How do you think of your audience?
Hopefully, you think of them in a generally positive way, otherwise you wouldn’t own or work for a business that’s targeting them. But be honest with yourself — are they an expense or an asset?
Many business owners tend to think of their website and their overall online presence as a sunk cost — something they need to do because their competition has a website, is active on social media or participates in other online marketing practices.
However, your online audience is actually one of the most important assets that you have as a brand. For the purpose of this article, “audience” is defined as anyone who is interested in what your company has to offer, but particularly those who have already opted-in to learning more about your products or services by signing up for your email list, following you on social media, and even doing basic web searches for your company or brand name.
The amount of time, effort, and resources you spend in order to launch the campaigns that result in a dedicated audience is remarkable; the results you receive from those efforts should be remarkable, as well. Let’s explore what audience development is, how to do it and why you should.
Your Audience Isn’t A Sunk Cost
The right way to think of your website and digital presence — and therefore your corresponding audience — is as an asset, not an expense. Nurturing that proprietary audience (one that only you can reach) is essential for building brand authority, awareness, credibility and other signals which improve not just sales and conversion rates, but also organic search traffic and rankings through strong brand signals.
Many business owners think of their website and digital presence as an advertising expense — just another cost of doing business, without much active benefit. Search engine optimization (SEO), for example, is a discipline of online marketing that requires years, in most cases, to start yielding positive ROI. Additionally, building an online brand often takes many years.
But online marketing should be seen as an investment in the overall presence and brand of a business, both online and off. After all, a company’s website is often the first touch point that a potential client has with a brand, and first impressions are key.
Future emails, social media interactions, and search visits via organic and paid search beyond these first interactions are the most essential part of nurturing that initial trust. Accordingly, the ways that you use both traditional and digital means to build your audience and nurture them shouldn’t be considered a mere cost of doing business.
Building Your Audience
There are many ways to build up this proprietary audience. Here are a few of my favorite techniques and strategies.
- Foster A Sense Of Community On Social Media. Increasingly, people need to trust you and connect with you before they will want to buy from you, and the best way to build this community is via social media. This will mean not only promoting your content and products, but establishing relationships and being truly engaged and responsive with your fans and followers.
- Offer Something Of True Value As An Opt-In Incentive. I still see too many websites trying to entice visitors to sign up for a free newsletter or email updates. Your opt-in incentive is so incredibly important that it’s paramount to think strategically about what you can offer that’s of unparalleled value.
- Become A Trusted Source Of Information Via Your Blog. This will entail regularly providing content that’s unique and tailored to your specific audience. It doesn’t matter how amazing your content is… if it doesn’t meet the needs of your customers or website visitors, it’s likely to fall flat.
- Make Guest Blogging A Priority. Regularly contributing to well-known sites in your industry or niche allows you to reach a brand new audience, to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and to continue to build trust and authority with your existing customers and clients.
The mix of tactics you use to build your audience depends on your industry and target demographics, but determining this mix is the starting point. Here are some helpful articles for building your audience:
- How to Run A Successful B2B Social Media Marketing Campaign
- How to Choose the Right Social Media Networks For Your B2B Business
- How to Find and Acquire Relevant Twitter Followers
Maximizing The Value Of Your Existing Audience
While building your audience is essential to long-term growth and success, one of the most valuable things that a marketer can accomplish is making sure a brand is maximizing the value of its existing audience.
This consists of not only providing helpful support and answering questions via social media email, and other platforms, but also sharing relevant current products or services with clients who have engaged with the company in the past and being strategic about it.
Following are a few ways you can nurture and develop your existing audience.
- Utilize Brand Ambassadors. Chances are you have a small but loyal group of customers on social media who are passionate about your business. Make the most of these brand ambassadors by encouraging their efforts through recognizing them on social media, making a point of connecting with them individually, and giving them priority access to new products or information.
- Make Being Responsive A Priority. Having a big audience is great, but if you don’t nurture and engage with them, you’re likely to lose them. This means responding promptly to questions and queries, asking your own questions (and paying attention to the answers!) and focusing on engagement (not just promotion).
- Consider A Customer Loyalty Program. Customers that have purchased your products already – or even signed up for your email list – usually have the most potential to convert again, or at least refer you to others who might convert. Offering a bonus, discount or reward to current customers can go a long way toward keeping your business front-of-mind and encouraging repeat purchases.
Your current customers are your most valuable asset. That’s why it’s so important to keep nurturing and building the love from your current customers at the same time as you invest in marketing strategies designed to grow your audience. It’s a delicate balance, but worth all the effort. Remember that building up a dedicated, engaged audience is all about thinking long-term, and thinking strategically. In time, you’ll find that building your audience becomes your most valuable marketing investment.
(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.