On Building an Audience

One of the most competitive things that you and I can do as builders and creators of products and companies is tell the story of not only what we’re building but also why we’re building it.

This allows you to do many things that end up being a major competitive advantage for you and your growing business, especially if you’re starting from scratch (i.e. early-stage startup).

The net result is to build an audience, a growing community of curious and passionate folks who are interested in helping you solve the problems that you, in fact, believe can be solved.

This audience is paramount to your business success because many of those audience members will ultimately become your first-line customers and product evangelists.

Strangely, there are so few people who would argue with this point and yet, as you and I both know, most startups (and larger scale companies) fail to do a good job of building and cultivating a thriving community.

The bottom-line is this: If you’re building a startup then you need to build a community, an audience. Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt recently shared a much-larger blog post around this topic which had me nodding my head in deep agreement:

A few years before Product Hunt started, I wrote a lot. I blogged about product design, marketing, and startups in general, inspired by observations and conversations while working in tech. I wrote 150 essays in 2013, guest authoring on Fast Company, Pando, The Next Web, and other tech publications. I also hosted small brunches with founders and started an email newsletter with Nathan Bashaw called Startup Edition.

Ryan hustled the hell out of building an audience which would eventually become the very “product” that he was putting together. Product Hunt would go on and be acquired by AngelList late last year.

It will start small, but don’t quit. It’ll grow in time.

The advantages of doing this are just as obvious as Ryan enumerates:

  1. Recruiting – Getting great people excited about what you’re building enough to  even join the adventure. We’re just starting to think through this, by the way.
  2. User Acquisition – Finding and acquiring customers. Yup.
  3. Research – Customer development and feedback. This has been a huge part of our initial efforts.

I would add a few things to this list as well that relate to the organizational culture as well as adding signals for financial partners that have come up often and even creating even more distance for ourselves as a competitive advantage when it comes to our product and brand building.

But all of that goes hand-in-hand and which is why we started telling our story from Day #1 as we didn’t want to leave anything to chance. This is why we haven’t stopped and why we’re continuing to share our progress weekly so that our growing community can get a sense of the what, the who, the how, and the why.

It all started with building an audience. We believed we had one but we had to do the work of bringing them together. We had to do the work of understanding who they were and finding places for them to have their voices heard.

We’ve done this in a number of different outposts, like Twitter (@WhatIsPinpoint) and the #EngOps Newsletter and our growing Slack Group. We have a few more social outposts as well.

What we’ve done is simple: Create these outposts early in the process of our new business and see who shows up, organically and naturally. We’re not forcing folks to choose just one place to be and we’re attentively listening to see what resonates with our community and what might end up being a waste of time, relatively-speaking.

We’re going to continue to experiment because that’s what growing an audience is about. A community is fluid, dynamic, and subject to change. We never want to be too rigid as to not be able to change with them.