How to Reach the Right People

What I learned about marketing after trying to do too much

Frank McKinley
Dec 15, 2018 · 6 min read
Photo courtesy of Pexels

Do you want to win over the world?

That’s the dream we buy into when we have something to say or sell.

It’s appealing to have an office 10 feet from your bed. The thought of having my car’s tires dry rot from not having to drive over 100 miles a day to work is a big motivator. Being able to schedule coffee and a nap is pretty sweet, too.

That day will come.

The question we all want answered is, “How on earth do I make my dream come true?”

Then we start looking for shortcuts. Magic pills. Answers in a box. A one-size-fits-all solution that we can turn the key on and instantly find millions of dollars in the bank.

If only!

Here’s what some “overnight” successes have to say:

“I was 40 years old before I became on overnight success, and I’d been publishing for 20 years.” — Mary Karr, bestselling author of The Liar’s Club

“My dad told me, ‘It takes fifteen years to become an overnight success’, and it took me seventeen and a half.” — Adrien Brody, the youngest actor ever to win the Best Actor Academy Award

“It took about 10 years’ time for Shopify to be an overnight success.” — Tobias Lutke, Founder and CEO of Shopify

I’m not saying your success path will take forever. But it will probably take longer than you think and the path doesn’t come with a map.

My Story, Briefly

One of the first messages in that book is that if you want to succeed you should spend about 7 hours a night on your passion and sleep the other three. Since you’ll have to keep your day job while you’re waiting, you have to crush it.

I was already tired from doing too much, so I quit reading the book.

I asked my mentor for a book on marketing. He suggested one that on the surface doesn't look like a marketing book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

It was just the message I needed. 180 degrees in the other direction. No more beating myself into a pulp trying to crush it.

I had some big projects on my plate I had to finish. So I immediately began to think about what really mattered and what didn’t.

Should I check Facebook, email, Twitter, and Medium 10,000 times a day?

Should I take my phone with me everywhere so I can get in one more news article, one more social media comment, or one more idea in my notepad?

Should I spend all day listening to books so I can learn something new?

No, no, and a resounding hell no.

What I learned has literally changed my life so much, I feel like I’m walking out of prison after a million years of self-sabotage.

Photo by William White on Unsplash

Time is precious. If you’re an artist who wants to make an impact with people, you’re a marketer, too.

Here are five lessons that will help you draw your own map.

Everyone is telling herself a story.

What does that mean?

  1. We all have a vision for our perfect future. It varies from person to person as to how clear this is, but we are all hoping for something. Higher status. More money. More toys. And the ability to do what we want when we want.
  2. Everyone believes her story is the truth. The right way for you seems the only way. Unless something interrupts your narrative and shakes you to the core, you stick with your story. In other words, it’s fact until you have a reason to doubt it.
  3. When you align your story with other people’s, you connect. Our friends have something in common with us — something important. Values. Convictions. Something important to gather around, talk about, and celebrate.

Take time to learn your people’s hopes and dreams. What’s important to them? How do they want their world to change? What needs to happen for them to feel all is right with the rest of the world?

Dive into that and you’ll mine gold.

Your audience is never everybody.

The bully on the playground won’t be pleased until he dominates you.

Your dad finds something wrong with everything you do, no matter how hard you worked on it.

Your friends believe your dream of becoming a doctor is silly, so they laugh at you when you talk about it.

Want to make the bully happy? Roll over and let him have his way. You won’t be happy. You may even hate yourself for not standing up to him. You lose. He wins. Everybody isn’t pleased.

You look up to your dad because well, he’s your dad. He brought you into the world. But that doesn’t mean you have to please him by giving up on what you care about. He may hate it, but you have to live with yourself. And one day, you’ll move out (if you haven’t already). No way everyone can be pleased here until you prove Dad wrong with a big success.

When your friends laugh at your dreams, honestly — are these people really your friends? It depends on your dream. I’d say they’re your peers or your classmates, not your friends. No point pleasing everyone in this case.

We can’t possibly please everyone because we’re all telling ourselves different stories.

Instead of pleasing everyone, strive to please the people that matter instead.

Photo by Greg Leaman on Unsplash

You make more impact with a firehose than a sprinkler.

When you add a drip here, another drip there, and still another drip somewhere else, it’s like whispering in a noisy bar when a metal band is playing loud enough to make your ears bleed.

Nobody will hear you and no one will care.

Here’s an analogy. On some social media platforms now, you can start a group. It’s more effective than just using your profile to rally people. Why? the group offers people a cause to gather around rather than a person. If it’s done well, they’ll get excited and share their experience with their friends.

Then your ideas spread quicker than they would if you whispered in a noisy bar.

The bar is like the Internet. There are lots of people crowded in there. The only way you can hear anyone is if they’re shouting unusually loud, The alternative is to nudge someone, lean in, make eye contact, and talk really loud.

Let’s call it a roar.

You roar when you find the right people — the ones who believe what you do, see the same future you see, and want the same things you do. They’ll listen to you if you can bridge the gap between what they have and what they want.

These are the everyone you have the best chance of always pleasing. At least the percentages are stacked higher in your favor. It’s the difference between investing in something you’ve studied and trust — and buying a lottery ticket because the jackpot is huge.

Tell your story to the right people.

Social media offers highly targeted advertising if you want it. Facebook and Google have more data than any advertising platform in history. You can target your prospect demographically and psychographically. That means you can pitch to writers of romantic mysteries who like coffee after lunch and live in Vermont.

Even with that, there’s still no guarantee they’ll pay attention to your ad.

In todays’ culture, you can’t make a pitch without wrapping it in a story. It doesn’t matter if the story is true or made up. When we see ourselves in it, we pay attention.

Anything else is an intrusion, and tastes like spam.

It pays to choose who you’ll serve.

People might feel left out.

You might miss some opportunities.

That’s okay.

Choose what you’ll do and for whom you’ll do it. Say no to everything else. Your whispers will turn to roars. Your sprinkler will become a firehose. And your efforts will pay off far more than they’ll fail.

There’s nothing more pleasing than reaching the right people with the right message.


Discover tomorrow’s bestsellers today. You'll say you knew them when.

Frank McKinley

Written by

Featured on NBC News. Creative Coach on a mission to turn Striving Writers into Thriving Writers. Over 30k books sold.


Discover tomorrow’s bestsellers today. You'll say you knew them when.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade