Ad Agencies: Audience Development Comes Before Business Development

build an audience for ad agency new business

Building an engaged online community should now be a core responsibility of business development.

Inspiration for this article came from Duct Tape Marketing’s founder, John Jantsch,  from his recent podcast interview with Jeffrey K. Rohrs, Vice President of Marketing Insights for ExactTarget,  Jeffrey is also the author of AUDIENCE: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers.  

Rohrs boldly states that, “proprietary audience development is now a core marketing responsibility.” He points out that your audience is a gift. “We don’t own our audiences. They can leave at any time. We cannot force them to engage in our content. They’ve given us a great gift… we must be sure to thank them every day with epic content marketing.”

Community development is indispensible in marketing your agency online, primarily because traditional, interuptive type tactics have lost their effectiveness.  Knowing how to build an online audience has become  an important skill-set for those charged with agency new business.  Your clients will likely come from your audience, as will your referrals.

Agencies must understand there should be a significant shift in our thinking and embrace audience building as an important initiative.  Audience development is now a function that should come before business development. 

My epiphany, on this paradigm shift for new business, came when I read a CMO study conducted in 2007 where 80% of decision makers said they found their vendors, not the other way around. Since that time, for me, it’s about being found. You have to have a clear target audience, create a positioning of expertise and a strong point of differentiation from your competition. That’s what has provided success for me.

Many agencies struggle with building an online community. A good number of agencies have the attitude that “if I build it, they will come” but that isn’t the case. To have success, it must be done the right way.

Here’s a crucial tip for building your online community of prospects:  Stop trying to sell your agency. It’s not about touting your credentials, capablities and case studies. You will never build an audience without value.

So how do you create value? It’s simple. Value is simply being of service. You identify what drives your potential clients and what are their challenges. Create and share information that is relevant to their needs. Be willing to share your expertise freely.

“The secret of promotion in the age of social media isn’t to promote yourself.  It’s to promote others.  Success comes when your success depends on the success of your customers, your suppliers, your end-users, and when you spend more of your time thinking about them than about yourself ” –  Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO, O’Reilly Media

You can’t blame your audience if they don’t respond!  It’s your responsibility to figure out what is appealing and what isn’t. You will need to dig deeper to figure out how you can best be of value and benefit to them. Remember, you won’t be valued if you are constantly touting your agency’s capabilities, accomplishments and awards. It’s not about you or your agency, it’s about them.

“You really do have to CARE about the people that you want to reach,” he writes. “If you don’t, and instead view your potential community as a group of people to monetize, then your efforts are doomed from the start.”  Mack Collier, author of “Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies that Turn Customers into Fans”

To build a engaged community of prospects, your chief job is to help them to reach their own goals and objectives. You will activate your social networks for new business as prospects come to know you and to know that you care.

I highly recommend reading Tim O’Reilly’s article, “It’s Not About You: The Truth About Social Media Marketing.” Tim is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Inc.. He’s considered the best computer book publisher in the world. Publishers Weekly featured O’Reilly group of books with this caption, “The Internet was built with O’Reilly’s books.” His blog, the O’Reilly Radar, helps determine emerging technology trends. He has has over 1.7 million Twitter followers: @TimOreilly.

photo credit: Methos04 via photopincc

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. […] Ad Agencies: Audience Development Comes Before Business Development […]

  2. […] Audience Development Comes Before Business Development […]

%d bloggers like this: