Don’t Give People What They Want

ask what makes you come alive

There’s a three-part formula which is rather like the Holy Grail in the world of internet marketing:

  1. Find out what they want
  2. Go and get it
  3. Give it to them

Then there’s the mantra: “Sell them what they want. Give them what they need.”

The problem is that most people don’t know what they want – or need – until it’s in front of them. If you ask ten people what they want from your business, you will probably get ten different answers – even if you ask people within a fairly tightly defined niche such as “introverts in business“.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” ~ Henry Ford

So how DO you find out what people want?

Well, I think that’s the wrong question. I don’t think it matters so much what people want. Although it’s true that, if people don’t want what you’re selling, they won’t buy it – your quest is not to try to sell to “people”.

Don’t ask what the world needs

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

I’ve been wanting to use this quote for ages – it really sums up what I had forgotten for too long, and what I truly believe to my core.

If you talk about / write about / create products and training courses that teach something you’re passionate about – that serves a need – then there will be people who will also have the same passion and the same need.

It might not be their only passion or need – which is why it gets confusing when you ask them what they want – but once it’s presented to them, they will recognise it.

Start with what you know

What challenges have you faced, that you have either overcome or are learning to live with / work around / find a solution for? What would you love to do, yourself? Become an artist? Travel the world? Set up an organic vegetable patch on your balcony?

Start there. And then share your progress with people.

That’s how The Quiet Entrepreneur came about. I was fed up with being told to market my business like an extrovert – going networking, having pushy sales conversations, building up an off-line business before starting an on-line business… But it wasn’t until I came into contact with Susan Cain’s TED talk and book that I realised it went against my introvert nature.

So I started a Facebook group, “Introverts Anonymous”, just for friends and friends-of-friends, to see whether introverts would actually gather together on-line. Within three days I had around forty members! That told me that people were interested in talking about introversion and the challenges that introverts face when dealing with extroverts on a personal level.

Then I started to notice how introverts behave in business situations, and I realised that we tend to hang back when there are extroverts in the room – and I realised we need help to market ourselves authentically. From there, I decided to set up The Quiet Entrepreneur website to support introverts in business with both mindset and marketing challenges – challenges I faced myself, as an introvert wanting to promote my own business.

Many successful businesses start because the owner had a challenge to overcome. Richard Branson started Virgin Airlines because his flight was cancelled – so he chartered a plane, even though he didn’t have the money to do so, and covered the cost by selling tickets to his fellow passengers!

Think like an artist

Around ten years ago, I was involved in a discussion with a group of creatives, where one person was asking the group whether she should write sit-coms for a particular audience, or write what inspired her, and then find a market for it.

It’s strange to think of an artist also having that dilemma. Generally speaking, artists (and by that I mean writers, musicians, photographers, etc etc, as well as painters) just start creating something, without necessarily knowing what it’s going to be – which is the total opposite to creating something for a particular audience.

Think more like an artist. Be bold! Believe in yourself.

Everything you have experienced in life has made you who you are. You are unique. Everything you have experienced has been for a reason – so that you can choose to help others who are on a similar journey, in an authentic way.

Your tribe will find you

Don’t worry too much about WHO your tribe is, and how to find them. All you need to do is to start sharing your story, and the right people – your tribe, your community – will find you.

Ask not what people want.

Ask what your soul wants to express – then go and give that to them.


Do you agree or disagree? What does your soul want to express? Let me know in the comments below.


About the author Julia Barnickle - The Quiet EntrepreneurJulia Barnickle is a film maker, photographer, artist and writer, and the founder of The Quiet Entrepreneur community for introverts in business. She offers visibility coaching to raise your online profile, and helps you create videos to promote and deliver your services.

Follow Julia on Instagram | Youtube | Twitter | or on her website.

8 comments… add one
  • That’s a great point Julia. I reckon I’m lucky that I do think like an artist; I draw things for my own pleasure, fun, experimentation. When somebody like you encouraged me to share my drawings online I soon found out what people liked. Dogs mainly! The introvert in me loves that my artwork can speak for itself. x

    • That’s such a good point, Richard – that having your artwork speak for itself is a great thing for an introvert! I think you’re right, too, that by sharing your work online (drawings, blog posts, whatever), you soon find out what people like – or what touches a nerve! x

  • I like the idea of asking what your soul wants to express then go and give that to them. I suspect this might mean taking the risk of being more controversial!

    Good luck with your treatment Julia x

    • Thank you Gina. Yes, there is a risk involved – of being controversial and of bearing your soul. Both are challenging, if you’re an introvert – but my guess is that’s what makes it come alive, and why it becomes so much more attractive. x

  • Janet

    This is genius Julia – much food for thought. Thank you.

  • Love this, Julia! This is something that I’ve been determined to do with my blog; not worry about whether people will like it and not try to please everybody but just whack something out and see what happens. It can be quite hard to do when the world around you seems to be telling you to target a particular group or word things in a way to entice people in, but I don’t see creativity in that. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Thanks Louise! Yes, I agree it can be hard to go against the tide – but I think that, by writing authentically and from the heart, we will attract exactly the right sort of crowd, rather than “enticing” (as you so accurately describe it – rather like a spider with its web!) people who aren’t a good fit for us anyway.

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