Audience Strategy: Paving the Way for Digital Transformation
8 min read • December 4, 2020
At the risk of adding yet another buzz word to our collective industry vocabulary, Audience Strategy is a concept to have on your radar. As associations explore digital-first models, leaders are beginning to shift thinking from a focus on serving members to serving a broader audience. Simply put, this shift in focus, and the engagement and growth tactics employed thereafter, is audience strategy. At Hum, we’re not just passionate about audience strategy – we believe it’s critical for associations attempting to increase reach, revenue, and resilience in an ever-changing digital landscape.
Before we get too far into our thoughts on the importance of audience strategy, it’s important to note that adopting an audience strategy doesn’t mean your active members are receiving any less attention. Traditional association models revolve around active members, and they likely always will – we’re not suggesting that you abandon your existing membership model. What we are suggesting is reframing the way you view digital engagement to include not just members, but also a broader set of people. Your broad audience should include multiple groups with various facets of interest and degrees of engagement with your association, some of whom might become members, industry partners, vendors, or sponsors.
What is Audience Strategy?
Audience Strategy is a digital engagement methodology that uses a highly personalized, data-driven approach to digital experiences, audience segmentation and message deployment to actively grow your organization. Audience strategy relies on the fundamental understanding that crafting compelling content and tracking interactions with that content across channels leads to audience intelligence. At the crux of audience strategy is the ability to not just paint a clear picture of audience touch points across systems, but to go one step further and turn audience intelligence into action. Audience intelligence insights can be used to launch personalized content strategies, inform new digital programs and interactions, dramatically improve audience growth and engagement, and ultimately fuel radical growth for professional associations. Audience intelligence allows your association to create personal, 1-1 experiences for members and audience groups at scale.
Now that you’ve got a sense for the model, let’s break it down. Here are the things you should consider if you’d like to implement audience strategy at your organization:
Connecting Siloed Systems
It’s important to note that true audience intelligence is dependent upon fully integrated data. Associations often utilize very sophisticated yet siloed systems leading to scattered, in-actionable data. They are likely tracking interactions within their CMS, LMS, AMS and more, but these systems often aren’t communicating with each other. This leads to scattered data stories that begin and end in organizational silos, leading to fragmented member experiences and lackluster digital programming. Integrating these systems allows associations to gain a clear, unified view of the overall health of their systems and programs, unlocking massive potential for the organization. When you integrate data systems, you’re setting up the infrastructure to launch proven, data-driven initiatives, introduce personalization into your communications strategies and truly become a digital-first organization.
Associations need not completely overhaul their operational tech stack in order to implement audience strategy. There are a robust set of analytics and data tracking tools available on the market that will connect your systems to create one cohesive view across the organization. Hum is a new platform purpose built to help associations implement audience strategy.
Broadening the Consideration Set
Fundamentally, audience strategy encourages associations to think more broadly about who an association should be speaking to. We start by identifying broad strokes groups that associations should be engaging with online. These broad audiences will likely include groups like active members, inactive members, potential members, industry vendors, industry sponsors, potential partners in adjacent markets, etc. Within each of these groups, there could be multiple sub-segments informed by rich information that can be uncovered by gaining a better understanding of what motivates and drives behaviors for each individual member of your audience.
But the question remains:
How can we collect enough data to truly understand what motivates and drives each individual member of the audience?
Which brings us to the first piece of our audience strategy diagram: content.
Content Allows you to have Conversations at Scale
Consider some topics that might resonate with the broad audience groups you’ve identified. Or, if you already have robust content options available on your association website, great! Use your existing content bank to track and identify some of these groups. Remember, your audience is composed of unique individuals; they likely have varying levels of engagement with your organization and knowledge and experience in your industry. They also have niche/nuanced interests on some industry information, but a top-level interest in others. Your content topics should take these sorts of nuances into account. Also consider varying content formats. Some users may love reading long form posts, but others may prefer visual videos, gifs or infographics, or interactive quizzes. Once launched, engagement with these content pieces can be tracked to reveal valuable insights about your audience and show you how to launch better content strategies. The audience insights you uncover will allow you to know exactly what to create/launch/experiment with next in order to better serve each and every audience members’ unique interests on a personal level.
And that brings us to the next piece of the puzzle: data.
Collecting Data and Putting it To Work
As you track interactions with your association content, you’ll notice patterns emerge that help you create better content and digital experiences. For example, perhaps a medical association discovers that articles on “Pediatric Surgery” are getting more traction than others. This reveals an opportunity to meet demand: create more pediatric content, launch pediatric learning opportunities, or leverage your audience insight to engage pediatric sponsors.
You’ll also know which members of your audience are interacting with these pediatric content pieces, allowing you to send them more targeted messaging, creating a more tailored association experience. Imagine if you could offer each and every member a completely personalized experience of your association, specifically built to meet their career needs, interests and aspirations. Audience strategy allows you to do just that, thanks to smart data tracking and the opportunities it uncovers.
Using Audience Strategy to Power Association Growth
When you get down to it, every association leader is hoping to answer the same question: How can I secure the future of my association in an ever-changing digital landscape? “Audience strategy” is the answer. By unlocking real-time insights and transforming those insights into actionable ideas to engage members, sponsors, new audiences, and beyond, your association can create a digital presence that converts and engages at multiple levels.
Shifting to a digital-first model empowered by audience strategy suggests a few key outcomes to secure the future health and growth of your organization:
1. Move away from a member-first model, towards an audience model. Make the move from serving members to serving audiences. Your non-dues revenue options will become broader and richer, allowing you to diversify and secure your association’s digital future.
2. Create dynamic digital experiences that run themselves. Move away from reliance on your heavy lift, heavy planning annual events that are easily disrupted (ahem, COVID) and towards dynamic digital experiences that are easy to execute. Your member engagement will be higher than ever because the experiences will feel personal.
3. Uncover wholly new revenue streams. When you know your audience as intimately as you will when you launch an audience strategy, the new revenue possibilities are endless. Leverage your audience knowledge to launch new sponsored content and paid experiences with industry vendors. Introduce new learning and continued education opportunities for your members and industry at large. Develop monetized content strategies engaging various members of your community and industry. The possibilities are endless.
If all of this makes you think “wait, this is way too futuristic- it can’t possibly be possible yet,” you’re wrong. The tools to accomplish this hyper targeted audience strategy already exist, and savvy associations are putting it in action to better serve their members, more effectively grow and nurture new audiences, and uncover new digital revenue streams.
What’s Next: How to Adopt a Data-Driven Audience Strategy
So now you know what audience strategy is and why it’s important, but chances are, your association doesn’t have the data and reporting infrastructure in place to get started. That’s where we come in. Hum is the only association intelligence platform. Our team of helpful Hum-ans knows everything there is to know about digital transformation at associations, and we’ll help you get where you need to go. Plus, we’ll make it easy. Our powerful data platform integrates with all of your existing systems to supercharge them and track interactions across association touchpoints. From there, our team makes recommendations about how to use that information, and can put them into action for you.
If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not. Ready to get started? Contact us to talk solutions.