Developing content that grows your audience

Written by Jonathan Ross
12 May 2023

What’s the true purpose of content?


Today, it seems that almost every company, association, athlete, politician, social media user and influencer has an oversized focus on their “brand” and marketing. Thanks to them, it could be argued that the term “content” has become an overused an under-defined buzzword… possibly soon to join the ranks of “synergy”, “growth hacking”, “boots on the ground” and” rolling the pitch”.

At every turn, someone is “creating content.” Or consuming content. Or talking about content. But what is it really and who is deriving ROI from it?  Here’s the first clue:  Unless you’re a YouTube or Tik Tok influencer, it’s not about likes and comments.

Content should drive ROI through more opt-ins, followers, community and eventually conversion.

For all agencies, the goals for the content you create and distribute are to:

  • Reinforce your relationships with current clients,
  • Positively affect prospective clients,
  • Ultimate convert them into new business.

So how do you do that?


This thing called “content” – What is it really?

 Before you compete in the “content” game for your agency, let’s first briefly define content, its purpose, and its benefits.

Our definition of content may differ from many answers you find on the internet. “Content is any form of communication that is directed toward an end user, that is intended to inform, entertain, engage, persuade or educate”.

Some may argue that advertising shouldn’t be considered content – the old editorial vs. advertising argument. However, in today’s media, what is and is not an ad can be very hard to distinguish. The fact is, storytelling (and that’s what effective content often really is) can be delivered in dozens of ways, in dozens of varieties and advertising can certainly be one of them.

This broad definition encompasses a very wide landscape of news, information, entertainment, art, marketing, learning and communication. For our purposes, in the agency world, we usually focus on two elements of the content landscape:

  1. Influencing any of those forms of communication (or the communicators who are creating that content) on behalf of our own agency brand or our clients’ brands.
  2. Developing content that helps set our agency (or our client’s brands) apart from the competition to attract, engage and retain new clients and/or customers.

The fact is, storytelling (and that’s what effective content often really is) can be delivered in dozens of ways, in dozens of varieties and advertising can certainly be one of them

 Why you should participate in content marketing.

 If it seems like everyone else is now involved in content marketing, then you need to be as well. If you’re going to invest in creating and distributing content, then defining your goals is where you should start. Generally, the two main goals are to:

  1. Draw attention to your brand, service or offering.
  2. Convert the content consumer into becoming part of your audience/community, a new client, or a new customer.


There are different categories of content. Which one is right for you and your goals?

Competent content creators or marketers know that you start with the prospective client or customer. What do they want from you? However, closely behind is what do you want from them? If you’re going to be a creator, you will need to determine the type of content that’s right for your brand and goals.

Most marketing-oriented content fall into four types:

  1. Attraction – Valuable, useful or entertaining content that is used and shared by your content consumer.
  2. Authority – Content that demonstrates your agency’s (or your brand’s) expertise and therefore burnishes your credibility and reputation.
  3. Affinity – Content that inspires trust and makes your brand a preferred brand.
  4. Action – Content that converts viewers/readers into becoming part of your community, new clients, or new customers.


The all-important Value Exchange.

 The first (and possibly most important) step is to develop content that makes your content consumer want more of it.

For your target audience to want, and then receive, more content from you is where the value exchange takes place. You request an email address or a follow and they continue receiving content.  When you capture an email or a follow you have now begun building your database.

Growing your audience (usually in the form of an email address of current or potential clients/customers is the gold standard of outreach. You will have a direct line of communication for marketing, polling, feedback, and research.

If you’re going to invest in creating and distributing content, then defining your goals is where you should start

You need the right strategy to build your audience.

Once your content strategy is in place and you have begun creating, a robust audience strategy is the next issue to tackle. Audience growth can be a complex science, but the basics are as follows:

  • Organic growth – Create your content and distribute it on free platforms such as your website, your current email list, or social media.
  • Paid media growth – Paid distribution on social, search, email mailing lists, influencers, and advertising… all intended to reach a wider audience.
  • Partnerships – Trades and cooperation with partner companies which favour cooperation vs. one company paying another.

Organic is now the slowest growth option. The competition for a client’s/customer’s social media, inbox, search, and mail has become so intense that a boost from a partner or using paid media is highly advisable. We all want to avoid our content falling fallow with no one to view or hear it. Even a small amount of financial support can help your content find an audience on social and search.

Making your content work harder for you – Two closing thoughts.

No matter what growth path you choose, the two most important strategies are:

  1. Quality content will not only help you grow your audience but also help you retain the readers/viewers you already have and avoid the dreaded “Unsubscribe” button.
  2. Frequent and regular content distribution will help you grow your audience/database.

By paying close attention to the quality and frequency of your content and carefully tending to your hard-won audience, your email and social databases will be your pipeline to new business, access to repeat business and your most valuable marketing asset.