How To Build An Audience – Part 3
Now you know why building your own audience (BYOA) is valuable for B2B marketers, what you need to get started and what you will produce and distribute. The next step is running the program. That involves determining when you will publish and how you will track your audience. Here is the breakdown:
The Elements of BYOA
When Will You Publish and Engage?
The timing of your publishing isn’t well understood as a strategic decision point. Most people treat timing as strictly a tactical consideration. What time of day is best to publish, email or tweet? How often can we engage the audience without annoying them and thus avoiding the dreaded unsubscribe? How soon after content is downloaded should we send a follow-up message with related content or a call to action (CTA)? These are important decisions that can have a meaningful impact on your audience growth, engagement and attrition. However, there are more opportunities around timing than might initially be apparent.
Timing as a Strategic Tool
Timing as strategy should be viewed in cycles and their alignment with your overall goals. You don’t build an audience simply to feed it. Your end goal is to shape thinking, enlist disciples and motivate some people to take action that spreads your ideas or results in a transaction. Timing can help with this. There are three ways to use timing strategically:
- To support a specific business development deal
- To support a campaign
- Build an awareness of momentum around your business
You might know that a prospective customer or partner is about to make a decision whether to acquire your product. You might also know the prospective customer has one primary decision criteria or a key influencer has a specific need. If you have brought these people into your audience, then publishing something related to that decision criteria or requirement can help reinforce your alignment with their objectives. Not only are they reminded that you can meet their need, but you reinforce that you believe the same things are important as they do.
Campaigns can impact a broader audience in much the same way. If you are scheduled to speak at a trade show for the automotive industry next month, you will likely get direct benefit from publishing content related to that industry in the weeks leading up to it. Two things will result from this. First, some of your audience members will likely be attending that same event and may make a point to seek you out before or after your presentation. Others that encounter you for the first time as a speaker will look up your company website and see your other commentary on topics that are relevant to them. Their perception will be that you are committed to their market and qualified to serve their needs. Campaigns can focus around events, industry segments, seasonal trends, your new product launch or anything else that captures people’s attention. Timing can also help amplify your exposure and deepen your audience engagement.
The final point is around momentum. I will address this in detail in a later post because it is critical particularly in technology markets. The basic premise is simple. There are a lot of companies out there. People prefer to buy products from companies that are already market leaders or are growing quickly enough so they are expected to become a market leader. This reduces their risk of wasting time with a company that may go out of business and being forced to start over with another provider. Nobody wants that hassle. It also increases their likelihood of getting more value from the product over time and from the community of peer colleagues that make the same purchase decision. Momentum begets more momentum and that translates directly into customer growth. Timing is important here because you can tell your story in such a way that people come to see you in a leadership position or as growing so rapidly that joining your community of users is a good investment in time and money. This is playing the long-game for strategic positioning and it pays large dividends over time.
Timing as a Tactical Tool
The primary tool you employ to manage timing tactically is your editorial calendar. Journalists use editorial calendars to plan out long term content and ensure they are meeting the needs of their audience. In the realm of industry trade publications, this often means that a specific topic will be covered in the February issue every year. News items that reference that topic in December will typically get coverage.
However, if the information is not time sensitive then they will likely hold the story until the issue featuring that topic is ready for publication. This approach enables publishers to prioritize their efforts throughout the year and ensure they are also comprehensive in providing coverage to important industry topics. The approach also accounts for their typical industry cycles. The October issue focused on new technology for anesthesia administration will likely come out the same month as the big industry conference for anesthesiologists. The timing provides more leverage because their audience is more likely to be focused on that topic.
How You Will Track and Know Your Audience
Tracking and understanding your audience is an area that requires investment in tools and time. There are some basic functions that you need to have in place to build your audience efficiently and cultivate it:
- Website Tracking Software
- Email Distribution and List Management Software
- Marketing Automation Software
- Social Media Monitoring Software
The website is the destination property for your audience to engage with your content. The key things you want here are to follow basic search engine optimization (SEO) practices, enable easy navigation by users, prompt engagement with related content, and make publishing and managing your content easy. The other capability you need is to track activity on your website so you can see how audience members are interacting with your content at different times. Google Analytics is free and the most widely used tool. However, some of the marketing automation platforms such as Hubspot bake this feature into their solution as well.
Email distribution and list management can be used stand-alone or as integrated features offered by marketing automation. It will enable you to manage and segment your audience list so you can reach out to different groups based on interest or everyone at once. It also will track how many people received, opened and engaged in some way with your email. This will provide insight into what topics and content formats have the biggest impact. Studies show that outbound email is also critical to stay top of mind with prospective customers and influencers that are in your audience. They won’t always come to you, so don’t be afraid to go to them to keep everyone engaged.
Marketing automation has a broad definition. Leaders in this space include Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua, Infusionsoft and Pardot. Each of these providers offer a variety of features. However, the key elements are tracking contact – audience member – activity across distribution channels such as website and email, enabling an easy way to manage CTA’s and forms that drive engagement, and automating lead (audience) nurturing workflows. The feature set for workflow automation involves the software following up with audience members based on rules you establish as opposed to some staffer always having to perform the tasks manually.
An honorable mention goes to Social Media Monitoring Software. This depends on your market. Some segments have a lot of social media activity and others do not. Where activity is heavy, monitoring what is being said about your audience or you, and topics important to your audience can be a significant asset in your BYOA strategy. However, whereas the other elements are mandatory, Social Media Monitoring is optional in most markets.
BYOA as a Business Asset
You may know that the formula Who, Why, What, Where, When, How is a standard in journalism. This makes sense. Journalism at its core is about building and serving audiences and has been around long enough to develop best practices. The implementation is different when you are a B2B marketer, but the categories don’t change. The difference is focus, intent and bias. Your efforts will not be directed as a dispassionate observer. You will have a specific point of view and your audience will not only understand that approach, but embrace it.
The reason for BYOA is clear: drive growth for your company by engaging customer prospects and enlisting the support of industry influencers. It is an approach that helps build the lead funnel and increase win rates. If you want a growth engine for your business, the asset that keeps on giving is a large and engaged audience.
To learn more about how Act with Edge helps technology companies build audiences, contact us here.