You Should Build An Audience Before Your Product
As startup founders and product managers, possibly the biggest concern for your product is finding users for it, and enough users to make your product viable for future investment or revenue generation. Rarely is the issue technical feasibility or describing what the product is or does. So with that concern in mind, you build and build and build a product, then run around like crazy trying to find people to use this amazing thing you’ve created.
But waiting for your product to be usable is rarely the best strategy. It’s never too early to begin building a user base for your product, even if you’re not sure what that final product will look like.
Why build an audience first?
As you determine features and build priorities for your product, test the necessity of those features and value propositions with a target audience. Validating your assumptions and testing hypothesis generally requires an audience large enough to gain valuable insights. If you are able to tap into the market that you intend for your product, you increase substantially the likelihood that you’ll get it right when you launch your product.
While you’re testing ideas with an intended audience, you have the advantage of better defining who within that market is likely to be most engaged, and therefore most likely to convert to a real user.
When it comes time to launch, you tap into that built-in audience of highly-engaged soon-to-be users! Plus, you acquire a hyper-defined sense of what type of user will convert in the future.
How do we find that audience?
Through our pursuit of testing ideas, features, and value props, we can build a list of those people engaging in our tests. Driving traffic from Facebook ads to landing pages with email forms is a quick way to test an idea and discover what type of user is already willing to use your product (or some form of it).
This is an entirely separate article, but I’ll simply mention that it is never too early to start creating content around your product and company. Publicly documenting the creation of your product, showing off your expertise in the industry, informing the world about changes in your industry are all great ways to engage future users. Capturing those users can be as simple as a “Join our newsletter” pop up or a link to your website where you can capture information there.
Engineering as marketing
Building tools valuable to your market is another way to build your customer list. A very common example of this being a mortgage calculator provided by a lending company. While many of them don’t require you to input an email or personal info, a tool specific to your industry can easily ask for an email to show results from using the tool.
Essentially, any acquisition channel you think of can be turned into a pre-product channel for building a list of future users.
When it comes time to launch your product, you won’t be staring into the void. You’ll have a specific group of people to reach and know what part of the market to pursue.
If you’ve been diligent in creating that audience throughout the development process, you greatly improved the chances of having near-instant traction in the marketplace.