When I started my business in 2012, I was focused on creating new products and new designs. I wanted to design all kinds of cards, invitations, and stationery items. I got excited about creating new things and improving my design skills. At the time, I was only running my business part time, so I was just having fun creating new things and adding them to the shop. But one thing was missing: sales.
I was doing things backwards and not approaching it as a business but more like a hobby. I had every intention of it being a successful business, but I went into it thinking more about the creative side of things. I would spend my already limited time on designing new things and then wonder why no one was buying. But I wasn’t putting any time and energy into marketing and selling my products the right way. I simply would post about something new on social media or add it to the shop in hopes that someone would run across it and buy it.
I didn’t spend enough time working on growing an audience of loyal followers who were genuinely interested in what I had to offer. And without someone to sell to, how was I supposed to sell my products? After years of working, learning, and growing in my business, I now know the incredibly important value of building an audience for your business and what it can do to help you grow your business.
Why you should grow your audience first
As creatives, we often want to create first. It is our nature to be creative, but when you are running a business, you have to manage that business too. Over the last year I have learned so much about being a business owner and how to run a business. I have learned that there is so much more that goes into making a business successful than just a good product or service. Of course, that is an essential part of the equation too, but creating a successful business is all about the complete picture. It’s about being intentional with your time, creating a good strategy and plan, and implementing it effectively. And one of the biggest factors in my success has been the growth of my audience.
So what exactly does it mean to have an audience? Your audience includes those followers, subscribers, and readers that are genuinely interested in you and your business. They are the ones that follow along with you on social media, read your blog posts, and subscribe to your email list so they can get more info from you and keep up with what is going on in your business.
It can be incredibly difficult to launch a new product or service with a small audience. It can be done, but it makes your job a lot harder. If you devote all of your time developing new products or services, then you won’t have anyone to launch them to when they are ready. It has been said many times before, but it is so important to spend time developing and growing your audience before you start launching all kinds of new things, or you will probably hear crickets when those items hit your shop.
TAKE ACTION: Spend 1 hour each day or each week developing your audience. Analyze your website and social media traffic, find out what they are interested in most, and plan out ways you can grow your audience.
Why you should get to know your audience
It won’t do any good to invest time into growing your audience if you don’t spend just as much time getting to know them. After all, the point of this is to connect with more people who are actually interested in what you have to offer, not just gaining hundreds of new followers every day. Knowing your audience is extremely valuable information. By getting to know them, you will learn about who they are, how they feel, what they like, and what they need in their lives. With the information you gain by getting to know your audience, you can create products and services to solve their problems and fit their needs rather than the other way around.
I think it’s important to note here that it’s not just about the numbers. It’s true that any new follower or subscriber is a potential customer, but knowing who those people are will get you so much further with your business. You will be able to speak directly to their concerns and in a tone that they connect with and understand. Also, If you take the time to interact and engage with your audience, they will in turn get to know you and become that perfect loyal follower who only wants success for you. They will be more likely to share about your business to friends and when someone asks about them for a recommendation for something you do, you will be the first to come to their mind.
TAKE ACTION: Do an audit of your audience. Do you have a strong audience of followers that are genuinely interested in you and your business? Are they engaged and interactive? Do you know them well?
How to get to know your audience
There are so many ways that you can grow and build your audience as well as several platforms to do it too. Choose a few platforms that work best for you and your business by determining where your ideal client hangs out and what they like to talk about. You can use those platforms to promote shareable + valuable content, connect on a personal level, join in conversations and be social, respond to comments and engage with followers. You can also cross-promote with someone, guest post on another blog, or collaborate with another business owner on a product or service. The key is to authentically build your audience by being genuine. You want followers that are going to be engaged and interested in what you have to offer. Remember, don’t focus on numbers. You could have 10,000 people on your email list and still not make any sales to them.
Even if you don’t have a large number of followers right now, it’s never too early to get to know your audience.The first step to getting to know your audience is interacting with them. Regardless of how many followers you have, you can talk to them directly. In fact, even as my audience grows, I will often write as if I am talking to one person. You can ask them questions through blog posts, social media posts, or surveys to find out what they like, don’t like, and what they need. You can also use personal stories about your life and what you learned from it – people can often relate to stories and will be more likely to share their stories with you too.
TAKE ACTION: Get to know your audience by asking them a question. Post something on social media or your blog that will prompt them to tell them about their favorite things or what they need in their lives.
What it did for my business
When I started focusing more on growing my audience, I noticed a huge shift in my business. I gained more exposure, created new relationships with my followers as well as other business owners, and I increased my overall traffic. Not to mention, I increased my profit by about 8 times as much as it was last year. With a simple shift in perspective, I was able to turn my business around completely in less than 6 months. I started focusing on engaging with others, connecting with people, and sharing my story. I thought less about “selling” and more about starting a conversation. I paid more attention to what people were saying, what they were reading on my blog, and what they were needing. I looked at all kinds of analytics to determine who my audience is, where they come from, and what they want from me.
After just a short time of putting more emphasis on my audience, I realized the value on getting to know my audience for my business. But even more than that, I realized that connecting and engaging with others makes it easier to do this business thing. I don’t feel like I have to force sell to others anymore. I feel like I can be myself, share my story, and become friends with my followers.