Don’t worry about building your audience before your product — build your audience with your product
Rob Walling had a back and forth on Twitter recently about the idea that you need to have already built an audience before you launch a product:
I’ve always had a problem with the “audience first” approach to building a product — mainly because I spent way too much of my career believing it.
The biggest and most pernicious problem with “audience first” is it can rationalize away all of the bad habits of social media.
No, I’m not mindlessly scrolling Twitter… I’m building my audience!
I don’t need to talk to customers… I’m building my audience!
I don’t need to fix that really difficult bug… I’m building my audience!
I don’t need to make sure I’ll have enough money to make payroll next month… I’m building my audience!
Also, the whole idea of building an audience before you’ve started building something that will benefit that audience is kind of… oh, I don’t know… self important? It just feels too “social media influencer”-y to me. It’s like that gag-reflex-inducing stuff you see on LinkedIn.
On the way into work this morning I looked up and saw an elevator pitch in skywriting… I hired those 3 young pilots immediately… those pilots were named Bill Gates…
Build an audience with your product, not before it. Build an audience alongside your product. Because of your product.
In other words? Earn people’s attention by solving their problem. Heh, sounds stupidly simple when you say it that way, doesn’t it?
Justin Jackson had a great response to Rob’s original tweet:
He nails it because, of course, another reason you should build an audience with your product instead of before it? Because when you start doing it right those audience members become customers!
Building the product builds the audience. Building the audience builds the customers. Building the customers builds the product. You get it.