How to Reach New Audiences

Learn from an accomplished membership director how to connect with and engage new target groups.


At 5 by 5 Design we believe it’s possible to change the world by posing the right questions, listening to the honest answers, and following the path that emerges from the dialogue. Today’s discussion explores the process of reaching and connecting with new audiences.

Khia Shaw is currently serving as the director of membership & engagement at United Women in Faith. Khia enjoys building relationships and unique partnerships by envisioning how to make the greatest impact on gender equity and racial justice. Whether at the beach or on the job, self-care and spiritual nurture take center stage for Khia, as she believes the key to making an impact in this world emanates from an inner peacefulness and spiritual grounding.

We’ve asked Khia a series of questions about how organizations can find success engaging with new audiences. Here’s what she had to say.  

1. Why was it important for your organization to adjust your marketing approach and content for new audiences?

Our organization has been around for 150 years serving women, children, and youth. At its height, membership was over 1.4 million with a bustling volunteer base. Over the years societal changes have given women more options for engagement, which gave the organization more competition. As a result, we saw a decline in our numbers and needed to make changes to remain attractive to women. We saw the need to move from an “If we build it, they will come” model to a data-informed decision-making strategy.

2. How did your team use data to make changes to your marketing approach to effectively reach your new targeted audiences?

Building out a data strategy roadmap supported the entire strategic planning process. We collected data from over 24,000 new women and 7,000 existing presidents who represented a sample of 150,000 members and conducted focus groups. Through this data collection we learned that attempting to serve women of all ages doesn’t work and that we needed to focus on women aged 35 and older. We learned that we needed to shift the content, tone, and imagery of our resources to be more relatable to today’s woman and that meeting women where they are and nurturing their whole selves is essential to effectively reaching new targeted audiences of women.  

3. What are some advantages to developing new marketing content for new groups?

The first advantage is that it has freed our staff and consultants to be more creative and focused. For example, one bucket for us is building our pipeline with women who identify as spiritual but not denominational. This opens the creative floodgates on ways to represent spiritual women with unique imagery, tone, and content. An example is that we recently launched a new All-Access membership that allows for women to join through an interest track instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. The content is customized by demographic and psychographic information collected upon visiting our website. This gives women flexible joining options for connecting with us and tailored content. Content is now created with fluidity, with the propensity to be more cutting edge.

4. What are some challenges related to connecting with new audiences?

You have to approach marketing from more vantage points. We have a current audience that is 65+ and we are looking to build that audience alongside a younger audience that is 35+. The existing membership has always met in person with a focus on current issues in their individual communities with a penchant for prioritizing service over advocacy. The younger audiences are more interested in meeting in virtual settings with in-person sessions centered around advocacy and action only. So, we must be very intentional in creating spaces that speak to both audiences. Not forced but organic spaces like coffee meetups or “juice and justice,” which appeals to multiple audiences and is still centered on moving the mission of the organization forward. 

5. Are there any tips you can offer to other organizations trying to tailor their marketing efforts to new audiences?

I would offer that this was not an overnight process. We wanted to reach new audiences as part of our organization-wide rebranding, it took about 2 years or more to gather data, identify target audiences, and design personas. It helps to have your communications, IT, and social media leaders involved in the process from the beginning and having the marketing strategy show up in the company communication plan.     

Also, understanding that innovation is not linear but cyclical, which means being committed to understanding that the customer journey is always changing, and a successful company is willing and prepared to innovate and refine as needed.  

Did this spark an idea? Let's talk!

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