Sure, Expand Your Audience. But Don’t Forget Your Base

Don't throw out your current audience just because a new one is important to your long-term strategic goals. The reaction to Microsoft's recent move to push its Xbox One beyond the traditional user base shows the care you need to take.

Gamers are a fickle audience.

It doesn’t mean you can’t necessarily do innovative things, it just means you need to be careful to not choose a new audience over an established one. It means you have to make room for both.

If you go on your average video game news site and look at the comments, you’ll find people have opinions that are all over the place, so passionate about what their games or or consoles should or shouldn’t do that you might wonder if you could ever truly understand that audience.

So when Microsoft launched its Xbox One last week, there were a lot of folks with a lot of opinions. And according to one recent poll, the company didn’t deliver.

The video game site IGN, which polled its readers about the launch and their initial feelings on the presentation made last Tuesday, notes that just 6 percent of the 76,000 people polled assessed it as “fantastic.” However, more than three-quarters of respondents called the initial reveal of the device “disappointing” or “nothing short of a disaster.”

Why so negative, especially considering the success of the company’s eight-year-old Xbox 360 platform with hard-core gamers? Simple: Microsoft is trying to push its audience beyond gamers,  toward creating an entertainment hub that works with your cable box,  delivers second screen experiences, and ultimately seems as focused on running your TV as it is on letting you play the latest iteration of Call of Duty.

IGN’s Steven Butts, speaking to Fox News, explained the strongly negative response this way: “I’ve already got something in my house that I can watch TV on, so I don’t need a redundant piece of technology that allows me to do that. It’s not a very compelling message to gamers, and I’m not sure if it’s the consumption pattern that a lot of new-generation folks have for media.”

Take Risk, But Don’t Lose Focus

Now, you’re probably not launching a video game console anytime soon. (If you are, please email me, because that’s probably a really awesome Associations Now story in the making!) But associations nonetheless  have to manage and meet expectations with their tech presences.

It’s the flip side of the low-risk innovation situation that Katie Bascuas touched on in a recent article. This is what keeps many associations wary of doing really game-changing, audience-expanding things.

Trying to keep your current user base happy doesn’t mean you can’t do innovative things. Maybe it’s a matter of making the new initiative  a skunkworks-style project or designing your innovation process so that you’re not betting the farm with your riskier endeavors.

What it does mean, though, is that you need to be careful to not choose a new audience over an established one. You have to make room for both.

Expand Your Audience Carefully

This is something marketing expert Brian Solis recently touched on in a piece my colleague Anita Ferrer spotted. His topic was how many social media channels you should have.

“The answer is as simple as it is revealing. Create the number of channels that meaningfully extend the focus of your business,” Solis wrote on Mashable. “Only create channels that enhance the brand message without diluting it. And make sure you have the capacity to keep all the channels relevant.”

“Relevant” is a great word here, and one that resonates beyond social media. Innovating and building great products is a good. But if your technology isn’t relevant to your industry’s needs, no matter what subsection you’re trying to reach, why spend your time there?

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is known for saying, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Apple’s Steve Jobs had a fondness for the quote, for obvious reasons.

It’s too soon to tell whether the Xbox One is going to reach its predecessor’s heights. But Microsoft  needs to keep an eye on two different pucks at the same time—the audience  it wants to reach and the one it already has.

If you’re not careful in your tech endeavors, you’ll end up missing both of them.

Microsoft's Xbox One, which drew a negative reaction from gamers on its announcement last week. (Microsoft)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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