You’ve captured your true purpose and realized the need to tell your truth. Now, whom do you tell it to?

When asked, “Tell us who your audience is?” mostbusinesses claim they have many potential audiences. In fact, most of time they have lists and categories of audiences. Certainly, from a marketing standpoint, it is important to be concerned about all the touch points you have in telling your story, and there should be some kind of consistency when speaking to all those diverse segments. Yet, there are certain, primary constituencies on which a business or organization needs to focus in order to achieve its purpose and be successful.

Not every business or nonprofit has either the financial or operational resources to create full-throttle, market-segmented messages. Merging the need for practicality with the drive toward purpose, the need to identify a core, primary audience emerges. This is the audience critical not only to maintaining your business position, but more important, for thriving into the future. Working in a world with very tight budgets, it’s no surprise the need to be clear, efficient, and compelling with messaging is paramount. With that, a business or organization must prioritize and commit. This is not to say we won’t honor, respect, and try to reach all the other relevant audiences. But it acknowledges, affirms, and acts upon knowing first and foremost with whom the purpose-led business needs to connect for it to endure and advance.

Typically, businesses and organizations have research on hand about audience and markets and it’s vital to look into that data through the purpose lens. This is where a kind of courage arises that isn’t present in mainstream branding. Mainstream branding looks at external audiences and then shapes, manipulates, spins, and even contorts value propositions and promises to fit what the external world wants and needs (or we should say what marketers and brand strategists think they need and want.  If Henry Ford answered what the market thought they wanted, he would have created a faster horse.).

Purpose-led communication respects the needs and wants of the external markets and customers, but that respect is always shaped by the internal and then externally championed purpose. This approach to audience determination and customer engagement is based on the long view. It sits at the altar of authenticity and transparency and is a true and often bold promise to the market. This promise is strong, confident and able to take on all kinds of whims, trends, and ups and downs. It’s a promise that comes from both the heart and mind of a business and, therefore speaks to the hearts and minds of its stakeholders in ways that transcend branding as usual.

To hammer home this point again, once you are firmly planted in your purpose, it is crucial to understand your customer’s needs and preferences in the context of that purpose. Your primary audience is a distinct group of customers (or stakeholders), and clearly defining this group will help you promote the story of your organization that is real and relevant to that group. But always remember, you aren’t censoring or editing your story so it seems palatable to this group. You are championing your story with conviction and a confident, voice. 

To begin to understand your primary, core constituency, break out and segment your existing customers and audiences. Who is your most profitable customer or audience? Who is the audience that composes the lion’s share of your business? Your attention? Your pain? Is there a common thread among your audiences?

You can further analyze and divide your audiences according to demographics and psychographics. Demographics organize people according to things like age, location, occupation, sex and income. Psychographics portray audiences according to their attitudes, values and fears, like people who are liberal or conservative, or people who like living on the edge and making risky investments or people who like contemplative drama and reflection or people who like to take immediate action and like super-hero movies. Advanced psychographics can often help to reveal intellectual and emotional qualities in ways that create messaging threads.

Understanding your audiences will assist you in combining key attributes and factors that end up defining your audiences with more specific profiles such as women, aged 25-34, one child, married, income of $55,000, lives in suburb, loves crafts and Italian food; or male, age 55-64, married, grandparent, income of $85,000, avid golfer and vacations in Costa Rica every year. Now, blend into these quasi-stereotype profiles elements such as beliefs, values, dreams, and principles and your closer to understanding audiences who will be attracted to and support your purpose and promise. Once you define your audiences at this level, you can begin to discover how your business or organization and its products relate to their values and beliefs. There can be a certain kind of intimacy that takes place here that transparent, purpose-led messaging can invite.

Talk with people who are actually in your primary audience. Speak with them about what they love and hate. Act like a researcher, or hire a researcher on this wavelength. Create an actual survey underlined with purpose. Share the questions with your existing customers as well potential customers.

Ninety percent of our knowledge comes from listening, not talking. So imagine how much you can learn by paying attention to the conversations and messages of your primary audience. Pay attention to what they say, and don’t say, what they feel and repress, and you’ll begin to paint a pretty accurate picture of what makes them tick and what they yearn for. Hang out where your primary audience hangs out, from the grocery store to the community center, soccer field or Facebook.  Where they spend their time will provides another snapshot of what’s important to them and who is important in their life.

As you unearth more about your primary audiences, make sure you document it and make the documentation as detailed and systematic as possible. A rigorous kind of information gathering methodology will help you in all your communication efforts and planning. Thoughtful, organized can help you find ways to make your most profitable customers refer you to more customers, or increase the involvement and commitment of your primary audience with your product and service. You should be able to see how this analysis not only reflects on your communication goals, but also your business or organizational objectives.

By using the information and understanding you’ve collected about your primary audience, you can begin to determine how to best achieve your purpose by creating a communications strategy to accommodate various audiences even as you zero in on your core.

The more thorough your knowledge of your primary audience, the more effective you will be in connecting with them and having them tap into the passion and authenticity of your value proposition and promise. As you track the effectiveness of your brand efforts, set up a means to continually update, enhance and refresh your audience data. Preferences and business climates are constantly moving and shifting, and the most successfulleaders are those who adapt constant changes, yet always do it with a clear focus on purpose.

Along with the classic audience analysis, the process of a organization determining its primary audience requires doses of both courage and reality. It requires the business to be comfortable in its own skin and not controlled by the need to be all things to all people. It also demands that the business come to grips with the fact that there is a group (or groups) out there that will profoundly influence the well being of the business. This isn’t a confirmation of the rule that “the customer is always right” or the “customer always comes first.” It is a confirmation that your ‘noble purpose is what’s right’ and that, blasphemous as it may sound, organizations may find that their employees or the community may come first.  This isn’t to disparage the customer, but it is alert you to the fact when you travel the purpose path, main street branding approaches often don’t hold enough water.  You shouldn’t contort your purpose to appeal to the customer. In fact having a strong, confident purpose should prove to be an attractive quality not to only your customers, but also your culture, community and other key constituencies.

After all this thinking and reflecting, ask yourself: If you have just enough budget to create and and place a online banner message, and the fate of your organization achieving its noble purpose depends on this message (not to sound too extreme!), who would you aim the message at and where would you place it? If you can answer this with confidence and clarity, you know your core market.  Your now ready to move on to the question 'What could be stopping you from telling your truth?'.