Crafting an Audience Strategy That Connects and Converts

December 12, 2023

beth laguardia cmo headshot

Written by
Beth LaGuardia

leader in crowd raising his hand

“It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back.” — Seth Godin

There is a virtuous circle created when your focus as a thought leader is squarely on anticipating needs and providing value to your audience. Serving your audience well helps set you apart. It is a beautiful thing. Consistently exceeding expectations fosters customer loyalty and advocacy.

Building Trust with Your Audience

Authorities are viewed as experts with something to teach rather than operators with something to sell. With this positioning, audiences don’t approach you with the skepticism of someone motivated by a personal agenda. You are viewed as someone dedicated to sharing knowledge and enlightening your audience.

Prospects are pleased to refer you to others because they know you will not push your agenda on them. You become a trusted part of their network. Then, when they are in the market for a solution, one that you, as an Authority recommend, will be viewed with a level of credibility beyond that of competitors.

Your loyal audience will readily choose your brand over alternatives and pay a premium for your offerings. They perceive your brand as less risky and more aligned with their values.
Taking it a step further, they may refer others to you, helping to offset some of the advertising spend you might otherwise have to incur. It’s pretty easy to see how building trust early with your audiences can ultimately impact your bottom line.

So, how do you best create a winning audience strategy? Our 8-part strategy that follows will more than get you started:

  1. Dare to be different
  2. Be authentic
  3. Create personalized content
  4. Develop a loyalty program that includes a referral strategy
  5. Make it a two-way street. Listen for feedback
  6. Ensure audience reviews are easy to do
  7. Celebrate your audience publicly and share worthy assets
  8. Think of the details

Let’s explore each in more detail, with best practices and examples to help inspire.

1. Dare To Be Different

Your audience is looking for thought leaders who inspire with new ideas, not regurgitate what others are saying with different words. Being original may make us vulnerable because we don’t know how our audience will react. But echoing others all the time doesn’t set us apart, nor does it offer our audiences anything to learn.

We are failing as a thought leader if we don’t believe that our unique point of view is worth listening to. As a result, we moderate our thinking to “fit into” the prevailing narrative. In fact, sometimes the contrarian perspective breaks through the noise and becomes the memorable moment of a conversation.

Breaking away from the herd takes real courage and a deep belief in one’s self, and it often makes way for true innovation and outstanding performance. Plato, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. All contrarian thinkers who dared to be different and created great followings.

To incorporate unconventional thinking means to embrace sharing new ideas within your content strategy. Make it a daily goal to keep a pulse on trending news and identify things you don’t agree with.

Create and substantiate your perspective with facts and data, and offer your perspective with a positive and open mindset for civil discourse. Bring passion where appropriate, but not emotion. Learn from others and appreciate their points. Keep the conversation progressing forward and avoid going down unnecessary rabbit holes.

Look for opportunities to make news. Is something happening around you that should be shared? Can you identify something starting to trend before it has become part of the national conversation, put it out to your audience, and offer become part of the national conversation, put it out to your audience, and offer perspective that inspires them to think in new ways too?

Being an unconventional thinker shouldn’t come at the expense of authenticity, a critically important quality to your audience and our next strategic component of a strong audience strategy.

2. Be Authentic

As with any aspect of a strong brand strategy, consistency is key. Your audience expects a certain approach, tone and style from you, and deviation from that can be quite confusing. In fact, it can lead to a loss of trust from your audience – and that is the worst result because you would have created that problem for yourself.

With today’s media glare, maintaining consistency between your professional and personal life is crucial for building trust with your audience. Hypocrisy can destroy credibility and damage your reputation, so it’s important to align your actions with your words.

Examples come to mind of elite sports figures, who could be viewed as thought leaders, having fallen from grace after their repeated denial of using performance-enhancing drugs turns out to be true.

Our advice is to recognize that you are a thought leader 24/7 and know that there is always a possibility that actions in your personal life can impact your professional trust at any time. Remain true to yourself and your brand and your thought leadership will stay “on brand” too.

3. Create Personalized Content

Your audience is not one size fits all. They are different people with different needs. And their experience with you may be limited or extensive. Think about how you can tailor your content to address your audiences and recognize both new and loyal audiences.

A great start will be to create brand personas and ensure your content calendar regularly addresses the needs of each. You will also align the calendar with the core thought leadership topics that you have identified as important in your documented brand strategy.

Listening for signals, such as engagement or sharing, to help you know how your audience is using your content to learn and grow. Audience sharing of your content to their network will help you with audience growth goals. It can also help you refine your future content by revealing which pieces are resonating in the ways you want, and with whom. If possible, allow your audience to subscribe to receive content you publish on topics that matter to them, especially if your topics are diverse.

To personalize your audience experience, encourage them to share their preferences and insights. Valuable information sharing fosters a deeper understanding of your audience.
Ask them questions that place them into your developed personas and think about ways you can anticipate their needs and interests. If you like this, you may like that. If not, then pivot!

