How To Build Your Audience Well Before Launching Your Product

blogs

Most entrepreneurs assume that the marketing and audience building phase of their startup begins post product launch. Yet I’ve seen some startups successfully build their audience well before they reach this point.

They’ve been able to do this by investing heavily in building out a blog with independent value separate from their product yet designed to attract the target audience that their product will eventually serve.

37signals, SEOmoz, and Mint.com are three such success stories.

37signals started as a classic web design firm in 1999. It launched its now famous Signal vs. Noise blog in 2001 to share their ideas about design, business, and the web. Their blog became a popular source of best practices on the web as well as a clear reflection of Jason Fried and eventually David Heinemeier Hansson’s personalities and viewpoints on software, the internet, and more. Only in 2004 did they eventually launch Basecamp, their flagship project management app to a welcome audience of blog readers, including designers, software enthusiasts, small businesses, and more.

Rand Fishkin launched SEOmoz.org in 2004 to share his thoughts as he learned about SEO. He eventually released his first guide on SEO on his blog, was covered by Newsweek, and continued to grow his consulting business. And then in 2007 he launched the SEOMoz Pro Membership subscription product to an existing audience of 10,000 marketers specifically interested in SEO.

Mint.com knew they would be building a personal finance tool that would serve the young professional crowd whose needs were not being met by traditional finance software and services. And they knew that many of these folks would be leveraging the Internet, namely blogs, to learn the latest on personal finance. Given this, they decided in the early days to invest heavily in building out MintLife, a personal finance blog dedicated to this young professional audience with great content on how best to manage their money, independent of the eventual Mint.com product. This created a welcome audience when their product eventually launched and MintLife went on to become the #1 personal finance blog on the web.

What you’ll notice in each of these cases is that they were able to attract a meaningful portion of their target audience to their pre-product blogs by providing compelling content, education, and value independent of their eventual product offering. The key to successfully leveraging this strategy is creating compelling content for your target audience and enabling them to easily find your content via search and social media.

Next time you find yourself in the middle of deep initial product development, think about whether such a blog strategy makes sense to create an audience well before your product launch.
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