Ryan Hanley

author, speaker, marketing geek

Ignore Your Audience, F*** ‘Em, Be A Leader First


Guest Post by Jason Fonceca:

We human beings are selfish.

We are! Self-preservation is hard-wired into us.

“You don’t really care, in all honesty, and I mean this with the utmost respect, why I’m here. You don’t how I feel. You don’t care about my agenda. You don’t care if I’m terminal, you don’t care if I’ve got a tooth-ache, all you care about is I sure as hell better give you one heck of a benefit and a pay-off in the 3 hours or you’re
gonna be pissed. And that’s human nature… you can’t fault human beings for being human but you have to appreciate, respect, and empathize how they look at life, and you’ll be able to harness…all the opportunities that abound.” – Jay Abraham

Jay Abraham is a very wise man, he understands this, and uses it to communicate with people better.

But it’s not just your market that’s selfish at it’s core — It’s you, too.

And by selfish, I mean that everyone of us, at all times, on a deep, celluar level is sensitive to what feels like pleasure to us, personally, and what feels like pain.

So, since we’re all selfish at our core, why are so many websites in the blog-arena going on and on about “know your target market” and “catering to their needs?”

And I’ve seen a bunch more.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love these blogs and authors, and all these articles are helpful. (I read copyblogger often, I’m new to Peter’s and Paul’s sites, and I follow Firepole like
it’s practically a religious experience.)

Danny Iny (FirepoleMarketing) even acknowledges how over-done this talk of targeting, niche-ing, and ‘knowing your target market’ is.

“I am absolutely certain you have heard, perhaps too many times, about the need to niche and to focus [on a target market].” – Danny Iny

So people know this advice is everywhere, and I keep bumping into them. (Maybe it’s a sign… lol)

I swear, I feel a little bit of nausea wash over me when I’m scanning an article and my eyes see “know your market.”

(well not really, but it paints a picture)

I stand for Sexy Success, and hearing so many blogs talk about ‘knowing your fans’ and ‘getting inside their heads’ is not sexy to me.

It’s boring.

Saturated topics become un-sexy, fast. Everyone wants something new, and that’s okay.

Maybe you’re not like me, maybe you LOVE all the talk on this subject. Maybe you don’t even run into these posts – I don’t know, I don’t pretend to be “inside your head” <grin>.

And you know, I contribute to the saturation, it’s not like I’m some high-and-mighty guy who’s never written about the subject.

In fact, recently I wrote my own article on “audience segmentation” — of course I feel like it’s one of the most out-standing pieces on the subject, , but regardless, it was me talking about ‘knowing your target market’.

I wonder, are all these bloggers who claim to want me to know and talk to my audience, really talking to me? Do they really know me?

Because I’m not super jazzed to read about this stuff, for the most part.

I’ll tell you what resonates with me, and it’s not “knowing my target market” – that doesn’t move me. The advice, which is basically telling me to “be personal and get inside their
heads,” and yet… the advice itself feels abstract and impersonal, and like the people who are writing it don’t get me well at all.

If they did, they’d talk about what resonates with me.

Success. Vision. Fantastic, thrilling, imagined futures which can and will come to pass!

Here’s what resonates with me more:

  • Introductions which talk of feeling like a leader in the market.
  • Teaser paragraphs that describe being an influencer of the masses.
  • Body texy that describes what it truly feels like to be a liberator of my tribe, leading them effortlessly to solutions that are good for them.
  • I like feeling like I can be myself, talk how I prefer, deliver products + services I enjoy and be rewarded for it.

Those are some things I like, and I think you like them too, but to be honest with you, I’m just saying what’s in my heart. This is my first guest post on Ryan’s site, and it might be that I don’t know his tribe super-well, but I get the feeling they’re similar to him. (Ryan, jump in here anytime buddy :P)

If the bloggers were talking about this leadership + influence stuff, I’d be more impacted, eager to pay attention, and to act.

To me, talking about being an influential leader is sexy, and I’m riveted by it.

It’s selfish. It’s what I want. It’s what I enjoy. It’s how I see myself and the result I’m after.

I’m not focused on ‘knowing my target market.’

I’m not against it, I’m just not psyched about it. Is anyone? Does anyone wake up and say “Man, my life dream, what I really want more than anything… is to know my target market! Yeah!”

