With the erosion of barriers to publishing and selling, it's no longer good enough to be "just" an author, actor, artist, designer, engineer, inventor or [insert your talent here].
If you are unable to attract and then bring your own audience to a particular venture (or venue), then what you are offering a retailer, publisher or distributor has too much risk and will often be overlooked in lieu of someone or something that has a large and loyal audience. Here are several examples to illustrate why BYOA is not only expected, but has become a key metric to predict success.
Why Book Publishing Needs You to Bring Your Own Audience
Let's say, for example, that you have a great idea and you want to write a book. Amazon.com along with several other companies collectively have made it incredibly simple to self-publish. If you are willing to put in the hours to write your book, there's no question you can self-publish. For many, this is enough. Having a book to hand out at a business meeting, keynote speech or networking event may be all that you require. But what if you want national distribution of your book or you would like to create a New York Times best seller? That's a whole different story.
When approaching any respectable publisher, they will want to know several things that most first-time authors haven't thought of. This is why most require that you complete a mini business and marketing plan as part of the pitch process. While there are several components to this pre-publishing planning process, one of the most important factors that publishers look at today is how large your audience is on social media. Publishers expect you to bring your own audience in order to help promote the book. They are evaluating how many people already follow you as a proxy to determine your ability to help sell the book you've just written. If you don't have a built-in audience, you're going to have a difficult time convincing a publisher to take a chance on you as a first time author.
Want Your New Product to be Sold at Retail Stores? You Must Bring Your Own Audience.
Let's say you've come up with an incredible product that you would like to be sold at retail. If you are pitching a particular retailer or a key distributor who might carry your product, one of the key factors they will be looking for is a demonstrated track record of success-ideally for this product you're pitching. This is where crowdfunding can be useful.
If you've launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, then you've built a sizeable audience that tells distributors and retailers that your product has a built in audience. This proof of concept gives confidence to your distributor partners that this product is likely to sell if put in the hands of a similar audience that you've already attracted.
Another way to bring your own audience is via ecommerce. If you've built a page on Amazon and can show that you've driven sales volume, this will also demonstrate that you've attracted an audience. If that audience goes one step further and provides customer feedback, now you're showing that you've not only built an audience, but that you've satisfied their needs with your product via positive 4 and 5-star ratings.
Want to Get Hired as a Keynote Speaker? You'd Better Be Able to Bring Your Own Audience.
Industry conferences need dynamic speakers to engage and inspire everyone in the audience. But, regardless of how dynamic and powerful a speaker you are, there's one thing that will always trump your charisma and your content. The objective of the conference organizer is simple: "To Put Butts in Seats." If you want to be a full-time professional speaker, then it's important that you attract and retain your own audience that will show up to hear you speak. When you can demonstrate to a conference organizer that you can not only help promote their conference, but actually deliver attendees, then your value has just gone way up.
What Other Industries Need You to Bring Your Own Audience?
It's actually difficult to come up with industries that don't need you to bring your own audience. Want to be a rock star? The record labels certainly want you to have a proven track record that illustrates just how large your audience is before they sign you as an artist. Looking to be a guest on a podcast show? It really helps if you can bring your own audience. Perhaps you'd like to get a job in sales. Wouldn't it help you quite a lot to have a large audience you're connected to on LinkedIn?
What about being a real-estate agent? If you think the job is about showing houses, you've missed the point. Any company that would like you to join their team needs to know that you can connect with people and become a resource for them. The key to successful realtors (and most other businesses) is referrals. The larger your audience, the more referrals you can and will receive. Lawyers, Doctors, Coaches, Financial Advisors, Musicians, Teachers, and just about everyone in the services industry benefits from having a built-in audience that they can tap into.
If you take a minute and think about it, your company could certainly benefit from building your own audience. That's one of the reasons all of these marketing automation platforms have blown up in the past decade. They all sell you software designed to help you attract and build your own audience. For more on building your own audience, see my previous article Don't Be a HubSpot Hater-6 Common Marketing Automation Mistakes.
With the explosive combined growth of social media, crowdfunding and ecommerce, you are now expected to demonstrate that what you are saying, selling or producing already has a built in audience. Good luck and keep building your audience. It has more value that you probably realize.