How to Build an Audience for Your Start-up Without a Product

A passionate community is the not-so-secret weapon that gets startups over the line. Not only can they help validate your idea so you can build the best product possible, they will welcome it with open arms when it's released. If they're vast enough, they can also help you secure funding by showing investors you're a star on the rise.

As new Melbourne startup Jet-Sport found, it's never too early to start finding your tribe. Before developing their product, which is a social media platform that allows people to organise and join sporting events, they've built a community of over 2,500 keen supporters. After being recently mentioned in the Herald Sun, this number is only expected to grow.

Their community is what Brian Clark calls a 'minimum viable audience'. This is an audience that's just big enough to help you:

  • Understand exactly what your audience wants
  • Determine what your audience is willing to pay for
  • Start growing your audience organically through word of mouth

By devoting time and energy to relationship building, Jet-Sport have the validation they need to build their platform. They've already approached Mo Works Creative Agency to refresh their branding then design and create their native app, with help from their tech partner Blitzm Systems.

There's no reason why Jet-Sport's tactics couldn't work for you, so give a few of these strategies a try and see how quickly your community can grow.

Run Relevant Events

Nothing beats face-to-face interaction when you want to convince people to give a new idea a go. Jet-Sport founder, Nico D'anna, started running exercise classes and sport matches to see whether people would be interested in joining these kinds of events. In the process, he spoke to people about the problem he wants to solve and demonstrated the credibility of his solution. You could also run things like informational talks or catch ups to start building your connections.

Tell a Great Story

The truth is that no one really wants to hear that your start-up is just capitalising on a great money-making opportunity. They want to know the human element, how it's going to change people's lives and how your life experiences led you to the idea. Think back to what inspired your idea and develop a relatable story that captures the ways your start-up will help people. Check out TOMS shoes and Car Next Door for inspiration. This story can then form the basis of your branding as you grow.

Toms' CEO Blake MyCoskie: "I call myself chief shoe-giver because it's closest to my role."

Give Out Freebies

To get people to do something for you, you have to be willing to give them something for free. Whether this is a version of your startup, educational information, product samples or simply free food and drinks at events, you need something to entice people to hear you out. All of Jet-Sport's events so far have been free, which has provided a number benefits, including:

  • Displaying generosity and confidence in the idea
  • Creating opportunities to gather feedback
  • Facilitating engagement with potential users
  • Enhancing the chance of people paying for product later on

Bring Everyone Together on Social Media

Social media is the perfect place to foster the relationships you build offline and forge new connections. By interacting with followers you can enhance their loyalty and better understand their likes and habits, which will help you build a better product. You can also use the platforms to give updates and let people know about new opportunities they can get involved in, such as events and free trials.

Sophia Amoruso and her team at NastyGal - the company has donated more than $90K to support female entrepreneurs.

Just as Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso used MySpace and podcasts to rally her followers, you can forge deep connections with your community through social media so they feel involved in the development of your startup and become invested in its success.

Building a loyal fan base can be a challenge, but the effort is definitely worth it when the community you've fostered is lining up to be early adopters when your product is released.

Source: How to build an audience for your start-up without a product - Elyse Wurm, Mo Works Creative Agency, August 2016