Jeffrey K. Rohrs: There’s more to content marketing than just gaining fans and followers

Editor’s note: One of the premier events in content marketing, Content Marketing World 2015, will be Sept. 8-11 at the Cleveland Convention Center. Beginning this month Smart Business will profile three of the event’s leading speakers.

Many marketers are now having a kind of reckoning, says Jeffrey K. Rohrs, vice president of marketing insights for Salesforce and author of “Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans & Followers.”

“They’re realizing they can’t just focus on content development. They can’t have a build-it-and-they-will-come mentality. I call that audience assumption disorder,” he says. “They have to have a strategy to build audiences and retain them to have a lower cost to reach people interested in their messages, products and services. Then they leverage paid media to acquire new customers, broaden their reach and make the content perform better.”

A common mistake

One of the common mistakes that brands, marketers and executives make is that they assume they own the audience.

“You can own your content, your website and your company, but the audience comes and goes as it pleases,” Rohrs says. “In the Internet world, you don’t own the audience. The audience owns itself.”

This is the idea of permission marketing, he says. The audience can opt in or opt out with a click of the computer mouse. Rohrs calls it a proprietary audience, whose attention must be earned.

“If you are not doing things to retain the attention, the audience will naturally contract,” he says.

Brands have to realize that you acquire the permission. You then work to get consistent engagement and monitor the performance and response, Rohrs says. You either grow the relationship because you have other products and services to offer or embrace the fact that audiences are going to grow out of your products and services, but hopefully use them for referral or amplification.

“Proprietary audience development is building audiences that you alone can reach through their permission,” Rohrs says. “They are going to differ within industries, across the street and for different brands. There are going to be ones in which you can always assume their loyalty, like the New England Patriots fans who were raising money to pay the Patriots’ fine from the NFL [for deflating footballs in the Super Bowl].”

Rohrs offers some tried-and-true tips to grow your audience. For a business to grow an audience, it has to understand that growth is measured in three factors: size, engagement and value.

One-to-one level

“With size, it isn’t just how many people,” he says. “It is also what data you are learning about them over time so that you are adding and deepening your knowledge of them as an individual so you can increasingly use this technology to market to them on a one-to-one basis.

“You can bring back the idea of the local butcher — the conversation with the person who knows exactly what you buy every week and has it ready and packaged for you.”

Engagement is capturing and retaining the audience’s attention. Audiences are repositories for attention, but if you do not engage with them over time, if you get an email subscriber and don’t do anything with the individual for three months, the value of that audience has just deteriorated, Rohrs says.

“The attention is greatest at the moment of opt-in, yet you would be amazed at how many companies take days or weeks in this era of instantaneous gratification to reply.

“We had a customer of ours that essentially closed that gap from about a day for the welcome response to under 30 seconds. Just with that activity, they saw about a 20 percent increase in terms of a second-sale capability.”

To register for Content Marketing World 2015, visit www.contentmarketingworld.com/registration