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Do this before you grow an audience (if you want to sell digital products)

I was doing some market research recently. I was looking at people's struggles when it comes to making and selling digital products. One theme kept coming up in the comments of videos of some big digital product YouTubers. And that was about creating your audience first before you go to sell digital products.

So here's an example of the kind of comment I saw.

"The first thing before selling an online product is building an audience that's willing to buy your services/products."

Now that's true. But you want to build the right audience. To ensure that they are going to be the right people who want to buy your products and services.

When an influencer couldn't sell t-shirts

We'll get into those things in a moment. But first Let's look at what can happen if your products are not in alignment with your audience.

I've heard this story a few times over the years so I went searching for it on Google and I found it on Business Insider.

The original Instagram post that this came from has been taken down. Which means I'm taking this information from the Business Insider article. This example is about an influencer called Ari who had 2 million followers on Instagram. She wanted to sell t shirts to her audience. She needed to sell a minimum of 36 to meet the supplier's minimum order requirements.

She actually didn't sell enough to meet that minimum order requirement. So she made a post to her Instagram audience. To tell the people who had purchased from her they wouldn't be receiving their product. In the post she said it was because she hadn't met the minimum order requirement of 36. And so she would be refunding them.

Lots of people commented on her post. But one that Business Insider mentions in their article really stood out to me.

That comment said that the t-shirts didn't really fit with her usual style.

Which means that the product wasn't in alignment with what her audience wanted. And this is what can happen when you don't have clarity around what you want to sell before you build your audience.

You could spend a lot of time building an audience of the wrong people. Back yourself into a corner. Where you have to create products, services or content that you don't really want to create.

Things to do before you grow your audience

What sort of things should you think about if you want to grow an audience? Particularly if you plan to ever sell things to them in the future.

I struggled to grow an audience because I didn't do these things first. I was impatient and wanted to skip ahead.

I knew that I wanted to do something in digital products. But I didn't know why I kept feeling drawn to digital products. I didn't feel like I had expertise in digital products. Until I looked back at my past education and experience. I realised my whole background was in products. They just didn't happen to be products that you host digitally.

Although I had an inkling that I wanted to do something in digital products. I didn't have the confidence until I took the time out to look back and see my, experience. I can come at it from that angle and that is actually very useful to people.

What do you want?

I would say, firstly, you need to know what you want. Because you don't want to back yourself into a corner where you have to make content you're not interested in or show up in a way that doesn't work for your life.

The next step is to pick something that you love to do. This sounds simple but a lot of people don't know what they love to do or don't feel like they're good at anything.

You may at this point just have a desire to earn an income online. But not have a clue what to do or what you're good at and in that case I recommend doing the same thing that I did.

Write down all your past experiences. Your skills, your interests, the clubs you were in as a kid that you loved. Everything up to this point in your life and I bet you'll start to see some patterns when you actually write it all down. And this will help you to decide on your industry or your topic. Or you can use my Brainstorm your Brilliance tool to help you to do this.

Competitive Edge

The above exercise will also help you with the next thing you need to consider. Which is your competitive edge or your positioning.

So what is a competitive edge?

Notion's competitive edge

A good example of this is my favourite software tool ever, Notion. Notion's competitive edge is what makes it appealing to so many of its customers. That's its flexibility.

You can build so many things with it. It's kind of like Lego.

You can build something really simple, like a basic Word document. Or you can build something that is crazy complex and includes lots of formulas and does lots of things. You can let your imagination run wild.

Just like with Lego, you can build something small and simple, like a tower with a few bricks. Or, if you've ever watched Lego Masters, you'll know that you can build some crazy complex things.

So Notion is like that, but for building digital tools for managing your life or your business or work.

Notion's flexible, competitive edge is appealing to so many people. But it is also the thing that puts off other people. People who find this flexibility overwhelming.

And to those people, I say buy yourself a few Notion templates because Notion is amazing.

In all seriousness, to those people where they do find Notion overwhelming. There are other software tools that are going to be more suited to them. With different positioning and a different competitive edge.

So your competitive edge is what makes you appealing to the right people within the wider market. Knowing this will make your life so much easier.

So how can you find your competitive edge if you're just one person

For me, I found my competitive edge by looking at things like:

  • my past experience
  • my interests
  • my education
  • my personality (that's a big one that people often overlook)
  • my values

After I thought about all of this I looked for patterns.

I actually made a tool called Find your Thing. Which helps you to find your competitive edge and get to know your ideal customer really well.

Know your ideal customer

The last thing you need to know before you grow your audience is your target market or your ideal customer. Otherwise, you're going to be attracting the wrong people.

So how do you know who your target market is?

You need to start by working out what exactly you do and what your competitive edge is. Before you figure out your ideal customer. Then you can research these general topics to see what kind of customer appeals to you within that topic. Or what kind of customer you think will be attracted to your competitive edge.

So I love using YouTube to do market research because I find people are very forthcoming in the comments. Facebook groups are also good. I know some people use Amazon book reviews.

Using information from market research will help you get a much deeper understanding. So you know exactly what your ideal customers want so that you can give it to them.

When you're clear on these three things, what you do, who you do it for and what makes you different. You will be clear on how to position yourself in the wider market.

This will be your blueprint for anything you create in your business. Because you will know who you're looking for, what you help them to do and how you help them do it.

And then you can choose any method you like to grow your audience.

Growing your audience

I don't want you to think that you have to slug away on social media to grow an audience.

You can look for people who already have the audience that you want. Who are selling complementary products or services. Not in direct competition with you. You can suggest collaborations with them to get in front of that audience.

That can be anything from being a guest on a podcast, being a guest on a YouTube video or writing a guest blog post. It could be speaking at an event, either virtually or in person. Or you can create content on any content platform that you enjoy.

I do a mix of collaborations and content myself. When you know your positioning you can create content that is useful to your ideal customer. Because you know exactly what they want already. Because you've taken the time to do that research and you know what they want and how you can help.

So everything becomes easier. 

Watch the video version here