I remember one sunny day at the end of August 2018, stumbling upon an article online, from one of the major newspapers in Sweden.
It was just 2 weeks before our election for parliament, being held every 4th year.
The main picture was of a 15-year-old girl sitting with a sign outside the parliament building.
She intended to do that every day up until the election because she didn’t think politicians were doing enough to help the climate.
I remember thinking “Oh, I really hope someone will come and join her. I’d hate for her to sit there all alone”.
It turned out, there was no reason for me to worry too much about that…
During the following 18 months, Greta managed to gather and unite an enormous amount of people, willing to fight for the same thing: the Earth is dying, and the politicians and big corporations are the ones that need to do something about it.
How come all these people decided to stand behind this 15-year old girl from Sweden, and how can you as an entrepreneur learn from that to grow your audience?
Talk about what you want!
From the very first day of her strike, Greta had a very clear message: Unless politicians around the globe take action to stop the climate crisis, her generation won’t have a future.
I don’t think that millions of people around the world suddenly went “Oh, that sounds great! From now on, that’s what I will believe in!”
No, what Greta said was already aligned with the values of all these people.
They just needed someone to say it out loud.
She didn’t change their opinions.
She just concretized them.
She just told them what they already believe in.
Don’t waste your time on customers
Creating an app with low or no-code tools usually starts as a one-(wo)man-show.
That’s the beauty of living in a time where you can make ideas into reality as easy as putting together pieces of LEGO.
But it also means that you (and possibly a few co-founders) have very limited resources to spare – time being one of them.
If you want the project to succeed you can’t just do something – you need to do the most efficient things!
Trying to get people to buy or use your product – finding customers – is a very short-sighted goal.
A customer is someone that will buy your product, and then continue on with their lives. It’s the end of the road.
You must start, by finding people to help you out.
Even if you are just one or a few people – you need to do what all the big tech companies are doing, and communicate WHO you are and WHY you are doing what you are doing.
If you instead of trying to get people to buy your product, focus on gathering people with the same beliefs as you, you will win even if they are not buying your product.
People that believe in the same thing as you will help you spread the word to others!
The difference between a customer and an audience
A customer might buy your product. That’s it.
A member of your audience or tribe will:
- (Most certainly) buy your product
- Talk to others about your product and you
- Give you feedback on how to improve it
- Stick around for your next big thing
Some people will never need what you offer. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t gonna help you spread the word to others!
And the best way to do build a rabid audience that will do the work for you – even when you haven’t launched yet?
Pick a f*cking side.
How to pick a side (and why it will build your audience)
I never thought I would ever quote Eminem, but here we go:
“If you have enemies, good – that means you stood up for something.”― Eminem
“Everyone” is not a target market. You can’t be for everyone.
The only products that are for “everyone”, are tooth-paste and toilet paper.
Deciding what you believe in, will make you more attractive to the right audience. The once interested in what you have to say and the problems you can solve.
When you know what you stand for and what you want to change – you’re able to talk about that forever without ever feeling like you are trying to “sell” something.
What do you believe in?
Today it’s extremely important for us to trust the people and companies we do business with.
When a company tells us what they believe in – their values and beliefs – they make it very easy for us to decide if that is something we can stand behind.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”Simon Sinek
Talking about features, numbers and technicalities are far from the best ways to grow your audience.
What you need to do is to define what you stand for. Why you exist.
… and what don’t you believe in?
One of the most fanatic tribes is the one of the Swedish oat-milk producer Oatly.
They are selling oat-milk.
That is oat.
In a box.
I could make the exact same thing in my blender at home for one-tenth of the price.
Oatly doesn’t have the most hardcore fanbase you can find out there because their product – it’s not the cure for cancer.
People love them, because they’ve picked a side.
A few years back, Oatly got sued by the Swedish dairy lobby (that would be a much worse band name) for writing “No milk, no soy, no badness” on their milk packages.
They lost and had to change it.
So they changed it to “No milk, no soy, no… eh, whatever.”
It doesn’t matter, everyone knows what they stand for.
Like that annoying younger baby brother of yours, Oatly takes every opportunity to pick a fight on the milk industry.
When one of the biggest milk producers in Sweden ran a series of TV ads mocking plant-based milk substitute drinks by coming up with silly, fake names for those alternatives, what did Oatly do?
Got mad and started whining?
Nah, they found out that the dairy company never filed to trademark protect those names.
So Oatly did that.
And started printing those names on all their packages.
One of the best ways to define what you stand for is to make sure you are able to define the opposite of just that.
Oatly believes that the dairy industry is evil. And that dairy is bad for the environment.
They won’t have many dairy farmers or milkshake aficionados among their followers.
But those whose beliefs are aligned with Oatlys will follow them anywhere!
“It’s highly attractive when someone is resolute and decisive. Strong opinions can also be divisive and split opinion, which means people actively spend time thinking about which side they are on.”Helen Ryles
Don’t be the one to answer “I don’t know. I’m fine with anything.” when someone asks what you want for dinner!
Pick a f*cking side!
Write down what you believe in
Don’t worry. You don’t have to embark on a crusade to take down the gun lobby or trash-talk the next presidential candidate.
The best way to define them is to write your values down – and then write the counter-values right next to them!
Waiting ’til you have a product to build an audience is a waste of time.
Write down everything you believe in. Don’t think too much about it at first, you can always edit and remove.
A good way to test your belief out (to see if you’ve really picked a side) is to write the counter-belief next to it. Then, read it and see if it is something that people “on the other side” would actually believe.
I don’t believe:
Entrepreneurs should create their product first, and then start to build their audience.
(The product-or-audience-first question is well discussed online, so this very belief definitely passed this test.)
How to use this in your content
Creating content is the best way to draw attention to what you are doing. Whether you choose to blog, tweet, be on Youtube or TikTok – reaching your audience organically is the most powerful way there is.
But you cannot talk only about your product.
The number of tweets or Facebook posts about you, your process and your product (and everything even slightly connected to that) should be under 20%.
The rest should be stuff that your audience finds interesting.
Your values are the best guidelines you have when it comes to what you can talk about.
Use them as main topics when you are planning your content.
For Twitter, I schedule at least 10 tweets a day (using Hypefury, which I can thank for a big chunk of my Twitter growth!).
I have a few main topics that I tweet about, and they all build on my beliefs:
- Building an audience is key to success for a small start-up
- No-one cares about your Thing, they only want to know what’s in it for them
- You are the expert on something that can change other peoples lives
Compare that to what it would look like if I only had concrete topics to talk about:
- How to build an audience
- Talk about what your customer will gain
- Create digital products to sell
See what I mean?
If you just write about stuff – without really believing it – it’s just words.
But if you believe it – if it is the lifeblood of you and your product – people can choose to get in behind you. And they will.
They will join your army and help you fight for change!
Even that change is just “Ahhrhg! No-one should have to keep paper receipts for their tax returns!”
Whatever you believe in – start talking about it!
Everywhere and always.
“You have to communicate what you want to build in every meeting, in every email you write. Especially as a founder or a CEO, but even as a manager, it has to be a huge chunk of your job and your mindshare.”Molly Graham, former manager for Culture and Employment Branding at Facebook
The faster you start doing that – the faster you will start attracting the right audience.
The right people to bring on-board as collaborators.
And maybe even the right investors!