When I consider new ventures, the first thought that comes to mind is this: could venture X continually publish a blog that would attract and delight target audience Y, while simultaneously informing Y on the value venture X delivers?
If the answer is no, venture X may be a bad idea, impossible to market, or both.
I have learned that when it comes to marketing anything:
- customers don’t magically appear when you create something cool;
- hoping to go viral is beyond wishful thinking;
- advertising on the web is like cutting concrete [noise] with a french fry;
- it’s really hard to advertise your way to cash-flow breakeven.
Instead, most entrepreneurs have to rely on inbound marketing to methodically generate an ever-expanding wedge of awareness for their product or service.
‘Inbound Marketing’ is a term coined by Brian Halligan of HubSpot. In a nutshell, inbound marketers continually test, measure, and optimize keywords, blog posts, social mentions, site content, and landing pages to drive engagement and consumption.
Inbound marketing is also every entrepreneur's opportunity to get existing and potential customers to retransmit their message (their original, compelling content) for free.
My current favorite inbound marketer is Intercom. Intercom’s customers are web entrepreneurs that need to deliver helpful, individualized, and timely support and marketing messages. Right now, Intercom is publishing the best blog in the startup ecosystem. Through their blog, Intercom is establishing trust and authority while generating awareness for their product. Given the problems Intercom is solving and the size of the web-app-business market, they could blog for years without running out of original, magnetic subject matter.
When I have an idea for a product or service, I follow the steps below:
- I identify influencers in a target segment. (example: LittleBird generated this list on Learning Experts)
- I listen to (read) their conversations on Twitter and on their blogs.
- I try to discern their interests and inclinations.
- I determine if I (or someone that can write) could trickle an ongoing stream of compelling, original, message-bearing content into the conversation without seeming like a pushy self-promoter.
Although blogging is only one component of inbound marketing, it’s simply the easiest thing to ask yourself about new ventures: “For a year or more, could I blog about something that motivates the target market for this venture...or not?”