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Looking for The Base

audience marketing startups Sep 19, 2019

Successful people know who their audience is, or as the advisors to Donald Trump call it, ‘The Base’. Successful companies are the same: they don’t just scatter gun the market hoping that they will hit someone who is interested in their product. Instead they research and drill down, to really get to know who they’re dealing with. Knowing your audience is one of the most essential rules for any startup, except it’s kinda difficult: How do you know your audience if you’re only just beginning? Perhaps your product or service isn’t even fully up and running, so what can you do to attract people to something that doesn’t even exist yet?
Well, you can, and you must attract an audience. Included in that audience are your investors.

A typical startup will delay the moment they have to get to grips with finding their audience. Why? Because finding an audience feels difficult, and “No-one knows how to do it.” Well actually there are plenty of advisors who do know how to reach audiences (I am one of them!), but often the expertise is missing in the startup’s core team. They’ve come together around a great idea, a unique offering, and everyone is super-excited about how it will work, and what it will achieve in the world. It comes as a bit of a downer that they also have to find ‘The Base’ for their offering. But hey, that’s the way it is, and the team better get used to the idea.

Making movies

Let’s take a look at movie-making, something I’m always interested in, not least because there are so many great parallels to the process of getting a startup off the ground. There are two extremes to the movie-making production process. At one end of the scale is the ‘Indie’ route, where as often as not the production is driven by the vision of a writer or director (often the same person), and it’s almost as if ‘success’ in financial terms is an afterthought. The overriding ambition is to get the vision all the way to the screen, and maybe pick up some awards along the way. Oh, and by the way, if the money that investors put into the project gets returned, that would be nice… but not essential!

Compare and contrast to the big Hollywood studios which analyze and check progress at every step of the production process. The primo question is, “Will that play with the audience?” Hollywood may like and sometimes even encourage auteur directors, but only if they can deliver what the end-users want. The big studios know what the end-users want, because they know the audience for every type of movie, and the process of designing and delivering the latest piece – especially if it’s a sequel – is precise and logical.

Heroic failure?

Now you may think that this produces formulaic and bland entertainment, and you may well be right, but the Hollywood hit factory approach does tend to ensure success, and as we all know, success breeds success. Do we want to be a heroic failure who got one shot at the bigtime and failed, or someone who over time builds on success? Perhaps the endgame is to make truly original and ground-breaking movies, but before that, delivering a few solid hits will help you on your way.

So for a startup business, I’d always recommend the Hollywood route, rather than the auteur approach. Yes, in truth the startup may really be an auteur operation of visionaries, but in order to succeed it has to step up to the bigtime, and operate in the studio-mode of planning for success. A key part of that is knowing The Base.

Down on the farm

Getting to know your audience is a real process which is done step by step. It’s not ‘magic’, although the results often seem that way! The secret is simple: You ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more answers you get. Here’s the Hollywood approach:
Who’s interested in Romantic Comedies? - The answer comes back, and now there is the first step towards knowing the audience. Then there are questions to ask about age, work, demographics. If the majority of respondents are city-based Generation Z professionals, then maybe the planned RomCom set on an Idaho farm and starring two middle-aged actors ‘won’t play’. It’s a wonderful story, but is there an audience for it? Perhaps not.

And if it ‘won’t play’, then that’s another movie which won’t get made. On the other hand, a startup Founder and their team must absolutely 100% believe that their project will play, so rather than tailor the project to the audience, it’s clear that absolutely the right audience must be found for the startup. That’s logical isn’t it? - Find The Base and build on that, step by step towards success.


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