1. Should I start by thinking about a product to sell, or an audience to sell it to?
Best answer I’ve heard to this question: Yes.
I hear this question from people with an idea all the time. You will need both a product to sell and an audience to sell it to, of course, to have a sustainable business.
I can find you successful examples of people who did it both ways. For example, Jason Glaspey built PaleoPlan.com, a simple paleo menu plan, without an audience. Then he sold that through other people’s audiences and slowly but surely built his own audience all the while.
On the other hand, we at Fizzle have only seen the success we’ve seen because one of our founders, Corbett Barr, had been blogging on this topic for several years, building up a huge audience we were able to immediately offer our Fizzle membership to.
Here are some of the pros, cons and challenges involved in this question:
- Building an audience takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
- Building a product may not take as long.
- An existing audience can help guide you through what the product should include. Learning from your audience can be a secret weapon in your product development.
- If you want to build an audience you’ll need to blog or podcast or make youtube videos or put stuff out on facebook or twitter or instagram or snapchat or pinterest… if you’re like many of us these days you’ll do all of these.
- You could build the best product in the world, but does it matter if you can’t sell it to anyone?
Here in Fizzle we’ve started using a new term: Minimum Viable Audience.
We’re all familiar with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) idea – create something extremely small/easy/quick to test if a larger product like this could work. Why not apply that to building an audience?
So here’s my question back to you: how could you build your Minimum Viable Audience (MVA) and MVP in the next 5 weeks? (Or whatever time frame works for you.)
2. My audience is women, aged 18-35. Is that ok?
No, it’s not.
Let me ask you this: is what you’re doing working? How would you know if it was or wasn’t?
There are a ton of words you could use to define your target market. What most of us do is make up a bunch of stuff we think sounds good.
That’s fine. We all start there. But the best of us start to get frustrated that a lot of the words we’re using aren’t helping us a). find more people, and b). sell more products.
So the tension here is to define our audience in a MEANINGFUL way… so that somehow the way we define these folks leads us to creative ways to get our products in front of them with words and images that resonate with them.
When we’re getting started with a brand new project it can be really helpful to define a very narrow niche to make this thing for.
I live in Portland. We are weird up here. Lots of unicycles. Lots of utilikilts. But only a few utilikilt wearing unicyclers. What if you made something that just blew those folks away? If you did I bet you could figure out how to get it in front of every single one of them (there’s one shop here that focuses on unicycles) with some copy and imagery that resonates.
It’s a weird example. But do you see how focusing in really narrow can lead to a bunch of new ideas? It gives you clarity. It makes you better.
So, for that reason an audience of “18-35yo females” may take a hell of a lot longer to build meaningful revenue from than an audience of “18yo beauty conscious women who live in southeast Portland and care about eco-friendly products.”
Again, the whole point of this is to find the words that get you actually seeing that audience, not just so you empathize with them to make them some great stuff, but also so you can find them and put a headline in front of them that makes them say, “holy sh*t, I want that.”
3. What’s a quick and dirty way to define my audience?
Pick one person you actually know in your real life and build something great for them.
When we think about “18-35yo women” we start thinking at internet scale. We pretend we’re Mark Zuckerberg and try to say things CEOs say.
But when your friend is feeling shitty, when someone you love needs something and you can help them with it, you’re thinking at the scale of a human.
My theory is when we think at that scale, at the level of one human we care about, it pulls out better ideas. We see immediately how we can get involved and help out.
What I’m saying is: what if instead of thinking about “defining your audience” you thought about “helping someone out?” Would it lead to an immediate, clear, concrete and focused idea you could actually ship out into the world?
This is one lil’ trick: choose one person you know in your life and make a thing for them. There’s a few other tricks in our Defining Your Audience guide and a bunch more in my course on the subject in Fizzle, but this is one of my favorites.
4. Ok, now, can we finally talk about the product? I only have 8 more days! How do I come up with some ideas?
Coming up with ideas… they’re always there when you don’t need them, but the moment you look for them they vanish. Like finding satellites in a sky full of stars.
You’re good at this, though. You’re the only one who sees things the way you see them. And that’s your unfair advantage.
Where can you see these unfair advantages at work? In two places:
- Care. What do you really care about? What’s important to you? What do you care about a little more than most people? This is part of you, this is something you can invest your time and effort in… because you care about it. That’s a place you could make something.
- Knowledge. What do you know a little more about than most other people? Not “what can you teach a college course on.” What do you know just a little more about than the average person? That’s a place you could make something.
Oh, one more thing: chemicals. Coffee, tea, beer, wine, cigars, exercise and anything else that can change your body’s balance of chemicals can help you get into a different headspace. My personal favorite combo: cigar, Coors and weak coffee. Read some articles or 2 about your topic and ideas just start tumbling out.
You’re good at coming up with ideas. Just being here is a sign of that. Try not to get stressed and just be yourself.
5. Oh god, too many ideas. How do I know which one I should choose for this challenge?
Here’s a quick test for that:
Rate each idea on a scale from 1-5 on two metrics: 1). how long it would take to do and 2). how pumped you are about it.
You can do that real quick in a spreadsheet and then just do whichever one has the highest combo of those two numbers.
Something that should be said here: you have no idea how long each will take you. You’re just guessing. And I would recommend taking each of those ideas and making them a bit more simple. I call this “undesigning” and I wrote more about that here.
I bring that up because I’ve seen ambiguity about a project completely run that project into the ground. What you want instead is clarity, concreteness. Those things smash ambiguity and create a focus all of their own.
One other thing to keep in mind: each of your ideas are hypotheses. They are not product ideas, they’re experiments to run. You have no idea which is going to work best. Nobody does. You have no idea which one you’re actually going to like more. What if you tried a few of these ideas over the next few months? One a month maybe? Something fun and interesting that won’t burn you out.
The world is a little poorer without your ideas in it. Also, you will learn more by pressing publish on new things than you will from anything else out there. So ship some sh*t!
- Focus your thing on one person.
- Finishing something in 10 days requires difficult decisions, ruthless focus.
- get to a smaller part of your idea. (More on that here.)
- A good headline and 3 solid bullet points are WAY more powerful than your product looking slick.
- If you need help designing an ebook: How To Design A Great Ebook Without Design Skills
- Want to stand out? Be really really helpful to a specific group of people for the next 5 years.
The questions and answers above came from an email I wrote for Gumroad’s Small Product Lab. It’s a killer guide to your first product in 10 bite-sized emails. Check it out if you haven’t!
These are my honest answers to common questions about defining your target audience.
It’s hard work to do this. How do you know when you’re “defined enough?”
The only way to know is to get started, press “publish” and see how the audience reacts.
Here’s how the folks at Gumroad put it:
As creators, it’s incredibly hard to build a platform, a reputation, and a living from scratch. The only real way to do it is to start — to put something small out into the world and go.
We agree. I hope the answers above help you get to clarity enough to ship something soon!
5 Questions to Define Your Target Audience