Short answer, yes. You can start an online business even if you don’t have a product yet.
Let’s go now with the long answer, which probably you are more interested about.
When we start a business, any business, we are targeting a specific market segment with specific problems and we deliver a solution to that problems. I am sorry for the conservative people to be so minimalist with this definition, but it’s still true.
So, can we start an online business by building and audience at first? Yes!
You can do that by delivering quality and valuable content that connects with the segment market we are targeting. The result, after time, consistency and hard work is an Audience.
And that’s gold.
Start an online business building an Audience
There is a lot of ways to start an online business, according to what we want to do and the type of product/services we are delivering. Could be an App, a software, a cloud service, and SaaS, advertising, online services, etc… and we can choose one (or more) online marketing channels to market and grow our business.
Well, this particular post, and the whole blog, as you might know, relates to a content marketing strategies.
If you already have an Audience, it’s great, even a little audience that you have created on Facebook talking and connecting with a bunch of people about your topic.
But if not, you can use content marketing to create an Audience from scratch. Indeed this is the most common way to start. This blog is an example of that.
The process to create an online business by creating an Audience
As you can see in the graphic you can start building your business even if you don’t have a particular product or service to start selling from the beginning but you have a special interest in a topic where you want to develop yourself.
Is convenient to say that this strategy can take months (probably not less than 12) before you monetize the business, so you should be in the right personal and economic situation to start the process.
Start building your audience
Generate high-value content that answers meaningful questions to your readers, do this consistently, promote your content in the online places where your ideal reader is hanging out and little by little start building your audience. This is the base of the pyramid.
Converse with your audience
Establish a real connection with your audience, talk to them, ask what they want to improve in the topic that you are talking about and what are their pains. You need to know deeply your audience.
Lear what your audience want
Once you know your audience you will know how you can make them happy and improve their lives. Basically, you need to figure out what they will pay to solve that problem and if they are willing to pay for it.
Design a tailor-made solution for your audience
At that point, you need to build the product or services that satisfy their needs and they can afford to buy. Test the result, get the feedback and improve as many times as necessary. Remember, don’t be afraid to change your main idea about your online business is your audience is demanding a different thing.
How can I build my Audience?
Ok, that’s an ambitious question. This is one of the purposes of this blog and I’m going to share with you any single step on my journey in building an audience.
But let me tell you basics:
- Choose your topic
- Choose your content channel: blog (writing), podcasts, video, social media
- Find your niche, your uniqueness and define your valuable offer (USP)
- Generate and share high-valuable content consistently. Again and again and again…
- Attract and collect your Audience by building your email list
- TALK with your audience.
As you can see the process is very straight forward. This is just a very condense scheme about the process, of course, and we can talk long hours about every single point in that process. It’s not the purpose of this post, so let’s focus on the whole picture.
If you don’t know where to start right know you can take a look to this to start designing your personal business.
Leading by learning archetype
There is a different archetype we can play when running and online business based on our personal brand. I recommend you check the post from Fizzle talking about the different archetypes and find out which one relates to you.
I was talking recently with Corbett Barr, co-founder of Fizzle about that specific matter, and he tells me about the Leading by learning archetype.
Leading by learning is a fantastic role to start building an Audience because you are honest and open with the people that see your content and that gives you credibility.
Sharing all the process to achieve a specific goal that your potential audience want to achieve as well is very valuable for them because they can follow you and learn in real time with your experience, your fails and your success. And more important than that, they can check it online and check all this it’s true.
And more important than that, they can check it online and check all this it’s true.
Of course, you don’t need to be an apprentice forever, look to Pat Flynn, he started smartpassiveincomes.com to share the process in building niche sites and how to make money with affiliates marketing when he was just learning how to do it. Now, he is THE expert to go if you are interested in affiliate marketing.
By the way, if you didn’t notice, leading by learning is the role I have on this blog on my journey building a business around an audience!
Convert your Audience in Products: from pains to solutions
Here is an interesting point. The point where we need to monetize our online business.
I told you before, an audience is like gold in these days. If you have an audience and trust me you can build your own if you follow this process, you can learn from them all you need to create a product that works.
One of the most powerful things about having an audience is the possibility to establish a true connection with them, this is literally building a relationship with your clients before they are your clients.
Maybe sounds a bit weird to you at the beginning, but the process of start an online business turns around your potential clients, what they need and what they are willing to pay for.
This is why an Audience is like gold because you has established a true connection with a segmented market interested in solving a similar pain and open to talk to you about that pain and why they will pay to solve it!
Let’s take a look at another great example. Chris Ducker, start building his personal brand and on one post a reader was talking about the difficult process to hire a virtual assistant from a trustworthy provider on one of the comments below.
That was the “Aha moment” for Chris and a few weeks later was offering a great VA services from his new company Virtual Staff Finder. Now is a +200 employees company with clients all over the world.
That important is talking and listening to your audience.
As you can see, even if you don’t have any product yet, you can build a strategy to start your online business focusing in the most important part of your future business: your future client.
Think about your audience as a group of people with one (or more) common problems, you can learn from them why they have that problem, what pain provokes, how they want to solve it and how much money they have to pay for it.
All this information will be accessible to you if you are able to connect and build a true relationship with your audience, and of course, don’t be afraid if you need to pivot into another niche or topic if they are demanding a different think.