When working with ReachOut, an online mental health service for young people, we stumbled across an extremely effective way to get a strategic view of their digital service – where they are and where they want to go.

ReachOut had a very clear and audacious goal to expand its audience, so we knew what the service had to achieve. This gave us a great start.

We then focused on three key questions and used these to work out where the service is currently strong, where there are gaps and where there are opportunities for significant growth.

1. Who needs our service?

We avoided any pap answers here. We looked at data about the current audience, and as we mulled it over, we realised there were significant gaps.

The service unconsciously targeted a very specific audience, an audience which the team felt most comfortable with – one which mirrored their own sensibilities and backgrounds.

Seeing this unconscious bias allowed us to clearly identify the significant segments of the proposed audiences that weren’t being targeted and who represent profound opportunities for growth.

2. Where can we reach them?

We then looked at the existing service channels. The service to date had done enormous work establishing its web and social channels. But these channels were focused more on pull than push and relied on people to actively come looking for the service.

To grow the audience, we had to push out to them. We had to identify ways to reach them, to entice them and get them thinking about the service for the first time.

3. What will have an impact on them?

This question got us looking at what we could do with content and functionality to get the audience’s attention and make an impact on their lives.

Not surprisingly, the service was strong in content that met the needs of the current audience but weak in content that might appeal to the growth audiences.

The gaps we identified were challenging for the content team. It pushed them into unfamiliar territory. It required new content partnerships and approaches.

An experimental plan of action

The process of answering who, where and what gave us a high level overview of where ReachOut’s service was at and where it could grow. We then moved from the strategic to the practical. We identified potential solutions that we could test through a series of content experiments.

This whole process took place in two half-day sessions. By close of the second half-day we had a strong, clear path to grow the audience for the service and an energised team ready to get cracking.