To grow your customer base, try this subtle but monumental shift in the way you think about your audience. It will change everything about the way you monetize marketing efforts.

It’s important to understand that you have three audiences in place at all times.

Close your eyes and visualize a 360-degree stadium with a stage in the middle of the field and a curtain running right down the middle of the stadium, dividing your audience in half. The dividing curtain separates your first two audiences and the stadium itself separates them both from your third audience.

Audience 1:This includes your existing clients and strategic partners—everyone who is spending money with you. They are seated on one side of the curtain, backstage in the VIP section of your owned-media audience.

Audience 2: This group sits on the other side of the dividing curtain and includes everyone on your e-mail list or snail-mail list who has not yet decided to spend money with you. They are paying attention—but you haven’t established enough affinity with them to move them backstage with a purchase.

Audience 3:This group is outside your stadium and includes everyone who has no idea who you are but could benefit from your products, services, or message.

Most marketing and advertising campaigns focus on reaching as many audience 3 people as possible and trying to immediately convert them to audience 1 who will buy something from you or sign up for some high-touch appointment like a free consultation.

The reality in today’s skeptical landscape is that few people are ready after the very first brand impression to take that large of a jump the first time they hear about you—which means that marketing and advertising campaigns that drive people to this kind of call to action provide much less value than they should.

When you reach people in audience 3, there are basically three things that can happen:

  • A tiny percentage are ready to buy immediately (less than 1 percent on most campaigns).
  • A small percentage are intrigued and want to learn more but aren’t yet sure if you’re the right person/product/service for their need.
  • A large percentage have no interest whatsoever.

Focus your marketing efforts on turning Audience 2 people into Audience 1 people: taking somebody who knows about you from Facebook or email, to somebody who buys from you. Put energy and creativity behind your content marketing. Create a mutually beneficial way for them to get value and learn more—giving you a chance to nurture that contact and build affinity over time, moving them down toward the stage to head into the VIP section with fellow customers.

You will be surprised how this change in perspective will help you focus your limited time and resources.