One of the larger risks when starting a new business is that you launch and no one knows about your product. In this post-launch phase, you can struggle to find sufficient numbers of early customers, leading to failure.
By building your audience in advance of launching, you can ensure that like-minded people, who are your early customers, are already primed and paying attention.
To build your reputation audience in advance, you first must understand who your early customers are. In an ideal world, you are well-versed in the industry of your product, and you are your own ideal customer. If this is the case for you, this is perfect! Don’t be afraid to focus on yourself, the things that interest you, and the values you have.
In the case where you’re not your own ideal customer, you have a little more work to do. Conduct interviews with potential customers and find out more about them. Talk to industry experts. Once you start to hone in on who your ideal customer is for this phase, don’t be afraid to be strict about limiting your message to them.
By focusing on the ideal customer, the things they are interested in, and the values they have, it will be easier to build an audience.
This may sound counter-intuitive. If you’re trying to build an audience, why wouldn’t you cast as wide a net as possible? The answer is because there is so much noise today. Every piece of content you produce and every connection you make will be vying for attention among dozens of alternatives. If you’re not directly speaking to someone, you will get lost in that noise. We’ll call this focused community your niche.
With your ideal niche nailed down, you now want to start engaging with them. At this stage, consistency and authenticity are the most important aspects of what you should be producing. Resist the urge to sell or talk about your (non-existent) product. Become an authentic member of the community, and produce good stuff.
Podcasts are very popular now, and it can seems like everyone has one.
While it might ultimately be a good idea to start your own, particularly if there isn’t already one in your niche, a good way to get your feet wet is to take advantage of all the other podcasts out there.
- Find and listen to the podcasts that exist in and around your niche today.
- Become an authentic member of the community: On social media, share the episodes you’ve enjoyed. Send questions and comments to the hosts. 3. Get on these shows as a guest industry expert. Get in touch about collaborating once you’ve become an authentic member of the community.
Joining shows as a guest may seem daunting, but it requires a minimal investment in a microphone and access to a quiet space to record. What’s even more valuable is if you do eventually decide to produce your own show, you’ll have the equipment ready, and plenty of practice.
While it might seem that blogging is old news, the reality is that it’s a tried and true method for building an audience.
It is worthwhile to have a space online that you control entirely, to host your own content, especially longer form stuff.
From this “home base” you can spread the word about your content to other channels like Medium and Social Media like Twitter.
Many founders have trouble writing. You may get hung up on trying to come up with something special. Remember, within your small niche you’ll likely have something of value to contribute. As an industry expert, what seems simple or obvious to you, someone else hasn’t learned yet. They can learn it from you!
Similar to the podcast strategy I discussed above, your first goal should be to become an authentic member of the community, not selling.
Follow other industry influencers. Like and retweet the things that you genuinely enjoy. Share your own thoughts and opinions.
On Facebook, find the groups that your ideal customers are in, and participate in a genuine way.
Like with blogging, remember that you have something to share. Within your niche you most certainly have something to share that will be valuable to at least one other person. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to be found by that person.
While most of these techniques are online, here is the bridge between the online and offline worlds. Make genuine connections with like-minded industry experts and thought leaders that people in your niche follow.
Focus on providing value to them, rather than getting value from them. The important thing is to make the connections, not to get things from them.
With these relationships established, you’ll be able to incorporate them into your content. Perhaps someone can give you a quote, join your show, guest blog post, and more. When you’re ready to launch, discussed below, these contacts will become a valuable asset for your business.
Eventually you will start to gain an audience of like-minded people. Even if it’s only a few dozen people, if they are showing up consistently (and you are too!), then it is time to start an email newsletter.
Email newsletters are incredibly effective because people are opting-in to pay attention to you. This will be incredibly important when it finally is time to launch your product (but you’re not worrying about that yet).
For now, take the content you’re producing on your blog, podcasts, social media etc, and combine it with the interesting things you’re finding in the community. Share that regularly with your subscribers.
Include a link to subscribe to your newsletter in your blog and wherever else you appear online.
When it is finally time to launch, by following the techniques above, you will have built up an audience of like-minded people who are listening to what you have to say and are likely experiencing the problems your product will solve. These will become your first customers and help spread the word.
In a future post, I’ll lay out the specific set of steps you will take to activate the audience in an organic and effective way.