March 10, 2022
You’ve set up your business. You’ve trained. You’re brilliantly qualified and you’re super passionate about what you do and how you can help.
You’ve got clear on your niche, maybe you’ve set up a website and you’ve created some offers to start working with people.
All the building blocks are there.
One of the things I’m frequently asked about is audience growth – because without stating the obvious, if you don’t have eyes on what we’re doing, no-one is going to buy. And that means for all your busy-ness, you’re never going to make this into a full-time, sustainable job.
First thing’s first – please know that audience growth is not something you do for a couple of weeks at the beginning of your business journey and then never have to bother with again as you become big and successful.
Growing and nurturing an audience is an ongoing process that you will need to pay attention to on the regular, each week and each month you’re in business.
Whilst you will absolutely establish an audience over time that love what you do and buy your offers, you will always want to be attracting fresh ideal customers, so these ideas are going to be relevant to you whether you’re at year 0 or year 10+ of your business.
You’ll want to embrace a mix of the two to have on-going success.
Be aware that if you only choose slow burn the clue is in the title – you’re not going to see customers in the next 30 days if you only do these things.
If you’re happy with slow burn and attracting people over months or years, that’s cool.
But if you’re feeling frustrated and want to see some quicker results, you need to jump into the fast-acting bucket of tools.
Just so we’re all singing from the same hymn-sheet here – when I talk about growing an ‘audience’ I mean:
Social media followers
Visitors to your website
Sign-ups to your mailing list
Attendees at your events (in person or online)
Listeners to your podcast
Viewers of your YouTube channel
Basically eye-balls on you and your stuff!
If you have little to no audience of your own right now, one of the fastest ways to get one is to leverage someone else’s. This might sound selfish and a bit cuckoo-like, but if someone else has already done the hard work of building a trusted audience then getting in front of theirs with an endorsement from the person they love, is a huge benefit to you.
The best way to do this is to find someone with an audience containing a lot of your ideal customers and then ask how you can collaborate or suggest something you can offer them that would be of benefit to that audience.
Or to book yourself a speaking engagement with an organisation, festival or event that hosts lots of your ideal clients all in one space and where your appearance on that stage would mark as a huge seal of approval.
For example, perhaps you’re a nutritionist specialising in helping people through the menopause. Can you find a yoga teacher or personal trainer or life coach that also serves people in this bracket, who you could offer to do a talk or interview with, a blog swap for or run a competition or event with? Can you go live in their Facebook group, do a talk at their studio, or do an interview on Instagram? All of these would benefit both you and them and their audience, so it’s win win win and you get seen by ideal customers.
Or is there a wellbeing festival that you could pitch yourself to speak at? Have you been before and seen some gaps in their content that you could fill? Can you find out who the event management are and write to them and make your suggestions? Sometimes this will need doing repeatedly (I’ve unashamedly pitched myself to the same festivals I would love to speak at multiple years in a row!) but once you’re in can be hugely beneficial and fast-track your growth.
Building on the first suggestion, looking for people with much larger followings that contain your ideal customers that would be considered ‘influencers’ in their field is a great place to go to help build yours. Many don’t like the term, but know that their recommendations carry weight, which is effectively the same thing!
Can you offer an ‘influencer’ who appeals to and is followed by your ideal customers a free trial of your services? Invite them to an event you’re doing? Ask to interview them? Request them to give you a shout-out? Send them a sample?
This is most effective if you’ve been following the influencer for a while and are actually engaging with their content and maybe even exchanging messages i.e. where there is a relationship already. But as before, if you are offering something of benefit to them and their audience which would make great content, they may well be interested.
I would add a word of caution that this type of marketing can potentially attract the wrong sort of customer – the sort that just wants to buy in to you because X person recommended you, and not because they are genuinely in the right headspace for your services. Be cautious. But this method of audience growth can work effectively to at least get seen by people and start the process of them getting to know you. Even if it’s just one, well picked influencer.
In a post-COVID world I’m delighted to say in-person networking is back with a bang – I’ve been to two events this week alone with actual humans in actual buildings together!
Whether it’s online or in person, make the most of networking opportunities to tell people what you do and build relationships. Engage, talk, share, type away in that Zoom chat box and show your personality!
And as for in real life events, selling to people involves building know, like and trust and I honestly don’t believe there’s a faster way to do that that face-to-face with someone where they get to really see and hear your passion.
