Are you using data to power your promotional efforts? Good for you!
Perhaps you have a list of email addresses you regularly send targeted offers to.
Maybe your business leverages a marketing automation system that drips out content to prospective buyers to keep your company top of mind.
Perhaps you have a sales management system that keeps your business connected with prospects who have yet to close the deal.
You may think that all these beneficial sales and marketing activities are serving an audience.
The truth: Your marketing and sales databases and the tactics you manage through them do not add up to serving an audience or building one.
What Is an Audience?
A respected dictionary defines an audience as:
A group of listeners or spectators; a reading, viewing, or listening public
A group of ardent admirers or devotees
So, based on this definition, an audience is a group of people who willingly engage with content from a chosen provider.
Willingly is a key term here.
Think of it this way: If you completely stopped all marketing content production and distribution, who would miss it? Who in your marketing and sales databases would reach out to you because they so looked forward to your regular emails, social media posts, videos, or other content?
Those people are your audience.
The difference between an engaged audience member and a marketing lead in your database involves their expectations when they first shared their contact information. An involved subscriber doesn’t just sign up for immediate access to a piece of content like an education paper. They give up contact info, anticipating the value of what they will receive from your brand not once, but over time.
Think of it this way. Taylor Swift doesn’t have a committed audience (fanbase) because she’s a one-hit wonder; it’s because she comes back time after time with hit after hit. She’s built a near-unparalleled level of trust with her fans, and they’re dedicated to her.
Businesses that seek dedicated audiences engender trust by building confidence in future content value. Achieving this results in highly engaged people—not just a list of names in a marketing database.
How to Build an Audience
If you want to build a devoted audience base, the worst time to reach out to new contacts is immediately after they submit their information. This approach could result in a quick sale, but it eliminates the expectation and desire for future value. When you do this, your business communicates to prospective audience members that it only cares about how much it can sell to them right now.
It’s up to you to decide what provides a greater return on your investment in marketing: A quick sale to a lead in your database or a long-term relationship with a dedicated audience member.
For most businesses, a dedicated audience member is much more valuable. Subscribed audience members are multipliers. They are a renewable asset that can help a company differentiate itself, become more efficient and effective, increase brand awareness, and sell more over time to customers.
Three Ways to Amplify Audience Engagement
Here are three proven ways to increase audience engagement.
1. Treat Audience Members Differently Than Mere Customers
The best companies have buyer personas. These semi-fictional character outlines help clarify who a company wants to do business with and why prospects become buyers, audience members, or devoted brand advocates. If your personas are able to clearly explain why people could become engaged audience members, your marketing and sales tactics will be less likely to treat them as mere buyers.
2. Encourage Audience Membership Early and on a Limited Number of Platforms
A big challenge in creating an audience is knowing where to do it.
In a standard marketing campaign centered on a database, you attract a group of people to convert into customers. Your marketing database is all about transforming leads into sales. The audience-building potential happens at the beginning or middle of the customer journey, and the window to develop devotees is limited.
The issue: As people move into the latter stages of the customer experience, they will likely not feel any kinship with the company if you do not transform them into audience members early on. They simply end up experiencing the organization through multiple unrelated touchpoints like emails, chats, phone calls, and social media posts, which results in little or no brand connection.
To avoid this, limit the platforms you distribute content through to the ones absolutely needed to deliver an optimal customer experience. By consistently engaging with people in the same channels, for instance, through email and your website, your company will feel more like a club they visit consistently. It’s a great way to build brand awareness rather than just making noise.
3. Deliver a Unique Brand Story That Unfolds Over Time
The second part of the definition of an audience is a group of ardent admirers or devotees. People become these things because they’re enthusiastic about something, usually a shared narrative. They become devoted fans because they engage in stories told by a master storyteller. Nike, YETI, Beyoncé, and Star Wars are all brands that excel at this level of storytelling.
For instance, people become Star Wars super fans when they see some movies, buy a book, and watch a television series. Each tells a different but interrelated story delivered by an overarching brand they’re passionate about. They are likely to interact with more Star Wars content because it carries a common DNA.
Businesses can do the same. Construct unique stories that share common contexts and values that roll out over time. Nike is an excellent example of doing this right. No matter the product type, sport (or not), or piece of content, fans know it comes from a brand they love and will embrace it.
Bottom Line: Audience Members Are More Than Leads
Building an audience is about more than driving leads, converting sales, or upselling customers. It is an investment in an asset that can serve your business over time. It’s the difference between a one-hit wonder and an icon with a loyal, active fanbase.