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Build your audience before you build your business

Imagine if there was a less risky approach to entrepreneurship. An approach where you were sure you could market your products before you started developing them. And where you didn’t need massive investment before you got started. Actually, there is. The Content Inc. approach is being used by more and more entrepreneurs who are building an audience with targeted and regular content before they develop the product.

Joakim Ditlev is Denmark’s leading content marketing specialist. He has a background as a marketing executive in international startups and has been an independent consultant at Content Marketing DK since 2011. Joakim is the author of the Content Marketing Book and has published Content Inc. as a Danish audiobook.

You can have the best product in the world. But what’s the point if you have no demand. There are numerous examples of startups that have focused too much on building the perfect app, the perfect platform or the perfect product – and too little on creating demand and revenue. Expensive, risky and with dashed dreams as a result.

So how do you get beyond that risk?

It starts with changing the notion that a startup should sit in the garage and invent a breakthrough product. A lot of startups start somewhere else; they find a gap in the market where a particular audience needs knowledge, continuously fill the gap with valuable content and build an audience to which they can later sell related products. Development takes place in close relationship with the audience, which trusts the company as a sender. Parades are down when products are ready for sale.

US marketing expert Joe Pulizzi has explored this content-based approach to entrepreneurship. Based on this, he has created the Content Inc. model, which shows step by step the steps to follow.

Meet a Danish content entrepreneur

Content Inc. is also the name of a book that has just been released as a Danish audiobook. One of the Danish startups featured is the cosmetics company Miild. It was started by two young make-up artists, Tanja and Tine, who both suffered from severe allergies after being in daily contact with make-up.

So they set themselves a goal: to create the world’s first hypoallergenic and sustainable cosmetic products.

They took users on that journey through the blog, which was later boosted by huge engagement on Instagram, where they now have around 37,000 followers. With regular content talking about the cosmetics industry, the limitations of not using nickel and cobalt in cosmetic products and then of course beauty tips, they have built trust with the target audience while the products were being developed. And it worked. The first products were launched in 2017, and Miild had to sell out as many as five times.

Content and product development have gone hand in hand. Today, Miild has 18 employees, is present on even more channels and announced in spring 2020 that it had sold 40% of the business to Matas. They still run on as an independent brand and business unit.

Read more:

The seven steps of the Content Inc. model

If you want to go the same way as Tanja and Tine in your specialist area, the Content Inc. model suggests this sequence:

  1. Find your sweet spot. What do you have special skills or knowledge in that overlaps with audience challenges?
  2. Find your tilt. There is so much content out there. How can you tell your story in a way where there’s no competition?
  3. Build the base. Choose one – and only one – channel to start with, where you regularly publish content.
  4. Build the audience. Use social media or SEO to attract more visibility, which you convert into regular subscribers.
  5. Generate revenue. Figure out ways you can generate revenue and start offering it to your audience. If your relationships are strong enough, they will tell you what they want and what they don’t want.
  6. Build on with more content channels, business areas or markets.
  7. Sell or wax. Get ready to grow the business further or sell it once you’ve reached your goal.

If you want to get started, start with the latter: Set a goal for the business you want to create, like Tanja and Tine did with their cosmetics business. You’ll find it easier to bring your future customers along on the journey, and you can make decisions along the way based on whether it helps you reach your goal. In other words, it’s about making strategic choices.

Remember to be patient

But be aware that it takes time to succeed with the Content Inc. approach. The startups that dedicate all their time to producing content and building audiences find that it takes a minimum of 18 months from startup to revenue. So it’s not a fixed-money approach. In return, they gain valuable relationships and high levels of loyalty from their audience if they are persistent and create value.

If you want to hear about more startups that build audiences before launching products, you can hear about them by searching “Content Inc.” where you listen to audiobooks. You can also read more about the approach at

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