Most consultants and freelancers don’t think in terms of “building an audience.” Instead, we like to think about finding potential clients, talking with them, and trying to sell them our services. Then, once the prospective client either buys or doesn’t buy, we move on to the next prospect.
Some consultants are more advanced with their marketing. They set up a website, and in addition to using that site to sell their services, they also use the website to build an e-mail list… one that they can stay in touch with and sell services to in the future. This is very important. In fact, building your e-mail list should be the goal of your entire online presence, because it’s the only way to truly control your online marketing.
But if you want to grow your business by adding passive income streams and turning what you know into products you can sell, you need to stop thinking about simply finding clients… and start thinking about building an audience.
What Does it Mean to Build an Audience?
As a consultant, you have specialized knowledge… you know how to do stuff, and your clients are willing to pay you to do it. Chances are that you also have a unique spin on what you do. You might have developed special marketing strategies, or a unique fundraising framework, or a new way to think about selling orthodontics. Whatever your niche, you’ve got distinct ideas about how to do what you do.
Now, your job is to build an audience that believes in your framework. You want to build a “tribe” of people who understand what you do and who think you do it well. This is your audience… your tribe. These are the people who want to be able to do what you do… and to do it the way that you do it. These are the people who will buy everything that you sell. Sure, some of them will also hire you as a consultant or freelancer… but even more of them will be willing to buy your passive income products.
The Hub and Spoke Audience Building System
I like to think of my audience building efforts as a hub and spoke system. There are lots of different places you can find people to add to your audience (more on that later). These are the spokes of your system. Your job is to use one or more of those spokes to drive people back to your hub, which is your website or landing page where you get people to sign-up for your e-mail newsletter.
Ultimately, your e-mail newsletter is the backbone of your marketing program. The people on your e-mail newsletter list make up your audience. Those are the people that you will communicate with over and over again (through the e-mail newsletters and special e-blasts that you send out). These are also the people that will be buying your products, because you will be using your list to sell your products. My goal is to build my audience, which means my goal is to build my e-mail newsletter list.
Choosing Your Spokes
Of course, there are dozens of different spokes you can use to find your audience and build your list. Many of them are online, including social media sites, guest posting and link building on other sites, guest appearances on podcasts or video blogs, etc.
For some of these spokes, you can be building your audience right on those sites too (for example, you can build up a following on Facebook or Instagram or build subscribers to your podcast). All of these followers and subscribers are part of your audience too but remember that you don’t really “own” the contact unless the person is subscribed to your e-mail newsletter list.
Of course, there are also offline ways to build your audience, including speaking at conferences, doing direct mail advertising, etc. Still, your goal for these methods should be to get contact information from attendees and get them signed up for your list so you can market to them over time.
One important note: don’t try to do too much, especially if you are a solo consultant or freelancer. If you don’t have a marketer on staff or hired as a consultant, you would be better off focusing on two or three spokes to build your audience and doing those very well.
Every consultant and freelancer that wants to sell info-products needs a website and e-mail list to serve as the central hub of their marketing activities. Beyond that, choose two or three spokes to build your audience (perhaps one or two social media sites, a podcast or videos on YouTube, etc.) but don’t try to do it all or you will quickly burn out.
Stop Binary Thinking!
It can be hard for consultants who have been in the business for a long time to stop thinking about every person that they come across in a binary fashion: either they buy a consulting service or they don’t. Instead, think of every person who enters your marketing funnel as a long-tail opportunity: they may or may not buy consulting services, but they may also buy one or more of your info products further down the line.
Build your audience by building your e-mail list. Offer real value to your list, and then make some offers. Ultimately, a responsive e-mail list will prove to be the greatest asset you have in your business.