It works better when you bring people around an experience, not necessarily a product.
The reason I say this is that more people are willing to participate when there is an experience and not just the thing that you do.
If you can create worthwhile participation, the content around it supports the emotional investment.
I am noticing this with the You Are The Media project and where the whole notion of growing a subscriber base takes on a new dimension, when there is an exchange of value and people feeling part of something they can participate in. Lets just say that the world doesn’t start and end with an automated message from Eventbrite after a confirmed booking.
I am also seeing this outside of the B2B we operate within. Things link when content is supported by a deeper contribution.
An Example Beyond The B2B World
I work with a theatre in Bournemouth, Shelley Theatre and support them with their journey to build recognition as an arts venue and also attract people to visit, support, watch and feel part of the whole theatre experience.
I love it because it brings in a world separate from a B2B perspective, but everything starts and ends with an audience. This also means wider conversations with performers and production companies, on how they can maximise their investment in putting on a performance, that goes beyond a Facebook paid post.
This is what I have found by working outside of the B2B environment but both are linked when it comes to theatre. There are shows that are more successful than others, but why is that ?
The shows that are successful (in terms of people booking seats), are those where there is a shared sense of responsibility from the theatre and the artist(s). For instance: there is a continual presence on social media where there is local relevance not generic ‘come to the show’ messages; there is a wider story that becomes enticing to a wider audience such as the local press (for instance a theatre company travelled to every venue on bike during the summer); there is supporting material such as great photos or a YouTube trailer. In a nutshell there is a beating pulse that goes beyond some sporadic social posts and a 250 word press release that has no familiarity with anyone.
The shows that are not as successful are those where there is more of a focus on the production and not the emotional investment to connect before the show starts. The sense of build up is completely missing. Just because it is hosted within a theatre, does not necessarily mean that a guaranteed crowd are going to be there.
The content that is created around a performance (written, audio, video) has to be achieved where people are safe in the knowledge that they are making the right choice ie. invest in an evening to watch something. In the words of Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose in Killing Marketing, “The asset is the audience and the content is what gets you the asset.”
So, when it comes to putting on a performance at Shelley Theatre, the asset is not the production, but the people who are going to book seats. It is the additional content that is created around a performance that allows people to make that connection and eventual decision that they want to watch.
Bringing It Back To The B2B World
Lets bring this back to the world of B2B and the statement that it is the content that cements a bond to the asset (the audience). In the words of Chris Marr, from the Content Marketing Academy and a speaker at next year’s You Are The Media Conference, he sums it up very well by saying, “I feel like my audience give me a lot of their time and attention, and in return I deliver something valuable to them.”
If I had decided to put on a conference next year and there was no deeper participation, then it would likely result in a cancelled event with no tickets sold. To get people to purchase there has to be a sense of experience, over just selling spaces for a product (the conference). Last week I launched the You Are The Media Podcast, all with the intention to integrate people into the You Are The Media project and cannot necessarily make the You Are The Media Lunch Club. This allows participation from further afield and get in people whom I admire and respect from Trevor Young in Australia to Andrew Davis in the US in the coming weeks, as well as those who are all participating.
If this project was wholly product focused then there would be limited deeper interaction, namely no You Are The Media weekly email to the You Are The Media Annual Awards, but switch to product centred messages where budget is centred on social media reach and frequency, which we know is not the goal to have. All the conference would become is a conference fighting to be heard amongst other conferences, that invited no sense of participation and deliver a very limited experience, namely all activity is centred on the day of the event.
In an article in July that looked at reach, I highlighted that, ‘You could spend a huge amount of time honing on a message that is the same as everyone else. No amount of amplification is going to help you, when you sound and look exactly the same. Whether it is taking a theme that already exists and adding a new layer, or modifying an approach but putting your own slant to it, this is how people start to take notice.’
When you build an audience around the media (the email, the blog, the audio, the video), you don’t have to rely on heavy price incentives to capture attention and to get someone to commit.
What About You?
It helps when you can build people around an experience and not just a product. It just needs a shift in priority where the content that you create allows you access to an audience that you can own.
It all comes from a switch of action in people and not just technology. In a recent survey by Adweek optimising the customer experience presents the biggest opportunity. The largest hurdle is company structure and a culture that has been in place to limit progression.
Here are some things to think about when it is time to centre your message around an audience and not just slip back into what you have always done, namely talk about the product:
i)The flow of information creates the value. You can’t live within a campaign mentality. When something is finished, you hand over to someone else to take the glory and carry on with the momentum. To build momentum, you have to be continuous, not just centre everything on a launch date and walk away.
ii)Make an objective the discovery of a loyal audience who finds worth in the additional experiences that you create that goes beyond the commodity of the product (get this in place before the GDPR next May, read this). For instance, since I introduced the You Are The Media Lunch Club the depth of personal relationships have grown with people whom I now regard as friends. I know that this would not have happened if the whole experience was just online.
iii)Create measurement objectives. The wrong approach is to just look at visits to your website, the correct way is to look at who is converting from a viewer to a participant. For instance, my whole focus for incoming invites on LinkedIn, from those where there is the right fit, is to invite them to subscribe to the Thursday You Are The Media email.
iv)Accommodate people into everything that your brand does. Every space provides a potential opportunity, from someone who follows, to then point them someone in a non spammy way, but of use to them. Why not make a new subscriber more welcome than a ‘thanks for subscribing’ templated email into a bit more personal, in terms of what they do, why they subscribed and how you can help all goes a long way in making people feel inclusive.
v)Interruptive techniques are just that, a way for you to stop your flow doing something else you were already doing. When someone sees a prompt to action from someone they recognise and that they trust, it becomes far easier to make that ask. For instance, over the coming months I will start to ask those within the You Are The Media community to be a part of the You Are The Media Conference.
The last point highlights a very important part, you need to action people, once they have made an emotional investment. Getting an audience to action is the key to longevity.
Lets Round Up
Building people around an experience is about creating touch-points where people get something they need ie. the entertaining video, the informative news piece, the email that invites a personal response. This goes beyond one product or service that you are looking to sell.
It is about creating an audience who are part of the journey and become familiar with the channels that they will stick with. In the words of Seth Godin from July this year, “Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve. This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it’s the simplest way to matter.”
You can’t engage with everyone, but those who matter become the asset that you focus on. When the word spreads, you have already done the hard work.