If an early-stage company hasn't determined its target audience yet, it's often best practice to avoid paid marketing. This helps businesses avoid high customer acquisition costs that they can't sustain. However, relying on product-led growth doesn't always work, considering most early-stage companies offer simpler products than their more established competitors. Until these businesses has a substantial paid marketing budget, a useful approach they can try is building in public.
Building in public is when company founders take on their business' marketing. But instead of directly promoting their products or services, they share their business journey, including their learnings, successes and failures. This allows them to build their company's brand awareness—and, by extension, awareness of their offerings.
Generally, companies need to build an audience around their product, and customers are increasingly looking for businesses they can build connections with. By taking a building in public approach to marketing, early-stage businesses can let their potential audiences know who they are and what they do, what they're good at, what they experience and what insights they can offer. Getting people interested in this journey helps companies create a solid community of potential customers.
A particularly helpful aspect of this marketing approach is allowing potential customers to engage with companies' idea validation stage. As they share the journey of building their product, they can find interested people and invite them to contribute to the ideation. When consumers feel connected to companies, they're more likely to support them in areas like product development. For example, designers can ask what problems consumers want to solve and what’s missing from the current solution the company's working on, as well as collecting other types of feedback.
With input from target audiences, businesses can ensure they're building the most valuable product or service. Those using the building in public strategy can continue gathering consumer input until they have a market-ready product with an already engaged customer base.
When it comes to building in public, the most important factor is consistency. Businesses need to show up every day and treat their social platforms as a journal or conversation. So it's crucial to know how they want to present themselves to the audience. Businesses should consider what particular topics might interest their audiences. For example, the owner could discuss their journey toward creating the company, share employee spotlights or give weekly updates on production.
Another option is initiating direct engagement on social media. Of course, communicating with followers is vital for building community. However, following and interacting with influential organizations or high-profile businesspeople in their industry or area of expertise is also a great initial strategy for early-stage businesses. Engage with relatable posts, resharing their content or inviting them into conversations are all aspects of building in public. Keeping up with established entities also helps startups determine what shared content attracts the most customers.
Early-stage businesses can’t just market their products or services and expect people to immediately care. They need to give a reason. Using the building in public marketing approach will lure an audience that wants to know who the business is and what it's creating. With success, the audience will become engaged customers.