Four Reasons to Get Rigorous With Your Audience Value Proposition

1. Audience Value => Enterprise Value

When we meet an entrepreneur for the first time, we always ask them what value they give to their audiences. Information business Founders tend to have a very clear idea of their proposition: if they aren’t serving a defined workflow need, it’s pretty hard to sell products.

But in B2B media, the question is often answered by talking about client value (advertisers, sponsors, exhibitors). If you’re running your own business, the simple fact is that clients pay the bills, sales teams demand the most attention, and there isn’t always a clear link between product/content and profitability. Audiences come second, and are often viewed through the lens of data: attendee numbers, CTRs, dwell times, ie proof points for clients.

That data’s important. But it’s not where the value lies.

One of the great things about working in M&A as well as in scaleup advisory is that we get a very clear understanding of what drives enterprise value – and to us (and most buyers) it starts with audience value. What makes your product so compelling to your readers, viewers or attendees that they engage, advocate, and generate positive outcomes for your clients? The answer isn’t features, formats or content: it’s the Audience Value Proposition.


2. If it’s hard to articulate, you’ll see it in your engagement stats

Our Chief Product Officer, Jen Thoroughgood, says: “It seems harder to do this exercise for traditional media products as opposed to ‘workflow’ products, which more obviously help people to do a task. You absolutely don’t need to become a workflow type product to have a jobs-based value proposition canvas but avoid using statements like ‘keep informed’, ‘stay’ up to date’, ‘get insight into’ as much as you can and really ask WHY someone needs to be informed or get insight or whatever. What job does that tie back to?”

And by jobs, she means the priority list of your core audience persona: what do they actually have to do to deliver value, progress in their career and get their bonus this year?

You’ll see the impact of softer value statements like “stay up to date” in your engagement stats. Are your content streams empty by the afternoon of day one? Is your bounce rate high, or is your impressive increase in traffic not leading through to new newsletter subscribers? It’s about value.


3. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time

Marketers are increasingly targeted on lead attribution and hard ROI metrics. Best-in-class media owners are sharing performance marketing dashboards with their clients, holding themselves to account on audience engagement with client and inhouse content. Even if you’re in a niche that seems comfortable with less measurable outcomes – resilient print titles in heavy industrial sectors, tradeshows built around kit and product launches – change is coming, and Covid has lifted the veil on audience engagement.

Building your content and formats around audience value first, sellable inventory second means you don’t have to keep focusing so hard on audience acquisition, which gets increasingly expensive and harder to predict as you get into the long tail; it means that you can focus on audience retention, dwell times, and content formats that create quality engagement between clients and buyers.


4. Challenge your clients and prospects with unique audience insights

Getting serious about your audience value proposition means developing structured editorial / event advisory boards. It means a rolling programme of audience insights and value proposition design. It means talking to your audiences about what keeps them up at night and what their priority list looks like, not what they get from reading your content or attending your event.

When you’ve done that, you’ll find you have a powerful and unique set of insights to take to your clients and prospects. Your message is: “Here’s what your customers need, want, and fear. Here are the problems they need to solve. And we can position you as part of that solution because that’s why our audience uses our content, formats and features.”

I have lost track of the number of times a great salesperson has used their audience value proposition to challenge a tricky client, and come away from the sales meeting buzzing. It’s powerful.


Getting started

Put a product / editorial, sales and marketing team in a room and ask them what business need your product is solving. Ask them how it does it. Then ask them to rank how confident they feel that their story would make somebody spend an hour on their website, or a day at their event.

Then ask some of your audience if they agree.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable, it’s because you know you are leaving value on the table. We’re always happy to have a friendly cup of tea to talk about what you can do to get that value back.


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Piers Bearne
Founder & CEO
Collingwood Advisory