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How to Build Your Audience (Customer Base)

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Photo Credit: Marko Ercegović, EXIT Photo Team via Wikimedia Commons cc

For most of us (without 10-20 million dollars), it’s not easy to build an audience, but it’s still crucial to long-term success.

Without an audience, marketing spending goes to pay groups that have already built an audience for “rent.”

It could be a gigantic media company or Jane and Joe Blogger down the street. The problem is, their interests aren’t aligned with yours, and you’ll always be reliant upon their audience to spread your message.

If you are selling in Walmart, Amazon, or Target, you can advertise through them, but it will cost you. If you want to advertise your products through Target, they will be marketed the Target way, not your way.

To remedy these expenses, SMACK founder Sean Womack recommends an online marketing strategy that uses the retailer solely as the last step in the process – the “buy” button. The rest of the funnel builds from marketing that is less expensive and totally in your control.

Three keys to building a good audience

1. Targeted digital advertising

If you want your customers to find you online, it’s important to realize that most things are discovered via social channels or search channels.

Before we move on, an important clarification is necessary: “social channels” really just means Facebook. It’s not that Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla; it’s the only gorilla.

There’s Facebook and then there’s… spider monkeys. Why? Because everyone is on Facebook. Specifically, retail drivers: women that are 35-55 years old.

Google is the place to be when it comes to search channels. If you haven’t been putting out content for five to ten years, you are probably behind on organic discussion, which means you won’t be on the first page of Google.

If you aren’t on the first page of Google, you aren’t on Google. Think about it. When was the last time you visited the second page of Google? Gen Z may not even realize there is a second page.

These targeted digital ads can start out using hundreds (not thousands) of dollars per month, targeting geographic specifications like neighborhoods and zip codes. Here’s the kicker, though: these ads must do something for you. If your Facebook ad doesn’t capture an email address, you lose money, leading to the second key:

2. Email capture

Of course, your readers will need a good reason to give their email address to you. Assuming you’re using a Facebook ad to get them there, offer them something on the ad that YOU would want to get. Great recipes, a report, a chance to win something, or even branded samples are all legitimate offers to capture email addresses.

Most importantly, don’t let that offer become a dead end – everything you send the reader should either initiate or open the door for further conversation.

Imagine introducing yourself to someone at a conference. If you were to ask their name and they just said, “John,” and stood there silently, that’s a dead conversation. Be sure to never create that circumstance with your readers.

Once you capture those email addresses, you can (and should) talk to them!

3. Ongoing content

It’s time to get your new audience member well acquainted with your brand through the use of email cascades: preprogrammed emails that go out to every new subscriber. You can send out three or thirty – whatever is necessary to tell your story. After the cascade has been sent out, you’ve got to hit them with content weekly.

Don’t worry – you don’t have to create all of the content. Create some, find some (curate), and have influencers create content for you.

Here’s the key: once you start, do not stop. You can’t stop. You’ll never make money off of the first clicked Facebook ad… not even after the first set of emails. However, in two years you’ll make an average of four times whatever you make in the first 30 days – IF you do the content.

On average, readers will stay with you for 24 months after you onboard them – if they are getting content.

Content is King, but what kind(s) should it be?

First of all, Sean recommends that you pick a medium (text, picture, or video) and a channel (Facebook, Instagram, Medium) and then decide to dominate that medium and channel.

Is your brand visual, or is it technical? If it’s technical, start out by dominating text. Build a blog, do some guest blogging, and syndicate your posts to Facebook. Again, you can create the content, find it, or have others create it for you, but it must be sustainable.

After you’ve seen some growth and your text content is established, you could then move into some image content. Whatever the case may be, you need sustainability – it has to keep going.

If you’re in the food world, you would definitely want to start with images as your medium and probably aim to dominate Instagram as a channel, then grow from there with video.

How to determine what your content is about

When thinking about content, ask yourself why an audience would want to hear you. For example, what would cause people to aggregate around a wrench? Probably not pictures of a wrench.

Think about people that are enjoyable to talk to. They are probably not talking about themselves (unless they are very interesting people). They are probably talking about other people or things that are interesting to you.

Now, if you’re making wrenches and use special materials, or manufacture exclusively in the U.S., that’s interesting, but other than that, you’ll want to branch out from the product itself. For wrenches, talk about repairs or DIY projects.

What is your audience interested in? Tell them how your product can be used to solve problems that they care about.

Answering “how to” questions is a great place to start in building an audience. For instance, Red Bull found that people who were interested in drinking energy drinks were also interested in extreme sports. They started with some extreme sports pictures and videos, and then ramped up to sponsoring guys jumping from balloons in outer space.

Most of us can’t sponsor outer space videos, but maybe a small granola company can feature some backpacking, hiking, or mountain biking. Start small and build up!

Watch the video here at Supplier.Community (login required).