I know sometimes it might feel like networking can be a waste of time and occasionally it’s hit or miss whether you find a genuinely useful network who can give you advice or open doors for you. But generally, if you’re doing things where people get to know the real you, you’re fast-tracking your ability to make sales.
If you’re just at the beginning of your business you don’t have any testimonials or recommendations to rely on. Which means you need to start demonstrating, in whatever way you can, what you’re all about and how you help. Free events such as challenges, webinars, donation based charity events or talks, are great ways to do this.
Technically running any of these things still requires you to find an audience. So it’s a little bit of chicken and egg here. You’ll still need to go out and promote what you’re doing and find the right audience, or ask others to share about it.
But usually running free events is the perfect way to do this and is not (contrary to some advice) undervaluing yourself. It’s gifting some of your amazing experience and advice to the people that need you and demonstrating how awesome you are so people can see it first-hand. Rather than having to wait to build up trust with them through content or over a long time, before they truly understand the impact you can make.
I believe especially when you’re getting started, hosting free events is the perfect way to get in front of as many people as possible and then you can start to whittle down who is interested and ideal to buy from you and start to develop relationships from there. We have a whole formula for how to run free webinars to up-sell your offers inside the Just Start Now community.
The health industry is not a bunch of solo business owners all operating in isolation.
It’s a huge ecosystem that supports each other.
You know that your skill set is finite, and that many of your clients would benefit from additional expertise and advice from people in different fields.
For example maybe if you’re a pelvic floor physio you can see that someone would really benefit from a PT who specialises in helping women get back to exercise post-birth. Why not have a mutually agreed referral deal with another practitioner where they send people your way, in exchange for you doing the same? Maybe you could host an event together to promote both your services? You’re not doing this alone.
Generally, I consider social media marketing a slow-burn activity (see below under ‘content marketing’).
However, if you honestly want to use a tool like Instagram for fast sales, it can be done. But with a serious amount of dedication to the platform.
If you want to do this you’ll need to be producing a lot of content (multiple posts a day), and be spending a lot of active time on there engaging, commenting, direct messaging, going live and using every function Instagram offers to show who you are and what you do.
It will require trial and error and a lot of time glued to a phone, but could absolutely be done to turn a quiet account into a money-maker in a few weeks and months if you don’t get sucked in to watching cat videos and actually interact and post the right things.
As I mentioned when we discussed networking, making faster sales requires know, like and trust factors.
If you don’t have an audience that are aware of you through your work as a practitioner then the only people right now that ‘know, like and trust’ you, are your friends, family and colleagues.
Can you utilise them? Can you write to them all telling them about what you do and the ideal clients you’re looking to work with? Can you ask them to make introductions for you, or pass on messages or leaflets? Would they mention your name at work if you want a corporate gig? Or share something in a WhatsApp group they’re in with other ideal clients? All those personal shares and endorsements really go a long way.
Now look, this won’t work for everyone. Sometimes your previous career has no-one in it that’s of use to you, or your friends, family and colleagues (as much as they love you) just don’t get what you’re doing and can’t open doors or help in the way you need.
I’d absolutely encourage you not to dismiss this path completely before you’ve even tried. Sometimes people have surprising networks they can get you into that you don’t even realise! But also be open to the fact that it might just be you are starting a bit more ‘from scratch’ than others who have a bit more of a handy little black book of contacts from their past lives. Everyone is different.
Overall I am not an advocate for paid advertising until you’re more established in your business. That’s because throwing money at the problem if you’re currently not making any traction with your copy and content, is not going to change the fact that you’re not connecting with your ideal customers organically. It’s just pouring money down the drain
However if you are either a) a bit further into your business journey and already super clear on who you help and what messages really resonate with them and/or b) blessed to have a healthy budget to experiment with advertising and ideally pay someone to facilitate it for you (and write your copy), then absolutely this is a great way to get in front of new people and build an audience.
If you take absolutely nothing else from this jam-packed, value-laden blog, it’s this: working on your Search Engine Optimisation and Google rankings is going to get you loads of bookings and enquiries in the long term, if you just pay it the right attention.
That’s because people are on search engines (mostly Google) every single day looking for people like you. If you can work out what words they’re searching for and get yourself on the first page of Google for the best words, you’re not going to worry about your audience size again (well maybe you will, but you know, a lot less!).
I’ve lumped these together because really, they all get the same outcome, if you are committed and consistent with them.
There is no question content marketing really works to build an audience who keep coming back over and over when they find relevant, uplifting content and will recommend and share it with their friends which enables your growth.
