Audience, Community and Business #21 #cong19


Community is the next level up from building an audience, but it is more fragile and needs to be nurtured and pruned.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. An Audience is hugely valuable to an organisation.
  2. Community is the next level up from an Audience, but it is difficult to build and grow.
  3. You need to nuture and prune, and you may even need to seed your Community.
  4. You should consider who your community members are when choosing where to host the community.

About Alastair McDermott:

I help independent consultants & specialized consulting firms to get better quality leads from your website & online marketing. Does your website suck and your web designer hate you? Find out why by joining my email list at

Contacting Alastair McDermott:

You can connect with Alastair on Twitter or Marketing for Consultants or Websites for Consultants.


By Alastair McDermott

Audience, Community and Business

Building an Audience

In the world of business, quite often we’ll talk about building an audience. That’s a group of people who will consume our content, and includes existing customers, prospective customers, and sometimes even peers and employees. In marketing, having a bigger audience generally means there are more of those prospective customers, and so we want to grow that audience as much as possible.

Audience members are typically not aware of each other, unless you refer to individuals’ stories in your content. You can segment your audience, and communicate with the various segments in different ways to give them more relevant content and connect better with them. You can even get them engaging with you, promoting replies by asking questions and requesting feedback.

I think that building your audience is crucial for any organisation that wants to grow. I’m trying to do that continuously for my own business: my “12 Week Year” spreadsheet includes a tracking column for the number of subscribers I have on my email list[1]. This is one of the most important numbers in my business – these people have actively decided they want to hear from me.

Community is the next level.

Community is where your audience members start to connect with each other and have conversations directly without going through you. It goes from being a one-to-many broadcast, to being a many-to-many conversation. Your audience is now engaging both with you and with each other – they are now content creators and contributors.

They will often have a shared identity and a shared language. Community engagement rates can be much higher than traditional social media. When members are engaged in a community they are building deep relationships with each other as well as you. Seth Godin calls them a “Tribe”, and Kevin Kelly talks about the concept of “1,000 True Fans”. Your community members will back you to the hilt if you treat them right.

Taking Care of Your Community

A community is a more fragile entity than an audience. You need to nurture it and help it develop. Initially, you may need to seed conversation – there are many abandoned communities where the owners never got initial momentum. Some large communities like Reddit actually created fake accounts[2] to ask and answer questions in order to look like a larger, busier community.

A very popular forum here in Ireland is – it started out with a pre-existing community of 100+ Quake players who needed somewhere to talk online and organise matches – a shared identity and language. Having that initial group created momentum that ended up creating a community with hundreds of thousands of users, and these “boardsies” developed their own identity and language and have mostly forgotten their Quake origins.

As well as nurturing, you also need to prune. You need rules or guidelines, and you need to be proactive about removing bad actors from the group – the good folks will really appreciate that you’re taking care of their experience.

Talking to the community and asking for feedback is always a good idea. If you’re doing things right, they will feel that the community is theirs, they’ll have a sense of ownership. When they get comfortable with the community and their identity, they will resist change, so you need to be aware of that if implementing drastic changes.

Creating Your Community

If you want to create a community, first check to make sure that you haven’t missed a fledgling community developing somewhere organically. Your audience might already have started to hang out together.

If your community has not organically self-created, then you need to to create it! The first step is deciding where to build or host the community – where it will live. Do you want to create it on a popular 3rd party platform? Beware that you are building on rented ground if you choose to to that. Or do you want to choose the more difficult route of building it on your own property?

One of the most popular choices right now is to create a Facebook Group. I recommend you ask for email address when people join, so that you can notify the community directly if you want to move later. Another popular choice in the tech world is to create a slack workspace (check out some free online slack communities on slofile[3] to see how slack works).

If you’d like to create a community on a platform you have more control over, you can use vBulletin, bbPress, XenForo and a whole slew of other options[4].

You should factor in the nature of your organisation & who your community members are when choosing where to host the community – for example, if you provide Facebook related services then your audience is probably already on that platform.

The Next Step

If you want to create your own community, Impact have a great guide to help get you started here[5]. Best of luck with it!

1. Marketing for Consultants email list

2. Reddit Fake Accounts

3. Slack Community Database

4. Community Building Software Options

5. Impact Online Community Management Guide 

Your Great Business Idea Is Completely Worthless #11 #cong18


Your great business idea is completely worthless.  Here’s what you can do about that.


