June 23, 2008

Audience Development: Here's A Mistake I Made

Back in November, I asked readers what they wanted to learn about. I received many responses from folks who wanted to learn more about my thoughts concerning Catalog Choice.

So I spent a lot of time writing about Catalog Choice in December and January.

Traffic, and more important, subscribers, increased by almost 20%. Almost instantly!

Good for Kevin, right?


Audience development is all about cultivating the right audience. In my case, I attracted an additional two hundred subscribers, folks who were actually offended by some of the topics I wrote about. I received e-mails from individuals who challenged my integrity and knowledge of my industry. All of a sudden, a vocal minority didn't like me!

I developed the wrong audience.

I began to receive unsolicited e-mail from organizations friendly to Catalog Choice, asking me to help spread the word about various ecological issues (ironic, given that stopping unsolicited mail is the objective of the folks marketing to me --- but unsolicited digital mail was ok).

When I stopped covering Catalog Choice, subscriber counts plummeted. The unsolicited e-mail campaigns slowed, but to date, have not stopped. It takes a lot longer to correct an audience development mistake than it takes to build a non-congruent audience.

For direct merchants, building a productive customer file is probably second to merchandising in importance. And yet, we make mistakes comparable to the mistake I made all the time.

I purchased an item from a company six months ago, at full price. Since then, nearly every e-mail campaign sent to me by this brand offers me up to sixty percent off my next purchase, if I use the code offered in the e-mail campaign. Clearly, this brand is trying to develop an audience that enjoys the thrill of "x" percent off merchandise offerings.

An executive recently told me that his e-mail marketing list of over a million individuals only responds to free shipping, buying more than four times as much merchandise if free shipping is offered than if it isn't offered. He developed an audience that only responds to free shipping. He cannot get away from free shipping unless he develops a new audience. It won't happen by wishing, only by hard work.

I've made countless mistakes developing an audience that enjoys and participates in Multichannel Forensics. Let's learn from our mistakes, let's develop audiences relevant to the niches we serve.