Audience Development: Definition & Purpose

The true audience development definition requires maximum outreach while retaining results for future sales

audience development

In the past we answered the question of, what is audience development?  Now we ask, how is it defined by our industry? What you’ll learn soon is that everybody defines it just a little differently. Just like “inbound marketing” has been a buzzword, “audience development” has grown in popularity, meaning much of the same thing.

HubSpot coined the term “inbound marketing,” which basically means bringing customers to you that are already in your niche, rather than sending out direct mail and going to trade shows, of which the methods are expensive and have a lower return on your investment.


Our audience development definition runs along the same lines, except it expands a little beyond being only about marketing. It’s about walking among your people (in the figurative sense) and building one-on-one relationships so customers feel more connected to your brand so that you can, as a result, sell more products to those people.

Long-time, now retired Mequoda publishing partner Bob Kaslik left a comment here a while back that elaborated on our definition. He said one crucial strategy in any audience development program is to “find people who are so delighted with your products they share them with their like-interested friends–which according to most of the research is an increasingly important factor in purchase decisions and why the social and commerce sites are full of comments and reviews.”

Excellent point, Bob.

“I’m also looking for repeat purchases,” he added. “The first order is often a trial purchase–did it deliver as promised, was it worth what I paid? Those who make a second purchase have a dramatically greater LTV to your company for most any market. If you have lots of one-time only buyers you probably have a challenging business.”

The audience development part of your marketing is making sure you’re creating products your audience is asking for, while acting as a resource to those consumers – completely free of charge.

What Bob is saying, and I completely agree with, is that your customers aren’t absent from audience development. You may be looking for new people to subscribe and buy, but your existing subscribers and buyers are a major marketing asset. Word of mouth travels fast!


How the industry defines audience development

Below are some thoughts from an article in the former Audience Development Magazine, written in the late 2000s, on what executives thought audience development meant for their businesses:

“There has been a significant shift across media companies over the last five years and the present and future is about building holistic databases, having total audience transparency, delivering contextually relevant user experiences and creating active communities. At Everything Channel we are growing an audience development department focused on those core initiatives. Though Aud Dev had always been a centralized service, the focus was primarily on driving magazine subscriptions.

Today, Aud Dev is a service for any or all projects that involve site traffic goals, online subscriptions, print subscriptions, generating members or driving product leads. With each initiative, Aud Dev works closely with the business owners and marketers to develop a strategy that includes diversified channels to reach that qualified audience.”

Tricia Syed, Director of Audience Engagement and Marketing, Everything Channel

“Our audience is our life. We need to have our hand on our subscribers and feel the pulse. I personally try to respond to every single subscriber request that crosses my computer including cancels. I acknowledge that I have received their request and the action I took. Everyone that subscribes or renews online gets a confirmation email from me (automated of course) and not a generic “customer service” message. All our circulation is 100 percent requested on all our titles, yours should be the same.”

– Jim Wessel, Audience Development Director, WATT

“For us, the future is in truly leveraging our audience data and providing content and business solutions to our audience at the right time, in the right way. We are currently deep into the analysis of our audiences and understanding the overlap and engagement. The overlap between print, emedia and face-to-face is less than we had expected. This means that we have a fairly broad reach in our industries and the opportunity to better leverage our products.”

– Vicki Hennin, VP, Strategic Marketing & Business Intelligence, Diversified Business Communications

Even though it’s been more than a decade since these executives shared their thoughts on how they defined audience development, their insights still ring true today. Our own CEO Don Nicholas wrote a blog post around the same time (which we’ve been updating consistently over the years) about what really defines the role of audience development. In this article, we note:

“The best audience development job description defines key relationships. This job description defines all of the people inside a fairly large and complex publishing organization. These are the people the employee works with on a day-to-day basis to get their job done accordingly. In particular, audience development is dependent on online editors and an array of content producers – including event producers, app producers and product producers.”

When you’re a Mequoda publisher, the goal of audience development is to get people on your email list, where you’ll eventually sell them a product or monetize them through a sponsored message. However, the strategies we use – SEO, social media, robust portals, free reports, community – and acting as a completely free resource of information, is how we build our audience.

Even if you aren’t a publisher or media professional, maybe you’re a non-profit or any other type of business, the techniques we’re talking about should be of interest to anyone doing audience development.

If you would like to learn how to grow your audience development team to increase your audience, revenue and profits, schedule a time with us to chat.

Below, leave a comment and let us know how you define audience development within your organization.



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