When you want to start a business, there are so many things you could choose to do first. Where do you start? You could choose your name and create your logo, incorporate your business, start making some UI mockups, or even make a long-term business plan. However, I vote that you should build an audience first!
I’m not going to sit here and declare that this is the best option in every single situation. There are so many different kinds of startups. Maybe your business only needs a couple of customers, so the time to build an audience isn’t really worth it. Maybe your business is in a space that no one really cares to learn or read about. In this scenario, you probably couldn’t make content that would be interesting enough from which to build an audience.
If none of these exceptions apply to your business, I think you should deeply consider building an audience as your first approach. We will take a look at three reasons why this might make sense for you.
Have you ever spent lots of time on a project, launched it to the world and then all you heard were crickets?
You aren’t able to get enough people to even try your product that you worked so hard on! (Maybe other than your friends and grandma!). But in contrast, if you have an audience that is already interested in what you are doing, you will have more people who will give you feedback from the very beginning. This will allow you to know what your customers want as they help to point you in the right direction. It’s much easier to launch a product when you have someone to launch to!
This is what Basecamp (37Signals) did with their blog Signal Vs. Noise. They built a list of 100,000 subscribers. I’m sure they didn’t have quite that big of a list before they started making products, but they did have a starting point. Kevin Hale at Wufoo also took this approach. He started a blog and built an audience before they had launched anything at all!
Usually when you are buying a product you see it simply as a transaction. You don’t care who is behind the scenes. You want a product that fulfills your needs, most likely with the cheapest price tag.
But, if you know someone who is selling something, you’re much more likely to buy from them since you are buying it for more than just the product.
Give people another reason to buy your products and services. If they respect you and enjoy the content you create, they will buy what you are selling and be much more likely to share it with their community! You can start to build an audience that really cares about you and what you are doing.
If you have people rooting for you, they will stay around much longer than your business will. What if your business idea fails? With no audience, you are back to square one - starting all over with a new business and no traction. But, if you can build another business that the same group of people would be interested in, you can get off to a much quicker start!
The catch to all of this is you need to build an audience that fits the kind of product that you want to create. Don’t produce content about fishing if your goal is to build a business in the coffee space!
So even if you don’t know what business idea you are going to do, you need to know what niche it’s going to be in. Usually it is pretty safe to start producing content about either something you are interested in or experienced with, because most likely your business idea will stem from one of those areas.
Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of DuckDuckGo talks about a similar idea in his book called Traction. He calls it the 50 Percent Rule. He says,
“Having a product or service that your early customers love, but having no clear way to get more traction is a major problem. To solve this problem, spend your time constructing your product or service and testing traction channels in parallel.”
Another way you can fix this problem is, of course, by building an audience first! I think this could be a great first step for you if you know you want to start something, but don’t have the perfect idea yet.
This is why I am creating this blog. I don’t know exactly what project I want to pursue next, but I know I’m going to need some users to test it out once I do. My goal is to share my journey and things that I learn along the way, hopefully being able to provide you with some valuable insight!