Who are you trying to reach?

It’s a simple question that has become increasingly complicated by the possibilities of digital engagement.

I remember writing letters to a penpal from Michigan when I was 12 years old and having to consider variables such as international postage and increased length of time for delivery. Still, I saw it as a minor geographic miracle that I could converse, albeit slowly, with someone in another country. Today, however, I can write a single Facebook post that would be read by friends in Toronto, Seoul, Paris, and Svalbard (excluding language barriers of course!) at no extra cost to myself. The world is much smaller.

Similarly, as brands increasingly moved their presence online, so too did their assumptions of who they were able to reach at a relatively low cost to their marketing budget. The simple question of reach expanded to include everybody and everywhere. From blogging to email marketing to social media and online sales, brands cleverly employed these new technologies as a way of growing their reach out across the globe, limited only by their own capacity to keep up with the fickle, shifting trends of digital marketing.

However, as the potential for reach grew wider and wider, focusing on the who was ignored for the possibility of more. In trying to reach everyone, many of these brands forgot a most basic rule of communication - know who you are speaking to.

Thankfully, we’re finally figuring it out. Websites and online stores have been carefully tailored around a user experience that feels both compelling and intimate. Content strategy around digital marketing has been perfected down to a science (utilizing input from psychologists, designers, and skilled communicators) all in an attempt to sell more. [And if you’re wondering if these things work - ecommerce is currently a trillion dollar worldwide market.]

What I want to zero in on, however, is that all of that effort is about simulating a personal connection between brand and audience. As companies grow bigger and their reach grows wider, they have to spend more and more energy on creating touchpoints for their customers that feel smaller. This is the number one advantage that an established small to mid-sized company has when creating a digital content strategy - you already know your reach.

Many of you have spent decades building relationships offline with your customer base and are now wondering how to engage with a new, potential online audience. The answer is actually quite simple - it’s the same people. Those people who loved your product offline are the same ones who will love it online; so create content for them. Rather than losing focus on how to grow the reach you don’t yet have, invest your time on reaching who you already do. Here’s an easy way to start: create an email list - maybe you’ve only collected 60 emails - and write to the people that you know. Speak their language, address their challenges, and invite their feedback. You’ll find far more success in turning the reach you already know into potential sales than trying to expand into one you’re unfamiliar with.