Build an Audience Before Building Product
When I was a 1x founder, I failed because we did not have a clear go to market motion. I thought I was doing all the right things:
- I was religiously product focused. We used used Heap to measure every interaction. I onboarded every user personally.
- Our engineering team was FAST. New features every week. We built like crazy.
- We thought if we could raise our first pot of gold, we'd be on our way. We were a rocket ship to an acqusition, we just needed some fuel.
But business doesn't work like that.
You don't just "build the best product", because most of the time, you don't even know what you're supposed to be building.
Customer focus is not a hawkish follow up process. Product obsession is not constantly badgering the user for feedback. Cutomer obsession is understanding what the customer needs and leading with value.
Whether you're a startup CEO or a product manager, I now wholehearted believe that building an audience is not just as, if not more important, than building a product.
"Building an audience is just as, if not more, important than building product."
Today, I see audience building as a precursor to product ideation. Why build a product if you don't know who you're building it for? Audience building helps shape your product, because you're interacting with your eventual customers on a daily basis (Des Traynor). You're constantly testing written or spoken content for resonance. You're understanding what your customers need. And trust me, writing a LinkedIn post is way cheaper than writing code.
You don't get to choose whether your customers buy, but you can choose the market and customers you serve.
By adding value and earning trust early and consistently, audience building helps establish credibility and authority. By the time it comes to market your new product, buying becomes a no brainer, because you've built understanding and goodwill with your customers.
Content Creation is the Tactical Playbook for Audience Building
Audience building is simple, but hard, because it takes repeated motions to establish compounding results. If audience building is a game, content creation is the tactics, the layups required to score points in the game.
There are multiple channels upon which you can do audience building. Start with social:
- Substack Notes
Ideally start with platforms that are easy for you to create for. If you're a sales founder don't start writing a blog about sales, just start recording some of your calls on Riverside. If you're a writer, don't start a YouTube channel – the friction of buying video equipment and editing will stop you in your tracks.
In the early days, figure out how to add value to your audience, your potential group of customers, at a somewhat consistent clip. Don't worry about the stats. Don't worry about virality. Just write good content and try to get on base every day.
I've written a few detailed playbooks for the following channels:
Don't hesitate to reach out and learn more.