Whilst at a WeWorks Lab event run by the Social INK team we found that most of the participants say that time is the limiting factor for their marketing efforts. This is not the first time that we have heard this and it almost certainly won’t be the last. But a lot of these businesses had received funding and were spending all that money on developers and building their product without starting any marketing at all. If you believe, as we do, that marketing should be engaging and not just shouting into the void, building a product without a community is a waste of money. And time.
Community Building and Product Development
Marketing should be considered as the easiest way for your startup to engage with its community. Be it FinTech, Fitness or eCommerce it doesn’t matter. Your first forays into marketing are the building blocks for your community. And a sense of community is essential for startups to build a core of true fans (Innovators and Early Adopters) that give you honest feedback, love what you stand for, and appreciate the efforts that you are going to, to help meet their needs with your product or service.
In the long run, you want to really engage with these genuine fans as they will lead to referrals and true growth potential. Your cost per acquisition will be significantly less if your customers love what you do and want to share in the journey. And it doesn’t matter if you feel that your brand or product is not fun. It’s the fact that you’re engaging and sharing your story that will activate your community, start conversations and lead to conversions.
If you build without engaging you’re potentially throwing cash down the drain. You could be spending £10,000s on building out certain features, but have you shared your idea with your community? Tested it? Checked if there is any interest at all? You never know. They might not want it. Or they might LOVE it! But if you don’t know, you’re just procrastinating in developmental head-in-the-sand productsville rather than doing the hard work and testing a hypothesis in public with the only people that matter – your potential audience.
It’s Good to Talk
Building an engaged audience can lead to multiple pivots as you figure out what they actually want or need to make their lives easier, more fulfilled, etc. But because they are engaged, people will be honest with you about your efforts. You will learn the terminology that your audience uses. And if you’ve been social on your social media channels (through engaging and not just shouting), then your tests will result in real answers and save you from building out a product that you thought everybody would want, but the community just doesn’t need.
Being social on social media is the easiest way to do this. Build your community and show them you care and you are there to serve them in their efforts. Comment on their posts. Celebrate with them. And share resources. Importantly, with no expectation of reciprocity! Then when you show them ideas or prototypes you will generate real engagement and conversation. Much more than if you simply joined a group online and shouted: “Hey, look at what I’ve built!”
Will some people hate what you build? Yes. But will some people love it? Hell yeah! Without an engaged community that knows your heart is in the right place, you run the risk of simply being ignored.
I get it. You’re passionate about your product. But you need to get it out into the wild and talk about it with the audience that it is designed for. Otherwise, you’ll never know.
Now Is the Time
And please don’t think that it has to be perfect. There are plenty of examples of huge businesses, whose prototypes were super ugly and basic (I should probably write a blog about these examples one day 😎). But unless you’ve shared it, made it better for your community and developed it with them, you cannot make it great.
Recently, there have been some examples of influencers who have gone on to build commerce startups (Kylie Jenner – Kylie Cosmetics) and (Jamie Laing’s – Candy Kittens). Don’t bemoan their efforts. They’ve simply built a community that they can then share their efforts with as they’ve built their products. Do you think these products are better or worse than anything else out there? No. But do the influencers have an engaged community that they communicate with? Yes!
So carve out the time, or partner with a business that builds engaged communities like Social INK, to start sharing your story and engage with your first true fans.
TLDR – Spend time on your marketing/community to save you cash and time on your product development roadmap.