Think of the people who call you to request a proposal or subscribe to your email list.
They’ve intentionally opted in. They’re interested. And that opens up the holy grail that is “permission-based marketing.” [The opposite of course is traditional, interruptive marketing, cold calling, and advertising.]
Everyone wants to make good buying decisions. To do so, they seek out helpful information, education, and advice from experts like you, who understand their situation. That information may come in the form of a white paper, a video, an infographic, or ongoing content from your blog. Regardless how it’s delivered, it should satisfy a need or desire. And it allows your customers to do their job better.
Permission-based marketing is a reciprocal “give-and-get” process. Potential customers willingly give their contact information in exchange for getting something they value. If you want to succeed at this, the first step is understanding what your customers value in the first place.
Audience-centric objectives do just that. They focus, not on what you make, but on what you make possible when your products or services help your customer get the outcome they want. In terms of a Venn diagram, audience-centric objectives are the ultimate “win-win.”
In the example above, notice how the entire objective is focused on the target audience. We don’t mention what we do or how we achieve that objective. We simply describe the outcome our audience wants, which is inarguable. The “what we do” and “how we do it” will come later in a brand differentiated positioning statement.
Why are Audience-Centric Objectives so Important?
Audience-centric objectives are a critical first step in establishing a bridge between the organization and its target audience. As you can see above, they represent the overlapping area where your audience gets what it needs as a result of doing business with you. Without these goals, and a marketing strategy that supports them, the two sides will remain apart, which benefits neither.
1. An Audience-Centric MarCom Strategy is Built to Resonate with your Customers
Ask any B2B company what success looks like, for them. If you drill down deep enough, you’ll find their success is directly related to their customer’s success. Yet, if you look at their Marketing Communications (MarCom), their messaging is disproportionately focused on their own sales, promotions, products, services, features, and benefits. For good reason, this content fails to resonate with, or engage their target audience.
This type of poorly executed marketing happens when there is not a strategic path to follow that is built on audience-centric objectives.
MarCom strategies that lead with audience-centric objectives are built on a deep understanding of the target audience’s needs and desires. Therefore, because the content is strategically designed to help customers, it can be search engine optimized to rank when they’re researching and will directly resonate with them. And because the messaging is audience-centric, it stands out in the industry, differentiating your business from every other one that says they do what you do.
2. You’re not you when you’re hungry
Snickers’ award-winning “You’re not you when you’re hungry” ad campaign features humorous examples of people behaving out of character because they’re overly hungry. When you’re overly hungry for sales, or under pressure to perform, it’s easy to lose an audience-centric perspective. And our audience can smell the desperation a mile away. It’s here that executives often say, “We’ve got to send something out” or “We just need to have a presence.” But, this pressure to fill channels with “something” or “a presence” causes us to quickly default to talking about what we know—our products, our services, our features and benefits. That’s not what our audience wants to hear, so it’s ineffective at engaging them.
However, when our MarCom is focused on helping our customer achieve their outcomes by offering our expertise, we’re less concerned with unrelated measures of quantity, frequency, or vanity metrics such as likes and views. As a result, content engagement soars and we see increased lead generation.
Companies that prioritize instant return on investment (ROI) also lose sight of how they can help their customers succeed. As a result, they bail on long-term strategy in favor of rushing their customers to a quick decision, which only benefits them. This allows sales teams to continually fill their pipeline with new leads, but at what cost?
3. Audience-Centric Objectives tell you what to say and where and when to say it
Earlier we talked about the importance of predictability and accountability in a MarCom strategy focused on audience-centric objectives. If you’re still not sold, consider that most companies cannot answer “Yes” to the following questions:
- Do you have a content plan for the entire year?
- Do you have an editorial calendar?
The Benjamin Franklin adage says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” And the simplest reason companies don’t have an annual content plan is that they don’t know where to start. But, understanding what to say and where to say it becomes a lot easier when you understand your audience, where to reach them and what they need to hear.
Audience-centric objectives will push your company to build a deep understanding of your target audience and its needs. From that analysis, you can directly pull the 10-15 topics which make up your content plan for the year.
Without a content plan, it’s nearly impossible to develop an editorial calendar that lays out when and on which channels you will create, curate and contribute your brand’s messaging.
4. Audience-Centric Objectives differentiate your brand
The final reason audience-centric objectives are so important is simply that they help differentiate your brand and guide you in creating a positioning statement. Slightly deeper and more focused, a positioning statement explains how your company distinguishes itself from competition within a market for your customers.
Everyone knows someone (or a company) who only ever reaches out when they want something (or want to sell you something). If you only ever email your target audience when you’re running a promotion or post to your social media channels when you’re hosting an event, you’ve become that someone.
You may not know it, but you’re coming across very salesy and self-interested. It’s likely you’ve never been called out on it because that’s what people have come to expect from businesses. These businesses have essentially misidentified marketing as advertising and sales. If you can deliver a balance of value to your target audience instead, you will stand out by comparison.
We can look all around us and see that the majority of businesses are not marketing or communicating in an audience-centric way. Over time, it’s created a disconnect between them and their target audience. Unfortunately, that gap comes at a time in which consumers and business leaders are conducting more pre-sale research on their own and valuing the experiences and references of friends and family more than ever.
Simply put, if you’re focused on your own products, services, features and benefits, rather than your customer’s needs and challenges, you’ll blend in with your competition, if not sink below it. And when a customer cannot tell the difference between two options, the decision almost always comes down to lowest cost.
Companies focused on their own offerings will continue to find themselves in cost wars with customers. But, the companies that lead with audience-centric objectives will build stronger pre-customer relationships and inspire action by giving their audience value beyond the products and services they sell.