Digital Marketing Strategy

The Audience As THE Asset, Is Your Company Missing Out?

The following is an excerpt from Jeffrey Rohr’s new book: Audience — Get your copy here.

Say it with me. Audiences are assets— valuable business assets . They may not be tangible assets, but with the right message to the right person at the right time, proprietary audiences can quickly turn into paying customers.

Of course, a company’s physical assets are more readily appreciated precisely because everyone in the organization can see them. We know the value of a piece of land because of what we paid for it or what the market will bear.

We have the common sense to hire security to guard our physical facilities because the alternative is to let thieves or vandals disrupt our business. And we know to invest money in the maintenance of our physical facilities, because otherwise that small leak will become a far more costly problem overnight.

Audiences are assets—valuable business assets.

Unfortunately, we lack the same organizational common sense when it comes to audience assets. Few executives fully appreciate the lifetime value of proprietary audiences and yet, as we’ll see, many of them could be worth millions of dollars in future revenue.

Does your company just let anyone walk around with access to accounts containing millions of dollars? Heck, no!

We entrust such assets to people who are well trained, well screened, and well compensated. If your proprietary audiences possess such inherent value, shouldn’t the people who are a push button away from your audiences be some of your brightest, most trusted, and most valued people?

This strikes me as common sense, but overall businesses fail to hold audience assets in the same regard as physical assets for a few reasons:

Audiences as Assets:
1. The whole concept of proprietary audiences is very new.

Prior to the Internet, a proprietary audience was a direct mail database hidden in some huge, distant server. Today, proprietary audiences exist inside and outside of our databases as well as across a vast array of public and private channels.

2. We’re focused on channel management instead of audience development.

Many companies have Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube strategies, but few have comprehensive Proprietary Audience Development strategies. This leaves marketing pigeonholed into tactical discussions instead of debates about strategic priorities.

3. Channels are still evolving.

The channels that support proprietary audiences haven’t evolved to the point where they provide marketers with simple, consistent ROI measurements. This makes it difficult sometimes to provide leadership with more than anecdotal stories of positive audience engagement.

Today, your proprietary audiences aren’t reviewed as part of your company’s financial statements, but you need to begin preparing for the day when they will be. Indeed, I envision a future in which the people who manage a company ’s proprietary audiences command the same respect and scrutiny as the VP of Sales. They do, after all, manage assets (audiences) that account for a huge portion of your company’s future sales if managed appropriately.

Netflix: When Audiences Are Your Most Important Assets
For a glimpse at a future where corporate fortunes rise and fall on the size and quality of their proprietary audiences, look no further than Netflix (@Netflix). The company’s ill-fated 2011 plan to split SUBSCRIBER accounts (one for streaming and one for DVD delivery) caused the loss of 800,000 SUBSCRIBERS in a single quarter. As a result, Netflix stock dropped from a high near $300 per share to the $60 range in a matter of months.

Granted, Netflix is in the audience business. However, its plight—and subsequent recovery in terms of SUBSCRIBER count and stock price—underscores that when audiences are viewed as assets, their rise and fall can dramatically impact the fortunes of

any company.

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