As you may or may not know, I earned my stripes in the publishing business, and had the opportunity to work with over 100 different B2B brands during my time there.
It’s with this experience in mind that I’d like to ask you to name the most important asset to a publisher. Is it the people? The brand image? The facility and its capabilities?
Without an audience, publishers can’t generate any revenue. No one will advertise in their magazines. No one will sponsor their email newsletters. No one will buy any direct company offers. There’s nothing but silence.
As a content publisher yourself, you recognize that the most critical part of a successful content marketing program is building your audience. Without an audience to consume it, there is no reason for businesses to create content in the first place. Without the audience, we cannot drive revenue of any kind.
And for this (and many other reasons), I was thrilled to get my hands on Jeff Rohrs’ new book, aptly titled, Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans & Followers. Jeff has traveled around the world to teach marketers how to build an audience for their content. Audience is a non-technical tutorial on how to position audience development in your organization and develop a strategy for audience creation, as well as a channel guide that helps you determine which audiences will work best for your specific content efforts.
In the book, Jeff reveals hundreds of tactics and strategies (literally!) on how to build your audience online. One of the sections I found to be the most helpful is where Jeff breaks down proprietary audiences into three principal types: seekers, amplifiers, and joiners. Understanding these three groups will help us better execute successful content marketing strategies.
Who are the Seekers?: Seekers have a need, and are looking for ways to meet it online. Seekers may be browsers, listeners, readers, shoppers, or visitors to your website. The attributes of seekers include:
- They are looking for something of personal interest.
- You can get their attention by providing relevant content that matches this interest.
- However, you won’t get their attention unless you use paid, earned, or owned media to draw them in.
- They are in control of their consumption process, coming and going as they please.
The key point is this last one: You have no way of controlling their connection to you, or how they will choose to communicate with you. They hold all the cards.
You may be thinking that search engines play a key role in attracting a seeker — and you’d be right. And you can expand your toolbox to attract seekers more efficiently by doing things like answering questions on online communities (like LinkedIn and Quora), getting your business to be listed in relevant directories, or publishing content on external outlets so that they can find it more easily (e.g., guest posting). Native advertising and sponsored content also come into play here.
But ultimately, you cannot officially consider them a part of your seeker audience until they arrive at one of your media properties, such as your blog, your event, your social media outlets, your website, a white paper and so on.
Why are Seekers important?: Once you’ve satisfied the seeker’s need, they’ll be gone, so it’s critical that we convert seekers into:
- Customers (to drive revenues)
- Amplifiers (to help us market)
- Joiners (our most valuable type of audience)
Who are the Amplifiers?: Think of amplifiers as mini-media companies. Amplifiers have their own audiences and can serve as your army for helping spread your content marketing. You may already be working with them, and refer to them as influencers, reporters, reviewers, or analysts.
The attributes of amplifiers include:
- They share content that is interesting to them, either personally or professionally.
- Amplifiers share content when and how they want to, through both public and private channels.
- Most often, their primary purpose is to grow their own audiences.
- When they’ve stopped sharing your content, they are no longer your amplifier.
To be considered an Amplifier — who could be happy customers, employees, or strategic partners — two steps are required:
- They need to consume your content
- Then, they need to share that content with third parties.
This means that content marketers need to give amplifiers assets to work with, like blog posts, eBooks, videos, reviews, and more.
Why are Amplifiers important?: Amplifiers provide no-cost marketing for your organization. They help you drive more Seekers to find your website or blog. They help you reach your audience’s audience. This is especially critical, as Google continues to change its algorithm focusing on content shared from credible sources. We work with Amplifiers in all these ways in the hopes of creating more Joiners.
Who are the Joiners?: Ultimately, we leverage seekers and amplifiers to find and keep joiners. The goal of our content marketing is to find and keep an audience, so Joiners are the ones who “bring the magic.”
Joiners give you permission to communicate with them. They raise their hands, and actively let your content in every month, week, or day that you deliver it.
The three key attributes of Joiners include:
- They allow you to send them direct messages (permission marketing).
- They provide you with a way to contact them (e.g., an email address).
- Their interactions give you personal data about them, which in turn gives you the means to create customized content for them and turn them into better customers for your business.
This is why joiners are the most powerful audience: This group has granted you at least a bit of control over your message delivery. Also, because they have raised their hands as Joiners, you can start collecting information about them — demographics, click behavior and content consumption behavior (this is where marketing automation platforms really earn their stripes).
Why are Joiners important?: Our goal is to develop long-term relationships with Joiners, tailoring our content more and more to deepen that relationship. These are what Robert Rose and I call your brand subscribers — the most important of all audiences. As a publisher yourself, you can only truly drive revenue from your content once you create and grow your Joiner audience.
Jeff ends his discussion of these three audiences by sharing The Four Rights of Joiners:
- The right message
- To the right person
- At the right time
- Through the right channel
This only works if we distribute relevant content that is useful and entertaining or interesting in some way.
The big “Aha!” moment
Just one piece of substandard content; just one piece of self-serving content; just one too many pieces of sales-related content: Any one of these can push Joiners over the edge and cause them to disassociate with your business. Now that you’ve worked so hard to get your Joiners to raise their hands, you must be more careful than ever not to alienate them.
As Jeff so eloquently says, “We don’t own our audiences. They can leave at any time. We cannot force them to engage in our content. They’ve given us a great gift… we must be sure to thank them every day with epic content marketing.”
I would like to encourage you to pick up Jeff’s book, and send a heartfelt congratulations to him and his team for an outstanding contribution to the content marketing community.
Understanding your audience is one of the most essential requirements for successful content marketing. Get helpful tips for managing this challenge — and others — in CMI’s eBook, Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Internal Processes and Content Marketing Strategy Tactics.