In creative entrepreneurship, we’re used to seeing the same method of launching a product or service. It usually starts one of two ways: either you have a passion and you decide to build a business around it, or you have a genius, one-of-a-kind idea and you decide to build a business around it. You spend countless hours pouring into concepts and making plans, you try to build hype and excitement by spreading the word to friends and family and networking with others in your industry, and then you present it to the world. And once you’ve done all of the legwork and your business is up and running, then you focus on drawing in an audience that would be interested in buying your products or booking your services.
But what if you reversed that order? What if you’ve been doing things backwards and making product launches more difficult on yourself all along?
I subtly mentioned this in Monday’s blog post, but I think it’s worth coming back to and explaining in more detail (especially in light of today’s post). When Jake and I set our goal of trying to reach 100,000 unique blog visitors in one month, we had a clear purpose in mind. We have several long term goals for Elle & Company, and one in particular that is going to require a large audience in order to be successful. But instead of taking the normal approach, we’re doing things a little backwards by building our audience first. Here’s why.
The Benefits of Building Your Audience First
Creating a Customer Base
While it’s great to spend time strategizing and developing a new product or service, all of that hard work won’t add up to much if you aren’t able to get it in front of interested customers. One of the hardest parts of running a successful business is building a client base, and it’s especially hard to do after you’ve come up with your offering.
And that’s where this backward approach is extremely useful; you’re building your audience in the hopes of creating a loyal customer base that you can sell to at a later date. You won’t have to work so hard to find people to buy your products or book your services if you launch them after you’ve already acquired an audience.
And this has long-term benefits as well. If you’re an entrepreneur, you have to stay ahead of the curve and continue to be remarkable; what worked last year might not be so successful next year. You have to continually make adjustments and refine your offerings, and sometimes you need to come up with another clever idea in order to stay relevant and profitable. If you’ve done the work on the front end and put effort into growing a loyal audience, you’ll be able to sell to them again and again (especially if you continue reading the insights below).
By growing an audience ahead of time, you’re also able to gauge the interest of your followers about your new product or service launch before you put time and resources into developing it.
For example, when the Elle & Company Adobe Illustrator e-course was still in the concept stage, I began to plant seeds and gauge the interest of my audience by mentioning Illustrator in blog posts. I received positive feedback and was asked several questions about the software in the comments and by email, and it helped me gauge the interest of my readers and gave me a better idea about important aspects of the class, like pricing and the number of seats to offer.
By testing the waters before you launch, you can save yourself from a costly flop or hopefully have a better idea of how your products or services will sell.
Gearing Your Products Toward Your Audience
This is one of the best benefits from the backwards approach.
Instead of coming up with a product or service and then finding the perfect audience, you can come up with your audience and find the perfect product or service for them. By growing your following first, you have the advantage of gearing your offering toward your followers and tailoring it to fit their needs. And by tailoring your offering to fit the needs of your audience, there’s an even greater likelihood that they will purchase your product or service down the road.
How to Build Your Audience First
High-quality blog content
I might sound like a broken record, but I just can’t reiterate the importance of blogging enough. You’ll draw in a blog audience and grow a loyal following when you start to consider your audience and their needs. If you’re publishing posts that are helpful, unique, and relevant, your followers will keep returning, which leads to loyalty and a potential sale in the long run. Blogging also helps to position you as an expert, increases your ranking for SEO, and builds trust with your audience.
Social media is another fantastic way to develop an audience (especially if you’re on a budget - free marketing!). It also goes hand-in-hand with blogging by funneling more traffic into your site.
Another great way to get in front of a larger audience and refer them back to your site is through guest posting. Find other legitimate blogs in your industry and submit a post to be featured on their site (while including a value proposition about how it would benefit their readers, of course). Guest posting has the opportunity to help you gain exposure and reach a similar audience, again funneling people back to your site.
Responding to every comment
First-time visitors become loyal followers when you take the time to make them feel important. This often takes the shape of a simple response on a blog comment, a retweet, or a like on Facebook.
There are several ways to increase your following in order to successfully launch a product; keep in mind that I listed some big ones that have been beneficial for Elle & Company. But regardless of how you go about expanding your reach, a backward approach to launching your product or services could make it easier on you in the long run and account for a successful launch in the future.
What do you think of this backward approach? How have you built your audience in order to launch a product or service?