But unless you work in a vacuum, you need to relate to other people, too. The critical influencers, decision-makers and contacts who can drive or stall your career goals are called your "target audience." And knowing what they need from you for so they can help you be successful can be tricky to figure out.
Your target audience doesn't include everyone around you. Not everyone you meet, work with or sell to will love you, find you compelling, get your jokes or need your services. But those people who will find you compelling must know about you, what you offer and how you're different from your competitors.
For these target audiences, your reputation is everything. When your clients, prospects, recruiters, staff, peers and other key stakeholders perceive that you're of value to them, they're more likely to want to engage you for great opportunities. This brief video explains the power of of demonstrating your value:
So, how do you identify what your audience really needs from you?
It All Starts with Your Personal Brand
Your personal brand is created through your behavior and actions over time. Your reputation already exists in the minds of colleagues, peers, clients, friends and other important people in your career. These people have formed opinions about you and what you value, and these beliefs are a critical part of building your sustainable and meaningful personal brand over time.
In building your personal brand, you set a goal to achieve a certain legacy in your life. Over time, and with the help of your target audience, you will move your reputation into a place that is intentional and focused, which will return you great rewards.
Your target audience is made up of the groups and individuals who hold the opportunities you desire. For you, those opportunities might be a job, promotion, better access to resources, increased responsibility and visibility or information. Your audience holds the key to unlocking and unleashing the power of your personal brand - so it's critical to know what they need from you.
Identifying Your Audience's Needs
Most people are good at understanding what their target audience needs functionally. Your audience's functional needs are often spelled out in job descriptions, proposals and the list of requirements to win an engagement. For instance, your supervisor might need you to be on time, on budget and accountable for all details of a project. As long as you can meet that functional need of his, you're in contention to run the project.
But what target audiences also have - and which we too often neglect - are emotional needs. This is the softer side of the human equation. Your supervisor's emotional needs might not be as clearly identified and articulated. Sometimes, your audience can't even tell you what they need to feel about you in order to make you the right fit for an opportunity. But as human beings, we all have emotions, and emotions drive opportunity.
Have you heard the expression, "We act on logic but buy on emotion"? It's true! Your target audience has very real emotional needs that need to be met. Figuring out their needs is part of the challenge; meeting them is the other part.
Understanding your audience's emotional needs begins with turning your focus to what they're saying (and not saying):
- When your supervisor repeatedly questions your actions and constantly asks for status updates, is it because he doesn't trust you? What does that tell you about his needs?
- When a hiring manager asks you how well you get along with others on your team, could she be looking for you to reassure her by projecting confidence and solutions?
- When your colleague questions your credentials for a project, are they displaying their own insecurities?
- When your employee performs even better after receiving public praise, could that indicate they're motivated and reassured by accolades?
Next, you have to decide if you're able to fulfill those emotional needs. Can you communicate confidence, loyalty, trust, empathy or whatever else your audience needs? If so, your job becomes communicating those qualities in ways that make you compelling to your audience.
When I began my work in personal branding, I quickly learned that no matter how technically solid my methodology was or how complete my strategies, if I couldn't relate to the emotional needs of my audience, I was irrelevant to them. I had to become so "dialed in" to their feelings that I could help them manage the logistics of their process as well as the emotional journey.
Listening, watching and responding to your target audience is about more than checking boxes and filling orders. Your value and relevance increases when you can learn what they need to feel and then deliver that in ways that are authentic to you and meaningful to them.
The next time you face a job interview, performance review, critical conversation or important meeting with your target audience, pay attention to the words they're saying and the feeling behind those words. What are they asking you to make them feel?
As an example, your target audience might need to feel:
trust safe happy confident
welcomed valued validated celebrated
hopeful important empathy compassion
...or a myriad of other feelings. Your goal is to help them see that you can deliver on the job in more than just functional ways.
Meeting Your Audience's Needs
Say your target audience is a hiring manager who holds a fabulous job opportunity. You know you'd be great in that job, working for that wonderful company. You also know this job would bring out your best, most authentic self, and you could grow your career here. But you need to get past the hiring manager first
You look at the hiring manager's LinkedIn profile, scour the company's website and talk to everyone you know who works there or does business with that company. What have you learned? Maybe you can tell they hire top-tier talent, have low staff turnover, are growing fast and donate a lot of time and effort to rebuilding the local community. Now, what could this reveal about the company and what this hiring manager needs to feel about you to get you past the first interview?
Perhaps she needs to feel that you're:
- Confident in your skills and abilities. Do you consider yourself "top-tier"?
- Likely to stay in one job for a long time; you're loyal and dedicated.
- Curious, interested and focused on the future. (Growing companies like this.)
- Passionate about helping others and serving the community. Do you volunteer at local charities? Have you donated your services or talents to a worthy cause?
Understanding what motivates your target audience is as important as being able to fulfill their functional requirements. (Click here to tweet this thought.) In some cases, companies have hired candidates who fell short of meeting all of the technical requirements of a position but gave such a great feeling about their abilities the company was willing to take a chance and invest in them.
Knowing which audiences you should target, and then positioning yourself to be relevant and compelling to them, is an important step in developing and marketing an effective personal brand - and launching a successful career.
Who is your target audience, and how can you meet their needs?