4. Develop a Loyalty Program That Includes a Referral Strategy

Treat your local audience like gold, because, well, they are worth gold to you. Offer them exclusive access to content or other offerings that you provide. Consider giving them the ability to offer exclusive content to their networks too.

For example, if you offer a workshop for $1,000, you might offer a discounted rate for direct followers, but also a discount that audiences can offer (forward) to their networks. You might offer exclusive offerings to VIP audiences, preferably things that are not otherwise for sale or that some may even deem priceless.

Include a referral strategy in your loyalty program. If an audience member refers others, consider a referral fee or revenue share opportunity, if appropriate. Even a personalized thank you note and token of gratitude can be worth sharing.

Build opportunities to share branded merchandise or content, such as a copy of your book, into your plans. Even stickers that allow you to display your “fandom” toward a thought leader or their brand can be of great value in building awareness and starting conversations with new audiences.

Next level would be to send two of something such as a book, with one provided to gift to a friend or colleague who your audience believes will benefit. In these cases, your audience of fans are at work, helping you expand your reach and open new doors.

5. Listen for Feedback

Always ask for feedback from your audience and receive it with gratitude. Feedback leads to learnings that will help you refine your strategy and improve your results.

My recommendation is to ask for 1:1 conversations with audience members every month to keep a pulse on new needs and opportunities. You may want to consider creating an audience advisory board to help you see around corners. They can also be helpful for bouncing new ideas around if they reflect your ideal customer profile.

Form an ambassador program so you can stay connected, and ensure your most engaged audiences are aware of new happenings with your brand. Consider limiting participation and requiring applications or referrals as the only way to gain access.

Providing sneak peeks and access to celebratory events ahead of launching new offerings are just two ways to ensure this group feels special. Exclusive offerings and mailing with physical “on brand” merchandise or token gifts can also be provided to instill that VIP feeling.

6. Streamline Audience Reviews

The first step in this strategy is to identify the most valuable platforms for review. Likely, Google reviews and Glassdoor (if you have a corporate brand) rise to the top. If you have a book, Amazon reviews are important. Professors have their own review platforms. The list could go on. Make your list and direct your audience to these links at points in the audience journey.

Monitor reviews on key platforms and individually ask for audiences who take the time to provide positive feedback to do so on key platforms that will be seen at scale. Address negative reviews promptly and sincerely. Connect with the reviewer, empathize with them, and seek their feedback to improve.

A note of caution is to authentically come by reviews, not by running campaigns with small groups of motivated people (such as your employees or family) to stuff reviews with positive scores. This goes back to #2, be authentic.

7. Appreciate Your Audience & Feature Them

If you think about it, no one feels over appreciated. And everyone likes ultimately to talk about themselves, a topic no one knows more about than they do. Create a regular program to feature audience members in as many ways as you can think of. Sharing the spotlight with your audience allows for three positive results:

  • The audience feels special and receives an asset they can use to build their brand. Create an asset that is all about making that person look amazing and ensure they can use it without limit. You just may have a “fan for life” based on this tactic.
  • Other audiences, either in your network or the network of the highlighted person, see you as treating your audience well—going above and beyond to celebrate them. This reflects positively on your brand, and who doesn’t want to be part of that?
  • The audience writ large will find the example to be relatable and better understand what you are all about. You are teaching, not selling, and your brand will be more trusted and credible as a result.

8. Think of the Details

This final component of the audience strategy development process is the icing on the cake. It may seem simple, but thinking of little details that are “on brand” for you as a thought leader may just make the difference you need to stand out. Only you know what these details are, but here are a few starter ideas:

  1. Make a list of people you can connect to your network through a joint programming venture. People want to be connected to other people who can advise them or sharpen their knowledge on a topic.
  2. Create a “wow” moment – such as a surprise guest for your podcast or special “drop” of content or offer from you or a partner brand at just the right time to make a difference in the lives of your audience.
  3. Draw attention to “secret weapons” that your audience can use to achieve or expand their potential. Maybe that means going outside of your traditionally covered topics. For example, engage your community by asking for their insights on a current hot topic, such as the future of AI in their industry. Conduct a poll to identify the most likely scenario and acknowledge the top contributing members. This interactive approach fosters audience engagement and keeps them coming back for more. Something to talk about for your audience with their network!
  4. Offer opportunities to do good without asking for anything. Inviting your audience to appreciate leaders who inspire them or show gratitude to a teacher or mentor in their lives. The possibilities are endless, and should reflect whatever is aligned with your brand and audience interests.

Final Thoughts on Building an Audience Strategy

Your customer is your greatest, and likely least leveraged, strategic asset. Listening, sharing, and delighting them – should be at the core of your Authority building plan.
If you would like to jump start your Authority building plan, we invite you to start by taking the Authority Assessment so we can advise you on a program that meets your needs.
Enjoy the journey!

beth laguardia cmo headshot

Beth LaGuardia

Chief Marketing Officer

Beth LaGuardia Cooper provides leadership direction grounded in a nurturing culture that strikes a balance of performance, efficiency, and innovation. Key tenets of her marketing ...

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