I recently returned from teaching a class of executive education students at Harvard. Most of the business leaders enrolled in this particular class were accomplished real-estate and property developers from around the world.

Builders are always sharpening their communication skills because nothing gets built until investors, city leaders, and local citizens buy into a developer's vision. So, to be convincing, developers constantly refine their plans and pitches to 'resonate with stakeholders.'

Regardless of your field, if your message doesn't resonate with your audience, you stand little chance of gaining their support. The only question that really matters to them is:

"Why should I care?" 

I learned to answer this question on my first day of graduate school in journalism. A good reporter sits down at the keyboard and, before typing a word, asks, "Why should my reader care?"

I coach CEOs and entrepreneurs to ask themselves the same question before creating a pitch or PowerPoint presentation. Sometimes, I have to deliver the hard truth--nobody cares about your product or market share. They only care about how your product, service, or idea improves their lives.

What your audience cares about falls into one of five categories.

1. Making money. 

Money is a big motivator, of course. But it helps to know the number that will grab a person's attention.

For example, professional investors like venture capitalists want to know if the potential market for your idea will provide a significant enough return to make it worth their commitment. Do your research and come armed with specific (and realistic) numbers.

2. Saving money and time. 

If your idea saves money or time, once again, be specific. Giving someone time back is more valuable than you might think.

I once met with executives at one of the world's largest tech companies. We were discussing how to market a new computer server. The engineers who built it were focused on its speed and storage. But when I asked how the product would improve the lives of their buyers (in this case, IT managers), nobody brought up technical specs. Instead, they said buyers want to save time upgrading and maintaining systems.

Their pitch worked better when they started with the value proposition: "our new class of servers will save you twenty hours a week, which you can use to catch your kids' soccer games."

3. Leaving a legacy. 

What if your customer isn't interested in making more money? I once spoke to the executive assistant to a billionaire who founded a company that's a household word. She said he gets pitched on new business ideas nearly every day. But the one thing entrepreneurs did wrong was assume her boss wanted to make more money.

This billionaire was focused on philanthropy and funded organizations that would extend the legacy he wanted to leave. He was motivated to make the world a better place, not make another buck.

4. Fulfilling their purpose. 

Many employee surveys reach the same conclusion--younger generations want to work for a company that aligns with their values. They're looking for purposeful and meaningful work. A recruiter who knows her audience might spend less time on the free food the company offers and more time on how the job candidate will be inspired by the company's mission.

5. Finding personal satisfaction. 

People are also increasingly motivated by things that make their lives easier: flex time, remote work arrangements, and opportunities to better their communities.

As you might guess by now, knowing your audience means listening to them--really listening to them. Do your research, study your audience, and you'll win them over.