You can plan your project yourself, you can build it yourself, you can ship it yourself, but none of those elements will matter if you don’t first gain an audience.
Marketing was my most underrated component for a long time. When I first started making apps for an open public, my mentality was very much “If you build it, they will come”. It’s a very common trap, and I’ll admit I’ve gotten trapped there a few times.
That’s because I saw marketing as a *TODO* after the product was built, when in reality reaching an audience is not about just trying to sell them, its about trying to understand them. That mental switch is what makes engaging with your target audience critical BEFORE and DURING product development, and not just as an after-the-fact action.
When I was trying to launch Como Code, and Emprego.io, I had done my research into list building and connecting to an audience following The Product Launch Formula and other great books.
Although each helped me gain perspective and understanding, none described a solution to the problem that Justin articulated in his talk.
Reaching your audience is your first and biggest obstacle. Do that, and the rest are details that can fall into place. IF you can figure out how to reach your target audience and engaged with them. You unlock a wealth of understanding that will create for you a clear path forward.
Fail to do that, and you’re really taking a stab in the dark.
So the question becomes “How do I define and then reach my audience?”
Exactly! I can’t tell you how, I don’t know! There are NO formulas.
That is the first and only struggle any project you are trying to get off the ground must first solve. It is your project’s rite of passage, where if you can answer that question, you will have earned your place amongst your clients.
Recently, I found myself in the “Build it ask questions later” trap again with effo.io. It was a project that grew from just finding it a PITA to invoice clients every month. I built a tool for myself and thought: “Other developers will enjoy this tool!”
Even though I’m in my market segment, and I know a bunch of developers, I knew very little about how to actually reach a large number of fellow web developers.
So after listening to Justin’s talk, I was reminded that although that project didn’t start out as a business entity, I once again had a product and now needed to reach an audience.
I love building things, and I love the technical challenges that come from getting something build and shipped. But those personal satisfactions don’t translate into business value.
So the week after I launched Effo, I sat in my office and finally asked myself “Wait, how do I get this in front of other developers”.
Well, I still don’t have a clear answer, but I was reminded that this first challenge is critical and no easy feat. Justin’s talk helped me realize and refocus my efforts, and at the very least I now understand the challenge that I face.
How you reach and learn from your audience is your entire business!