Don’t try to sell for the first year but have a plan for what you’re doing to sell

I’ve been thinking lately about advice I’d give others about starting a niche product or, really, what I’d do differently myself.

In doing so, I’ve focused on business rollout timeline. The social sites of the web 2.0 world have developed something of a reputation around building audience first and a business¬† model second. It’s a plan that I myself remember doubting, but I wonder if I was just being naive.

It takes time to develop what you are, which certainly will dictate how you’ll fund it. Last month, I shared some of my favorite pieces from Gary Vaynerchuck’s book ‘Crush It. He shared some in there that is relevant here:’ “I didn’t make a peep the first year and a half of doing [the wine tasting video podcast] show. I didn’t try one biz deal ever,” [p. 92].

He was busy building the audience. The best marketing strategy, he adds, is just caring. So build a community and then figure out how to fund it.

It still worries me, I’ll admit, but it’s the ultimate trial pitch. Don’t waste energy selling into something that isn’t there. Instead, focus on increasing users, creating community and building engagement and, if the community develops, then figure out how to pay for it. If the community doesn’t develop, well, then, the project didn’t work out and you move on to your next.

That said, particularly in news, you damn well better have a good sense of what you intend on making money on. Make the business plan, but make sure there’s something real there before you dawdle on doing something about it.

Looking back at Technically Philly, it took us about a year and a half before we made a dime. That’s not for lack of trying and, admittedly, it was probably ideal that we made some cold calls and started conversations because we had to learn the basics first. But, now, when I give advice, I think it’s that give your project a year to grow on the side — keep the day job — before going all in.

I reserve the right to morph this line of thinking, but that’s where I am now. Whatcha think?

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