Your Audience is a Community

There are  a couple of widely held concepts about audience that I think hinder a lot of people who otherwise might reach a wider circle of people. The first is the idea that an audience is a one time thing...people buy one book, or attend one concert, or buy one painting. The other idea is that audience is a target market of people that have a lot of things in common, and if you identify those things you'll identify the people who will love your work.

In answer to the first idea I offer an alternative view. Your audience is a growing, ongoing community of people who know, want, experience, and love your work. You are serving this community with what you do, and they are looking to you for more than just a one time transaction. They're looking to you to make a difference in their lives with your work. They're taking home what you've created because they want to have it for a long time. They want it to affect them over and over again, and they will be interested in you beyond the purchase if you deliver the effect they desire.

In answer to the second idea I'd ask you to consider that the only thing your audience has in common is you. Sure, they might have some background details and preferences in common, but the thing that makes them YOUR audience, is that they love YOUR work. They are gathering for you, around you, and with you because they love what you do...for them!

In the workshop I usually tell people to figure out the target market thing last, if at all. The things that matter more are first,  that you do amazing work. Second, identify the gifts of your work and then find who's looking for such gifts. Don't start with the idea of giving people what they want. Make great stuff that changes their lives and they'll buy it.

A lot of times they won't know they want it until they see it. I often don't know what I want for dinner until I drive past the restaurant that suits my hunger. Find ways for people to see you and what you do in contexts that matter to them. Be among them, in community.

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