“Everything can be commoditized except trust and attention.”
💎 Why It Matters
An audience-first approach can help you validate products, build distribution and stay accountable.
You don’t know what to build or how to reach customers.
Build trust before products.
- Atomic Habits was published after James Clear published posts twice a week for years.
- TinySeed came after Rob Walling wrote books, essays, launched MicroConf, started Startups for the Rest of Us, built and sold Drip.
- Userlist came after Jane Portman launched the UI Breakfast podcast, wrote a book and many blog posts.
- The Embedded Entrepreneur came after Arvid Kahl sold FeedbackPanda, launched The Bootstrapped Founder and wrote Zero to Sold.
- Petite Fashion Weekly came after Lwany built a following on YouTube.
- Transistor.fm runs alongside Justin Jackson’s blog, community, course and podcast.
- One-person media companies will continue to grow. Creation and distribution tools democratize leverage. Johnny Harris left Vox to build a YouTube channel with 1,500,000+ subscribers. Barstool, The Verge and Fortune are seeing similar exoduses.
- Brands will opt for equity over selling attention. Kylie Jenner built a cosmetics company instead of promoting one.
- Commoditized backends will help smaller firms sell physical products. Printful lowers execution risk and marginal costs. Turning physical products into digital products, from the creator’s perspective.
- Teach as you learn. Nat Eliason’s blog posts led to launching an agency, app, courses and affiliate income. Maria Popova and James Clear have similar stories.
- Show your work. Damon Chen, Zoe Chew and KP inspire others and promote their products by building in public. Stay top of mind.
- Use a freemium model. William Candillon monetizes free YouTube videos on React Native with a paid membership.
- Connect your audience to each other with a community. Trends Pro connects thoughtful entrepreneurs. Makerpad and 100 Days of No Code connect no coders.
- Embed yourself in communities. 100 Days of No Code paired a Twitter challenge with a private community. See Arvid’s book on embedded entrepreneurship.
- Compound by committing to a schedule. Release a newsletter, video or podcast on a regular basis. See Trends.vc and Bad Unicorn.
🔑 Key Lessons
- Audience = Optionality. Building trust is hard. Monetizing trust is easy. We’ve seen audience-first agencies, digital products, SaaS companies, platforms, funds and more.
- Proprietary distribution gives you pricing power and control over unit economics. Bidding on paid ads leads to unpredictable customer acquisition costs.
- Build an audience to increase your luck. Once we know your goals. We can conspire to help you out.
“Audience-building is slow.”
Paid channels are faster but less defensible. There’s no free lunch.
“Where doesn’t this make sense?”
If you’re not serving a tribal audience or have a small set of stakeholders.
“What if my validation efforts lead to false positives?”
We saw this with Level and Beme. Your supporters don’t want to let you down. So they may lie. The Mom Test helps you validate in biased environments.
“What if I give away my secrets?”
We don’t care about 100% of your business. Share the good parts. You can build public without sharing revenue numbers, key distribution channels and algorithms.
- Who should I talk to about audience-first products? • The tweet behind this report.
- Media House is the New Marketing Strategy • Companies are moving towards proprietary distribution.
- Quick Chat with William Candillon of Start React Native • William used free YouTube videos on React Native to build a paid membership.
📁 Related Reports
- Audience-First Products • The first version of this report.
- Paid Communities • Go from one-to-many to many-to-many bonds.
- Paid Newsletters • The audience-first approach is native to media models.
- NFTs • Non-fungible goods bring “art economics” to the creator economy.
- Social Tokens • On aligning audiences and brands.
- Internet Challenges • Challenges bridge audience-building and accountability.
- Million-Dollar, One-Person Businesses • Most highly leveraged individuals take an audience-first approach.
Thanks to Arvid Kahl (The Bootstrapped Founder), Justin Jackson (Transistor.fm), Sharath Kuruganty (Shoutout.so), Lwany (Petite Fashion Weekly), Vishal Srivastava (Trainedge), Aadil Razvi (Demand Curve), Ashwin Gurbuxani (Trends.vc), Ash (Bad Unicorn), Whit Anderson (Bad Unicorn), Jelmer (Venturism), Ray Deck (Sustained Ventures), Jamil Abreu (Substack), Shashank Yadav (Omdena), Lu Doan (OSBundle), Vincent Haywood (Vhdigital) and Edward Mcenrue (True Fit). We had a great time jamming on this report.
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With Trends Pro you’ll learn:
- (📈 Pro) How to borrow trust?
- (📈 Pro) What are audience-first funds?
- (📈 Pro) What are maker mafias?
- (📈 Pro) How to boost customer lifetime value?
- (📈 Pro) How to build content-to-app funnels?
- (📈 Pro) Why do million-dollar, one-person businesses take an audience-first approach?
- (📈 Pro) When should you buy vs build an audience?
- (📈 Pro) How can blogging change your life?
- and a lot more…