How we have relevance wrong.

Listening to John Lennon’s Imagine this morning, a particular line stuck with me.

“I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”

The guy got what it meant to be relevant.

Lennon wasn’t out to sell an idea. But he was intrinsically tapped into the attitude and concerns of a generation. And because of it, his lyrics captured moments and made headlines. He didn’t dilute his vision (or himself) for universal appealinstead, Lennon’s ‘confrontational idealism’ spoke to a specific audience. And they sure as hell loved him for it.

Relevance is a word bandied about a lot these days in conversations about brand and content.

I think we overcomplicate it sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong. To get customers and sales and scale, we must resonate with those we’re talking to. There’s got to be simpatico between what we’re putting out and what our audiences want to hear, learn and buy.

But I think it has less to do with page views, products or serviceswhat we offer has to be bang-on of course, but this is not where most relationships start.

Relevance has got far more to do with our beliefs, ideas and way of being.

Today, more brands and movements are emerging around concepts we have in common. And the more niche and crisply defined, the better. A distinct mission and message make it easier for the right people to recognize and join us.

Take Claudia Chan, for example. There’s no mistaking the backbone of her brand is empowering women to create change. And the women she attracts come from all over and run all sorts of businesses. But the belief and bond they share? That the world needs women to lead, alongside men, in business and society more than ever. And that by fulfilling their own personal and professional potential, these women can become change agents and help others do the same.

There’s a pre-existing tribe right thereand Chan’s clued in and leading the charge. (And I'm backing her all the way!)

Relevance often isn’t immediate.

It can take time to get under the skin of your audience and find out what makes them tick, and what they’re after.

I've found asking them is always a good place to start. And it doesn’t have to be typical market research-style either.

Think about how to do it differentlyin ways that could build your brand and theirs. Interview your ideal targets and use their questions, business concerns, cultural references, and entertainment interests as a basis for your brand content. See what lands well. Share it with their audience too. (This is one great way to seed strategic partnershipsa key to scaling your success.) Then tweak and continue.

There’ll be trial and error, and it’s all cool and to be expected.

Most importantly, be real.

This isn’t about shape-shifting to meet every prospect’s particular desire. People can smell manipulation for the sake of sales a mile off.

Instead, focus on what gets you fired up, where your zone-of-genius lies, how to communicate it clearlyand what you wish you’d known, or had, or avoided early on. There will be others who resonate with this too, and you’ll attract them naturally. Because you’re not the ‘only one.’ And you’re genuinely relevant.

What’s working for you in becoming or staying relevant? We’d love to hear in the comments below.