Anyone who’s a creator on YouTube wants to know the answer to this question: How do I grow my audience on YouTube?

It makes sense because no one wants to invest countless hours into creating videos and feel like they’re not actually reaching people. We want people to see our videos. We want them to change lives, influence people, and even financially support us.

As a certified YouTube consultant and a YouTuber myself, this is a question I wrestle with a lot, both on my own channels and my client’s channels. However, after being active in the space for the past seven years and being a part of many successful channels, I’ve learned that the answer to that question isn’t based solely on implementing a bunch of YouTube tips and best practices. That helps, of course, but YouTube growth often comes from strategically wrestling through a series of other questions first.

Your Channel is a Restaurant

Think of your YouTube channel like a restaurant. Just as a chef focuses primarily on the food he prepares for guests, creators often focus primarily on the videos they prepare. However, anyone who has eaten at a restaurant knows that the likely hood of returning to eat again depends on the overall restaurant experience, not just how good the food is. Good food is obviously important, but so is price, mood lighting, promptness, cleanliness, and more. They all contribute to a successful restaurant that causes people to come back time and time again.

If we want viewers to come back time and time again on YouTube, we need to consider the overall channel experience, too. What contributes to a channel experience and how do we create a positive one that entices viewers to be drawn into our content and subscribe?

I break it down into three strategies that’s encompassed by a fourth strategy. Each is necessary to create a highly subscribable YouTube channel.

1. Channel Strategy: How does your YouTube channel present itself to a viewer?

If you’re a restaurant owner and you want hungry people to stop and eat, the first thing people will notice about your restaurant is it’s physical appearance. If they’ve never heard your place, they’ll make a lot of assumptions about what kind of food you offer based on what they see. Naturally, they’ll assume a restaurant that’s flashing neon beer sign in the window will offer a much different dining experience than a place that has a big friendly plastic mouse out front. (If that’s your restaurant and I see the mouse, I’m totally mocking it publicly on Instagram. Just a heads up.)

The same is true for your YouTube channel. If someone in your target audience stumbles across one of your videos and then goes to your channel to check out more, what would they assume about your videos? Does your channel’s design make them feel like, “Yes, this place is for me!” Does it quickly and clearly communicate what value your channel has for them or will they need to invest some time into digging around to figure it out? If so, you’ll most likely have a high abandonment rate of potential subscribers.

Everything from your channel’s header image, channel icon, channel trailer, the sections listed below it, and even how consistently you publish videos should all be strategically aligned to intentionally communicate why your channel is valuable to your target audience. The easier you can make this for viewers the easier it will be for them to feel enticed to watch more videos and subscribe.

2. Search & Discovery Strategy: How does a viewer find your channel?

You just built your restaurant and you’re proud of all the work you put into it. Your food is great, the experience is amazing, and you’re ready to open for business. There’s only one thing missing: people. How will people find out it? How will you get visitors to come check it out?

On YouTube, most people do this for their channels by optimizing videos for search results, collaborations, and using social media to promote their content. These are all effective ways to get discovered, but there will always only be 20 videos in the first page of search results, a limited number of collaboration opportunities, and a lot of noise in social media to drown out your promotion.

When you think through your search and discovery strategy, it’s important to think creatively. There are thousands of ways to jump ahead of the competition and get your content in front of your target audience. Yes, thousands and thousands. Maybe you can use your social media accounts differently than anyone else, or you reach out for collaborations in a unique and valuable way that gets attention. Creativity with videos isn’t the only place where your creativity needs to shine.

3. Audience Development Strategy: How do you intend to capture a viewer’s interest and turn them into an integral part of your channel’s community?

Congratulations! Your restaurant’s search and discovery strategy is working! New guests are arriving to check out the place and get a bite to eat. Now what? Well, you need a strategy to ensure that they enjoy the place. They need to easily relax and enjoy the friends who came with them. They need to have an experience that compels them to come back for more.

Fortunately for you, a few customers turn into regulars who start coming back every week for more. They even tell their friends about your restaurant and, before you know it, your business has grown month over month for 12 months straight!

On YouTube, it’s not enough to just get a few people to watch your videos and subscribe. You must have a strategy that intentionally turns those viewers into regulars who keep coming back for more. Ideally you create a community around your channel, people who are not only passively watching your videos, but actively talking with each other, supporting each other, and contributing more value to your channel then you could ever create on your own.

4. Video Content Strategy: How do you plan to execute the aforementioned strategies with videos?

Fortunately, as a “chef,” most creators already understand the “food” part of their “restaurants,” but it’s important that videos are crafted in a way that supports the channel strategy, the search and discovery strategy, and the audience development strategy. Each are stand-alone strategies that involve much more than just your videos, but they all still tie back to your videos.

How do each of your videos address your target audience? How does each video deliver your value proposition to people in that audience? How does it help them find you? How do you build relationships with these people in a way that turns viewers into a loyal community?

I realize these are big questions, most of which do not have simple answers, but continually tackling them head-on is what separates the flat channels from the growing channels. I guarantee that if you think through question carefully and start experimenting with different ideas, learning from what works for you and what doesn’t, your channel will grow on YouTube.

Dedicated creator + good food + positive experience + intentional strategy = success.