Sahil Bloom is an investor, creator, and entrepreneur. With over 250.000 people that subscribed to his Newsletter, 846K following him on Twitter, more than 170K on Linkedin, and 170K+ on Instagram, I’m still thinking if he is more as a creator.
But before all of these great and big numbers, Sahill was a Stanford pitcher that led the baseball team to 2 regional championships and made his step into a large investment funding, managing >$3.5 Billion in capital and serving on the board of 4 big companies.
But then COVID hit, and all the good marketing and business can start now. Because Sahil couldn’t spend his time on the road and in meetings, he had, like anyone else, a lot of free time for himself.
People around him were asking for financial advice, business ideas, and other investment insights, so he started writing for his few 3K followers on Twitter in May 2020.
And then boom…the rest is history.
But no, the rest is not history. Because we all see just the top of the iceberg, with the big audience, where he now can get brands to sponsor his Newsletter, invest in different companies, own an agency and speak to other conferences, write a book, and be on the top of the mountain.
Sahil understood 3 essential things:
- Building an audience needs consistency and putting hard work.
- Leverage the platform where the audience is spending time.
- Understanding the audience to create products they would love to consume and buy.
And this is the power of the “Audience first. Product next.” framework.
And yes, it looks like Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle from his book “Start With Why” because he inspired me with this one.
After watching again that TEDx video “Start with why – how great leaders inspire action” published 14 years ago, I was thinking about…but what about the other 3 questions in the world that we are living right now.
WHY, HOW, and WHAT matters at the beginning of your journey, but then you must take it to the next step.
So I was thinking about marketers, creators, organizations, content, and all these characteristics building around us. What do the unique new brands have in common? What do the awesome creators have in common? What some marketers understood better than other marketers?
Answer: all the other 3 questions
WHO – refers to the audience.
Build an audience first to understand their needs, desires, and struggles. Understanding WHO you serve will differentiate the brand in the overcrowded system.
WHERE – the platform where you build your audience
Choose the platforms where you serve your audience. The platform where they spend their time-consuming content and engage with like-minded people.
WHICH – which problem do you solve to create a product
Building the audience on a specific platform will help you understand their problem so you can come up with a solution that eventually can be a product or a service.
Back in the day, it was easy to create a product and gather everybody to see what it was about, buy it, and talk about it. But today, the market is very competitive. Everybody is fighting for attention, and we need to work smart.
This is the modern approach to building a brand today: audience first, product next.
Now let’s get deeper into this framework.
Step 1: WHO – Define your audience (Who will you serve?)
Because we are living in a world where everybody wants their audience’s attention.
Brands want their audience’s attention and to make them consume their content, product, and services. Social networks are fighting to get their audience’s attention and spend more time on their platforms. Creators create content to reach their audience’s attention.
And we are all fighting for audience attention because attention is today’s currency.
But the most intelligent person in the room understands that attracting the audience’s attention is not enough. We also need to build that attention, maintain that attention, and at the end of the day, convert that attention into subscribers, sales, or community members.
It’s not enough to attract attention.
That’s why Sahil didn’t stop building an audience on Twitter. Why? Because it’s not his audience. It’s Twitter’s audience, and it’s a rented audience.
As Joe Pulizzi said: “Don’t build your content business on rented land.”
Sahil understood that his audience is spending more time on Twitter, trying to figure out how to solve business, financial, and health problems. So he started creating content to attract that audience’s attention to his content.
Amanda Natividad recommends we should define our audience persona is much better than having a buyer persona.
But he didn’t stop there. Because he then made the next step that many of these creators don’t do: build and convert that attention into his newsletter subscribers.
Sahil understood that he needed to connect directly with his audience without being affected by a third-party platform he couldn’t control.
Step 2: Where – The Platform (Where do you serve them?)
What I like about Sahil’s approach is that he wasn’t present on every platform at the beginning. He created a system that can attract and build attention on a platform that is discovering him, and then he moved that audience to a platform that he can control.
His system was straightforward:
- Step 1 → Attract and build attention with Twitter
- Step 2 → Maintain and convert attention to Newsletter
It’s so easy that anyone can do it, right? But guess what? It was in 2020 when Twitter threads were a thing, and people could get more attention on the platform because it was something new.
These 2 easy steps required a lot of hard work (consistently creating exciting content that can be shareable) and connecting with other creators (engaging, replying, building, and positioning his name).
But can brands/organizations replicate what Sahil’s done to build an audience?
Yes. But from a different perspective. It’s not just creating content and sharing it across all your channels.
Because we are living in a world where creators matter more than content.
I love what Jay Acunzo said in one of his Linkedin posts:
Because creators can easily connect with the audience. Why? Communicating from person to person is much more valuable than communicating from person to brand.
Even Google launched their E-A-T ranking factor for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Authorship gets more and more important in this abundance of content creation.
Sahil had the expertise and authority to talk about the topics that build his audience and earn trust by showing up daily with new, interesting, and engaging content.
That’s why I even believe that creators will be even more important than brands.
So that’s why platforms are creating different features, and they are investing so much in content creators because they are the ones that can make the audience stay on the platform and consume it.
That’s why Sahil didn’t take the classic approach. He did the opposite. He is putting the audience first, then the product second.
And now that the audience is built on a specific platform, creating a product is much easier.
Step 3 – The Product (Which problem will you solve?)
I chose the “Which” question because we can’t solve every problem for our audience. Because they are different persons with different contexts, living in other places with varying seasons of their lives. But the one thing that connects them helps you gather them together.
Your next step in this framework is to talk with the audience.
Don’t get me wrong: Don’t talk TO your audience. Talk WITH the audience.
I love how Katelyn Bourgoin said it so simply in a Tweet: “PSA: Whoever gets closer to the customer wins.”
That means just talking with them. Find out what are their biggest problem. Ask them how you can help them. Gather all the information you can so you can see the common issues that your audience has.
And from there, you can set up goals and objectives to create a product or a service that will help your audience in the first place.
This is the modern approach to building a brand today: audience first, the product next.
The people who understand their audience’s needs will be the most successful.
And now, Sahil continues to build his audience on several other platforms, and maybe one day he will be the president of the USA because he leverages the power of the “Audience first. Product next” framework.