Why Audience Building is the Key to a Successful Startup
The real, tested value of building and engaging with an online audience
Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers was able to make $46,398 in 10 days. How did he do it? By building an audience. There was a time when advertisers with big budgets could buy people’s attention and get them to buy any product. These days—in this digital era of ours—that is no longer true. And that’s great. Any startup can take over the space with a great idea, but that also means that there are an incredible amount of ideas overloading the market at any given time.
With so much information flying around, people’s attention is more valuable than ever, and it’s not so easily bought anymore. You need to build an audience and you need to do it by providing content that people love to engage with.
Derek’s audience is huge with hundreds of thousands of subscribers to his blog. You can’t really anticipate that kind of success, especially when you’re just getting started, but luckily you don’t need anything remotely like that to make your audience the most powerful part of your business. Your audience is more than just an engaged customer—though that element shouldn’t be discounted. They are the lynch pin that will help you create products that people want, retain and find new customers, and build a brand that has lasting impact.
Your audience can help you build a better product
The much-discussed lean startup methodology leverages your audience and their feedback to help you build a better product. The concept of creating the “minimum viable product” (MVP) and getting it out there as quickly as possible is central, but this idea is just as applicable when it comes to creating the “minimum viable audience” (MVA). To have that all-important feedback loop, you need people to bounce your ideas off of, but it doesn’t take an audience the size of Derek’s to make that possible.
An MVA is more than just a source to know what your customers want to buy. For digital entrepreneurs in particular, finding your MVA gives you a number of distinct advantages if you know how to recognize them and put them to work.
Some of those benefits are very much in line with what the lean startup methodology promises. Your MVA can serve as the most organic form of market research imaginable. You are communicating with real people with real opinions by way of your product and they will help to you get a better sense of what the market wants. They will also help you build a better product faster. You can be more transparent with your MVA, who are those early adopters that want to see you succeed. With your goals and intentions clearly expressed, they can help you tune your product quickly and efficiently without unhelpful criticism.
Your audience can help you find new customers
Your MVA can also help to locate new customers and continue to build your audience further. If your audience is engaged enough that they are giving you feedback to improve your product and interacting with your content, then they become invested in the success of that product and your content. Leveraging that feeling and making them as much of a part of the experience as possible will turn your already engaged customers into evangelists for your brand. That kind of word of mouth marketing is your most powerful resource for spreading the word.
Your audience can you help you build your brand
When you start out with an idea and some sense of what you want your business to be, all the details aren’t always clear. You learn a lot along the way and adjust accordingly and that’s great, but you can’t do that without the all-important MVA and the feedback they provide. If you let yourself get trapped in an echo chamber then you’ll have no sense of how your audience sees you. Their opinions are crucial when it comes to identifying what your company does and what it is. They can clarify your vision, help you identify the values that matter most to your business, and keep your mission on course. In short, your audience is the key to building a strong brand if you invite them in.
Your audience can do so much more
The power an audience can have on business doesn’t even stop there. If you are committed to building an audience, you engage them every day, and you create excellent content that speaks to their interests, then the possibilities are infinite. You can follow in Derek Halpern’s footsteps and monetize them directly. Audience growth often leads to user growth and that leads to a better valuation and the chance at getting investors attention. So long as you are putting audience building first, success is only so far away.