How To Make Growing Your Audience From Zero Less Of A Slog
Building your audience goes beyond creating and sharing the content that will attract people. The relationships that arise from your work and how you apply yourself to the whole process are what make it all tick.
This article shares some simple principles that will stand you in good stead when you’re starting out. It isn’t just about what you do, but about your mindset.
One thing to remember is that you shouldn’t chase an audience just because you can. Having people hand over their email address to you is a privilege – they’re putting you in the driving seat.
When You Start
When you start out with a goal to get people over to your side, everything you share – from a tweet or LinkedIn post, to an article – is a dress rehearsal for the main attraction. All of these are ways of convincing others they should be spending more time with you.
Have a read of this article on how to build your audience. It goes through what you can do when you’re starting from zero. Starting out with no one around you can feel like it’s all going to be in vain and a waste of time. That’s when those glimmers of acknowledgment – from a message from a new subscriber to someone sharing your work with their connections – are worth so much.
So whether you’re starting from zero or about to reach the 1,000 subscriber mark, keeping everything on track and moving forward happens when:
— You pay attention to how you apply yourself (i.e. you’re not always looking around to see what others are doing)
— You create relationships with others
How You Apply Yourself
One of the biggest distractions I found, was looking around at what others were doing. When you think about it, it’s counter-intuitive following other people’s every move when you’re looking to build something that has your own stamp and identity to it.
Very often, those others who are highly successful are also at completely different stages of their journey to you and that makes any comparisons futile.
What I want to highlight here is that the biggest distractions are the obstacles you create for yourself. Spending time reading what others are achieving, takes you away from your own path. If you want to make it easy for people to make a choice and subscribe, buy or attend, you can’t spend too much time looking over your shoulder, you have to invent your own approach and find a way of doing things that maybe hasn’t been done before.
When you stop being distracted and swayed by others, you start to compete with yourself, finding new ways to deliver that are unique to you. In turn, this offers you more insight into how you prefer to go about things, advancing your progress. For instance, delivering a simultaneous online and offline event for YATM ahead of others doing it provides a testbed – a means of always improving what I’m doing.
Your Relationships With Others
Audience growth and creating a community come down to the relationships you form with others. If people relate to you, there’ll be a common spark. If they think you don’t care about them, they’ll find it easier to walk away.
Look for ways to connect with people in a deeper way. It doesn’t have to be asking them to spend time with you on Zoom, but going for smaller wins. For instance, when I send someone a welcome video after they’ve subscribed to YATM, I’ll make sure I call them by their first name at least twice. I want them to know that I’ve made that video especially for them and it’s now just another automated email.
Another way to create deeper bonds is to reply to people. For instance, if someone sends an email related to the Thursday YATM email, they will always get a prompt reply from me. If someone responds to work that you spent time preparing, the last thing you should be doing is ignoring them.
Forming relationships, bringing benefit to others and creating sales from that might take more time but it’s ultimately more valuable, not to mention, more enjoyable. It feels a lot less like hard work. If you want people to care about you do, you have to care about them too.
Building On These Ideas
When you’re focused and recognise the importance of the relationships you make, there are certain strands that can tie in together to help you grow your audience. Here are some other pointers that can help you:
Dig deep into what you know.
You’ll never build an audience if you talk about a topic you don’t care about or have limited knowledge of. Whilst a lot is down to your own discovery and curiosity, share what you’re learning from how things are developing for you. It’s more important to get yourself out there than to stay bogged down in questions of what you should be producing or worries about whether anyone will show up to read/listen/watch.
Pick two or three areas that everyone has in common.
Things stay inevitably vague when you don’t know who you’re creating for and your message ends up having to be generic. The better you know your audience, the easier it is to connect with what they care about. For instance, I’m happy to “work with the garage door open,” being honest about when things go wrong or don’t go according to plan, as this is what a lot of the YATM audience connects with. In this way we find common ground in acknowledging that no one has all the answers straight away and working things out in a ‘live lab’ situation.
It’s better to observe and then deliver.
If audience growth is slow, perhaps you have to reframe from selling to finding out what others want from you. Is it to give an opinion? Is it to provide a spotlight on your industry? Is it to guide others? I like this from Seth Godin (28th June) “Ideas that spread, win. Ideas that stick are worth even more. You can race to be first on a new platform, but it’s far better to be the voice that we would miss if you weren’t there.”
Your audience includes you, a year ago.
What you share now would have been relevant content for the person you were a year ago. If you’re sharing what you know now and what you’re discovering, the old you is a key part of your audience. For instance, during 2021 I’ve shared how to deliver a course and figured out how online and offline events can work together. The old me from summer 2020 would have welcomed both those articles with open arms and then looked to develop and deliver those very ideas. Don’t forget that your audience is made up of the person you once were.
To grow something that you are in control of and can direct the flow of, takes time and is by no means easy. If people can see there’s an agenda, where the take on your side supersedes the value they’re going to receive, audience trust will wane. You won’t get too far. If your audience isn’t helping and giving you what you need, it’s not them, it’s you – delivering the wrong message.
When you’re starting out, there are so many possibilities. A lot comes down to how you apply yourself and your drive, as well as knowing who you’re creating for and being keen to get to know them better, as individuals and as part of a group. When you can reach out to them week in and week out, and you’re there for each other, nothing can stand in your way.