Don’t Confuse Marketing with Marketability
Lessons in growing audiences from Bumper’s Dan Misener
Welcome to the Creativity Business, a newsletter about how to Earn Attention as a marketer or content creator. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up and get content strategy delivered to your inbox every two weeks for free.
A pivotal moment in the early years of Pacific Content came when we realized “if you build it, they won’t come.” We had produced a great podcast series that we were really proud of, but not many people were listening to it. It was not a coincidence that our client had decided not to undertake any marketing for the show. Making a great show was not enough to guarantee that it would automatically find an audience. Ugh.
This should not have been surprising. As any TV network or movie studio knows, you need to find effective ways to let potential audiences discover that your big new show or film exists. Look at the marketing for the Barbie movie - it’s EVERYWHERE!
And so we decided to create strategies and measurable tactics for building audiences for our clients and their podcasts. And thankfully, Dan Misener agreed to lead Pacific Content’s audience development efforts.
Dan is one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with and his success in thinking differently about how to grow audiences for digital content has since led him to co-found the audience growth agency, Bumper.
I wanted to talk to Dan about audience growth for a few reasons. First, most marketers and creators want to grow their audiences and either don’t know how to do it effectively or don’t want to put the necessary effort into doing it. And second, the process of marketing your content starts much earlier than most of us might think.
Audience growth strategy starts at the start. It starts before you know what show you’re making. Too many creators and marketers confuse marketing with marketability. Even a great marketing plan won’t work if the show isn’t designed to be highly valued by the audience you’re seeking to reach.
Dan puts it bluntly: “I've seen companies make shows that nobody wants.”
If you don’t have a show that is marketable, your marketing won’t work. To help solve this, Dan and the Bumper team start with five questions.
“Before you actually get to the fun and really creative work of making the thing, it's so important to start by stepping way, way, way, way back and asking these fundamental strategy questions.
“I always ask:
What are we making?
Who are we making it for?
Why is it good for them?
Why is it good for us?
Who's going to make it?
“One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is confusing the answers to those questions. Often, when I ask people, “Why is your show good for listeners?” they respond with why it's good for them.
“A successful show needs to do both. It's got to add value to a listener's life and it's gotta have a reasonable business rationale for existing.”
This may sound obvious, but there is another vital and often forgotten step before you start to produce a podcast, a TikTok channel, an email newsletter, or anything else in the content universe.
You need to find out who else is in your space and what they’re doing. You need to do some research before you decide what you’re going to make because part of building an audience is making something different than everyone else.
“The work of understanding the landscape, understanding what already exists and how audiences are already served is partly so that you can hear what's already out there. And partly so you can answer the question, ‘What's the show that I can make that is meaningfully differentiated in the marketplace?’”
It goes without saying, but making something worse than what already exists isn’t a great idea. Making the second or third clone of an existing show isn’t a great idea. And making the 1000th show about a topic that is already serving audience needs isn’t a great idea.
Once you know what’s out there, you can do the work of making something differentiated - something that doesn’t already exist, something that comes uniquely from you, and something that your intended audience will highly value.
Marketing vs Marketability
Adding value to the audience’s life is the marketability factor. Without marketability, your marketing efforts will be in vain. Again, a successful show needs to do both - it needs marketability (a show valued by the audience) and marketing (let that audience know it exists). Clearing up the confusion about marketing and marketability is a regular challenge in building audiences for Dan.
“So often when people think they have a marketing problem for their content, they really have a marketability problem for their content - they're making something that no one likes. No one wants to admit that the thing they made might have been made for nobody, or might have been made for the person who paid for it.”
When a show doesn’t perform, it’s also unfortunately too late to change the marketability factor - the show already exists. And so all the focus (and often all the blame) gets shifted to the marketing plan.
“Everyone wants to ascribe the failure of a piece of content to the marketing of the content, not to the quality of the content.”
To avoid this sort of dilemma, let’s return again to the idea of starting at the start.
“Marketing and marketability are two sides of the same coin or two parallel paths in the life of any piece of content. When people make a thing and then try to figure out how to get people to consume it, that’s the wrong order.
My strong preference is to start thinking about audience growth from day zero and to have as tight an integration as possible between the audience growth team or the marketing team and the creative team as possible. If the creative team and the marketing team are not regularly in consultation through the show development or production process, something bad is happening.”
Make Marketing Everyone’s Job
In most journalism organizations, there is a “church and state” separation between editorial and sales. Similarly, there is often a separation between the editorial and marketing departments inside brands. The editorial team often doesn’t want to be involved in marketing the content they create, and the marketing team isn’t part of the development of the content that they have to market. The solution is to get everyone together early, working together on a shared, unified strategy for success that includes a great show (marketability) and great audience growth strategy (marketing).
“There have been certain creators I've worked with who have treated marketing as not their job or not something they should have to think about - certainly not something they should need to execute themselves.
“And yet, the world of marketing also does itself no favors in trying to collaborate with creative or editorial teams by trying to make it seem like a secret science that you need specialized or esoteric knowledge to understand.
“Marketing for a piece of content is putting it in front of the right people who are likely to want to try it. That's not complicated.
“Everybody involved in a creative project should be thinking about the audiences they want to serve and how the thing they're making serves those audiences. Everybody has the same goal. They want as many of the right people to listen to or watch or read or see the stuff that they're making.”
Success is Everyone’s Job
Whatever the desired outcome of your content, acting as a single team working towards a shared goal is a better strategy than the default separation of editorial and marketing.
“What do we all want? Our common goal is to get the most number of the right people to see, read, or listen to the thing that we're making. And I think failures or breakdowns or tension between marketing teams and editorial teams often stems from not really understanding that we're working towards the same thing.”
Are you thinking about the marketability of your content at inception?
Are you also thinking about marketing your content from day one?
Are there ways for your content team and your marketing teams to work together throughout the lifecycle of a content project?
How can your marketing team help your content team learn more about successful content marketing?
How can your content team help your marketing team understand marketability and program development?
What’s Earned My Attention Lately
Many people think living a creative life must be bliss and joy and heavenly. Massey Currey wrote about how the life of an artist is actually the hardest life of all.
A good behind-the-scenes story about how Threads was developed in a very short period of time as the latest volley in the Zuckerberg vs Musk battle.
Spotted in London
Thanks, Debbie Basco :-)