4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Most “great business ideas” suck and are going to fail
  2. Validate your idea with real customers
  3. Fail as quickly as possible
  4. Iterate based on what you learned

About Alastair McDermott:

I specialize in helping consultants, speakers and published authors to increase their sales. Unlike other marketers, I focus on customer lifetime value before focusing on conversion optimisation. I’ve been building websites and software since 1996 and I blog, and make media of all kinds at WebsiteDoctor.

Contacting Alastair McDermott:

You can follow Alastair on Twitter, Facebook and his website.

By Alastair McDermott.

Have you ever heard someone at the bar say something along lines of “You see that guy making millions – I thought of that five years ago! That could be me!”

No, it couldn’t.

Because your great business idea had absolutely no value – unless you took action and implemented it.

An unimplemented business idea doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t have value until someone makes it happen.

Until you take a business idea and try and turn it into reality, you don’t really know whether it’s going to be truly valuable or not.

Implementing a business idea is the hard part. It takes time and effort, which are the easy ones, and often money and knowledge too, which can be more problematic. Often you need other people to help create the concept, explain the concept, and sell the concept. You need customers willing to open their wallets and give you their hard earned cash in exhange for your idea – implemented.

Wannabe entrepreneurs often encounter this issue: they think they have a great business idea, but they don’t want to tell anybody about it in case it’s stolen.

Here’s the truth:

1) Your idea probably sucks and is going to fail.
2) In the unlikely even that it doesn’t suck, very few people or companies are in a position to implement it.
3) Most people who could implement it are quite happily working on their own ideas, thank you very much.
4) Even if it is a good idea, and you are able to implement it, odds are still against you making a successful business from it – business is hard.

So what’s the solution? Give up?

No, not at all. What you want to do is try and fail. And fail fast. If it helps, you can call it “idea validation”, but have no doubt about this – what you’re trying to do is make the idea fail.

If it’s going to fail, you want it to fail fast – in fact you want it to fail as fast as possible, so that you can learn from it and test your next idea without having sunk too much time.

Testing a business idea is simple. First, you need to ignore what your family and friends tell you. Sorry, but they’re either way too positive, or way too negative for this. You need something a lot more reliable: a potential customer.

Create a working prototype, or a quick mockup. Or just explain the concept verbally.

Take this concept to real potential buyers. Explain it. Ask them for feedback and implement their suggestions. Then ask them to buy. If it’s not ready, make them a pre-sale offer.

(This is not as hard as it sounds – you’ve seen a thousand companies doing this on KickStarter. Book publishers have been doing it for years.)

If no one is biting, you need to change and iterate.

The trap.

There’s a big trap that you might fall into here (I did): “perfect is the enemy of the good”.

Do not worry about perfecting your product before you expose it to the market. If you wait to show it while you’re tweaking and polishing, you’re wasting time and resources. Speed of execution is key. Being too slow, or worse, stuck in analysis paralysis, will kill your idea and your enthusiasm.

My biggest failure.

SelfAssemblySites was a video training membership site I launched with my business partner in 2011. It was a site that taught website owners how to build and maintain their own websites with WordPress. It had over 100 training videos with how-to’s on every aspect of the process.

If you build it they will come.

MVP (Minimal Viable Product) was the exact opposite of what we did. We took the “if you build it they will come” approach. In fact, our product had bells and whistles with their own bells and whistles. When our competitors had 12 pieces of flare, we had over 100. We had automatic video resizing based on user preference and bandwidth levels, even audio-only versions of all content available to download.

We had a huge forum with subsections and further subsections, most of it populated with great questions and answers relevant to to the topic. We spent a long time on deciding the best ways to categorize and navigate the content. If at any point where there was a choice between me adding or improving a feature, vs promoting the product, we chose the former because what could help sell more but make a better product? (2018 me: “Testing the market, that’s what!”)

This “if you build it they will come” approach had a whole heap of effects and side-effects. One was that we spent so much time on product development that after the eventual launch I was near burn-out and didn’t have as much endurance to stick to it when the going got tough. The delay to the launch meant a shorter “runway” to work with before we ran out of our initial personal investments.

Validate your idea with real customers.

Validate your ideas before betting the bank on them. Watch what actual users do. Start with a minimal offering and add features only where users find value. Expect to make mistakes, stay flexible (and solvent) enough to keep re-iterating until you get it right. Make sure the founders discuss their perspective on how they envision the project going and see if that’s in alignment.

Get more feedback, implement the changes, test the market again. You’re learning a whole lot about the market (and the problems they encounter), the product and yourself all the time. You’ll eventually come to the point where you know it’s time drop the idea and chose something else.

Or you’re starting to get sales and market traction – well done, you have validated your idea! Now it’s time to grow your business.