Insights & Advice

The community first approach to building your app, boosting engagement & changing user behaviour.

Conversations sometimes inspire new ideas and resurrect old ones. “Here’s an idea” I said , “what about if you build the community first and then build and distribute your product to your community?”

When you build a digital product, app or platform the common mistake is to concentrate all of your energy on features and functionality.

Photo by Nicholas Green

Most entrepreneurs are guilty of this. If you’re not careful you’ll develop product building tunnel vision, which will ensure you neglect everything else you should be doing until later in the process.

This is wrong, and usually the first in a long line of mistake dominos that lead to a product that just doesn’t engage with it’s audience.

This is dangerous for two reasons.

  1. The product should be dictated by what your audience need _*NOT*_ by what you “think” they need.
  2. You’ve left no money or time to get your product to market.

Where you can, you need mitigate your tunnel vision and dedicate just as much attention to your brand and go to market plan. But more than this, you could also consider changing your approach.

Often when you’re dealing with a new market or you’re trying to change user behaviours a different approach may help you to achieve success.

What if you curated the audience first and then built the product? Now wouldn’t that be an idea.

If you already have the audience in place, engaging with your brand, you’ve got a few great advantages:

  1. They are warmer towards you and more willing to engage with things you put in front of them.
  2. You understand exactly what they want, you have direct access to your target audience.
  3. They trust you, and your brand, and will be more lenient to adopt new behaviours.

How? Content + Distribution + Value.

Invest your time in creating great CONTENT that you know your eventual customer base will enjoy and finds valuable! Talk authentically about an issue, problem or opportunity. Speak the hidden or inconvenient truths about it and you’ll attract the right community.

You’ll find that researching this and writing it will help your new business to understand and gather data on its user base anyway so it’s all good investment.

Then DISTRIBUTE your content using social media and PR. Don’t be afraid to spend money here. With content distribution you get what you pay for, and the time you put in, in outreach yourself will pay itself back.

And offer VALUE. While your final offering (your digital product) isn’t ready, build something small that is low cost but high value. Identifying this is often difficult, but even if it’s something that already exists, put it in your community so people come back to use it. Alternatively create something you can drip feed that has consistent value, like further insight as a reward for returning or contributing to your community.

Trust is the most value asset for the brand. A community built on trust will gives strong clues to the market opportunity and brand positioning needed for your product to be a success.

The fact of the matter is, I’m not the first person in the world that would have thought of this and I’m certainly not going to be the last, nor am I the first to demonstrate it.

But it’s a useful reminder to anyone starting a digital product business that there are other approaches.

Where you are encouraging a change in user behaviour, this strategy may be the one that works for you.

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