Where Are The Audience-Development Tools?

I’ve had a chance for a little perspective on something. Excitement is building for the idea of content-as-product moving the marketing organization – and thus the company – forward. The questions that I got in the hallways at recent events have evolved from “How do I get permission?” to “How do I scale this process?”

I went back and counted (yeah, I keep a record of these things): Ten people asked me, specifically, how they could track and develop audiences.

So the questions have evolved. What haven’t evolved yet are audience-development tools.

Let’s take a step back a minute.

When a business is looking at transforming marketing into an organization that creates strategic value with content, it naturally asks how to measure that value. To put that question into perspective, let’s look at some of the most successful examples of businesses that are using content to affect a business result.

  • Kraft – Their print magazine and online recipe database help them save untold amounts of money in research and create more effective programmatic advertising. What’s the asset that does that? The well developed, rich-data-fueled audience.
  • Red Bull – They have developed a complete media studio that engages consumers, providing them with the permission to, frankly, sell anything they want. What’s the asset that does that? A passionate, engaged, and (most of all) addressable audience that they can communicate with any time they like.
  • HubSpot – They have created an entire category of marketing by understanding that it’s not only leads and opportunities that provide value but a whole community of people who engage, contribute, and ultimately share HubSpot’s unique approach to solving a problem. What’s the asset that does that? A passionate, addressable audience that can harness their networked power to make HubSpot bigger than they actually are.

What do these winning approaches have in common? Not leads. Not opportunities. Not even customers.

An audience.

Back to those ten people: “What can we use to track and develop audiences?”

I gave them the same shrug and answer that everyone I know of gives in this situation. “Well, marketing-automation tools are your best bet right now.”

It’s true. Marketing-automation tools aren’t nearly good enough, but they’re close. They are the best bet right now. So, why no providers of marketing-automation software have even partially positioned their company as an audience-development tool baffles me. There’s a huge opening in the content marketing space for a tool to come in and provide this functionality.

By the way, a prior search for “audience development tools” on Google produces exactly zero paid ads and not one marketing-automation tool on the first or second page of results.

Content strategists and content marketers need something that can help them manage and measure their efforts as they evolve their organizations to create value separate from the immediate sale of products.

Some entrepreneur is going to do something cool here. I wonder who it will be.

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