“If you know how to build an audience, you’ll never go hungry.”
My mentor, Todd Herman, told me that.
My superpowers are all learned, not innate. I have three big ones:
1. The ability to make mistakes faster than anyone else (and learn from them)—that one’s on my books.
2. The ability to break big problems down into little solvable steps.
3. The ability to build an audience from scratch.
Here, I’ll talk about the third one.
Audience Building: 6 Steps
When you’re thinking about building a niche audience, follow these steps:
1. Be the world champion.
Look, if you’re “CrossFit famous,” it’s easy to sell CrossFit programming. It’s not hard to get 200 people to sign up if you have 25,000 followers on Instagram. But this is a shortcut most of us will never be able to take. If Tiger Woods decides to sell coaching for golf, he won’t need this guide (he won’t even need to be a good coach). He’ll already have an audience.
2. Get in there.
If you want to build an audience of golfers, you have to play golf. You don’t have to be good. If you can’t be No. 1, it’s not helpful to be No. 2. In fact, if you’re bad at it, you’ll find a lot more to talk about, write about and help with.
For example: My audience is 90 percent gym owners. I own a gym. I was really bad at owning a gym. That gave me lots of problems to solve, so I had lots to talk about. My first four years of blogging were filled with my own problems and mistakes.
If you want to help people with weight loss, you need to lose some weight. If you’ve never needed to lose weight, this might not be the niche audience for you. You need to get close to their pain (that’s another Todd Herman quote).
3. Think about the biggest problems YOU have.
Then start producing content about them. Approach content marketing with this mindset: “If this can help just one other person … .” Then share your story and your struggles. Don’t try for perfect; try for consistency. Publish every day.
4. Win an existing audience.
Figure out where people in your niche congregate and start sharing your stories with them. Social media is the greatest gift to our generation for this reason: Never before have we had an amplifier this powerful. Never before have we been able to have a two-way conversation with the people who hear about us. Billboards, TV and the Yellow Pages were a monologue. Now we have a conversation.
My audience grew rapidly when I found Facebook groups full of affiliate owners. But even before that, I attracted an audience by helping and sharing on CrossFit.com message boards, Yahoo discussion groups and Reddit.
5. Build an audience from scratch.
Publish every day. Share your stories on your personal social profile. Add people to your audience one at a time. Before social media, this took decades. Now it takes a few months, but only if you have real content to share. Instagram videos, Facebook posts—these don’t count. You need long-form media, like blog posts, YouTube videos or podcasts.
6. Pay for it.
I spend $10,000-$15,000 per month on Facebook and Instagram ads. The ads put people on my email list so we can have a conversation. You can do this, too—but start with the free stuff first. I made my first few millions doing only the free stuff.
The Wrong Ways to Build an Audience
1. Steal it.
In late 2019, I removed two mentors from the team. They just didn’t meet our high standard, and I didn’t think they’d pass our Mentor Certification criteria when it became mandatory in January.
When they left, they copied 6,000 email addresses and started selling “sales and marketing” to the people on that list. But it mostly backfired: Over 50 people immediately complained. Some accused them of stealing ad copy, pictures and text from their websites. Though they probably earned a few bucks, the long-term result will be a net negative: They’re facing legal action and audience backlash.
2. Bait it and trap it.
Believe it or not, some industry “consultants” actually advise people to attack others online. We’re sometimes trolled by newcomers trying to attract our audience. They try to bait us with ridiculous attacks. Some members of our audience are actually curious enough to click on their profiles … and they invariably tell us they regret paying attention to the attackers.
This is a really poor long-term strategy. If you want to make a quick buck, it might work to be “not them.” But you can’t build an enduring business by tearing another business down.
3. Buy it.
Yes, you can pay for 20,000 Instagram followers. But it’s a waste of money. You’ll dilute your message in a huge ocean with no fish.
Pain and Proximity
The best way to build an audience?
In the words of Todd Herman again, “You have to get close to the pain and stay close to the pain.”
Todd doesn’t need to be an entrepreneur anymore. But if he’s going to keep speaking to entrepreneurs and mentoring entrepreneurs, he can’t just try to “find their pain points.” He has to know their pain to be powerful.
That’s why I still own a gym.