Serving the Audience As Only You Can
Passion and Service in Marketing
Serving your audience in the way only you can means identifying what you’re most passionate about.
When I talk to new authors, or even established ones, about marketing they tend to say, “That’s exactly what everyone else is doing. I don’t want to be like everyone else!”
And I totally get it. Just parroting back to a group of people exactly what they want to hear might be the least authentic, fulfilling thing a person can do. And it creates the worst kind of echo chamber possible. I’m a firm believer that we should be working to make our audiences, and by extension the world, better with our work, be it marketing or books. And that can only happen if we’re willing to push a little against the tide of our audience’s expectations—without losing their trust.
That’s why I say: Serve them as only you can!
Passion and Service in Marketing
We’re tempted to think that marketing is about us. It’s about getting our books out there so they can do the work we intended them to do, right? Our books are the thing!
But that ignores the fact that our conversation with our audiences starts not with them reading the book. It starts with our marketing, and how our audiences find us.
That means that our passion for them has to extend beyond the book and into our marketing. It has to be absolutely clear that we love the same things the audience loves. Not just our book, but everything related to it.
We have to be willing to do the work to reach our audiences and find our common ground. What are we all together passionate about?
And then we have to, as authors, do all we can to serve them.
Fear of Selling
And that includes actually selling our books. For some of us, we’re super self-conscious about selling. We don’t want to force ourselves on someone else. We know what it looks and feels like when someone’s selling to us. No one wants to do the hard sell.
What’s great is that we’re not here to get you to do the hard sell either. That’s not what we’re about.
But you do have to give the audience the opportunity to know your book exists. This too is a work of service, because, after all, you wrote it for a reason, and you can’t hide it and hope people will discover it for themselves. Put your work front and center, proudly proclaiming, “This is for you!”
Passion as Suffering
Yes, all of this can be painful. I’ll spare you the “Anything worth doing…” speech.
But here’s the thing. Most authors claim to be passionate about their book or even about writing itself. But passion literally means “suffering.” So…what are you willing to suffer for in your writing world? And what are you not?
When it comes to marketing your books, don’t just search out a way to do it that’s painless..but you also don’t have to suffer for something just because someone told you it’s a good idea.
You have to find the thing that you’re willing to suffer for.
Since you’ve already written or are writing a book, I assume you’ve discovered some suffering that you’re willing to undergo—maybe it’s getting up early to write or putting funds toward conferences. But plenty of people start writing books and never finish. If that’s you, don’t worry. It’s okay. It might just mean you haven’t found the book or subject or story or characters that are worth your suffering.
But once you find it, your passion, the thing you’re willing to endure pain for, will win out.
One thing I ask: make sure your audience is something you’re willing to suffer for as well.
You might be ready to suffer and you might have a book and you might know your audience well and still find yourself paralyzed. I know I’ve found myself here many times. And I think it stems from something like, or at least related to, perfectionism
What exactly perfectionism is is difficult to say. But I’d try to loosely define it as the sense that you could do this better if you just took more time or put in more effort or did more research…and so, if it could be better, that means you need to make it better before you do anything with it.
That manifests itself in many ways. The most common two for me are:
Not Wanting to Release Something Until It’s Perfect
This, I think is a most common one among authors in particular. We know we can make our books and stories just a little bit better. How do we know when it’s finished? If we don’t have publishers breathing down our necks and deadlines, maybe we never do. Otherwise we just keep tinkering right up until we stop making things better and just make them different.
The solution to this is to meet your deadlines. And if you don’t have one from an outside source, set one! At that point it’s finished and needs to be published or otherwise put out into the world.
And this is just as important in the world of marketing as writing. Your articles or newsletters or social media posts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be done and serve the audience.
Unpublished work serves no one but you.
Not Wanting to Release Something Because You’re Not Enough of an Expert
There are many times where I’ve thought that others have talked about the same thing but better than I ever could. And even when I had an idea that I thought was unique to the situation, I was stopped by the fear that maybe I was wrong. That I missed something fundamental. That I misunderstood. That even if I didn’t, others would reject the non-status-quo answer I was trying to bring into the conversation.
That I would be judged for these failings.
One of two things come out of doing the work anyway:
- People do judge you as insufficient or wrong. You get to choose how you respond to this. You can either learn from them or you can get mad and defensive. One way will lead you to quit or, worse, lash out; the other will lead you to get better and serve the audience better than you had before.
- People will thank you for saying the thing they never could quite put words to. You’ll be a kind of hero in their eyes because you took the chance to say something in the way only you could. You’ll create true fans and gain confidence.
Probably, though, both of these things will happen. A natural line will be drawn between people who get what you’re trying to do and those who, for whatever reason, oppose it.
Regardless, this kind of willingness to risk comes only from passion. The first thing will happen. Maybe not often, but when it does, be ready to be okay with it. It might take time, but negatively can’t trump passion since passion is willing to suffer.
Know Who You’re Suffering For
There might be things that you think you’re passionate about. You may well be. But sometimes that audience really is far different from you. Maybe you’re going to be judged for everything you said every time. Maybe it seems like no one ever wants to learn from you or even consider your position.
Is this something you can handle, or are you so out of sync with your audience that you can’t actually serve them?
Finding your audience where they are matters too. Are you able to start there and bring them along a journey that only you can? Be willing to answer this question honestly.
If you’re not, trying will only serve to make you bitter toward those you’re set to serve, and that makes your audience worse, not better.
In the end, our relationship with our audience is a balance of passion and encouragement. Hopefully in your journey as a writer and marketer, you’ll have a career filled to overflowing with the second one.
But when those moments inevitably come when there’s push back or criticism, knowing why you do what you do—where your passion comes from—will be what you fall back on. Being willing and even exhilarated to endure moments of judgment and condemnation and rejection when they come stands as proof that you’re passionate about serving your audience.