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Use an ‘Audience First’ Business Model

audience first business model

The most successful online businesses use an “audience first” business model rather than a product first approach.

Instead of developing a product or service, then finding your audience, you start by sharing yourself and what you’re passionate about and you attract those who share your interests: your Tribe.

As you develop relationships with your “tribe” you learn more about what they need and want, and you figure out how what you know or can do, will provide it to them.

The focus is on them, not you. It’s about being genuinely generous with your knowledge and expertise, (without a sales pitch) and building a solid relationship with your potential clients or customers.

Give them what they need and want and help them to know, like and trust you. Once they become your “fans,” they’ll share with their friends and provide you with an organic marketing advantage.

Read this fabulous article by Kevin Kelly called 1000 True Fans for a deep dive into how this concept works.

Here are the basic steps in an audience first strategy.

Step 1 – Share Yourself Authentically

Ask yourself what you’re most interested in. What knowledge, skills, expertise do you have that would be valuable to others?

  • Use social media channels to find others who share your interests.
  • Engage with them and offer your expertise when it’s appropriate. Focus on listening to them. What are they looking for? What’s missing for them? What’s “broken” (for fun watch Seth Godin’s TED talk) or not working for them?
  • Ask yourself how your knowledge and expertise might solve their problems.
  • Start a personal blog and create content to share what you know, and offer possible solutions. Provide links to your blog posts on your social media.
  • Be generous. Don’t expect anything in return. (no overt or covert sales pitches in this phase)
  • Continue to create quality content as this will serve you in the following steps.

Step 2 – Find Your Tribe and Engage

The more useful your content and the more generous you are with it, the more you will magnetize like-minded others to you (and your website/blog).

  • Provide an “opt in” on your website to join your email list and offer something useful in exchange for signing up.
  • Make sure you give them a way to comment on your blog posts, and read and reply to them.
  • Use your email list to find out more about them. Communicate directly with them through a newsletter, encouraging them to reply to you with their thoughts. Or link to relevant blog posts and encourage them to comment there.
  • Conduct interesting surveys to learn more about them and how you can serve them.
  • Continue to provide helpful ideas and resources on your website and on social media.

Step 3 – Listen and Learn

Go deeper and learn who they really are. Determine your “ideal” tribe member.

  • Find out where they’re going for information on your topic. Who do they rely on and what are they getting from these other experts? And, more importantly, what are they not getting?
  • Figure out what they’re struggling with, what problems they’re trying to solve, what questions they’re asking.
  • Pay attention to the language your tribe uses and mirror that in your blog content (use this knowledge to inform your keywords and (eventually) your marketing material)
  • Build relationships with them and demonstrate your authority (without being “the expert”). Be the guide not the guru.
  • Show them that they can rely on you for sound information or advice on your topic.
  • Notice what they’re asking you. This will help you determine your first offer (product or service).

Help them to know, like and trust you.

Step 4 – Make an Offer

Use what you’ve discovered to make your first offer.

  • You can offer it for free or at minimal cost, just make sure the value always exceeds the price. Underpromise and overdeliver is the key to long term success.
  • Use their language to craft your marketing messages.
  • Find out what your competitors are charging for similar products or services, then find an appropriate price for your audience in a similar range. Don’t go too far below or above the going rate (unless you can clearly demonstrate a significant difference in value).
  • Use the content you’ve already created (and continue to create) to repurpose into sellable (information) products.

You’ll continue to cycle through all of these steps throughout your business. If you can build a solid tribe of “1000 true fans” who know, like and trust you, your business will continue to grow and you’ll have the best chance of long term success.

Now, go for it!

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