A New Marketing Strategy: Building in Public

Building in Public
John Hernandez
Written by John Hernandez
09-22-2021
5m
Ideas & trends

There are a hundred marketing tactics and strategies that we can use to grow our brand. We’ve covered many of them on Profit Frog and how you can use them to your advantage. When we’re starting, sometimes we have to operate on a shoestring budget. How do we run a bootstrapped campaign with limited funds?

In recent years Building in Public has become a popular and effective marketing strategy. Kevon Cheung’s authoritative piece called Building in Public Definitive Guide defines it as “…building a company, a product, or anything and sharing a lot of the transparent ‘behind the scenes’ with its public audience.” Traditionally, business owners and marketers use email, social media, and their websites to do it.

It sounds straight forward but there are real benefits to the strategy to sharing the behind the scenes of your developing product or business.

1. You invite others to the conversation.

When you share what’s going on, you invite people who could one day be future customers. You also invite like-minded business owners and establish a network for potential partnerships. Your audience helps build your business.

2. You build interest and a following.

Word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective strategy but the most difficult to implement. Building in Public creates the environment for successful word-of-mouth. As others get excited about what you are developing, they spread the word and tell others. You also increase your following and audience, creating a bigger reach.

3. You nurture an audience.

As you Build in Public, your audience gets to know your brand, mission, and the value you offer. You are educating and nurturing them from day one. When it’s time for launch, they are waiting to buy.

4. On opening day, you have a bigger line.

How many times do we see a business open to the sound of crickets? Building in Public helps prevent that and increases the chances for a big grand opening day. Through early sign-ups and pre-orders, you already have a customer base. When the doors open, you’ve generated enough buzz for excitement and action.

Now that we know the benefits, how do we Build in Public?

Building in Public is a strategy. Its tactics vary in the hundreds. There are many creative ways to do it and it depends on your industry, audience, and product. But here are the core principles you can adopt to develop your strategy today.

Take Detailed Notes

The heart of Building in Public is sharing detailed information. These are things that are hard to find anywhere else. It’s the gold of your journey. Sharing exclusive information sets you apart from any podcast or book in the market.

Document everything. Make sure you keep it organized. Identify the information you want to communicate to others early on. For any notes that you don’t need right away, you can use them in the future or even create a new informational product out of them.

Customers and industry peers like to see screenshots and processes on how you got from where you are — in real-time. When future customers notice your posts or emails, they’ll get to know the heart of the company, the hard work to get there, and the value they can expect when they choose you.

Have a Continuous Conversation

Building in Public isn’t about shouting what’s going on. It’s about connecting with others and having a conversation throughout the process. Let’s say your team had to overcome a struggle to develop a feature or solution. Share the problem and how you solved it. Then ask for feedback and invite people into the conversation.

This technique is a classic Build in Public method to increase engagement and to get to know your audience. When they get involved, they are more invested in your brand. When it’s time to launch the product, new addition, or company, they are ready to join you.

Think of ways you can start a conversation. An easy way to start is by asking the public their opinion on multiple options of a design or decision your team is currently working through.

Share Real Numbers

It’s always better to show, not tell. The best way we can do that is by being as transparent as possible. Everyone has different levels of comfort in what they want to share with the public, but we encourage you to stretch that limit more than you’re used to.

The more transparent you are, the more likely you’ll connect with an audience. The stronger you do, the more powerful it resonates with them, increasing the chance they’ll share the message with others.

Real numbers can be revenue, expenses, social media growth and engagement, subscribers, and more. Share the growth or struggle; the interpretation and plan you develop from them.

Share Failures and Lessons Learned

It’s easy to share the wins. It’s much harder to share the losses. While wins might generate buzz and boost our ego, sharing failures tend to connect the strongest with people.

Not only do you resonate with the audience, but you also create valuable lessons and insights others can use. They share your work with others in the industry, increasing awareness. For customers, they see the hard work and dedication you put into the product or business and will come to appreciate it more.

This is also a great pre-cursor to healthy and vibrant workplace culture. When your employees are happy, your customers will be too.

Provide a Call to Action

Building in Public can get a lot of reach and engagement but it’s all for nothing if everyone disappears after. You want to build a passionate community around your brand and utilize the potential it has to deliver value based on your current journey.

Invite people to sign up for an email list. They can be incentivized with a promise that they will be the first to experience your product or service. Or you can offer a free ebook or something they would love to have.

By building a list, you set up your audience for your launch. This is very direct and can be more effective than other platforms and mediums. Work hard to keep them engaged with value through an email strategy filled with updates and in the spirit of Building in Public.

Identify Superfans and Future Early Adopters

As you start Building in Public, you’ll notice fans that are excited about your potential. These people cannot be ignored and you should have an effective strategy to nurture them and add value to each one. These will be your superfans.

Superfans become early adopters and become your biggest brand advocates. You need this in word-of-mouth marketing and connecting with your superfans is a vital step to make it happen.

Malcolm Gladwell describes the power of a dedicated audience in The Tipping Point, stating “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Invest in your superfans and use the Building in Public strategy to find them.

A Case Study: Ben Putano

Putano’s book campaign is a great example of building in public. He started out building his personal brand on Twitter from scratch fairly recently. He wanted to use his experience as a founder of an online agency and his craft of writing, to impact business owners.

His book, Great Founders Write, would do just that. It’s currently in the pre-launch stage of the campaign but it has created buzz and results already. Through Ben’s marketing efforts, he has future buyers and readers lined up on Twitter and his email list.

How did he do it? Like most of us, Ben faced a few real challenges. He has limited reach, he is breaking into the author/book world, and he’s introducing a new concept to his audience. He’s also working with a budget.

By leveraging Building In Public strategies, he has overcome those challenges. Ben started by tweeting and posting on themes relating to his book. He announced it and told others about his desire to help founders communicate their wisdom.

Ben’s strategy took off when he ran a book cover design contest. Instead of picking a book design and announcing it, he decided to bring it to the public so they could be a part of it.

He ran a poll of over 10 designs to see which one resonated the most. This got thousands of views and many participants involved. Not only did people personally invest in the campaign, but it also grew his email list.

In the end, he chose a favorite public choice but not the winner. He brought his decision-making technique to the public as well, explaining the thought process.

Ben Putano - building public

Building in Public

These are the first few tweets of a long Twitter Thread for Ben’s book design contest.

This is a great example of Building in Public. Not only has Ben crowdsourced his ideas, but he has built momentum on his book before it’s even published.

———

Today, you can utilize the Build in Public strategy whether you are starting a new business, introducing a new product, or adding a new feature or solution. It’s very effective and works with any budget and has the potential to produce massive results.

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