- Hard work has always worked.
- Being honest has always worked.
- Doing the right thing has always worked.
- Keeping promises has always worked.
- Being transparent has always worked.
- Creating something of value has always worked.
- Starting small has always worked.
- Communicating in more than 140 characters has always worked.
- Picking up the phone or meeting in person, instead of only texting or emailing has always worked.
These always work with the first audience, they often work with the second and fourth audiences, and rarely work with the third audience.
Here are the four audiences:
1. People with You
2. People on the Fence
3. People Against You
4. People Who Don’t Know You
People with You
This group is in your corner. If you have a new release, they’ll buy it.
Because we all create duds from time to time, this group is essential when you make a mistake and/or create something not so wonderful. They won’t turn their backs on you. This is your home team. An example? Imagine post-Babe Ruth and pre-2004 Boston Red Sox fans. They kept buying tickets and showing up to games. Yes, they complained, too, but they stayed with the team.
People on the Fence
This is the group that knows your work but only buys it after reviews are released. They might know you’re an extraordinary chef, but that new restaurant you opened? They won’t show up until someone else confirms its worth, whereas People with You are there opening night.
Best way to get this group off the fence is to run through that list above. Will it get all the fence straddlers on board? No, but it’ll get some of them there, which means you’re growing the People with You category.
Example: Earlier this year I bought flowers from www.FiftyFlowers.com. I was in the market for cherry blossoms to send to my godmother, who always misses the cherry blossoms during her visits to Washington, D.C. I ran into a wall finding live blossoms for sale. Lots of the fake silk variety. Fifty Flowers, which I ran across during my search, had the real deal. I bought the flowers and then received an email from my godmother, with a picture of a plastic trashcan full of cherry blossom branches. She wasn’t throwing them away. She simply lacked something large enough to contain all of the cherry tree branches, so she cleaned out the bin, added water, and then waited for them to bloom—and then, since there were so many, she shared them with friends and at the school where she volunteers in Los Angeles, where cherry trees aren’t something the kids had seen in person either. She even tried transplanting one at the school. Didn’t work, but the kids got behind the effort, so this one gift to her just kept on giving. The customer service was extraordinary, which led me to buy lilies for my aunt this past week. Once they arrived, she couldn’t stop talking about them. Beautiful. Fresh. Gorgeous packaging. AND: A human called her to share how to care for the flowers, so they would last a long time. Will I buy from them again? Yes. I was on the fence, but the quality and kindness and personal care made me decide to step into their corner.
People Against You
Doesn’t matter what you do with this group.
They don’t like you and they don’t want to like you. It’s personal. There’s something about you that gets under their skin.
Around the time the first Harry Potter book was released as a movie, I was on a listserv for writers. One of the writers spoke out about J.K. Rowling. She said that Rowling had created unrealistic expectations for other children’s book writers. Rowling’s success was a fluke and she was bad for all other writers in that genre because she raised expectations, so that if your book didn’t have movie potential, it wouldn’t be published. She didn’t say it, but she was jealous and instead of seeing Rowling as someone who energized the children’s/young adult genre, she saw her as a negative. I don’t think Rowling could have done anything to change this writer’s mind.
However, my friend and mentor Bob Danzig once shared a story with me about kindness flipping a volatile situation on its head. At the time, Bob was the publisher of the Albany Times Union. One of the paper’s employees, who was also head of one of the printers unions, was a vocal critic of management and tensions were high. At an annual event for the paper, Bob was introduced to this man’s wife. A few weeks later, Bob and the wife ran into each other at the local grocery store and she burst into tears when she saw him. Her husband injured his back and feared that he’d never return to work. She told Bob that her husband could use a special chair, which made sitting up a few hours a day doable, but he couldn’t work full time. Bob called the man’s doctor and arranged to have one of the chairs installed in the newspaper’s composing room, where the employee could work as a copy editor a few hours a day. However, there was still the issue of the union. The union president didn’t want to change the agreement to allow for an individual—even an individual who had been on his side—to work non-approved union hours, and said he’d call for a strike if the employee did less than a full shift. Bob called the employee’s wife and arranged with her for her husband to arrive at work and meet Bob. When he arrived in his wheelchair, Bob pushed him up to the front of doors, where the other union members could see them. Instead of walking off, they clapped—and Bob and the once-critical employee became friends.
There’s a lot more to the story, and I know I didn’t nail every detail, but that’s the gist of it.
I’m guessing that the employee and others in the union saw Bob as a fat cat management type, which made it easier to be critical of him—easier to create an us against them scenario. However, once he got to know Bob, he learned that Bob grew up in the foster care system and was in his fifth foster home by the time he was 12, and that Bob graduated high school at age 16 (during a transfer from one home to another, they made a mistake about the grade he was in, so he was placed in a grade higher, and Bob just went along with it, since his focus was on survival and not school), and then after he graduated, he worked every day to support himself and then eventually a family. Nothing was ever given to him. He earned his role as publisher the hard way. He worked for it. Started as office boy and then spent two more decades rising. No nepotism or anything of the like. He knew Pain and knew the power of Kindness and Communication. Life changing.
This personal touch is often the only thing that will change the minds of those against you. There’s usually a personal reason behind their opinion of you. Has nothing to do with you, but with their perception of you.
People Who Don’t Know You
This group is just as they sound. They don’t know you exist—or they’ve heard of you, but don’t know anything other than your name. Once they’re turned onto your work, they love you or they hate you or they land on the fence.
For years I heard the names Haruki Murakami and Kazuo Ishiguro. Did’t take action—not even when Chris Guillebeau personally recommended Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running to me. Then I picked up Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Remains of the Day and found myself hooked on both. Didn’t read anything from any other authors for a long time.
Did they reach out to me? No. Any personal kindness? No.
I liked their work and then I researched them and enjoyed reading interviews with them.
Go back to the Fifty Flowers example above for an example of personal contact with an unknown. I took a chance on buying the first time—and then they provided extraordinary service and I returned. And, I’ll go back again—and I’ll recommend them—all because 1) they provided something of value and 2) extraordinary customer service. They made it personal. There was no pre-printed card presented with the flowers. They picked up the phone and spoke with my aunt. Told her who the flowers were from and how to care for them, and, knowing my aunt, I imagine they were on the phone answering a few other questions, too.
Kindness. Personal contact.
How to Reach Your Audiences
You don’t need an expensive marketing campaign to do this. No need to purchase the next big platform or program or anything else.
Go to CVS or Staples or Michaels or the Dollar Store and pick up some stationary.
All you need is some thank you cards and/or a phone—and time. Lots of time. This won’t happen overnight, but the connections you make have the potential to be with you forever.
It won’t work with everyone, but it will always work with a specific group of everyones.
And those people it won’t work with? Why are you focusing on them anyway?
Think about history.
Civil Rights changes, as one example, didn’t occur because all the opponents’ minds were changed. They happened because the people for Civil Rights and the people on the fence came together, and pulled in people who weren’t previously in the know. They suffocated the fire of the opponents. Didn’t change their minds, but they were able to create change.
Focus on the people who love/like you. Let them be the evangelists. Reach out to those on the fence and work on connecting with those who aren’t familiar with you. Those groups alone should keep you busy for the rest of your career.
So, no, there isn’t anything that works 100% with every single person on Earth.
However . . .
There are truths that work 100% of the time with the audiences who should be your focus.