engage with more people just like them.
Great organizations focus on who their audience is, and deliver value to them in a way that no one else can. Who’s on your guest list? If your answer to that question is a blasé list of generic demographic, you may want to revisit the drawing board. Knowing who you’re talking to is half the battle in inviting people to join you.
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Discover, Create, and Deliver Value
Generating content for content’s sake is unproductive to establishing an audience of passionate advocates for your organization. I’m not the first person to say it, but the Internet has shifted the role of anyone that has a message to share. People’s intolerance to blatant marketing has risen so high that as soon as they hear a whisper of a sales pitch or a hint of an ad, they walk away and ignore it. (Be honest, how many times have you hit “Skip Ad” on YouTube?)
Instead, you should have something to say that is valuable. It may be funny, or entertaining, or informational, or a how-to – but what you say must provide value to the person that is reading it.
As a startup, Mint did a remarkable job of creating value with its invitations. The company looked at the existing market and discovered an underserved segment of people in the personal finance realm – young professionals – that they believed would be passionate about what they had to say. Through experimentation and validation, they quickly learned what type of content this audience wanted, and then delivered it.
Do you understand what your audience is looking for? What lights them up? What makes them smile? What can you help them do that no one else could? If you can discover, create, and ultimately deliver value to your audience, they will be more willing to listen and participate in what you have to say.
Start With You
Too many organizations make the mistake of looking at what others are doing and copying it. That’s a good way to look competent, but not compelling. The most powerful and compelling way to deliver value to your audience is also one of the simplest: be you. Be true to the story you’re telling as an organization. Be true to your unique voice. Be true to who you are.
Tell people who you are, what you stand for, and share your point of view. (Think: What is the one thing my organization stands for no one else can replicate? What is our unique voice? What can we say that no one else can?)
Every time you interact with your audience, you are telling a story. Make sure you are telling a powerful, engaging, and authentic story. Which means, invitations are not a one-time activity but a steady practice and your options will invariably ebb and flow. The constant, then, must be your willingness to explore and validate which invitations inspire people to listen, to join, and to participate with you on a shared journey toward value.
Jeremiah Gardner is the author of the book, The Lean Brand. He works with entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and Fortune 500 companies to help them discover, iterate, and develop their emotional-value. Follow him on Twitter @JeremiahGardner.