Startup Tip 50: 4 reasons to create a community BEFORE you launch your startup

A lot of people build something, an app for instance, and then start marketing it to people to see if they are interested in buying it. This is the hard way to go about things. It’s like pushing a boulder uphill.

Instead, start creating a community in your industry before you launch your startup. In the words of Richard Branson, “From the very first moment you begin to realize that your idea is worth pursuing, the first step on the road to success is building a network.”

Communities tend to gather around common passions or ideas. So identify what ideas are important to your target market and start connecting with them today. Here are some reasons why:

  • By creating a community first, you will get to know your customers and what they want. Then you can build a product or service that is tailored to customer demand making it easier to sell. Your community will also give you feedback and ideas that you can incorporate into your product or service design.
  • When you start reaching out to people and sharing your ideas with them, you will make connections that can give you input, feedback and help you get to where you want to go faster. Your connections will open doors for you that you could never open by yourself. Opportunities will come your way. I know this may sound pie in the sky but I have experienced it. I have had many opportunities come my way that wouldn’t have if I hadn’t started intentionally connecting with and helping others.
  • By contributing to the discussion in the industry or issues that concern your startup, you will be building a reputation for yourself. When you launch, you won’t be a totally unknown quantity, making it easier to create sales and even connect with investors.
  • Best of all, by creating a community, you will have created a ground swell of support that you can leverage when you launch your startup or kickstarter campaign.

Think of your community wholistically: they are the people you know already and people you connect with on social media.

Above all, creating community is all relationships. If you think global village, where everyone depends on each other and helps each other out, you will have the right approach.

Action:

Have you started creating a community? Do you need to start? What topics, interests, ideas or passions are important to your target market? How will you start to reach them?

Further reading:

Seth Godin recently ran a campaign on Kickstarter.com where he raised the goal of $40,000 for his new book in under 3 hours. The campaign went on to raise over $287,000 in total, over 7 times the amount needed.

How did he do this? Seth has long invested in creating a support community. Not a bad payoff!!

Richard Branson on How to Network. Hint: Early and Often from Entrepreneur.com

Join the conversation:

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments

Or use them to create a little bit of extra motivation and accountability to get your action task for today done.
And I would love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter.

Image used courtesy of Thomas Hawk under Creative Commons license.

Comments

  1. Great piece Susan and I totally agree with everything. Your community is so very important and you never know when those connections are going to come in handy.

    The important thing to remember is to see your community as more than a set of potential customers but as resources that will help you learn and grow and support you on your journey.

    My community (particularly on twitter) has really helped me on my business journey. I don’t know where I would be without all the lovely avatars and the encouraging comments I receive on a day to day basis.

    • Joey, I think a lot of the reasons Twitter is working so well for you is that you are so lovely in giving back. It’s all about relationships and that’s what you do so well.

  2. This reminds me a lot of Gary Vaynerchuk – before he opened up his WineLibraryTV website, he had built a gigantic following on social networks, grabbed all of the information he needed, and then funnelled them into his new creation. The end result? He made a lot of money in a considerably short amount of time – it only took him about a year and a half to get where most sites takes 3-4 years to get to.

    If you can provide value, do it. Even if your business isn’t there yet – it will pay off big in the end. Great post :)

  3. Hi, Although I agree with the importance of a community, but my question after reading the article is what if creating and maintaining such a community costs you more than your budget, in that case what approach should you have?

    • Hi Utkarsh,
      What would you be spending money on in building your community?

      My approach to community is that it is about building relationships and seeing how I can add value and help others. That doesn’t cost me anything. It doesn’t have to be complicated or involve sophisticated technology.

      It does cost time – but like any decision in your business you need to decide where your priorities are.

      Personally, I have decided that I would rather build a community, find out what they need and then give them a solution than create a product and spend a lot of money trying to flog it to people. I also think that although it takes a bit more time initially, it will save me a lot of time and money in the end.

      • Utkarsh Lokesh says:

        Thank you for the reply Susan. Definitely it costs time, but in case of building an online community (in my case), it also costs me in terms of research i put in for the content that will be valued by the community plus the underlying technology as well.
        I second that building a community, finding out what they need and then give them a solution is the right procedure.

  4. This is so true! I started my business when I knew literally 5 people in the state I was living in. My services is a b2b service, not online. My efforts was on getting to know people, gaining credibility. When people asked me how my business was doing, I could honestly say very good. Because I was (and still am) building that network. Without it, there is no sale as people don’t buy from businesses but from people.

    • That’s awesome Mirjam.

      “People don’t buy from businesses but from people.”
      I absolutely agree. That’s the foundation principle of sales.

  5. Hi Susan,

    A lovely article with which I couldn’t agree more. We’re a bit late to the party in commenting here, but what you describe is exactly what we did, perhaps taken a bit further. From a viral Facebook page (started with our page “I know this great little place in London…”, to setting up global clones, to crowdfunding from our fans and building our actual site from the proceeds, we built backwards. And we couldn’t have done it if we didn’t have the network. These guys describe it even better than we could: http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/10/great-little-place-crowd-funding/index.html

    It can work!

    Best,

    Rich

    • We always welcome comments Rich, so thanks for stopping by.

      I would love to hear a bit more detail than the link gives. Let me know if you would like to tell your story in a post here.

  6. Love your article Susan. Great job! I recently wrote a post about a similar topic: “Why You Should Start Build Your Community From Day 1″: http://bit.ly/1e424Qd. These 3 reasons were:
    1) understand your potential customers with accuracy (who are your earlyvangelists, what is exactly their main problem, how do they solve it today, how much do they spend today to solve it…)
    2) run better experiments (get feedback about a features, run A/B test, schedule a call with a potential clients in order to validate one of your assumptions…)
    3) scale with more efficiency the day you have reach Product / Market fit.

    I would also add it is a way to bootstrap your product, which means getting enough early revenues to avoid looking for investors. I have even seen many times startups succeeding in selling their product BEFORE building it.

  7. I’m now catching up on building a community, and I definitley agree that if I had that before I started my charity it would have grown a lot faster!

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