Build Your Audience Before You Build Your Business

Women working on her start-up business

When you start a new online business, it’s traditional to come up with a product or service, build a website around your business idea, and then search for an audience who wants to browse through your website and buy your products or hire you for your services. However, if you change this order of priorities, you will experience faster success.

Start with an audience, select a product or service that will appeal to them, and then build a website to sell the product or service. After you have tested your business idea, you will have a clear sense of direction on what type of product or service to create, what type of website to build, and what type of marketing strategy to deploy.

Identify a Business Idea

Print out some creative business cards with your basic contact information and your tentative business idea.

Let’s assume you want to start a career as a freelance writer because you’re a retired English teacher and would like to convert your knowledge into service. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never published anything. If you decide your bold new idea will fly, you can always create samples with your byline through guest blogging.

For now, it’s enough that you’ve got a business card and an idea for a business. The next step is to figure out the time, date, and location of network meetings in your city and schedule your visits.

When you attend one, your job is not to sell your services but to get into exploratory conversations with people and get their business cards. Evernote on your phone has an easy to use document scanner to capture contact information on a business card so you won’t lose it.

Essentially, you want to gauge people’s reactions to your business idea.

Are they enthusiastic or indifferent?  What do they think about the value of content marketing? What type of articles interest them?  How much would they pay if they needed an article from you? You don’t have to pretend to be a business owner. Just tell people you’re interested in starting a freelance writing website to offer your writing services. They will either offer you all kinds of suggestions or fail to resonate with your idea.

Build a Prototype

Assuming that, after your casual surveys, you found that few people were interested in using the services of a freelance writer to market their business. However, while you did not find anyone interested in hiring a freelance writer for content marketing, you did discover that people would love to learn how to write better from a retired English teacher because their terrible grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills embarrassed them when they emailed clients or sent memos to their superiors.

Inspired by this insight, you decide to build a business that offers guidance on how to write well for business. You can test out your idea by building a website, writing tutorials and getting traffic through Facebook advertising.

After you have sold several classes, you can reinvest your profits into improving your website, starting a blog, and launching a YouTube channel.

Benefits of This Inverse Approach

When you build your audience before you launch your business, you have two distinct advantages over people who build a business around a product line: first, your website will instantly appeal to your ideal customers; second, your products will fulfill their unmet needs.

In summary, spend less time on setting up your business and more time getting to know the people who will fall in love with it. Once you have a fairly good idea about your audience, then start your business with a basic website. Don’t think of your website as if it were a retail store or an office, a place that you must set up before you can get customers. You have more flexibility online. Take advantage of it by finding your potential customers first and then building a business around their interests.

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