Given the nature of social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even YouTube, the algorithms within them will eventually start recommending your account as you grow and they see you’re producing popular content and can establish who you’re aligned with. So once you’ve established a base, the platforms can start to do the leg-work for you getting you in front of the right people. But this does require long-term consistency and dedication.
It’s also not just posting any old content.
There are strategies as to what to post that grows a loyal audience that wants to buy, strategies I teach in my Just Start Now course and community. But overall if you show up on an on-going basis and prove yourself helpful and reliable to your ideal client on any one of these platforms, your community will grow naturally and you will get noticed.
Personally when it comes to content marketing I love blogging because I’m a big fan of writing (which you might have gathered from reading this enormous post!) but also because it helps me rank well on Google (see my point above).
And podcasting has also been hugely beneficial to me in growing my audience because podcasts are free and easy to share and recommend and it gets me inside the earholes of the people I want to help so they build up trust with me quickly – because it feels like they’re hanging out with a friend when they listen.
Another slow-burn but I would argue totally worthwhile audience growth tool. Having your own mailing list and designing effective freebies (lead magnets) is a sure-fire way to ensure you feel like you always have people to talk and sell to.
Having a mailing list can also feel like a huge relief compared with the hustle of social media and the battle we all have with an algorithm that constantly changes and no-one can fathom, and the march to charge us to get our content seen by the people who actually follow us.
With a mailing list you own the data and you’re in control of how much you send and what gets seen (rather than an algorithm determining if you’re worthy today). You can track who opens and clicks on the content and build a warm, friendly community on your mailing list that love receiving your words and offers and that you love to communicate with.
I’ve put getting press & PR down as a slow-burn activity to grow your audience. Mainly because for it to be effective you often need to spend a lot of time watching for the right opportunities and building relationships with journalists.
Then if you are featured, it might not immediately turn into a rush of new followers or sign-ups. It might be that instead it’s the accumulation of getting yourself in magazines, papers, blogs or on radio, that helps people finally come to sign up to what you do.
In some ways though press and PR could be quick win audience growth. Imagine landing a slot to speak on BBC Breakfast or the Lorraine Kelly Show or Ireland AM tomorrow?
That could immediately put you live in front of tens of thousands if not millions of people who could then start following you or sign up to your mailing list to hear more. But whilst this looks on the surface like an ‘quick win’, usually to get into those places, you need to have put the work in for a long time first.
Often underrated and unmentioned, Pinterest is a powerful search engine which your ideal clients may well be using to search for solutions to their ailments and problems.
If you can apply a strategy and use it consistently, used in conjunction with content marketing (because Pinterest requires great quality content to work effectively as a growth tool) it can get you in front of tens of thousands of new people that might never find you elsewhere. I had someone get in touch the other day to say they found me via a Pinterest pin and they were in South Africa! From my home in Dublin they’d have never found me if I just marketed locally!
Pinterest is not a quick win, regardless of where you’re at in your business. It’s a really long-term investment but one that done right, can grow your audience and traffic to your website for years and years to come with a few of the right pinned content.
This blog post is already a whopper and filled with loads of practical things you can do to build your audience.
But if you know me at all, I can’t leave this piece without addressing the mindset blocks that I know will be coming up for you when I make all these killer suggestions for stuff you could be doing to grow your audience.
Your brain is likely thinking things like:
Who’s going to want to listen to me
There are already loads of people doing what I do
I don’t want to get it wrong
They’ll think I’m stupid if I suggest that
Continuing to play small, put out a few tips on social media, fiddle around with the pictures on your website or design graphics in Canva all day, is not going to get you an audience.
A lot of these ideas will be out of your comfort zone or your knowledge area. That requires you to change how you’re thinking and embrace a bit of stretch and discomfort to know you’re going to get new results. What got you here won’t get you there.
Many people obsess about audience growth. There is a widely accepted statistic that says only 1-2% of people in your audience will ever buy from you, therefore you need to have a huge audience to make the money you want. It can therefore feel quite disheartening if you’re only ever speaking to 10s or 100s of people when you’ve been told you really need 1000s+.
I would argue this is not always true. It might just be that you already have an audience, they’re just not buying from you yet. And perhaps that’s because you haven’t offered the right thing, you’re not explaining the value properly or you’re just not selling often enough.
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It might just be the question isn’t: how do I grow my audience? But instead: how do I get the people already in my audience to buy from me?
Let me know what you think! Are these tips helpful? What have you found most useful to growing your audience?