Why You SHOULDN’T Listen to Your Audience
It’s some of the most popular marketing advice out there: “Listen to your audience.”
We’re told it’s the secret to creating content and products that our audience will eat up.
And it sounds logical… surely the easiest way to make people happy (and get their attention and business) is to give them what they want.
So we survey our email lists, chat with our customers via DM, study our YouTube comments, and “engage” in our Facebook groups.
(Well, maybe not that last one so much anymore… Facebook is kind of yesterday’s playground.)
I’ve been doing this ever since my audience first started growing, now about five years ago.
And, really, even before that, when I started studying the audiences of brands similar to the brand I wanted to build.
The Good Side of “Listening to Your Audience”
There’s truthfully been a lot of value in this. I’ve been able to find countless “viral” content ideas and ensure that the products I spent my time creating were things that there was actually demand for.
(Which, by the way, is essential if you don’t want to risk wasting your time. That’s why we double-down on market research in VALIDATE.)
“Listening to your audience” also just makes it straight-up EASIER to decide what to create — because it means I don’t have to think of a good idea or try to figure out which one is best… all I need to do is think of several ideas, then ask my audience what they want!
The Dark Side of “Listening to Your Audience”
It’s almost… too easy.
Not that I’d ever knock something for being EASY. I mean, that’s practically the reason I started my online business: I wanted to figure out how I could earn MORE while working LESS.
But, as I’ve often found over my search for the “quickest and easiest” ways to generate profits, saving time and/or effort often comes at a cost.
Well, it turns out that “listening to your audience” is no exception: it’s a shortcut that might make your life easier in the short run, but, long-term, is going to limit your success, at least, if you rely too heavily on it.
The dark side of listening to your audience too much can lead you to…
- Create content you aren’t really interested in or passionate about.
- Tell have-truths for the sake of saying what you think people WANT to hear.
- Create content that sounds a lot like what everyone else is creating.
- Start sounding like everyone else.
- Get bored and run out of fresh ideas.
How Should We Decide What to Create?
But what’s even the alternative? How can we decide what to create if we DON’T listen to other people?
It’s a question that answers itself: we have to stand up and DECIDE, owning our leadership role.
That’s a whole lot harder than just whipping up a quick poll on your IG stories, but it’s the only way to avoid blending in with the crowd and get to keep talking about what YOU’RE passionate about.
Which, after all, is why I work for myself in the first place — because I want to do my own thing, on my terms. I want to do work I care about and think about things I’m interested in. I want to feel confident that I’m making a difference in the world.
What about you? Why did YOU start working for yourself?
If I just wanted to make as much money as possible then I’d start a company that offered financial services.
But that’s not what I want. I want to make a great living doing work I LOVE.
And the only way I can keep doing that is to keep doing what I want, not just what “the people” want.
Of course, it’s an intersection; a compromise. I can’t expect to earn a living if I just sit around playing with my kids, eating chocolate chip cookies, or chatting with my friends because that’s what I want to do.
To have a profitable business, I need to provide something of value for my customers.
It’s the most basic Venn of business:
Hopefully, this is obvious. But it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done.
How DO we do it? How do we not get led astray by other people’s opinions and desires?
Staying True to the Truth
Like so many things, it starts with clarity.
Clarity about what we’re passionate about and want to talk about. Clarity about what we really want our businesses to DO and be all about.
If Step #1 is “find clarity,” Step #2 is “stay connected with your vision.”
Here’s the thing: it’s not enough to get clear on what you want one time. People are going to tell you what THEY want every day — especially if you successfully attract an audience.
So, to stay aligned with our area of passion and expertise, we have to constantly remind ourselves what we do and why we do it.
Finally, Step #3 is to own your role as a leader. You need to be confident enough to keep choosing to do what you want to do, rather than what everyone else is asking you to do.
While, of course, keeping an open mind and being receptive to feedback. A tricky balance!
How to Stay True to Your Vision
This is a challenge that’s become increasingly obvious to me over the past couple of years. The more content I’ve created, the less satisfied I’ve been with it. I recently was looking over a spreadsheet of all the articles I’ve written… there were over 500 of them! I’ve also created well over 300 YouTube videos and over 150 podcast episodes.
Any way you cut it, that’s a lot of content. And, as you can imagine, creating it has taught me a couple things.
One of them is that, at least personally, I’m a lot more intentional when I write than when I create verbally.
Writing is slow. And that very friction forces me to think more carefully about each word I
Also, seeing the words on the page (well, at least, on my computer monitor) is instant feedback. I can SEE what I just created and decide whether or not I like it. And, as often as not, I don’t. Or at least, I can see some room for improvement — so I tap the backspace button and try again.
Those safeguards don’t exist, or at least, don’t work as well for me, when I’m recording a podcast or filming a video, and I’ve found that gets me into trouble.
So, in an effort to stay true to myself, create intentionally, and keep up the quality, here’s my simple resolution: to write more.
Yes, it’s 2023, and I’m going back to blogging. (Even though everyone knows that video is the future…)
It’s 2023, and I’m going to manually WRITE every word. (In a year when I could have ChatGPT literally do it all for me, in seconds, for free.)
Because, sometimes, “working harder” is the smartest way to work.
Here’s to staying true to ourselves, telling the truth, and doing the right thing, even when it’s not the easy thing.
As I said above, the only way to stay true to ourselves is to first get CLARITY about what we even think. Personally, I find the easiest way to do this is to get external feedback by processing my thoughts on paper. This can start with some simple journaling, but, when it comes to figuring out what your business is all about, you’re going to want to move on to a structured business plan. (Though that should be simple as well!)
Here’s a free template you can use to write one of your own: