Little is more important for your success than a loyal audience. Dare I say it’s as important as the product? Happily, it requires little funding to build a loyal audience. You can certainly accomplish it faster with money but all you really need to do is invest your time.
When, at last, your product is ready to sell, sell less like a marketer and more like a door-to-door salesman. Those first few customers will help you discover the kinks in your product before making big investments. As you grow confident in your final product, you’ll need to start expanding your reach. Do this before you run a KickStarter or take out loans.
Take a lesson from consultants and focus on creating demand before worrying about meeting supply. There are tons of consultants who build blog audiences much larger than the number of clients they could ever serve, which boosts the fee the clients they do take are willing to pay.
You can create that same high demand, low supply perception of scarcity, that will allow you to charge higher prices. Consumers understand scarcity leads to higher prices. The air of exclusivity also makes your early customers feel like “insiders,” something they will likely rave about to their friends.
Creating this demand on an extremely limited budget comes down to being your own media outlet. Here are a few pointers that can help you make that work:
1. Useful information. Focus on providing valuable information to specific audiences. The information doesn’t need to be unique, just new to your audience. Provide information that is entertaining, memorable, share-worthy and useful. Tell your audience something they can put it to use in their own lives. That is the secret sauce that keeps them coming back and sharing, rather than just liking what you have to say.
2. Encourage sharing. The information must be shareable. Accomplishing that means being new as well as funny, cute, transformative, relatable, emotionally impactful, surprising and making the sharers feel “in the know.”
3. Mix it up. In-depth content keeps an audience, bite-size content attracts an audience on social networks and other platforms. Span the range from in-depth to bite-size.
4. Audience. Building an email list should be at the center of any self-funded entrepreneur’s marketing strategy. Nothing is more important than a loyal audience. You won’t get one on social networks or search engines, where your content’s exposure is subject to the whims of algorithms you don’t control. These are good places to earn exposure. They aren’t places to keep an audience.
5. Unique is overrated. Some marketers take the idea of being “unique” too far. It’s okay to keep selling the same message over and over again, as long as you’re selling it to new people. Spend 20 percent of your time creating content, 80 percent of your time promoting your content. If you spend a full day on a piece of content, spend a solid four days reaching out to influential people and engaging on forums and social networks to promote it. No matter how many people saw your content, there are always more people who can benefit from seeing it.
6. Just enough. It’s not about how much content you produce, it’s about how pleased your audience is with each piece of content, and how loyal it makes them. In fact, in a world of clogged inboxes, less is often more.
7. Community. Audience interaction is key. An academic case study published in the Journal of Marketing Research about Kiva, a non-profit microlending organization, attributed 30 times more sales to fluctuations in forum posts than to fluctuations in media coverage. Community activity drove traditional media coverage, not the other way around. It’s absolutely crucial that you get your audience talking with itself.
8. Mix it up more. Mix things up with podcasts, interviews, videos, photos, visual information, e-pamphlets and free or freemium software tools. Make the experience as interactive as possible. Involve influencers and audience members. Quote authorities and forum posts. Be a part of something larger than yourself.
A loyal audience means your KickStarter will succeed and you’ll have enough pre-orders to mainstream your product, which will make it easier to get funding when you need it. A loyal audience will get you through any short-term failure or mistake that would easily cripple a churn-and-burn business. If things get really bad, your audience will help dig you out of the hole.