In a very simple stripped down way of saying; it used to be take your idea, research if there is an actual market for the idea, build your product to fit the market and then take it to market. This old school approach, while still in practice in some corners today seems to have been abandoned by the side of the road.
Some folks today espouse that it’s all about the customer and not about the product. They claim you should build your audience first and then build your product (service) to fill a need you identify with that audience. That may seem more than a bit counterintuitive and a bit like putting the cart before the horse as old folks used to be fond of saying.
Could the answer lay somewhere in between? Is it ever really a case of “build it and they will come”? Or is it, better put as while you’re building your product, keep your audience in mind every step of the way and build your audience every step along the way…and they will come?
That seems to be what bestselling author and marketing guru Ryan Holiday is putting forth in his new book Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts. Holiday has made a career out of being a provocateur and he sets up his hypothesis with a series of examples to illustrate his thought process.
Has a music fan, recovering radio and music industry guy, I can totally relate to Holiday’s example of heavy metal icons Iron Maiden and the fact that they have built a 40+ year career not by focusing on building radio airplay and creating radio friendly music, but by placing an emphasis on delivering a product that their fans appreciate rather than some weasel radio programmer. They super-serve their fans and the results are, they continue to sell out shows and sell tons of their music to that legion of fans.
The lesson for creators is that it doesn’t matter what your focus is, music, writing, art of any kind, it is your audience that will help you have long term, sustained success and as you craft your deliverables, that audience should be at the forefront of your mindset. Holiday spends roughly two thirds of the book offering a glide path for creators to develop the necessary mindset and tools to build a following for their craft.
Holiday’s ability to write with a level of clarity truly helps to underscore the points he makes in the course of the book as if it is a living case study of knowing and serving your audience.