There are usually three audiences marketers tend to focus on. There are the customers they already have, the prospective customers they’d like to attract, and those who are not necessarily the lead decision-maker at a prospect but those who may influence them.
Now there’s a fourth audience every marketer should consider: the one you actually own.
By “own,” we mean audiences who have directly given their consent to be contacted for the purposes of receiving business information. This distinction is important, especially in Canada, where legal requirements such as CASL ensure people don’t get spammed with marketing content they don’t want.
According to the most recent research from the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of B2B marketers agree their organization is focused on building audiences of one or more subscriber bases. For those who the CMI considers “top performers,” the number is even higher, at 92%.
Technically, social media followers could be considered part of a company’s owned audience, but much of the information shared through social media could theoretically be found and consumed by anyone. For the purposes of this post let’s focus on e-mail, which offers a lot of flexibility and potential in terms of nurturing demand or contributing to the overall customer experience. Tools such as Marketing Cloud, for instance, have extensive capabilities to maximize the value of e-mail marketing, and having a strong audience will provide a strong foundation to anyone who uses it.
Many web sites will have a pop-up or interstitial ad unit appear when visitors first arrive that encourages them to opt in to their database. If it’s as vague as “Sign Up To Receive Updates!”, however, you’re unlikely to get much traction.
Instead, try to help site visitors visualize the kind of benefits they’ll get once they join your audience. This could include:
Want to take it one step further? Offer a preview link to your most recent newsletter so they can see for themselves why hitting the “subscribe” button is a good idea.
If the company was coming out with a new offering, the marketing department would likely use every channel at its disposal to get the word out. The thing is, information you provide through e-mail should be thought of as a valuable asset in its own right, because it forms the basis of connecting the community of customers you’re building. Here’s how:
Marketing activities are sometimes siloed within a company, even it’s small or medium-sized. The long-term payoff from owning an audience, however, means that other members of the team should be equally committed to adding more names to the database.
Look at the processes in the sales team as an example. An invitation link to subscribe to a newsletter can be part of the early stage of prospecting -- for example, when they offer a link to a blog post in the followup to that first phone conversation or meeting. A subscription could also be sent as a deal closes. Positioned the right away, it could be seen as a sort of “thank you” gift to customers who have invested in a particular product or service.
The same thing is true of customer service teams. As more customers indicate a preference for self-service options to resolve their issues, it is not uncommon that they’ll look up information on company blogs, webinars, white papers and other assets. A self-service customer service tool can provide an invite to subscribe, including an invite from a chatbot who uses it to wrap up a troubleshooting question or complaint.
Don’t just stop at sales and customer service, though. Think of other areas that can assist with building an audience. Take HR, for instance: perhaps asking a new hire to share a subscription invite with the most appropriate contacts in their own circles might become a standard part of the recruiting process.
Building an audience is not just about collecting subscribers and then spitting out email messages to them. Inevitably, there are going to be those who unsubscribe or fail to open what you send very often. You’ll also need to monitor the performance of everything that’s delivered, tweaking, optimizing and (ideally) personalizing the content for your audience over time.
When you have a strong audience, you can segment. You can profile. You can start to make predictions. There’s also a “network effect” to having a highly engaged audience you own. In other words, a critical mass of satisfied customers tends to grow more rapidly -- maybe with members of your audience doing some of the sharing and inviting to their colleagues, which adds even more credibility.
If your company hasn’t started building its owned audience yet, the start date was yesterday. If you’re already on your way, make this a top priority. The more people you can reach, the easier everything else in marketing will become.