And that’s okay, be selfish, focus on being the leader you know you want to be.

Now watch…

…Because I’m going to give you the same message all these other blogs are giving you, but I’m going to give it to you in a fresh, new way.

So, here we go.

If you want to feel like a powerful, influential leader… if you want your content and business to be a life-enhancing thriving experience for your tribe instead of a commodified seller of stuffif you want to feel like a shining, trusted, communicator who is deeply listened to… If you want to be rewarded and
in your business and your offers —

all you have to do… allll you have to do — is do what you love, and be yourself, no worries at all of ‘knowing your target market’…

…With one super-tiny detail.

In that vision of the leader you could be, with everyone hanging on your every word… surely you’ll have to be communicating with some other human beings.


Your clients, your team, the media… somebody!

So you’ll have to communicate with them, like a good leader does.

So, at times — and only at times — you’ll need to know them, to be a good leader.

Want to know how to have this super-necessary leadership skill, so you’re not left out in the cold? Check out my article: “How To Find The ‘Lots Of Money’ That Is ‘Out There’

If the articles I was reading went something a little more like that, you can bet I’d be focused, listening, and ready to act.

Let me offer you another example – cooking for guests.

Have you ever made a dish for some guests, where you just made whatever you had around, whatever you liked, and your guests knew you, trusted you, and liked you, and so… not surprisingly… they enjoyed the dish?

That’s what I’m talking about. That’s my kind of interaction.  That’s what I want for my business — I make awesome stuff that I like and am confident in, and the people I connect with like sharing

And for the most part, people have no problem doing this. The thing about it is, you already have some experience

eating. You *know* what will go over well with the guests, for the most part, but you may not have the same experience in your business.

It’s not complicated, people do it all the time. You be yourself, you cook what you like, and your guests enjoy it.

A host is a leader. They lead the party. They want to please their tribes and lead them well.

Of course they want to know their tribes, but they don’t know they do or why. When they’re standing in front of a table of food being untouched, they don’t want to hear “know your guests!!!!! 111! 111!”

Before telling someone to ‘know their tribe,’ I like to focus on helping them feel like a leader first. In business, in social media, and in life.

So, let’s say now they’re thinking about leading their tribe; now they’re thinking about influencing others…

…now you bring up the super-tiny detail. (know your target market)

Sometimes, when most of the guests aren’t eating, and you don’t feel like a leader or a good host, and being ‘yourself’ feels a bit awkward, because the real you – the leader you – would investigate.

“Is something wrong with the food? Is it too cold? Are the guests allergic?” Etc. – Here check out this article called “Know Your Guests: How To Get People To Eat Your Food — Fast!”

Then Help Your Tribe | Ryze

Being results and benefits-oriented for ourselves is human nature. Being selfish is human nature. You need to know who you’re talking to.

So, my message to all these bloggers giving me advice on knowing my target? Practice what you preach a bit more, front-load those articles with pain + pleasure buttons that appeal to ME, the entrepreneur, the business owner, the tribe-leader who may-not-feel-like-one.

Then get to the ‘know your target market’ stuff.

You want to find your best buyer, and know your one person… why? Because it’s a vital, essential, necessary tool that all great leaders, entrepreneurs, and success-stories have, and it’s f***ing
easy. You have it at your fingertips, be a powerful influencer, learn it.”

I’ll end with this quote, re-quoted from article called “It’s Okay To Be Selfish” from Psychology Today, by Jennifer Garam.

“I want you to be really, really selfish. The more selfish and nurturing you can be for yourself, the by-product for those that you love or work that you do is greatly enhanced” – Greg Gumucio, Yoga For The People

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Doesn’t that APPEAL to you? Doesn’t that make a much more compelling case for knowing your target market? Know them when and if you feel compelled to be that leader and that influencer you know you are. Know them after you’ve focused on What You Want First.

When you focus on What You Want (being influential and getting people to take action), you naturally end up learning to “know your target market”. If you focus on “knowing your target
market” there’s a high-chance of it “not sticking”.

So how about it? Am I talking to the right target market, in the right way?

Would you guys prefer me just to give you another semi-lecture about ‘knowing your market’ or is it more exciting if I talk about feeling like a powerful, influential leader, and from that position,
show you why it’s important to communicate and learn about your people?

