Founders of early-stage organizations have their hands full: developing their product; negotiating (and closing) with investors and customers; hiring the right people; and gaining insights for user traction. Satisfied customers lead to referrals and testimonials which leads to more sales. If you’ve got cash flow, you’ve got a chance for a real business.
Then, there’s also the challenge of building an audience for an early-stage organization. It’s not as easy as it looks. Lots of effort, some planning and much behind-the-scenes work to get the right people involved, engaged and actively contributing
The short answer is that to really make the most of your resources, you’ve got to tie your audience-building efforts to the strategic objectives of the organization.
This will give you leverage over your time and resources - because you can achieve two things when you might normally achieve one. (I aim for a minimum of five (5) strategically-aligned activities).
It also incorporates a discovery focus. (Earlier in my career, I wouldn’t have said this, because: (a) I didn’t know; and (b) it wasn’t taught, for the most part in entrepreneurship / business programs.). Discovery as in Customer Discovery, has its roots in Steve Blank’s Lean Startup / Lean LaunchPad methodology - https://www.customerdiscoverypros.com/blog
By discovery, I mean tapping into / connecting and empathizing to understand the pain points / needs of the user groups (or customers) around the problem.
For example, for a healthcare app or website, it is the end-users, the healthcare professionals, the community-health professionals, parents and government stakeholders - etc. It might even be fitness coaches who are part of the extended network / circle.
There are likely a number of assumptions regarding how they will behave and why. Knowing the answer to these questions, will help you build an early stage audience who actually wants to be connected to to what you are building / have built, and are interested, willing and motivated to refer out to their networks and communities. (In fact, it is more than "want", it really satisfies one or more needs they have.)
Gathering information and developing insights about these "Customers" is part qualitative (short interviews); quantitative (short surveys, validation); and dropping ideas / actions into the community - to see what people do with them (data points).
Over time, with more participation, contribution and involvement - the data grows, and so does an understanding of the trends, etc. Then, you can make adjustments - with the buy-in of the community. The circle grows, and radiates outwards
In building a community (especially for a startup), I make considerable use of Gladwell’s Tipping Points methodology. It’s a highly-effective, performance-based approach - that (a) makes sure that key participants feel connected; and (b) focuses not just on the innovators / people that jump to being involved at the get-go, but the people who are not as confident / comfortable - and bringing them along.
When you have those folks involved, that’s when the real magic starts to happen!
This approach has worked well, and one of my proudest accomplishments was working for The Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver, Canada to building a startup community of 18,000 educators in 120 countries (WikiEducator.org). When people know they have a supportive environment, they can make incredible changes, and support others in doing so too.
They have an experience of success.
This becomes an important part of the narrative and success of the community, as important as the messages of health and well-being, self-care, achievable and better health actions and outcomes.