A lot of companies focus heavily on short-term demand-generation efforts. For small start-ups without venture funding, that is often out of necessity. However, many companies do so even when it is not necessary, and in these cases an overly short-term focus carries an unintentional long-term cost.
As we’ve discussed previously, a buying journey can be thought of as a quest to minimize risk. Scientists want to be certain that your product or service will fill their need. The more certain they are, the more likely they are to purchase. One factor which weighs heavily in the perception of risk is trust. If you have not established trust with your scientist-customer, the customer will be less likely to believe that your product / service will fill the need or, at minimum, will require more convincing. Conversely, if there is an alternative which is provided by a trustworthy source or brand, then this option will be given preference.
Short-term demand generation campaigns largely ignore this reality. This is especially damaging for lesser known brands, or brands with which the customer may have limited interaction. (Note that it is possible to be “well known” but not “well experienced” – in other words, for customers to know who you are without ever having any meaningful brand experiences.)
As an illustrative example, pick your favorite home appliance brand. Imagine there is a new appliance which you don’t currently have but which your favorite brand sells. Given that, how responsive would you be to a brand which you’ve never heard of which also makes that appliance? Unless they have a way of getting in front of you early and repeatedly in your buying journey and present a compelling message, chances are they wouldn’t have much of a chance against your favorite brand – or even just a popular one which you’ve heard of repeatedly.
This is why audience-building is so important. It creates a group of potential customers who you can repeatedly expose to your brand, building familiarity and trust with them over time. This trust then translates into a greater likelihood of your products and services being chosen when it becomes time to make a purchasing decision. It engages and influences potential customers before they have a recognized need, building advantages which translate into value once a relevant need is recognized.
Audiences can be built on almost any platform and through almost any means. An opt-in email list can be an audience. Social media followers or groups can be an audience. However, in order to create value for your company, you need to create value for your audience, and that comes via product-unrelated value (usually content).
Building an audience takes time, and so does creating familiarity and trust within that audience. By starting early, and putting in the effort to create value for your audience, you’ll be building long-term value for your company which will continue to pay you back over time.