Develop an Audience Outline to Improve Your Digital Marketing


Joshua Foer, a freelance journalist out of New Haven Connecticut was reporting on the USA Memory Championships when he decided to try the techniques he was observing and went on to win the championship and set a new record.

Understanding how memory works can provide the scaffolding by which to build deeper relationships with our audience.

We look at 6 questions that help create an audience outline that merges with the basis of memory and storytelling.


Foer wrote about his experience in his book “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” and explains how we are all capable of achieving savant-like capabilities with our minds.

At the core of memory feats of incredible recall is storytelling. In particular, learning to associate personal visuals of memorable people performing outlandish and active activities – aka Einstein doing the moonwalk.

But Einstein tipping his hat as he slides backward to a cheering audience is the visual Foer uses, mapped against a specific playing card to remember it in record time. Your visual would be completely different, but most likely just as bizarre.

Netflix: The Mind Explained

Netflix: The Mind Explained


In Netflix’s “The Mind Explained”, the same story is told about Yanjaa Wintersoul – also a memory champion where they explore her process which matches Foer’s and goes on to explain how research has shown an 80% increase in recall by taking a list of items and turning it into a narrative.

The more you can associate things you want to remember with structures you already have in your mind, the easier it’s going to be remembered.
— Netflix: The Mind Explained
From Netflix’s “The Mind Explained” Episode 1

From Netflix’s “The Mind Explained” Episode 1


What does this have to do with audiences and digital marketing?

Everybody’s website is all about what we do, who we are, why we’re so great. Why aren’t we asking about what you want or need?
— Carla Lyons – Lillibridge Healthcare

Carla Lyons, the VP of Marketing and Communications for Lillibridge Healthcare, left a mark on me with that statement a decade ago when we were redesigning the Lillibridge site together.

Studies have shown that home page headlines and copy that focus on the visitor with keywords like “you” and “your organization” and what “you’ll be able to achieve” by working with us, engage visitors more deeply as measured by calls-to-action engagement.

This is where the audience outline comes in.

The Audience Outline

We’ve found that an Audience Outline and a Content Outline are powerful starting points and relatively easy to assemble – I’ll cover the Content Outline in a future post.

The Audience Outline puts your visitors first in understanding how to dialogue with them and build relationships that turn into sales and longterm customers.

The techniques of memory and the explanations of how we remember – by associating things with our own personal structures, help remind us that if we can build our messaging into a visitors own narrative, we’ll make a much deeper and lasting impact.

How to get our visitors to tell themselves a story where we are a main character in their story.

This is more than telling a story. It’s figuring out how to get our visitors to tell themselves a story where we are a main character in their story. How do we do that? We create an Audience Outline.


Here are 6 questions we’ll typically ask clients in assembling their Audience Outline followed by our own answers to those questions in demonstrating this sample process.

Who are your key audiences?

Most clients will list two to three different target audiences that they most often deal with. When they call them out, I also typically ask what percentage of your business is with each. That helps provide a weight for how large and in what priority to focus on said audiences.

Orbis has one key audience: small local businesses. We do work with large companies but it’s the small businesses we have the largest impact on for the most economical cost. Small businesses can take more chances, move quicker and allow for the most creative endeavors in building audiences. We focus on local organizations so we can spend more face-to-face time which exponentially improves efficiencies in putting together and delivering a digital marketing effort.†

What are their biggest pain points?

Here’s where the fun begins. I’ve heard it said that we don’t actually seek pleasure but are seeking to avoid pain. When we start by understanding our audiences pain, we can connect with them at every level.

Our audience wants to grow their audience and they want it to be as easy as possible. Making changes themselves to their own content is difficult for 99% of the customers we start working with. We work to enable small businesses the ability to tell big beautiful stories easily.†

How are you truly different than your competitors?

Most clients we work with initially talk about things like passion and the highest levels of quality – all things anyone can say.

What can you say that a competitor can’t?

One of our writing partner’s Richard DeVeau answered that question quite elegantly when he said Customer Stories. Your specific client stories that demonstrate your craft is something you uniquely own. I’ve found that to be a solid focal point for many clients. But I insist that just bragging about what customers you work with is not enough. You need to start your customer story as an answer to your audience’s questions. Use your customer stories as answers to their pain points.

When key products and services differentiate you, the more specific you can state those differences, the better you can answer those questions.

