One of the most pressing challenges you can face as an entrepreneur is building an audience – or customer base – for your startup. Where do you find people interested in your product? How do you encourage them to try it? And how do you build this audience on a limited budget?
There are two ways to develop a business: 1) product first, then customers and 2) customers first, then product. With the product-first model, you do have the opportunity to begin generating revenue more quickly, but you may not fully understand your potential customers’ needs, resulting in redesigns and product pivots. With the audience-first model, you can research a market and create content to build an audience of potential customers to have a better idea of how to solve their problems with your product. Of course, this does come with the potentially longer time span to generating revenue.
Both models have positives and negatives, and both can be used to successfully build a business. But both showcase the importance of building an audience – so how do you go about gaining this early traction?
- Use content to your advantage: Content marketing can be a powerful tool in creating a dialogue between your business and your potential customers while leading readers down the sales funnel. But it takes strategic distribution of content to increase your readership and audience. Don’t just post once; get the most out of your content by using different headlines and photos across social media platforms and emails. You can also repurpose your content in different ways, as well. if you write a blog but have more to say, go more in-depth into the topic via a whitepaper, or turn a how-to list into an infographic.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of social media: Social media allows you to introduce your branding, provide contact information, and tell your brand story. Not only are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat free to use, a benefit to those with limited budgets, but with over two billion monthly users on Facebook alone, social media is where your potential customers reside. Social media also allows you to easily send updates to your followers about your business expansion, product rollouts, and more.
- Tap into your referral network: Your existing customers are your best marketers – make them happy and solve their problems, and they may introduce others to your business. Some of the most well-respected startups today use referral marketing, in fact, such as Dropbox’s two-way referral program. Referrals are particularly important for smaller startups, as your best customers will most likely know others who run very similar businesses, which means they are highly qualified leads for your company.
- Accept networking opportunities: Identify who the thought leaders are among your audience and build relationships with them, whether this is through meetups, conferences, or even just a LinkedIn connections. Once you build a rapport, you may be able to share content (cross promotion), get your brand in front of additional potential customers, and meet new influencers that could help your brand in the future.
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