3 steps to creating an audience that wants to hear from you.
Most marketing consists of some form of advertising – display, social, print, search, etc., with an offer or product related message. The goal is usually to reach a mass audience with frequency and persuade them to buy today. Only a small percentage of the audience ever clicks and takes an action, but if the audience is big enough and you reach them often enough, goals are met, if just barely. Then you start over and do it again.
Insightful marketers are starting to realize, however, that there are fundamental problems with this approach.
- The percentage interested in buying today is actually very small. Studies suggest less than 10%.
- What about the other 90%? You’re paying to reach them but they aren’t paying attention.
- You are “renting” someone else’s audience. You’re paying to reach the publisher’s audience for a limited time – an audience that has a relationship with their brand, not yours, and whose very accessibility is subject to their algorithms, filters and rules.
A growing number of marketing thought leaders are suggesting a different tack – a change of mindset, really – with respect to how you look at marketing and how you allocate your budget.
In their new book, Killing Marketing, Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose suggest that rather than focus marketing investments exclusively on “the immediate return of transactional clicks, visits…or even purchases,” you should look to “the accumulation of attention and access to an audience (you) can monetize over time.” This is not to say that you should give up trying to drive revenue from ready buyers. But why not expand the pot?
This is something we’ve been telling our clients for years – going all the way back to when we were a media company and brands were renting out our audience. The challenge is that this involves a paradigm shift, from a transactional mindset to a relationship approach to marketing – from renting audiences to building and owning your own.
Building an audience is about building a relationship instead of trying to make an immediate sale, with the goal of increasing brand loyalty while generating more revenue today and down the road. Here are the essentials:
Create a content platform
It starts with building your own content platform, as opposed to purchasing exposure on someone else’s. A content platform can be viewed as a collection of media properties-web, print, events and others-with a common theme and, ideally, a brand of its own (think Adobe’s CMO.com or American Express’ OPEN Forum). A distinct brand helps position your content as being about the customer first – helping them with their need for resources and information. This builds trust and helps build your audience by providing a reason to sign up and keep coming back. Your content platform is also your communication vehicle, not only for content, but also for offers and other calls-to-action. Finally, it becomes a destination. Everything you do on social, web, email or through other media should direct readers to the high-value, in-depth content on your platform.
Produce top-shelf content
We often say marketing organizations need to become more like media companies, or publishers. This is critical because so many different, content-driven communication channels have become important today. But there’s a catch. To be competitive in this environment, your content needs to be “media-worthy.” Anyone producing content today is competing with well-established media companies for mindshare, and marketers must raise their game to stand out.
Build your subscriber base
Newsletters still work. In fact, Pulizzi says that email newsletter subscriptions are the most important metric for audience building. While a combination of multiple distribution channels is ideal, nothing gets eyeballs on messaging like packaging and delivering it right to your audience in an email. According to a study by McKinsey, email marketing is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter. Plus, the rate at which emails prompt purchases is at least three times that of social media, and the average order value is 17% higher.
Your audience is your addressable market, and the best audience is the one you own. Pulizzi and Rose say, “One of the critical things to understand about the investment in an audience is that it’s made up of people who want to hear from (you)…These are people who are willingly sharing their personal data…and giving you permission to converse with them because you are (presumably) delivering value through a content-driven experience.” Sounds like a marketer’s dream come true.
These are your best prospects. Those among them who are ready to buy will be much more receptive to your brand and your offers than a random audience of “strangers.” For the vast majority who are not yet in the market (and on whom your traditional marketing is largely wasted), you will have a chance to stay in touch with them until the time comes when they are.