"He is greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own."
--Henry Ward Beecher, Social reformer, abolitionist
I would like you to take a moment to read the title of this piece again: How can we attract the right audience in scale?
Please note that I did not ask: How can we target the right audience? The difference between attracting the right audience and targeting the right audience is profound. And in my opinion, our emphasis on targeting the audience versus attracting the audience is misplaced and ill-advised.
Isn't attraction the brand's real job? To entice, lure, persuade and dare I say it -- charm the audience? You would never know this by reading our online media pundits. They are too busy spreading the targeting meme to consider the notion that attracting is a more preferable discipline than targeting.
Question: What is the first principle of attracting the right audience?
Answer: Use content that engages them rather than repel them with advertising.
The answer is both simple and utterly profound. To attract audiences in scale we simply must give them what they really want, engaging content! If you're a marketer who believes that your audience wants more relevant ads, I suggest you stop reading now, because I have nothing to offer that will convince you otherwise. But if you perceive a ring of truth to my words, read on…
The only folks who want more ads are the vested interests -- the media and marketing folks -- who produce and sell them, period. They come armed with ever-smaller peashooters to wage battle against an increasingly unassailable and impenetrable force of logic: in an on-demand world, nobody demands more ads.
It's simple…if you want to attract and deliver audiences in scale, you need to use content that engages them, not ads that repel them. Audiences vote by choosing videos that they want to see, by choosing articles that they want to read, by choosing music that they want to hear. Nobody chooses ads -- not even the folks who produce them!
A year ago, click-through rates for banner ads averaged .3%. Today that figure lies somewhere south of .1%…hardly an encouraging trend. Meanwhile, and in the absence of content-driven alternatives, search marketing continues to dominate. One reason why search is so powerful is that the audience initiates the engagement. But search speaks to existing intent. It does not create new desires. Search is not scalable and thus is not a good branding tool. Content that taps shared sensibilities is a proven way to bridge the gap between brand and prospect.
Content acts as a self-qualifier as well because people are attracted to content that interests them. But attracting the audience is just the first step in a three-step process. It's what you do with the audience once you've attracted them that really counts.
It's not just a matter of offering the right content to attract the right audience in the first place, it's a matter of bundling the right content with the right audience and delivering both to the right place -- the advertiser's website. That's where the magic unfolds; that's where audience engagement occurs. For the content to do its job, it needs to be consumed on the advertiser's website, the only risk-free, competition-free branding environment available anywhere.
Attract - Deliver - Engage
Once the audience is delivered to an advertiser's website, the real work begins. This is where agencies can earn their keep - by developing ways to keep the audience engaged once they get them where they want them. In fact, the same consumer behavior that asserts itself in the first place now accrues to the exclusive benefit of the host advertiser and should compel that advertiser to capitalize on the opportunity by offering additional and deeper levels of brand engagement.
The bottom line is clear: You can't engage prospects until you attract them, and you can't attract them with ads. Content, however, is the great equalizer, and the only way to engender big scale reach for big brand advertisers is to stop targeting consumers with high-tech ammo and start attracting them instead with better bait.
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