The Ultimate Guide to Building Audience-first – Part 1

The Ultimate Guide to Building Audience-first – Part 1

What is an Audience?

There are three levels of customer insight: Pains, JTBD and Zeitgeist.
There are three levels of customer insight: Pains, JTBD and Zeitgeist.

To understand what an audience is, first we need to understand what it is not.

When you are at the beginning of your startup journey, your initial reflex might be to think of an audience in terms of their Demographics (Age, Gender, Profession, ...). Which makes sense if you are setting up a Google / Facebook Ad campaign.

However, demographics do not define an audience. They define a target group.

From the perspective of building audience-first, an audience is a group of people facing the same problem. Tackling the same needs. Chasing the same goals. What they have in common is not their passport or resumé. 

An audience is a group of people who share a journey.

What makes a journey? An end-goal or direction, a step-by-step route and progress, and challenges along the way.

Audiences gather. But a group of gathered people is not necessarily an audience.

Rather than focusing on where people gather, focus on why people gather (even if they don't do so currently), by applying the three levels of customer insight.

What critical pains are you looking to solve? What Jobs to be Done will you help complete? What Zeitgeist do you choose to enable, or entertain?

Your audience are the people who have these in common.

How to find your Audience?

Your Niche is a combination of your Journey, Specific Knowledge and Key Trend(s).
Your Niche is a combination of your Journey, Specific Knowledge and Key Trend(s).

If an audience is a group of people who are on the same journey, the best place to find your audience is from your journey.

Especially as a first time founder, scratch your own itch.

Your niche is in the overlap of:

  1. Your Journey
  2. Your Specific Knowledge
  3. Key Trend

1. Your Journey

How to find your Audience? Start from your own Journey.
How to find your Audience? Start from your own Journey.

To find out which audiences you belong to, start from your own journey.

That means asking yourself about your goals, ambitions, needs and pains, and literally documenting them for an entire day, or even a week.

I. Start from your actions.

Log everything you do for the next 24 hours.

I like to start my day with a cup of loose leaf tea, instead of breakfast, whilst going through my saved articles in Notion. This automatically puts me in a number of audiences: Loose leaf tea drinkers, Morning tea drinkers, Intermittent Fasters / Breakfast Skippers, Notion-users, Article readers, ... . This is just a 15 min snapshot of my morning. Now imagine doing this for your entire day.

Actual footage of me drinking tea in the morning. (Source: Giphy)
Actual footage of me drinking tea in the morning. (Source: Giphy)

II. What do your actions tell you about your tasks, goals and ambitions?

In my case, the fasting might tell me I have certain health ambitions. The loose leaf tea takes more time to make, which tells me something about the way I view my morning ritual. The fact that I save articles might imply that I at least have the ambition to read, and that I am trying to stay organised. Categories of tasks, goals and ambitions to consider: Health & fitness, relationships, business, career, interests, spirituality, ... .

Source: Tenor
Source: Tenor

III. What is getting in the way of your tasks, goals and ambitions?

This is where it gets interesting. People gather around mutual problems, right? The first company I ever sold (for literal nickels and dimes), was a webshop selling (double walled) glass bottle to drink loose leaf tea on the go. It had a metal filter to prevent the leaves from entering your mouth while drinking. It tackled three problems:

  • Keeping tea warm
  • Bringing tea on the go
  • Preventing leaves from entering your mouth

Another problem I have: Every time I find an article I want to read, I have to copy and paste the URL into Notion.

This is a time waster, and it's repetitive. An app like Juno might be for me. The social component is a bonus. Becoming aware of your problems, means becoming aware of business opportunities.

Your problems are rarely unique to you as a person. People tend to have similar struggles.

Your pains are not unique. Other people will have the same challenges as you. Trust that fact, and start looking for the people who you share a journey with.

Source: Tenor
Source: Tenor

IV. Who else is struggling with these problems?

Once you are aware of your ambitions and challenges, find people who are on that same journey with you. You might find your audience where you already hang out, but other good places to start are: SubReddits, FB Groups, Product Hunt, Twitter, Meetup, Forums, Paid Communities.

Again, any one channel is not an audience by itself, but your audience might be active on one or more channels looking for people who are on the same journey as them.

Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy

V. Can you reach these people? 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

Just because you know where people gather, doesn't mean you know how to reach them. I imagine the Lakers team gather in the Lakers locker room. That doesn't mean I can reach them there. I don't have access. An audience you cannot reach is an audience you cannot engage with, or sell to. This is an overlooked part of Audience Building. If you post something and Reddit and are met with crickets, you haven't reached your audience.

Reaching your audience is about offering something that resonates with them.

I like this quote:

"Marketing is the story you want to tell, wrapped in the story your audience wants to hear."

Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy

2. Specific Knowledge

"No one can compete with you on being you" – Naval Ravikant

By bringing your specific knowledge to your audience, you start to form a niche. What is your uniqueness? Your unique skills. Your unique knowledge. Within your audience, it is the answer to the question: "What can I be best at?".

Naval Ravikant defines specific knowledge as: knowledge that can be learned, but cannot be taught.

In other words...

Specific knowledge is gleaned through experience, and passed on through apprenticeship. In tying Your Journey and Specific Knowledge together, you arrive at what Erik Torenberg describes as your 'Personal Moat'.

Something That's:

  • "Hard to learn and hard to do (but perhaps easier for you)
  • Impossible without rare and/or valuable skills
  • Unique to your own talents & interests
  • Legible, in the sense that your expertise should be easy to describe, easy to share, and makes people want to do both for you"

For instance:

My personal moat is applying the learnings from corporate venture building, and applying them to the nocode bootstrapping space.

3. Key Trend

You alone ≠ an audience.

Your Niche is a combination of your Journey, Specific Knowledge and Key Trend(s).
Your Niche is a combination of your Journey, Specific Knowledge and Key Trend(s).

In the end, your niche is more than just your personal moat. Ideally your audience is hot, hip, and growing exponentially.

This is where Key Trends come in. You can turn trend research into a side project of its own. There's no end to it. But as a beginner, just focus on one key trend that is picking up steam and is related to your personal moat.

How do you spot a trend?

These resources will definitely come in handy:

Trends Co The best thing out there for spotting trends and opportunities early. The pricing is steep, so make the most of your 14-day trial or free version.

ExplodingTopics Identifies trends based on search volume on search engines like Google. Peoples search behaviour tells you a lot about the problems and solutions that interest them.

SubRedditStats Is like exploding topics for SubReddits. It shows you the fastest growing communities on Reddit. A close second is FrontPageMetrics

Trends VC Is an excellent newsletter by Dru Riley that zooms in on specific trends and businesses to break them down and make predictions.

Source: Tenor
Source: Tenor

As a more experienced founder you can do your own trend research. Sometimes people don't know what they want until you show it to them.

Until then, use the resources above. Don't make it more complicated than it needs to be. Our key trend was NoCode. Nothing more.

This is part one in a two part series about building audience-first.

In the next part we will tackle:

  • How to Validate Your Audience
  • How to Build Your Audience.

Stay Tuned!

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