Do I know my tribe, or don’t I? Or do I not even really care about that, Jay Abraham-style, and am I focused clearly on what I want?

Let me know in the comments 😀 <grin>

Jason Fonceca stands for “Sexy Success.” He helps people get from where they are, to where they want to be, with clarity & style. He offers fresh perspectives, a free Success E-Course, and rock-solid guidance athttp://RyzeOnline.com. He’s been featured on FirepoleMarketing.com, Building Digital Empires, and Technorati. Follow him at @ryzeonline

About Ryan Hanley

I help make sales easy through content marketing. My work as a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and Amazon bestseller author will help your business establish authority, attract an audience and grow revenue. Hire me to speak at your next event or grab a copy of my new book, Content Warfare.

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  • http://www.reallygoodwriting.co.uk Mike Garner

    Yeah, “focus on your target market”, the first thing you learn in marketing school. And you’d be mad not to. Why would you try to sell your stuff to people that don’t want to buy it?

    The question is, “How do you you do?” There’s so much “advice” out there that’s so regurgitated and so conventional. The Steve Jobs analogy is a great one. just like Henry Ford who said that if he asked his customers what they wanted, they’d say “a faster horse”.

    In a way, that’s what Henry Ford (and many others) gave them. Only not in the way they expected. Getting the balance between doing what makes you happy, being difference and finding an audience for it is very difficult. But also what makes doing what we do so much fun!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      I have to completely agree with you… Convincing an audience that your different thing solves their problem in a unique and different way. That is success.

    • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

      Awesome contribution, Mike. And you and Ryan are right, an overlap of what you love, and other people loving it, is awesome.

      To me, there’s two ways to do that, generally people choose one of the other:

      1. Look at your path as “aiming to please others”, which means you better focus on your target audience, a LOT.


      2. Look at your path as “being yourself, doing what you love, and through that, ATTRACTING the right % of 7 billion people on earth to support you.”

      Most advice focuses on method 1, not me though :)

  • http://www.ranashahbaz.com Rana Shahbaz

    Don’t you think Kitty It depend on what your end goal of writing is?

    When we talk about blogging from a small business perspective, then I think it makes total sense to produce content which should attract your target audience (ideal customers) but when you are in an artistic mode such as a novelist, you are not looking to target any audience their you are fulfilling your inner soul.

    Mixing art and business together often dosen’t go well.

    Having said that I never read anything where any guru ever said that you should target your audience and don’t resonate with them because this is one of the key element of targeting your audience.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      From what I know, the successful artists today are often the artists that can most productively combine Art and Business.

      I think your points are right on target.


  • http://www.productivesuperdad.com/ Timo Kiander


    A fresh approach to a very common (marketing) topic!

    I have been thinking lately, that my target group == me.

    It is going through the same “pains” and having same issues than what I have.

    That way, doing market research should be like stepping in front of the mirror and take a good look what you see. Not necessarily what’s outside, but inside instead.

    I guess that to become a good leader/influencer, you have to relate to your “people” somehow (well, in most of the cases anyway :). And that is possible when you have common experiences and problems that you can share, but with the exception that you find an solution to those problems.

    What do you think?


    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Leadership is such an intriguing topic because it’s a chicken and egg debate.

      Do you step and Lead based on who you are and let people with similar beliefs fall in line


      Do you listen to the people you want to Lead and base your leadership beliefs on your “Audience”.

      I tend to fall in with the first scenario.


      • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

        I believe making either choice will amplify your leadership, depending on what phase of life (or the cycle) you’re in.

        If you’ve done the me, me, me thing for awhile, chances are a little focus on others will jump-start you. And vice-versa. :)


    • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

      Timo! I think that’s a great way to look at it!

      One aspect of a leader is someone who takes the combined, common, mutual desires of themselves and others, and channels it into an uplifting solution :)

      People follow people like that.

      Is that what you’re getting at?

  • http://www.carmensognonvi.com Carmen Sognonvi

    Provocative post, Jason! It’s definitely good to keep in mind sometimes that (as Steve Jobs would say), people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

    Listening to your customers and engaging with them is definitely critical in this social media world we live in now, but at the end of the day, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to be a leader, not a follower.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

      I completely agree Carmen… In the end you’re either a Leader or a Follower.

    • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

      Yeup, Steve was a master at “Creating Demand” (see my FirepoleMarketing guest post: ( http://www.firepolemarketing.com/blog/2012/01/20/phase-of-marketing/ )

      The leader/follower thing is interesting, because I teach that everyone is both throughout their lives, and simply choosing to access one or the other at any given moment.

      Does that make sense to you?

  • http://www.carmensognonvi.com Carmen Sognonvi

    LOL I’m a little over the word “tribe” too, Kitty. One thing that sucks about the internet is that it takes words or phrases that are innately quite powerful, and just kills them through overuse.

    • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

      lol kind of like “target market”, “know your audience”, etc?

      It’s all great to be annoyed about word-usage, lord knows I’m not big on boring repetition, but do any of us have proposed solutions and alternatives? :)

  • http://www.rightmixmarketing.com Tom Treanor


    The comments here are great! Good discussion. I get your point. I agree with it. For those of us who are ready to take it up a notch, we need to be leaders versus rehash old topics in similar ways. We need to presumptively take “ownership” of our tribe. It’s easy to write up a quick “5 tips to delighting your target audience post” while it’s harder to inspire people to action. Thanks for the great post and for challenging all of us.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

      Inspiring your visitors to action… That’s the deal!

    • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

      Woohoo! Thanks for the feedback, Tom (and Carmen, who noted it was ‘provocative’ — which I certainly live and breathe 😉 )

      I *love* that you’re ready to kick it up a notch. The world seems to be calling for more like that :)

      I spent many years “giving advice” because I’m blessed with wisdom, insight, and clarity, but I learned the hard way those gifts are useless if you can’t inspire others to action.

      You highlight a very important point :)

      Rock on everyone, great comments!

  • http://www.internetentrepreneurconnection.com Hector Avellaneda

    Jason – I love this post man! I have to admit that so many times that’s how I start out ‘focusing on my target market’ and what I think they want or who tI think they are. Instead, what I should be doing is focusing more on being the leader that my target market will be attracted to. Thanks for putting things into perspective for me. I loved your cooking analogy!

    • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

      Yeah man! Thanks Hector, feedback like yours keeps me going – it helps make me strong, more precise, and to excel more.

      Some people claim they are dulled by praise, but I feel that people seeing good, value, and the best in me is pure fuel :)

      And yes, “become the leader” that others will be attracted to, I find to be immensely powerful (at the same time, as I said in the article, becoming that may involve ‘investigating’ your audience )

      Sexy success, #ryzeUP!

  • http://mightywisemedia.com Eric T. Wagner

    Hey Jason… I think at the end of the day, you’re right about needing to find different angles and ways to communicate. I mean seriously, there’s relatively nothing “new” under the sun & and most everything is re-purposed anyway.

    Here’s the rub though: Yes, many articles cover the same topic. But, look around. So many businesses still not getting it. Clueless about what their customers/readers/followers really need and want. Just plain blind.

    How to reach these guys? Keep repeating and re-purposing the same message. A message like “hey, know your target audience, will ya?” Hopefully they’ll get it one day…. from someone… somewhere.

    Thanks Jason… :-)

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      Yes, there are many ideas that re-purposed and some instances just straight yanked and re-published. I don’t think you are doing your community a disservice by running these ideas by them.

      However, you have to spin the ideas in a way that speaks to the people you know and count on you to give them good info. The same idea spun 100 different can not resonate with a person 99 times, but the 100th variation could be what touches them.

      Just a thought. Thanks!!

    • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

      I agree, and I expand, Eric.

      Repetition is powerful, persistence is powerful, fresh perspectives are powerful, and to me I always aim for a blend of those things. For example, to me, a fresh, well-crafted perspective repeated is pretty damn cool.

      Why persistence sucks: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. ”

      Why it rocks: “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

      Great food for thought man, thanks!

  • http://evenminds.com Jason Anthony

    You can’t help someone else if you don’t help yourself first.

    The fact is, you’re never going to fully understand every detail and aspect of your audience, and that’s OK. You can’t be all things to all people. By all means, certainly try if you wish, but I’d rather be doing something more productive :)

    What you can fully grasp and understand is your ability and the efforts that you’re making to reach out to them. By investing in yourself and your abilities to do so, you’re going to naturally attract the audience and market you deserve.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      I think you hit it right on the head buddy. You can’t be all things to all people. Be THE EXPERT for your thing… And people that need that thing will find you and love you!

