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Build It and They Will Come

Many creators worry that they need a huge audience before launching a product. While having an audience is certainly helpful, it by no means is a requirement. There are good reasons to launch a product right now instead of waiting until you’ve grown your audience.

The Alison Show's Alison Faulkner is a lifestyle blogger and event planner extraordinaire. She’s sold lots of digital products, and has recently had a lot of success with her online courses, Alison’s Cookie Party and Party with Alison. While Alison has a large audience now, she’s been creating content since before she had anyone to sell it to.

We talked with Alison about creating and selling content when you don’t have a big audience, and she delivered enough distilled goodness for a six-video series. Great content about great content. Meta.

Here’s what Alison covered:

There's No Magic Number

We often talk about building an audience as the precursor to launching a product. But you don’t have to have a huge audience to launch a product. Instead, think about how you can flip things around and use a product as a tool for growing your audience.

The relationship between building your audience and launching products isn’t linear. Launching products can help you build your audience and vice versa. Both efforts should feed in to each other.

The Best Thing You Can Do Is Get Started Today

How can launching a product help you grow your audience?

  1. Your work gives you something meaningful to talk with people about, which allows you to put yourself out there and expose yourself. Think of it as a calling card of sorts.
  2. It puts you on the map. People will recognize that you’re an expert on the subject of your work. You’ll be associated with the topic, and they’ll look to you for your expertise.
  3. A product can serve as a foundation for what you build in the future. You can create free content around it, collaborate with others in the same realm, and launch related products.

Setting Your Expectations

While there are non-monetary reasons to launch a product when you have a small audience, it can be difficult to set goals that aren’t driven by the money you’ll make through your launch. If you’re charging money for your content, you’re bound to have expectations around how much money you’ll earn.

Think about the long term. Good news: once you’ve put the hard work into creating your product, that piece of work is going to remain valuable and relevant for a long time. You can continue talking about/sharing/promoting your product long after you’ve launched it. You may have a small audience now, but it doesn’t have to stay small. And as your audience continues to grow, your sales should follow.

Pro Tip: Launching your product to your existing audience now doesn’t mean you can’t launch it again when you have a bigger audience. You can have multiple launches. A great way to do this is to make product improvements (e.g. "Version 2.0") or bonus content (e.g. "10 new recipes!") as a reason to re-launch. Give existing customers the updated content for free, and they won’t be upset that you’re launching again. In fact, they’ll probably help you promote your second launch!

The Advantages of a Small Audience

It can be tempting to focus on the hurdles of having a small audience. Don’t! Think about the benefits. And, yes, there certainly are benefits, as Alison attests to in this video.

Most importantly, you have time to interact with individuals and to build quality relationships with them. Why is this important? It's important because these are the people who:

  • are going to be your biggest, most loyal supporters.
  • you can turn to for honest feedback as you grow your business.
  • will keep you true to your core goals and core values as you grow.
  • may themselves grow into successful entrepreneurs you can collaborate with.

Never underestimate or overlook the audience that you do have. Those are the people that are going to grow you to your future greatness.

-Alison Faulkner

Launching a Product with a Small Audience

These tips and pointers for launching with a smaller audience will help everyone, but they can be especially helpful if you have a smaller audience.

1. Think about collaborations

You’re not limited to your own audience. Who can you collaborate with who can share your product with their audience? Collaborate with others to get your product in front of more eyes.

You can reach more people when others talk about your product, your online brand, or sales/promotions that you have.

Pro Tip: Don’t just look for collaborations with people who have a large audience. Collaborators with small and mid-sized audiences are the people who can often share most authentically.

2. Encourage sharing

Sometimes, people do need a little nudge to share your product with their own audiences. Two key things here:

  1. Make it really easy to share. The easier it is, the more likely people are to share. Provide the content, high-quality images for people to use, pre-written email copy, or click-to-tweet links.
  2. Offer incentives for sharing. Offering your product for free may not always be enough of an incentive. So use what you have. Alison has offered collaborators social media consulting, branding consulting, batches of custom cookies, and more! Think about the incentives that are going to be the most beneficial for whoever is doing the sharing.

Encouraging your own audience to share: When Alison launched her Alison’s Cookie Party course, people who shared one of her cookie photos with their own audiences on social media were entered to win a box of Alison’s favorite baking supplies.

Encouraging bigger collaborators to share: A professional organizer offered to spend time helping Alison organize her kitchen and office. In exchange, Alison promoted the organizer’s new online course to her own audience, on Instagram, and through a detailed blog post.

3. Plan your launch timeline

What can you do to start bringing people to you before you launch your product? This is different than waiting until you have a certain number of people in your audience before you launch. There’s lots you can do to build excitement around your upcoming product leading up to launch rather than putting all your eggs in the launch day basket.

Pre-orders: Pre-orders are a great way to generate buzz and drive sales leading up to a launch. Alison opened up pre-orders two days before her course launched, and bumped the price by $5 each day. That way, customers were incentivized to purchase right away with a reduced rate for pre-ordering.

Gumroad makes it really easy to set up pre-orders for your product Specify a release date and we'll make sure your product gets delivered to customers when the time comes.

Mailing lists: Encourage people to sign up for your newsletter leading up to launch. That way you have a direct connection to your audience when you are ready to launch your product. When you’re getting your product together, you can even create related bonus content to give away as an incentive for people to sign up to your newsletter. Then, as you get closer to launch, you can keep your mailing list updated what’s going on and give them the final exciting details on launch day.

For more on the power of mailing lists, watch Building Your Email List with Jeff Goins. Don’t have a newsletter yet? Check out Gumroad Audience to get started today.

Guest blog posts: Working with collaborators isn’t just something that should happen after launch. You can reach new eyes and ears before you launch. And quality content can be a really attractive incentive for potential collaborators. They’re likely looking to deliver value to their audience. If you can help with this, that’s powerful. Offer to write a guest blog post that’s relevant to the topic of your product. This way, your collaborator gets great content to share with their own audience and you get new eyeballs on your work.

4. Set your content calendar

Launch day isn’t your only shot. You can promote your product again and again, as long as you’re doing it in a way that delivers value. As you’re creating your product and planning your launch, think about what you'll be doing six months after launch day.

When and how can you meaningfully promote your product again? If you plan in advance, you’ll have time to come up with great content for ongoing promotion.

Example: Alison launched her course, Alison’s Cookie Party at the start of the holiday season, a time when people make a lot of sugar cookies. Before launching, she had sugar cookie-related posts planned for upcoming holidays. Sharing related content, like this Valentine’s Day cookie post, allowed Alison to promote her course again and again, while still delivering super valuable content to her audience.

Online Courses vs. Other Digital Content

While Alison has found a lot of success with online courses, she has launched other types of work as well. Because no matter the format, creating helps you continue to grow.

When you are creating, when you are producing, when you are putting yourself out there and sharing what you’re best at and what you’re passionate about, it’s beneficial.

-Alison Faulkner

Now, get out there and start creating! Don’t let your audience size or other doubts stop you.

When I just shut up and start creating, something good always happens.

-Alison Faulkner