We are different than our competitors in that we can build a website or landing page (even a simple e-commerce site) in a single day.

We bring a team of digital marketing experts: A writer, photographer/videographer and a designer and we build the website onsite with the customer and train them how to do what we’re doing. We call this our Hypersite approach.†

What are some things of value you can share with prospects which they could use for free.

All businesses must think of themselves as media companies.
— Joe Pulizzi | The Content Marketing Institute

In today’s marketing arena if you’re not publishing information regularly within your industry, you don’t exist.

That’s hard for all of us to commit to but worse is when those efforts in doing so are stale topics people can find anywhere or it’s all a sales pitch.

If your best friend by chance needed your product or services, surely you would do all you could to help her up until the point when you’d actually have to charge something. You’d give her every tip you could think of in saving cost or time and she would appreciate all that you try to offer and then gladly invest when she can and the time is right.

When you treat your marketing outreach in the same way – building relationships by giving away as much as you can until they absolutely cannot move forward any further without you and you patiently wait for their readiness, you’re marketing the way today’s leading audience builders are.

This is a real struggle for many we work with and it often reflects older thinking by just a few people (not all) within an organization about giving away secrets. Watch Youtube and all the free How To Videos by people garnering thousands, tens of thousands – even millions of views by simply giving it away to understand how important the sharing economy is.

We publish and share all the tools and processes we use to allow small businesses to do everything we would do for them and then we let them know if they need it done faster and better – because it’s all we do – then we’re here for them. Until then, we encourage them to save as much as possible by trying it themselves and hopefully gaining new customers and profits so they can invest in our services when they’ve built up enough budget – especially from some of the tips we’ve shared.†

Are there any client / project stories that illustrate the ones we love doing the most?

From first contact to discussions, commitment and then ongoing, what are some client stories that have turned out to be our absolute favorites? This helps us build our communications that speak to more of those prospects that become our new favorites.

We were hired to create a new website for an eating disorder clinic in Chicago and we convinced them to allow us to build the entire site without them seeing any versions before the final site. They saw none of the videos or photography we shot and only reviewed the content that was written and transcripts from the video edits in Google Docs form. When we premiered the finished site in their offices for the first time, the owner of the clinic hugged me – it was the first time a customer actually hugged me!

We’ve had several similar experiences with other clients and projects where we craft the marketing around the client and their stories with little focus on the mechanics and find those experiences to be the richest and most cost effective we’ve ever encountered.†

What types of clients or projects do you NOT want.

As important as the question on who we love, we want to fully address those types of audiences which are not the best fit. And, if possible, can we help steer those visitors towards resources who could better serve them?

A new trend in content development is to get leaner rather than throwing everything into the site so as to make it easier for visitors to navigate through your information and for those that are interested – tease them into making contact so we can take the discussion further and personalize more information in subsequent discussions.

Being clearer with visitors who would not be best served therefore reduces our follow-up communications and burdens us less with leads that are not ideal.

One of the worst content management systems we’ve worked with is Wordpress (see our article “90% of Hacked Websites in 2018 Were Wordpress” below). It’s the first question we ask – does your new site need to be on Wordpress? This is actually a great starting point for discussions because several who at first thought yes, are open to conversations of exploring Squarespace (never hacked *technically) and how our different build process might be of interest.†


An organization’s website is typically central to their marketing and most, if not all new website projects, begin by looking at favorite websites or competitor websites and creating a project around some type of website outline.

There’s often talk of features and functionality, how videos, social media and email campaigns will play a role – all the mechanics of a digital marketing effort are typically examined.

Where we have seen the greatest leaps and the most efficient builds has been by forgetting all of that and first starting with an audience definition as answered by the questions above.

The second step is developing a content outline (more to come on that) and then the mechanics, the project plan, design, execution, etc., are developed from these two starting points.

When starting with an audience and content outline, it’s much easier for many people to be involved and contribute to the discussions because it’s not technically oriented. We’re talking about you and your customers and then getting into what they need in information to make decisions and understand your capabilities.

We’re dropping this information into a bulleted Google Doc which several can adjust, and comment on and nobody is overwhelmed with the complexities of “digital” because that all comes after.

It’s a great foundation and one I recommend you try or invite us in to help you flesh one out with your organization. And, it’s really fun!

FeaturedGary Ricke