You want a bigger audience, right? There is the assumption that exposure to more people is the path to success, to riches, to glory, to validation, to the career you always wanted.
Too many people skip past honing the basics, rushing to grab a bigger and bigger audience, despite the flaws in their product or service, their creative work, their marketing, customer service or so many other areas.
I was listening to a workshop from Tad Hargrave the other day, who brilliantly described the problem as this:
Clients come to him to make their business more successful. Their goal at the start is to ask him to help them get more clients. So if their business is represented as a bucket, that person wants more water in their bucket, where the water represents clients.
But when Tad looks at their businesses, he sees untapped opportunity. Ways that their business model is not serving existing customers as well as it could, and because of this, they are leaving money on the table. Using the metaphor: their buckets have holes in them. So Tad would rather fix the holes in the bucket so that it can better hold the water in there already, rather than pouring in more water to try to capture some value, even as it quickly slips away.
Tad gives examples of ways that the businesses he works with can generate more revenue from existing customers, by better understanding their needs and how their business can provide even more value to them. So instead of running around all the time trying to “grow their audience,” they will be focused on creating a more sustainable core business.
Smaller is oftentimes better. Even in business. Tad talks about this concept and others here as well.
I find similar themes when I work with authors. Oftentimes, they think they just need exposure to more people – millions more people. When really, they need to better serve the relationships and audience they already have, in the communities they are already a part of. There is so much potential still unlocked. It is there, if they would only stop and pause long enough to see it.
An example of this is a question I often ask writers I speak to: does your family, friends, and work colleagues know that you are a writer? You may be surprised how often they sheepishly tell me “not really.” They don’t share that side of themselves with those around them, it may be too personal, or invite too much judgement from those they care about most, or judge them most harshly.
But for these writers, the people around them represent their tightest connections, their most important network. If you are a writer trying to get a foothold as to developing an audience, understanding your readers, and living the life of an author, this could be your easy in to do author readings at local schools, libraries, or bookstores. That this helps give you the experience you need to grow the support for your work in your local community, and be the launchpad to extending beyond.
In other words, don’t rush past those who already respect you, on your way to pitching others.
This is similar to the 1,000 true fans concept, that it is the quality of connection to others that matters, not the quantity. For a writer developing their career, this can be the shortcut to growth, and to understanding the value that relationships play in finding success.