Why 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 for a product that doesn’t exist?
As you determine features and build priorities for you product it is always best to 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, the likelihood that you’ll get it right when it comes time to create your product will increase substantially.
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 your product you’ll have a built in audience of highly engaged soon-to-be users plus you’ll have a hyper defined sense of what type of user will convert in the future.
How exactly 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 not only test an idea, but also discover what type of user is already willing to use your product (or some form of it).
Creating content. 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 can think of can be turned into a pre-product channel for building a list of future users. So 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, the chances of having near instant traction in the marketplace is greatly increased.