In the nonprofit world, you’ll frequently hear about “audience development,” which concerns itself with outreach to people interested in what you do, and customizing that outreach based on a person’s level of interest.
Audience development is difficult to strictly define because it involves not just pure marketing, but one-on-one relationships. It’s not about selling (although the result is often sales); it’s about creating an experience or community that engages with you over the long term. And that requires that you communicate with your readers meaningfully and consistently.
One of the best summaries of audience development I’ve read is from Shoshana Fanizza, who has spent more than a decade in arts development:
Audience Development, in a nutshell, is all about relationship building to achieve the “power of people” to support your art form. Consider it as building positive energy, people energy, to attract more support for you. Audience development does take time to see results. It is a building process. … You want to get to know your audience and connect with them. If they feel connected and cared for, they will want to become more involved. It will take effort and persistence, but you will see the relationships you build start to form a positive community around your art. This community is the key to succeeding!
So, audience development is a fancy business word for directly communicating with your readership, and engaging with them in a way that’s mutually beneficial and respectful. What follows is a starting framework and strategy for doing just that, and much of it overlaps with developing your platform. (If you don’t know what platform is, read my definition here.)
Why is this important?