The classic approach we’ve all heard is, “if you build it, they will come.” Many young start-ups are following this approach even today. Given the high failure rate of start-ups, I’m convinced the better option is to focus more on your audience, not your product.
A new prospect recently proposed we work together, and unfortunately, I had to remain in integrity and decline the contract for this simple reason.
He lacked a real understanding of what it takes to build a thriving start-up in today’s marketplace. The guy is super smart, has had a long and successful career as an engineer in a Fortune 100 company. Now that he’s caught the entrepreneur bug, he’s decided to leave the corporate world and make his millions. How? He’s spent the last three years perfecting a device that he believes will disrupt the communication industry.
The concept and product look really promising, and our first meeting got me fired up (I’m a sucker for supporting big ambitious dreamers). The problem is, this is a man with very little knowledge of consumer behavior, marketing, and the importance of brand in today’s world. So my desire to drop everything and help him pursue his big dream quickly faded when I realized he was more in love with his product than the end consumer. He lacked the fundamental understanding that building a product is one thing, successfully marketing and selling it is an entirely different game. The skills needed to execute on marketing cannot be undervalued. You could have the best product since sliced bread, but if you’re not able to communicate your story and vision (especially in today’s social media world), you won’t be in business very long.
Your start-up has a better chance of survival when you have an audience that knows, likes, and trusts you already. Whether you’re selling a product or service, here’s why you need to invest in building an audience on social media this year.
The first advantage of taking time to invest in marketing and building an audience is that it will establish for you a group of qualified buyers. The relationship you nurture makes it easy for you to pitch or sell your product directly.
The second thing to consider is that when you’re a young start-up, most likely coming out of the corporate world, no one knows you. So why would someone stop buying from their current supplier and switch to you? If you invest in growing an audience first, this objection isn’t so valid because through audience building strategies (think – content marketing), you can demonstrate and establish authority. People will start to see you as a credible expert and someone worth listening to.
Another reason you should invest in building an audience first is that it offers an opportunity for beta testing or first “seed” where you are more empowered to create a final product that you know people want because real people gave you genuine feedback on what works.
Audience building in today’s socially connected world is becoming a necessity because we are in the era of connection and sharing. The more you can tap into this social trend, the less costly it becomes for you to launch businesses and products because, in truth, most of the resources and marketing strategies needed to build an audience online cost less than traditional approaches. So if you’re wondering whether this will be a money saver, I guarantee you, in the long run, the return on investment is much better.
I could go on and on with more reasons why you should first build an audience if you’re planning to launch anything in this year, but instead, let’s switch gears and figure out how you can start doing this immediately.
The first steps to building your audience
• Focus on getting your seed audience.
Your core audience or what marketers like to refer to as the “seed audience” should be your primary concern. That means you need to invest in some serious strategic thinking and proper research so that you can figure out who your ideal buyer is. You need to know whom this person is, where they hang out online and offline, their demographics and psychographics.
A seed audience is usually a small group of 100 people, so if you can get yourself a solid audience of one hundred hyper-engaged subscribers or loyal fans, you’ll be well on your way to a profitable launch.
• Figure out what their main problem is that you can solve.
This is where you start to acquire proof of concept. If your product or service can truly solve a big pain point that this audience is already trying to deal with, you’ve won.
On that same token, I want to encourage you to find that sweet spot between the problem you identify and what you love doing — for example, going back to the story I shared at the beginning of my prospect. His love for technology and communication is excellent, but before investing three years and thousands in product development, it would have been wise to build a core audience to test if people were willing to pay for such a device. Sometimes what we love and what people think is valuable enough to spend money on don’t match. That’s when things get tough. Don’t let that happen to you.
• Create compelling content and be consistent.
At this point, you want to start communicating regularly and with authority to your audience so they can continue to develop their trust with your brand. Make sure you have a content marketing plan so you can be track and monitor your growth.
• Leverage the power of storytelling for your brand.
Content marketing alone will not get you loyal fans and buyers who invest in your product or service. You need to build an emotional connection, and nothing is more effective in today’s world that storytelling for business. Storytelling helps people relate and connect with you at a deeper level. It brings meaning to your brand and makes you memorable. If you want to go from zero and do well with your start-up, sharing your story, vision, and mission with a core audience can be the ingredient that gives you an edge and helps you beat your competition.
These are but a few starter tips to get the ball rolling for you. I urge you to take a step back and consider approaching your start-up with the mind of a winner. Think long term, play the game according to the current state of consumer behavior. Those who will win as we step into a new year are founders take the time to strategically and effectively build a core audience first.
What are your thoughts on this?