Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers

Jeffrey K. Rohrs Audience has been described as a wake-up call for businesses, a practical strategy book for marketing. It’s also pretty funny, especially if you happen to be a Cleveland Browns fan.

The focus of Audience is on what Jeff dubs “proprietary audience development,” which he describes as the “comprehensive, collaborative, and cross-channel effort to build audiences that your company alone can access.” According to Jeff, there is a hole in today’s marketing structure. Audiences are treated as separate entities and handled by separate marketers. But no one is looking at the total picture and how to fully engage these audiences as a whole. In other words, no one is leading the effort to build a proprietary audience.

Proprietary is not same thing as owned. After all, you can’t own people. Proprietary audiences are those people who have chosen to be in your audience. Subscribers, fans, followers, readers, customers, visitors, viewers, listeners: all examples of people who opted in to your message. Their attention has to be earned. They gave you permission to talk to them, but they can unsubscribe or delete your app at will.

Social media and communications technologies have changed the way consumers interact with brands. Brands need to change, too. Reaching, nurturing, and growing audiences takes more than a Facebook page and e-blasts. It takes more than ad campaigns. Creating proprietary audiences requires a change in the business model from working in silos to focusing on the big picture. It takes long term commitment because as Jeff rightly states, it’s far easier to “rent audience attention than it will be to command your own”

That’s why Jeff wants a new marketing discipline focused solely on proprietary audience development. In order to address what Scott Dorsey calls the “fragmenting nature of consumer/brand relationships,” companies need to become sophisticated in the art of channel expectations.  Ask “why are they here, how do they act?” Don’t “hard sell” the YouTube and Pandora audience when they are looking for entertainment.

Even well known brands need to nurture their proprietary audiences if they want to stay relevant in today’s digitized arena. Jeff uses Bruce Springsteen to illustrate.  “Getting an audience is HARD. Sustaining and audience is HARD,” says the Boss. “It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.” As times have changed, Bruce has found new ways to engage with his loyal fans through his website and social channels. His last album was his 10th to top the charts, a testament to the power of his proprietary audience.

Why all the attention on audience?  Simply put, people can’t become your customers without first becoming your audience. Proprietary audience development creates a singular brand voice that delivers your brand promise across all channels and devices, tailored to the needs and expectations of each. By infusing audiences with energy and individualized attention, companies can create the meaningful relationships that lead to customer loyalty. As Bruce Springsteen clearly understands, audiences are assets and Jeff implores us to embrace them as such by building, engaging, and sustaining proprietary audiences.

If you would like to get a copy of Jeff’s book, use this link and enter the code VBG88 to get the 30% discount.

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Arnt Eriksen. Simplifying the complexity
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