Your audience — meaning your combined readers, as well as potential and current customers — and your brand are inseparably linked.
Your audience builds your brand and your brand builds your audience.
Like the chicken and egg, it can be hard to know which came first – and which should come first when building your business.
The truth is: in the brand or audience question, neither comes first. They both feed each other.
The following five brand-building tips can also be used as five consecutive steps to building your audience.
1. Tell Your Story and Define Your Culture
Share Your Brand Story
Every brand has a story. What’s yours?
Why did you start your business? What led you on the quest to create your business? Was something missing in your life that you couldn’t find an existing solution for?
Chances are that’s the same problem your audience is having.
Help them relate to you and your brand by sharing your story with them.
Write up your story without your editor’s hat, then spruce it up with editing, and create a blog post or an “About” page that shares the story with your readers.
As I type this, my cat’s freaking out over a thunderstorm, and it reminds me that I should get her a ThunderShirt – a vest invented to help pets stay calm during storms.
It also reminds me of the ThunderShirt About page, which tells the story of the company’s founder Phil Blizzard and his dog Dosi. Dosi’s thunderstorm stress led Phil to invent the ThunderShirt.
Other pet owners can relate to that story and will likely trust his solution will probably work for their pet, as well.
Define Your Culture
Along with sharing your brand story, you should define your company culture.
Tell your audience exactly who you are, who you aren’t and what you stand for. Let them know what they can expect from your site.
The Bloggess does this really well. She has built an audience that loves her style and offers a warning to others: “If you are easily offended, you’re in the wrong place.” Her tagline is “Like Mother Teresa, only better.” You like her or you don’t. You’re a member of her tribe or you’re not. You fit in or you don’t. There’s no wondering if the site’s right for you.
Key Takeaway: Your story combined with your company culture will help build your true audience. Your audience will love you because you “get” them. You know what they’re going through and you share their beliefs and ideals.
2. Tell Your Audience How You Can Help Them
Spell Out the Benefits of Your Product or Service
If you’ve crafted your perfect story explaining how you’ve solved a problem with a solution that fills a need in the market, you expect your audience to realize that it’ll work for them, too.
Well, that’d be great if they just got the point and leapt over to your purchase page immediately. And some precious customers actually do that.
But you can’t assume they will.
Always spell out the benefits of your product or service to potential customers – even if you’ve explained all of the glorious ways your solution helped you in your brand story.
Specify Your Competitive Advantages
Not only should you list all of the benefits of your offer, but you should also detail the benefits of going with you over the competition.
If you’ve defined your culture, you can (and should) personalize your benefits and competitive advantages.
For example, there are a lot of copywriters out there. Why should someone choose your copywriting business over another?
If you’re Pam Foster, the answer is simple. She’s the pet copywriter – as in, she writes exclusively about pets; you don’t get to keep her. (Although that’d be cool. I’m sure there’s some copywriter out there who’s offering themselves up as your pet. Now that’s a unique audience!)
Anyone in the pet industry who’s looking for a copywriter and is overwhelmed with where to begin, can type “pet copywriter” into Google, and BAM, there’s Pam’s PetCopywriter.com website in first place.
Key Takeaway: Spelling out the benefits of your product or service, along with specifying your competitive advantages, further defines your audience and endears them to you. Not only does your company “get” them personally, but it also understands what they’re going through and how it can help them solve their problems.
3. Make Them Heroes
This goes along with the benefits you’ve highlighted via tip 2.
Don’t just solve their problems. Go above and beyond by telling your audience how your product or service will help them help others – and the accolades they’ll receive from their success.
Are you on the marketing team for a company that offers same-day plumbing services? Let your reader know that by hiring your company, your customer not only solved his/her leaky-kitchen-sink problem but became a hero to their family.
Can you just hear their spouse now? “Wait, we just discovered the kitchen sink’s leaking this morning and it’s already fixed? I thought we were gonna have to wash our dishes in the bathroom sink for a week! Whew, such a relief.”
Heather does this really well with her B2B SEO copywriting certification page. She opens with: “Over 69% of B2B marketers don’t have time to produce SEO content. Now you can help …”
She lets you know that you can be the hero to all of these crazy-busy B2B marketers – and that there’s a huge market for B2B content creation services.
Key Takeaway: Making your audience the heroes gives them a bonus. Your company solves their problem AND lets them feel extra good about helping others. When your audience feels that good about your product or service, they’ll come back for more and they’ll bring friends, which is an audience-building bonus for you, too!
4. Personalize Communication with Your Audience
This goes beyond just autofilling your subscribers’ first names in email messages.
When you really know your audience, you can put extra care and attention into communicating with them.
Heather creates and sends an email to all of her SEO Copywriting Certification graduates. In this email, she actually includes job opportunities, which I’ve never seen someone do in a newsletter before.
She knows that a lot of her certification grads are looking for freelance writing opportunities. She also knows that because they’ve taken her course, she can vouch for their skills to her business connections. She provides personalized value for her audience while also building trust and gratitude.
When you give your audience something extra, they want to give back to you.
Key Takeaway: Personalizing communication with your audience lets them know that you care about their success and happiness. They’re not just a sale to you. This will pay off for your brand through customer loyalty, repeat sales and brand evangelism.
5. Foster Your Community
When you build a brand, you’re building a community.
You’re like Irving Bacon in The Marriage License episode of I Love Lucy: You’re the mayor, the hotel owner, you run the gas station and the fire department, among other duties in your small town. (See 13:32 in the episode to get the idea.)
Here are some ways to build your audience and brand through nurturing your own online community.
- Facilitate discussions with your community by starting a forum or LinkedIn group. Copyblogger offers a paid membership group with an online marketing forum called Authority.
- Educate your community with a blog and content offers. Marketing automation platform HubSpot offers a marketing academy, a marketing library, an inbound marketing conference, a marketing blog, a sales blog, certifications and more to educate its audience.
- Entertain your community through social media. Porch, a network connecting homeowners to home-service professionals, offers design-inspiration eye candy on its Pinterest page.
Here’s what Corey Eridon, managing editor of HubSpot’s blogs, had to say about its growth through audience education:
HubSpot’s cofounder Dharmesh Shah started blogging before there was even a piece of software to sell – educating the community about business, marketing and tech. Now, almost a decade later, HubSpot’s educational marketing blog has become almost inseparable from the HubSpot brand. While we’ve started to write about other subject matter over the years, what keeps people coming back to the blog is the marketing how-to articles – the pieces that answer marketers’ most fundamental questions about how to do their job every day. Those articles are how people discover HubSpot, and then rediscover it over and over as they grow in their marketing careers.
Key Takeaway: Become like a parent to your own online community by helping your audience learn and grow. Interact with, educate and entertain them. Encourage them when they’re feeling down or stressed. Offer a little tough love when necessary. Love them and they will love you back. This is the real community that comprises your brand.
Build Your Brand, Build Your Audience and Help Each Other Thrive
By defining your business story and culture, you attract and hold the interest of your audience.
Take that further a few steps further by telling that audience how you can help them, even making them heroes, and you can convert that audience into fiercely loyal customers who’ll share your brand with others.
From there, you take it over the top with personalized communication and building a warm and fuzzy community for your now tribe, and they will pay you back as brand evangelists, who can’t stop gushing about you on social media.
This cycle feeds itself as your brand gets stronger and your audience grows.
What do you think? What other brand-building techniques have been successful in also building your audience? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
Photo credit to ©Raising Chickens.org