I'm trying to explain to a friend about building an audience before the product is built ... even while still designing the application.
Examples of this might include, opening social media accounts and/or a blog, and start adding value to the world immediately, then when your product is complete, you've already built your engaged audience.
Unfortunately, he doesn't really 'get it' and asked for an example of a company doing this. Fair enough, but even though I've seen it done before, when he asked, I kind of drew a blank.
Can anybody provide an example of a company which is currently building an audience even though they don't currently have a product yet?
One of the companies that in the last week sort of caused a twitter storm is http://dabble.in/ @wedabble in our office at least 4 people were signing up and interacting with them, without a clue about what the "product" was going to be.
They have followed a simple and now becoming a tried and tested method:
My feeling is that the only way to do it is to have an audience via another capacity.
What I mean is if you have already been a successful entrepreneur, or have done something extraordinary, people will wait with anticipation for your next thing. That way you can give small previews and teasers.
But most people have not done anything that extraordinary to make others await with anticipation. For that reason, only very few people can get an audience without a product.
In fact, even with a product, most people still can not get any decent amount of attention. :)
Because you need to open up a dialog with people who may actually pay for this software. You sit in a social situation and an accountant friend mentions how horrible the sofware they have to work with is because it lacks a particular feature. The typical programmer with aspirations of being an entreprenuer has bells go off in their head and runs home and builds some application. A month later, you show it to your accounting friend and they reluctantly inform you that your application is not what they had in mind. What a waste. You could have drawn the main screen on a napkin and they would have pointed you into another direction.
At balsamic, they even blogged about getting the company incorporated and other steps before going live.