Audience First: How to Build a Business Without a Product
For most entrepreneurs and inventors, the first step to forming a business often involves developing a product or service. It’s business school 101. However, this isn’t always the case, especially in this hyper-connected world.
Now, an increasingly successful approach to starting a business has been to develop and grow an audience before the product: the Content Inc. model.
While it may go against everything you learned, it works and has been working for many people. The Content Inc. model isn’t difficult either. The key is to build a loyal audience by providing quality content. This can be implemented by just about anyone who is willing to put in the sweat equity to make it work. Here’s how it’s done:
What is the Content Inc. Model?
Joe Pulizzi, who is considered the progenitor of the Content Inc. model, stumbled upon the method’s effectiveness after his first startup failed. Although the product didn’t work out, he had managed to amass a considerable following in the process. Once he had their attention, he knew he could bring them along as he moved to his next business idea. This eureka moment sparked Content Inc. Pulizzi now runs a mini-empire based around the Content Inc. model, which he calls the better business model. Very meta indeed.
Case Study: Apple Rubber
Apple Rubber, a leader in rubber compounds and sealing technology, is as an excellent example of a company that found an audience and then carefully tailored their products and services to meet that audience. The company continually posts new, useful information on its various blogs to engage and grow customer relationships. Examples of Apple Rubber’s work can be found on its website under the “What’s New” drop-down menu.
It’s an especially interesting case study since the company is in an industry that, typically, doesn’t engage its customers through blogs and such. By going against the trend, Apple Rubber converts and keeps more customers by providing useful information. While it is important to note that Apple Rubber did have a product when it started, it used the Content Inc. model to grow its business. The Takeaway: the Content Inc. model can be implemented successfully at all stages of business and in any industry.
How to Implement the Content Inc. Model
First and foremost, you need to produce quality content. What is quality content? Well, that really depends on whom you ask. However, focus on creating content that answers a question, solves a problem and/or is just plain entertaining. Don’t, under any circumstances, sacrifice facts for entertainment. For this to work, you need to build yourself into a resource.
Blogging is the easiest and cheapest way to begin your Content Inc. journey. Blogging will help your SEO and search rankings. Guest blog on established sites and ask other thought leaders to guest blog on your site. If you aren’t a great writer, hire a professional writer or a content marketing company to carry the load for you.
Podcasting is another effective, yet easy, way to build an audience. It can be done in conjunction with blogging or as a stand-alone item. Either way, be interesting, speak clearly, and produce content on a regular basis.
Social Media takes time and work. You aren’t just going to sign-up and get followers. Find the social media outlets that best fit what you are trying to accomplish. Craft quality content, post frequently and be nice. In time, you’ll build an army of loyal followers.