      Thanks dude.

    • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

      Yep, great stuff, J, not surprisingly.

      That’s mainly what I was getting at.

      One thing though, any expert at anything can generally tell you “The Most Common Things They Get Asked” … which is an indication of?

      Knowing their audience to a point.

      If they couldn’t tell you “The Most Common Things They Get Asked”, they probably are not doing so well, as far as being an expert goes 😉

  • http://affectselling.com/ Peter Sandeen

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the mention. …I guess 😉

    I think you’re right; you definitely do something you love, before ever thinking about buyer personas or anything like that. But it’s equally true that many marketers/leaders don’t seem to understand the people they try to influence/lead…

    I can’t help myself, I’ll have to give an excuse for my post 😀 Its primarily an introduction to buyer personas, and if you check out my marketing guide, you’ll notice it really is just an introduction to the real idea I want to get across about “targeting people” 😉 It just felt more appropriate to publish it as a post, and link to it (for those who don’t really know the idea) rather than to write it in the marketing guide…

    But overall you’re right, many people (me included) believe they have something to add to a topic that many have already written about. And it would be great to find a new perspective to make the idea seem fresher.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

      Here’s another thought on this…

      Just because other people have written on a topic doesn’t mean the WAY they’ve written on  that topic has resonated with EVERYONE who might be interested in that topic.

      Your words… Your style… Your spin… Could be what truly adds value to someone.

      • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

         Exactly Ryan, I write about it one way, Peter writes about it another, it’s all good :)

      • http://affectselling.com/ Peter Sandeen

        Yeah, you’re right. But Jason does have a valid point; it’s best if you can always find a unique twist to your posts…

        • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

           Ahh, what a great community we have. You guys all rock!

    • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

      Peter – you are an excellent blogger, and I love your posts.

      I aimed to make it clear that everyone’s posts on Knowing Your Audience and Buyer Personas are FANTASTIC.

      (There’s a reason I read them all and commented on them, and then wrote my own – http://ryzeonline.com/how-to-find-the-lots-of-money-that-is-out-there.)

      At the same time…

      I also had a realization which is, if entrepreneurs are the intended audience, phrasing it in the way of “You should know your audience to succeed!” is not my fave way.

      I much prefer “Hey, entrepeneur! Do you want to lead the marketplace? Do you want to dominate your niche a little more powerfully? Do you want to bring your incredible value to the world? Good… then let’s explore how to do this, and how to influence your audience.”

  • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

    Glad you’re laughin’, Kitty! The world loves laughter 😀

    I love the examples you added of the journalist + novelist who write for themselves, not for their target audience.

    Overall the intention of the most wasn’t to call bulls*** on “knowing your audience”, but to suggest that there is a Key Perspective that would come first for each person (ie: “What Do YOU Want?”) and then from that understanding, see where/if target audience fits in.

    P.S. A note on leaders + followers.

    You say you don’t want to be led, so does that mean you wish to lead? Or teach? Or provide solutions?

    Because… anyone who self-identifies as a:

    Teacher, seller, solution-provider — is a “leader” during the interaction.
    Learner, buyer, problem-haver — is a “follower” during the interaction.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a ‘follower’ or a ‘leader’. We all are each of these things at
    times. Every interaction has one
    or the other :)

  • http://www.deblogacademie.nl/ Kitty Kilian

    Ha ha ha! Now that I have stopped laughing… can I do a guest post about how I hate the word tribe? Plus, I do not want to be led. By anyone!

    At times it seems like half the world is trying to sell something to the other half.
    That just won’t do.

    Anyhow, I agree with most of what your write. Too much of the same things being recycled over and over again, by people who probably hardy belief in them.

    Have you ever met a journalist who was writing for his target audience? Hell, no. A novelist? Not too damn likely. A copywriter/blogger? I do not really believe so. If they did, do you think everyone contributing to Copyblogger as by magic has the same ideal audience in his or her mind? So they can strike the same tone of voice?

    It is all a load of.. well.. you know.

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  • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

    Thank you Ryan for the opportunity to share here. I really appreciate it, man!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

      My pleasure Bro… I love this.

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