Recently I’ve written a few posts about the myriad of things I got wrong about Content Marketing in my 2015 book Content Machine (part 1, part 2). One of the big things was back in 2015 the general view was the way to go about building businesses using content was to create the business and then figure out what kind of content could grab the attention of potential customers.
The idea of creating content first and building the audience and working out what to sell them later, didn’t seem like a great option.
But that has all changed, these days people are building gigantic audiences on social media and selling them all kinds of things to create great businesses. But the other thing that’s changed is the social media platforms (and the likes of Google / Amazon etc) have fully optimised their own paid channels. Which means if you don’t have a ravenous organic audience, you have to pay a fortune to reach people.
I, like many founders missed this trend. Turns out paying a few $ for clicks on Google back in the day was very good value!
In the startup world there is a universally accepted term for when a startup proves they can turn into a real business – product-market fit. Are you creating something that the market wants? However with cost per acquisition skyrocketing, the market itself may not be the issue, being able to afford to access it might be. You could create a great product that people want, but if you can’t get it in front of people for a price that is less than the money you make back off them, then the business won’t work – regardless of whether there is a market for it and it’s a great product for that market.
I think founders need to start thinking about product – audience fit.
What audience can you access easily and cheaply, and what product can you make for them? Accessing an audience is becoming the harder part of the equation. If you can access an audience cheaper than the competition, it’s a real advantage. If you have to pay market rates for advertising to cold leads, it’s always going to be tough.
So how do you access audiences easily and cheaply, generally there’s only 2 ways:
- Build up a network through various forms of networking or adding value to different groups or communities, or working in certain industries etc.
- Build up your own following, on social media platforms which you can get in front of for free if you create some decent content.
This is why I’ve somewhat changed my tune on the idea of niching down for a business. Historically I’ve much preferred to create something broad that you can grow into. I would still absolutely do this if I had access to a broad audience, and you see that with influencer businesses all the time now. Whether it’s chocolate bars, burger chains, tequila, gin, seltzer, energy drinks, merch etc, people with large audiences can sell them anything. And why not, some of the companies being created like this are huge! And they have a massive advantage, because they can access these audiences cheaper and quicker than anyone else can.
But what if you don’t have your own huge broad audience? Well then you need to build something for the audience you do have – and there’s a good chance that just generally through where you’ve worked or what you’re into, that it’s a smaller more niche audience.
I’m taking my own medicine with this idea for my latest Startup Jessop. It’s a mobile app that allows you to use AI to create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for companies (currently raising an investment round). I think it has quite broad appeal to a lot of different businesses, however because I have worked in breweries for the last 5 years and I have more access to this audience than others, it will give me an advantage to build something specifically for them. In other words, the product should be a good fit for my audience – a good product – audience fit.
Something to think about if you are looking to start something new.