I could not be more excited for 2015 to come to a close. Not because anything was wrong with the year, it was a great year. Not because I think we could have done things any better, I see amazing work everywhere I turn. I can’t wait for it to end because it opens up a new chapter.
This new chapter is in our company, in our industry, in our depth of knowledge, and in ourselves. New chapters are steps further into the story. We understand some of the characters more, the plot has moved into a new area, and we have no idea what will happen.
When I think about it, I am so excited it gives me goosebumps.
Right now I am sitting in the lobby of the Westin Hotel in Boston on the last day of MarketingProfs B2B. Just in the past 15 minutes, I have seen Joe Pulizzi walk by with a smile on his face and of course, wearing some orange. Ann Handley has just commented on the video of her I posted on Facebook and shared a gorgeous photo of the sunrise. Several attendees just got up for a run and a yoga session so there was probably $20,000 worth of spandex and other stretchy articles of clothing in the lobby, and I am here to experience it all.
So why am I here, because I am a fan.
I am a member of the audience of those who contribute to the sharing of information and continued education in marketing. I am a fan of MarketingProfs, Content Marketing Institute, Top Rank Marketing, DivvyHQ, EPiServer, Brightcove, more speakers than I can count, and the list goes on and on. There are so many companies represented here doing things right and others are still not seeing the big picture. But to what problem? The problem of audience, intent, and commitment.
What is an audience?
So let’s start with a basic understanding of the audience and run through a few simple scenarios based on this event. The event is MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2015 in Boston. MarketingProfs has built a remarkable brand around educating the audience of marketing professionals. In the name of the event, you see the acronym B2B, which represents companies marketing their goods and services to other businesses. And finally, the use of the word forum makes you believe it will be collaborative. The expectation of the audience is the experts who are presenting the topics, the companies who are represented here, and the organizers are here to help them learn.
Now that we understand the event let’s look at the definition of the word audience. Google (and whatever sources they borrowed it from) defines an audience as “the assembled spectators or listeners at a public event, such as a play, movie, concert, or meeting.” Ok, that sort of points us in a direction, but let’s break it down into parts.
First, the word assembled conveys a gathering. People gather because they have a common interest. This could be a myriad of reasons that are temporary or long term. So when people gather around a street performer, their grouping is based on a passing interest and once the performance is over, the audience disassembles. When people gather around content delivered by a brand, they are gathered as long as the content is regularly distributed and it is of value to them.
When spectators or listeners show us the intent, they want something. Typically this means they want to be entertained, educated, or both. The intent, along with the presentation, helps drive what makes our offering valuable.
And finally, this definition has the audience gathered in a public place. Rather than thinking about this being public and all that goes into that, think of this as not private. Now private means there is a sense of discretion and to be aware of others rather than just aware of yourself.
So in the case of B2B Forum, the public gathering of marketing professionals with the intent of continuing their education that is entertaining and educational is what brought us all together this week.
What is My Audience in Content Marketing?
In your content marketing efforts, you too will have an audience. These people will gather around you based on what information or offering you provide and the problems solved by it. Based on the content offered, you will be setting out the expected intent and delivery frequency of the audience. Their intent for consuming the value you offer and the length of time you deliver on the expected delivery cycle is what keeps the audience together.
So you will be creating content of a particular type distributed through a single or set of locations where it can be consumed. That outlet could be a blog, social media network, email newsletter, event, print magazine, or whatever else makes sense for your industry and the spectators or listeners you are reaching.
Back to the Show
So in the beginning, I listed a few companies and individuals representing businesses who were present at the B2B Forum. Each of them has different outcomes and goals for being here, but they are here because they want to reach this particular audience. The three categories I will break these folks into are: event organizers, speakers, and exhibitors. Rather than give names, we will use these titles for the rest of the article when describing the pros and cons of their actions.
The event organizers formed the conference for a reason and it is assumed they have the most invested in the gathering of the audience. By educating a group of marketers in the B2B space during the three days, they hope to drive their own business goals of: getting signups for next year’s event, the sharing of excitement and treasures with their own audience, and the consideration of the other offerings they have. These are not their only goals. They also know they play a part in the vested interest of all of us, which is the continued growth of knowledge and experience sharing in the marketing community. Since it is content marketing, they will ensure there are outlets for attendees to move toward these goals and light the path for maximum accessibility.
The speakers offer their presentations and expertise to the event for a few different reasons. Those could be the awareness of their own content, products, and/or services, as well as the ability to grow in thought leadership or industry status. Usually with speakers at these types of events it is a combination of both, but you it could be just one or the other. In my case, I wanted to deliver content based on the audience’s desire to continue their education of B2B marketing. The potential outcomes for offering the content is the brand awareness of AJi and a connection for future delivery of content through other mediums. At the same time, I wanted the ability to demonstrate thought leadership to the organizers and the other speakers to allow for future opportunities to share similar content and expertise with their audiences.
And finally, the exhibitors are here to communicate information about their products and services to the audience, in hopes of their own audience growth and generating leads. A few shared educational content for the audience with no expectation of a sale to grow their own audience and others were there for to close the deal or get leads.
Setting Out for a Vacation
In the description of the goals from the speakers, the event organizers, and the exhibitors you will find a direction shift from the original intent of the audience, to the expected journey of the deliverer of content. Those with the expectations most aligned with the reason of the audience gathering have a better chance of conversion that the others but only if their content is of enough value to pull the recipient in.
