It’s not really news to say that most businesses fail. If you are like most entrepreneurs, the first startup is surely a failure. According to OnStartups.com, first-time entrepreneurs have just an 18% success rate. Not even a two in 10 chance?
Want better news? Henry Blodget, co-founder of Business Insider, places the success rate of one of the most successful start-up accelerators on the planet, Y Combinator, at a mere 10% or less.
If you are an entrepreneur or part of a start-up, you already know the odds are already stacked against you.
Product First? Really?
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the first step in starting a business is to develop a business plan. The standard business plan includes things like “defining what you are selling” and “creating a sales and marketing plan.” Of course it does. I’m sure if you search the thousands of different business plans on the web, they all look pretty much the same. Every startup essentially plays the game by the same rules.
Why do entrepreneurs go to market with their start-up in the same way? Are we so devoid of creativity that we’ve accepted that there is only one way to start and grow a business?
A Better Way
Through a lovely accident, I stumbled on a powerful way to build a business in the digital age—and now believe there is no better way to go to market. In 2007, I left the corporate world to start a company. The product didn’t work (as the stats predicted).
Luckily, at the same time, we were able to build an audience of loyal subscribers to our blog. Seven years later, our organization, Content Marketing Institute (Cleveland-based) was named the fastest growing business media company in North America (according to Inc. magazine). Through this process, we realized that we stumbled upon a better business model.
Related Article: 7 Big Myths of Content Marketing
Our model—build a loyal audience through consistent content, then launch your products and/or services.
By focusing on building an audience first and defining products and services second, an entrepreneur can change the rules of the game and significantly increase the odds of financial and personal success.
Once a loyal audience is built, one that loves you and the information you send, you can, most likely, sell your audience anything you want.
In 2014, I decided to begin writing my fourth book, Content Inc., on this “audience-first, product-second” model. In searching for cases around this concept, what we found was amazing. The Content Inc. model is rapidly growing all over the globe.
- Brian Clark blogged for 19 months on the topic of online copywriting, building an audience of hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Today, Rainmaker Digital is one of the fastest growing software-as-a-service companies.
- Matthew Patrick left the acting business and couldn’t get a “real job” in business. So he started a YouTube series called Game Theory on video games. Today, Matthew has over five million subscribers and runs a fast-growing multi-million dollar empire.
- Joy Cho started a simple design blog in 2005, building a loyal audience for years. When Pinterest launched, she grew her following into more than 13 million followers. Today, Oh Joy! has designed and co-produced products for such brands as Target and Microsoft, and she has developed stationery lines, wallpaper, bedding, diaper bags, and even computer accessories. Joy’s revenues are diverse, from direct client-engagement revenues to product sales to sponsorship to licensing deals.
Today, any business in any industry can leverage a content-first strategy, building a loyal audience before any products and services are offered. Crazy right? According to our research, this “crazy” model has the ability to minimize risk, increase the likelihood of success and enable significantly higher growth rates than “normal” companies. In the very near future, some of the fastest global companies on the planet will use this Content Inc. approach.
They’ve all found a better way.
Author: Joe Pulizzi is founder of Content Marketing Institute, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s fourth book Content Inc. was just released. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. You can find Joe on Twitter @JoePulizzi. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange.