Risk & Business Magazine General Insurance Services Magazine | Page 13

AUDIENCE-FIRST STRATEGY I left a six-figure executive publishing position in 2007 to start a business. Even though I had been thinking about leaving my job for a while, and I had a product in mind to sell, the product wasn’t going to be ready anytime soon. there is no better way to go to market. By focusing on building an audience first and defining products and services second, an entrepreneur can change the rules of the game and significantly increase the odds of financial and personal success. So I had no job and no product to sell (and no income). It wasn’t a good position to be in with two small children (ages three and five at the time) and a mortgage to pay. The web developer I was working with didn’t believe we could get the online offering ready for at least nine months. Ouch. Let me repeat that: What to do? Without a product to pitch, I focused all my attention on building an audience. In a few weeks, the blog was up and running. Three to five times a week, I was creating and distributing helpful information targeted to marketers in large companies — the audience I wanted to reach eventually with my new product. A few months later, I was starting to build a small, loyal following. I believe the absolute best way to start a business today is not by launching a product, but by creating a system to attract and build an audience. Once a loyal audience is built, one that loves you and the information you send, you can, most likely, sell your audience anything you want. THE BENEFITS OF AN AUDIENCE- FIRST STRATEGY While researching for my book, Content Inc., we found fast-growing businesses from all over the planet who have leveraged this "audience-first" strategy (we call this approach the "Content Inc." model). What we found was truly amazing. Fast-forward to the present day. Our company has been named to the Inc. 500/5000 fastest-growing private companies list for four years running, becoming the fastest-growing business media organization in North America in 2014. We have consistently grown our revenues at 50 percent per year for the last four years. While there are many benefits to adopting this business model, here are four to chew on: Through a lovely accident, I stumbled on a powerful way to build a business in the digital age — and now believe BENEFIT #2: NO NEED TO PIVOT AUDIENCE FIRST, PRODUCT SECOND BY: JOE PULIZZI, AUTHOR & FOUNDER OF CONTENT MARKETING INSTITUTE BENEFIT #1: ACCELERATED GROWTH With an audience in place, the entrepreneur has created a "pre- customer" database. The audience already knows, likes and trusts the business — and is ready to buy. The approach is "audience-first," not "product-first". Most entrepreneurs begin with a product or service that they believe will change the world in some way. Naturally, the attention is on building a product. It's all consuming. That's why so many companies need to pivot at some point. They've focused so much on the product, they've found the audience they were targeting doesn't need it (no product/market fit). If you focus on your audience 100 percent of the time, and serve that audience with amazing information on a consistent basis, they will tell you exactly what they want to buy from you. BENEFIT #3: LESS STARTUP CAPITAL NEEDED The cost of publishing is a rounding error compared to the product- development costs of most startups. A content management system (i.e., Wordpress), an email marketing system and access to social media is all you need to get started. BENEFIT #4: BUILT-IN MARKETING When you are ready to launch your product, marketing costs are minimal because your customer database is already subscribed to your content on a regular basis. IF YOU ARE SHOOTING TO BE THE NEXT UNICORN, A LA FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM OR UBER, THIS MODEL IS NOT FOR YOU. If you are looking to build a multi- million dollar platform that will change your personal life and ca reer life in ways you can't possibly imagine, an audience- first approach is the one method that, if executed properly, works. + Joe Pulizzi is the founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must-Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. You can find Joe on Twitter @JoePulizzi. JoePulizzi.com 13