(Originally written April 2018, updated Oct 2019.)
A regret for many entrepreneurs is that they didn’t start building their audience sooner.
If you might want to start a business one day, I recommend that you start growing your audience now.
For audience building, it does not matter if you don't yet have clarity about what you'll focus your business on. Of course message clarity helps, but you can still build an audience based on your personal brand first.
Start with talking about anything from your authentic interests -- you'll therefore build an audience/community who like your personality, values, and align with you on some of your interests -- and that's better than having no audience at all.
How to start?
Whatever you do, start now.
Which social media platform to choose? Start with the one you personally enjoy using, whether it's Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Medium, podcasting, Linkedin, Twitter, or Pinterest. Any of these are big enough to build you an audience.
Build your audience continuously by creating authentic content.
Then, when you are ready in the future to promote some kind of product, service, or cause, you will have an audience there to receive it, people who already know and trust you!
The fantasy of “Instant Promotion”
Many business owners have the fantasy of “instant promotion” — that they’re able to gain buyers for their product/service right away... when they have no audience to begin with.
Instant promotion only works in one of these two cases:
If instead, you are selling something that not a lot of people you personally know are buying regularly (life coach, relationship counselor, transformational facilitator, etc.) and you only have maybe $50/month advertising budget, then you need to start building your audience as soon as possible.
Don’t expect to wait until you’re "ready" to sell something, and then you’ll “just” post it on Facebook or tweet it out, and expect clients to sign up.
If no one knows who you are, no one’s going to buy from you.
Good copywriting and branding won’t save you either.
Maybe you think — “I’ll just hire a copywriter or marketing expert. They’ll help me create amazing messaging and branding...” — this is yet another fantasy.
I’ve seen it again and again: even amazing messaging and branding are often a huge disappointment and a waste of time and money, if it is not tied to the feedback of (and relationship with) your existing audience!
If, however, you build an audience first, and then you get to know them and base your marketing message & branding on what you’ve observed about them, you will then be able to get clients quickly and without manipulative marketing.
What it means to “have an audience”
Ideally you have both, but start at least one of these efforts as soon as possible.
My preferred method is authentic content marketing, building an audience around your “personal brand” (your name, your thoughts, your authentic style) so that you can be flexible, and pivot to having any kind of business you want in the future.
Don’t wait until you figure out what your niche is.
This is a fantasy:
Reality works more like this:
I’ve written about this here: Are you trying to define your niche too early?
Before you figure out your niche, start creating a network/audience for your personal brand now.
In the not-too-distant future...
Given the rapid growth of artificial intelligence and automation, humans will have an increasingly hard time finding a job.
This is not happening in the distant future... you'll see changes in the next 10 years.
If you develop entrepreneurial skills, and build your own audience, you’ll be in a much better position to create your own livelihood, your own meaningful work, instead of hoping someone will give you a job.
For everyone who wants meaningful work in the future, it is imperative to start building your own audience now.
It’s like the old saying...
When’s the best time to have planted a tree?
10 years ago.
When’s the next best time?
This is true of your personal brand as well.
Your audience and brand don't have to take 10 years to build. But if you start today, you will be in a better position one year from now.
Whether or not you have a business already, start growing your audience now.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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