So consider this story. Let’s pretend we have a group of vacationers in one location, and their cars are packed, families loaded, and ready to set out on a journey for entertainment. To select the destination of that journey, they have three options: a single-lane road to a wonderful water park, a two-lane highway to the office, or a 6-lane interstate to Disney World.
Their selection will be based on their original intent of a vacation that is entertaining. The likelihood of them selecting the two-lane road to the office is minuscule unless their office is a theme park or vacation destination. So with two ends left and the intent in consideration, the value delivered to each destination will be the next consideration. If it is found that one is far more valuable than the other, then the width of the road will probably not be a factor. However, if the value is about the same or the family is limited in time, the time to reach the destination will weigh heavily.
The Tie Back
With both examples in mind, I will attempt to illustrate a few comparisons of what I experienced:
- Scenario One – Say the family has always wanted to go to Disney, it may be the fastest and easiest option for them and the quickest way for the value. However, if they just went to Disney last month, then the return will probably not be this quick because the value is not the same.
I see this as a comparison of the speakers who present the same presentation at CM World, Inbound, and B2B Forum year after year. Even though these events are so close, two the same week, some of the attendees will go to more than one. If they enjoyed your content at one conference and return the next year or attend one of the others and you present the same material, you are the equivalent of the It’s a Small World ride. It was entertaining at first, but a major decrease in value will be experienced if the audience member returns expecting something new and you just regurgitated the same ole stuff. This happens far too frequently and I hope the event organizers take this into consideration in the future. For a conference at this level, we can expect a high percentage of return or shared audience. Produce new content or move out of the way of the others who will.
- Scenario Two – The family wants to go to the waterpark but when they arrive lines are longer than expected and they don’t have a good time. On the way home they make a promise to never return to that waterpark until they hear things have changed from a trusted friend.
This goes out to all the exhibitors who present themselves as having the expected intent of the audience in line with the event but once the audience experiences it, they are left wanting the time back. These types of activities are VIP parties that go out to everyone, sponsored gatherings that are not interactive, when people are left on their own to make connections, and the worst ones are paid sessions that just end up being a sales pitch with no value in line with the intent. Not all of these were at this conference but I have experienced all of them this year. If the intention of the audience is to learn about B2B marketing, you better deliver on that promise. The reason no one came to your booth was partly due to the traffic flow but also due to you not being able to provide value that was attractive. Those who came to your event with an expectation to learn and grow and you didn’t deliver have now grown further away from you than before you met.
- Scenario Three – The family chooses the waterpark and has the time of their lives. Even though it took longer to get there than Disney, they plan to return because there were several areas they just didn’t have time to visit and the water park had plans to open new areas in the next few years. The family also found a few other properties affiliated with the park near their home they can frequent often and plan to give them a try.
I like to align this one to the event organizers. Of the two major marketing events I attended this year, I feel they both did an excellent job of running and organizing a compelling offering. There were sessions I enjoyed and others I didn’t much like at all. There were events that I loved and made good connections and friends and others that I felt out of place and not welcome. There were exhibitors that I would have loved to help them get them out of the expo as quick as possible to make room for more tables for collaboration and continued education and others I gained information based on my original intent to learn. While there were bad experiences, they were outnumbered by the good. I plan, and know of many others, to attend each of these events next year.
- Scenario Four – The family goes to Disney and has a great time. While there, they see an advertisement for a restaurant they wanted to try and make plans to go. When they arrive, the wait staff is nowhere to be found and when they track someone down, they just sat the family down and walked away. A few minutes later someone shows up to help them but the family has left and walked down the road to another vendor.
I don’t know how to say this without my blood boiling, but if you work a booth, please, PLEASE, put your dang phone away and stop talking crap about other people in your area. You are representing your company and good money was spent for that booth. Be alert, be prepared, know what you can and can’t offer, and smile. When someone comes by, don’t sell them, help them with what they are looking for. If you can’t offer it, show them someone who can or point them to someone else who can.
Another matching event to this scenario is if you are a speaker and you are there to educate people at an event around education, make yourself available. Don’t just huddle around your friends and exclude the attendees as if you are some sort of elite. Don’t just fly in right before your presentation and fly out after. Don’t go places where people are supposed to come to you for advice and put off the vibe that you are busy while you leave your freaking laptop open the whole time. YOU ARE NOT THAT IMPORTANT! In fact, you are a part of the labor force which is here to help with the guest. These guests want to learn more about marketing and it is your job to offer it. Sure, you can unwind and you don’t always have to be on, I get that. But when you are at the event and a guest comes your way, you better make them feel invited and offer your assistance. If not, you’re just making the person feel bad. Empathize that! Think of a time you felt left out and not wanted around and how crappy it was to your self-esteem and changed your opinion to return.
So What Can We Learn About Our Audience?
Ok, off my soapbox…
All of us need to leverage the audience others have built to help amplify our own efforts. That could be a search engine, a social network, a regional business group, the people connected to our customers, and large events like MarketingProf’s B2B Forum.
When we are interacting with any of these audiences, we should provide value in line with the purpose of the initial gathering. Search engine users are looking for answers, not to sign up for a sales pitch. Social Networks users are looking to connect with people; have social interactions; and obtain more information through trusted sources, not a disruption to their feed with the promise of value and the lack of execution. And large events are formed around explicit expectations of the audience and before you participate you should make yourself closely aligned with that intent.
If you plan to be a stop on a journey with any of these, the more you can determine the intent in advance, the higher the chance you have of making an impact and attracting them to your own audience. Then continue to deliver content based on the reason they joined you with new forms of education or entertainment.
And finally, write it all down so you don’t forget it, as well as remember others who join you along the way.