Four reasons why you should focus your marketing efforts to grow an audience. A white empty chair

When you send an email promoting your product or services, how many people does it go to? How many views does your average blog post get? What about social media? Your YouTube channel?

If no one’s listening, it’s a lot harder to justify putting in the work to create great content. But if you don’t put in the work to build an audience, you’re never going to change the status quo.

Here are four reasons why you should focus your marketing efforts on growing an audience.

It’s not enough to have a great product or service

“If you build it, they will come.” While that quote is often applied in the business world (and sometimes falsely attributed to Noah’s ark), it comes from a fictional movie about a guy who builds a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield so that dead baseball players will show up to play ball.

(Probably not a good basis for your business model.)

This is one of those things that your developers, designers, and representatives want to be true, but for the vast majority of businesses, it just isn’t the case. Building a customer base takes an intentional effort.

Sure, some organizations seem to sprout up and go viral overnight, but that’s not the norm, and having the right product or service is only one of many factors that affect how likely that is to happen.

You can’t afford to let your organization’s success or failure depend on luck. And thankfully, you don’t have to.

Growing an audience is about putting in the work—just like building a product or providing a service. There are lots of ways to do it, but if you already have people writing emails and blog posts or creating videos, content marketing is one of the best ways to start building a list of leads.

You get more than one shot to make your sales pitch

When you build an audience, your communications with them don’t exist in a bubble. It’s not like paying to make a sales pitch to someone else’s audience, plastering ads everywhere, or making cold calls. The people in your audience chose to subscribe to your email list or follow you. And unless they unsubscribe or unfollow, you’ll have plenty more opportunities to find the messaging that sticks.

Every brand needs to find the right mix of content that adds value and content that promotes their products or services. Short-term thinking often causes organizations to make sales pitches too fast or too often, which means they burn through leads as fast as they capture them. When you build an audience, you’re starting relationships with real people. If you want those to be long-term relationships, pace yourself.

Leads beget leads

Even if someone in your audience never buys from you, they can still connect you to people who will. When you produce content that provides value, your audience is going to share it with other people they think will appreciate it, too.

Why? Because it makes them look good. Your content empowers them to prove a point, help a friend, start (or continue) a conversation, or get a laugh. You produce something people like, and your audience gets to be the people who discover it first.

As we’ve discussed with reaching pastors, some of the people in your audience may not be the ideal target for a sales pitch, but they may have numerous connections to people who are right in the bullseye. If making sales pitches is the extent of your marketing, you’re probably not going to grow an audience, and you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities to reach more of the right people.

Buying someone else’s audience adds up

You might be thinking, “We can’t afford to produce content that isn’t making sales. What’s wrong with just buying sends to other people’s audiences, or advertising with a publisher?”

Those are options, too. But there’s a tradeoff. Someone else’s audience isn’t going to be as familiar with your brand as one you build yourself. You might be exposing your sales pitch to brand new people every time, but those people are primarily engaged with that other brand. You might have a complimentary offering that fits well with that brand, but that audience didn’t open their email or click a link to hear from you.

Partnerships can be a valuable way to tap into a new audience, but they should be a supplement to your larger marketing strategy—not the primary way you connect with new people. Building your own audience is more viable long-term, and it gives you complete control over what you say and how often.

Not sure where to start? Take a look at how content marketing works. It’s one of the biggest keys to growing a healthy, loyal audience.