Who Is The Audience For Your Work?


Wednesday, 7.49pm

Sheffield, U.K.

I can think of nothing that an audience won’t understand. The only problem is to interest them; once they are interested, they understand anything in the world. – Orson Welles

One of the most valuable things you can do is get market-product fit. People often talk about this in reverse – they talk about product-market fit – you have a product, like a better mouse trap, and your job is to find the people who need it.

The other way is to start with the market, go talk to people who you think have a mouse problem – and as you talk to them you realize that their real problem has to do with bears – so you build a bear trap. That’s market-product fit.

Understanding the market is not an easy thing to do and there are few shortcuts. There is a lot of well-intentioned advice out there but it’s not clear what is relevant to your particular situation.

One way is to analyze data to understand what people want. An early example of this is in the 1928 book The first hundred million by E. Haldeman-Julius. This tells the story of the Little Blue Books, mass-produced copies of very low priced books that covered a range of topics. They sold in vast numbers and provided an unequalled “test of reading tastes and desires.” The statistics told you what people wanted.

This approach is clearly at the heart of the modern economy that gets what people want to them as fast as possible. This is a world of things and market-product fit literally means just that, a particular product that you make and sell.

The next market to consider is the one of goals, aspirations and experiences. People want to achieve something, reach somewhere – whether it’s to get an education, lose weight, or get better at a skill. What they’re looking for is guidance, modelling, training, encouragement and mentoring.

It was never that clear to me who the audience was for this blog – who is interested in this content? It’s not really a product, and it’s not self-improvement advice. I didn’t start writing it for an audience anyway – I wrote it to help myself learn about concepts in the management literature.

And it’s that literature that’s pointed out that the market for the content in this blog is probably other practicing managers – which includes people in all kinds of organisations that have to deal with issues relating to the operations of their firms. It’s not about leadership and vision and big picture direction. And it’s not about style and brand and emotional appeal. It comes down to how we deal with the issues that exist in the world as we experience it – and what we can do about them. This probably seems obvious to you, but it’s the first time I’ve realized that in the last five years of writing.

Management, by and large, is a task that involves putting out fires. It’s not something that comes naturally and it’s not something we’re taught to do. We have to seek out knowledge and avoid getting trapped in quick-fix approaches or stereotypical images of what management should be or look like. It’s an important activity that helps us deal with the complexity of the economic world around us. So it’s probably worth learning how to do better.


Karthik Suresh

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