Editor’s Note: As we move into the last two seasons of the year, we are answering questions people have repeatedly asked us about branding and marketing.

Let’s start with this bit of heresy … there are no target audiences.

One reason is practical: traditional demographics have broken audiences into chunks, which have been shattered into even smaller groups. So there’s no singular audience to target.

The other reason is ethical: no one wants to be anyone’s target. To call a group of humans a “target audience” dehumanizes them and reduces them to a set of stats and labels.

If you allow yourself to lay back into the soft folds of the idea that a target audience exists, anxiously waiting to hear about whatever you are selling, you lose the chance to understand why what you are offering matters. And why any other human being would find it appealing or necessary or of value.

We much prefer to reframe the question this way …

Who is the one person you are trying to reach?

Stop for a second and consider. If you could only make a very deep impact on one person in your life’s work (and this is much more realistic for most of us than the delusion we are going to touch millions) — who would that person be? What would they be wrestling with now? Where are they — in their career, in their home life, in their own life’s work?

  • What do they care about?
  • What do they fear?
  • What do they see?
  • What are they seeking?

You can see that this approach requires you to dig way deeper than surface demographics, drilling down into their soul.

Over the last several years of working together, and walking alongside clients in our Root Sessions, we’ve been on this journey dozens of times.

There is no specific formula for discovering your ideal audience. By its very nature, this approach is individualistic and highly contextual to each brand. That said, there are some common alchemy ingredients that we can share:

  • Common values – They believe what you believe
  • Shared suffering – They have experienced the same struggles and trials that you have.
  • Similar POV – They see the world as you do.

In our Root Sessions, we help you deeply understand this individual, and then begin to speak to them using the message you believe at your root. As you articulate it, and become a master of your brand conversation, sharing your message with the world, there are real, tangible benefits.

You will attract these people, and they will reach out to you. (If you call them leads, that’s fine, we call them tribe.)

The people you attract will have completed 50-70% of the sales or vetting process before you speak. (Statistics range but a well-regarded Forrester study puts this number at 67%.)

You will have richer conversations, deeper relationships and enjoy a more rapid connection with other humans who meet your criteria faster than if you had not.
You will repel those who don’t get it and who don’t respect your value.
You will create an army of followers and fans who say nice things about you – for free!

The biggest change when you shift to this way of thinking is that you will begin to look into the eyes of every person you meet; seeking that spark that says “Ah. There you are! I’ve been waiting for you.”

Want to chat with us during 30-minute exploration call? We’re game if you are serious about branding and marketing. Along the way, we’ll determine if you are in the right place for a Root Session. Email our lovely Chief of Staff Cat at cat@rootandriver.com to schedule yours. She’ll take good care of you.

Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.

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