Audience Hierarchies in Marketing

The theory of Audience Hierarchy in marketing allows us to understand how a first-time buyer becomes our loyal customer and how we can reverse engineer it to bring the rest of our audience to that point by being thoughtful and intentional at every stage.

Robbie Fitzwater
Updated on

Today I am going to be walking you through a concept that allows you to view your different audiences differently. 

This is a phenomenon that I am deeply invested in as it enables you to understand and decide what stages you want to walk your audience through a little bit differently. It covers everything from having an insight into what their customer journey looks like to how you can move them to a certain point step by step and automate the nurturing process.

Audience Hierarchies: What is it?

So the concept is called Audience Hierarchies.

It takes you down to identifying your most valuable audience and, how they got to that point, what stages did they take. And, once you get to know that, you can reverse engineer it all to understand what you need to do to move other individuals from that point of the first interaction with your brand to the pinnacle of audience hierarchy – That’s how I do it.

Audience Hierarchies
Audience Hierarchies in Marketing

Simply put, it’s the basic understanding of how you can turn your social media followers into repeating customers who refer and what do they need to move up all those steps. 

For this concept, I took inspiration from Joe Pulizzi’s blog called follower heart hierarchies, where he first mentioned that, hey, your Facebook follower and your LinkedIn follower are not going to be the same.

Or, more like, a Facebook follower is a little bit less valuable than a LinkedIn follower, just like a LinkedIn follower may be a little bit less valuable than a YouTube subscriber. 

So it’s like scanning your social media network and identifying where does the value for each of these audiences lie. And on doing so, you would realize that each of the audience is going to prove valuable in their own way. BUT, in the long run, we want to turn them into being our paid customers. 

Because, of course, we have some business goals we want to achieve. 

What does their customer journey look like?

So how do we get to that point? Think of it as understanding how to reverse engineer your customer’s journey and identifying everything each individual needs along that journey. And, also how do we need to walk them through the process of making their first purchase and then second purchase and get them over to a loyalty program?

Basically, it’s all about understanding what their customer journey looks like in terms of what routes they take to get to that point. 

For instance, different businesses believe that they get the first touch with their potential customers through social media. If that’s the case and you’re getting paid traffic through social media, then no doubt it’s a great place to start with. 

Or it might be influencer outreach or influencer collaboration. Whatever it is, we need to think about how to get them to a point where we can level this relationship up a bit more. 

In simpler words, how do we turn those social media followers into our email subscribers?

And as we move them one level up, we gain more control over communication to develop this relationship into something stronger with a promising foreseeable future.

And again, once moved from that social vault to our email list, how do we get them to engage with our content regularly? How do we figure out what they find valuable in the information they’re receiving? How do we pull them into opting for getting more details and then trade some data for more segmented communications? 

Those are ways that we can harness to turn them into engaged subscribers.

And then, if we can take them from being engaged subscribers to a person who actually looks at your products and considers buying them, that’d be like moving them one more step up. 

Particularly if they’re making a large investment, you’ll need to have more touchpoints, and more interactions with them. And then reverse engineering those touch points with our brand. Thay way, making them look at our products again, and engage with our content, we can get them where we want – becoming our first time purchaser. 

Our next goal would be then how to get them to an engaged audience, a first time purchaser to someone who’d become a part of our loyalty program and come back for a second purchase or may be refer or become a returning customer who consistently refers? 

That’s what audience hierarchy looks like. It is mainly understanding and having a certain level of empathy for the audience that they are all going to need something different at each different stage. 

How do I move them up step by step?

But how to fully understand what do they need at each of those different stages? 

That can be done by talking to them, engaging with them through a feedback loop and paying attention to small details they mention about your services/products. And especially, talking them through the process of becoming the first time purchaser is what would take us to the heights.

Now, I understand that all businesses are different but figuring out how to get through these stages in a systematic way is what gives your edge over others because only the ones doing this have a clear picture of their loyal customers sticking with them for a long time.  

How can you automate the nurturing process?

Here’s the good thing about it; you can automate it all through email automations. 

It is like once someone has made the first purchase, we follow up with a post-purchase sequence ensuring that they are using the product and getting the most out of it. 

At this point, we really have to think are we providing the best customer experience?

Because if we are, it’s going to be our mutual benefit – they are getting value out of their purchase and are happy with it, which in turn means we have successfully earned a valuable customer for ourselves as well. 

Then we again hold each other’s hands to walk through the process. But this time, we keep in mind that a second-time purchaser might need something entirely different than the first-time purchaser. 

So this time, we make our follow-up more personalized and carefully tailored to cater to the needs of our returning customers.

Following the same pattern, you keep moving them one step up. And the more they move up, the more they become valuable.

How can a business establish their own?

For businesses, not all hierarchies are equal. For example, there are businesses that offer subscriptions. So, for them, it goes around like how I can turn my audience into first-time purchasers and then those purchasers into subscribers?

It all starts with understanding who your customers are, what brings them to you and how you can reverse engineer their customer journey to reach that business goal of yours. 

Let’s discuss that in detail below.

Who are your best customers? Identifying who they are and reverse engineering how to get there.

To identify the most valuable customers, I start off by looking into things that loop them together from the perspective of the use case. For example, if I sell children’s apparel, or clothing products, who are my customers? Are they parents, grandparents, or simply gift-givers? If we see it logically, we’d agree that most of them must be parents. That’s how we segment our audience into groups, depending on who’s going to be purchasing on a higher volume and higher frequency.

So, yes, parents, think about how can you move a parent from being your first-time purchaser to a regular one? What do they need to get through those stages? What would they need to find value in?

For example, they will need guidance on how to find the right size for the clothes, how to wash them with care, how to choose the right fabric, and so on. And we can provide them with all of that information through our content marketing.

That way, when we are there to walk them through those stages, when we provide all the value they need and appropriate solutions to their problems, they’ll find us helpful and trustworthy.

This will make us their prioritized resource when they need another product. Because, of course, if we provide replenishable products or something that people require on a frequent/daily basis, we’ll have them come around again for it within a specific time window. So, in addition to providing the value, we really kind of develop that reciprocal risk relationship that benefits everyone.

And as time goes on, we keep testing new messages and find out which technique, which incentive works and which doesn’t, which brings about the desired results, and which goes all in vain. 

But how do I run these kinds of tests? Because I have to be testing and iterating all the time to identify the most fruitful practice – this is where automations play their role and work wonders. This helps us become regimented and think strategically about how we are going to move them a level up one after the other.

And by the end of the day, this constant effort can finally help us move more and more people up on that top pyramid of the hierarchy. The more people we can get there, the more benefit we can reap in terms of skyrocketed revenue.

Although people can get there themselves too, if we help them through that process, high chances are we’ll get more and more people to that area. 

And once they have reached there, we continue to keep expanding it. For instance, within that channel hierarchy, we can shift them from Facebook to Tik Tok or Tik Tok to Youtube, where we have more control over our audience. 

The more control we have, the more chances we have to engage with them and build an audience that is interested in what we have in store for them – a total win-win situation for businesses!


In a nutshell, understanding Audience Hierarchies in marketing is something that can help you bear fruitful results in terms of increasing the audience and earning their trust so that they keep coming back to you on a regular basis. 

This concept is a bit new, and we have been toying and practicing around with it for a while, so if you have any insights or you think we missed something, feel free to let us know in the comment section below, and we’d love to answer!

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