Building an Audience from Nothing


I was thinking the other day about the difficulties we experience when we’re trying to start our own business, and one of those difficulties is building an audience from nothing.

As entrepreneurs, we approach roadblocks, experience detours and even hit dead ends. These things not only ensure we’re as strong as we can possibly be; they also ensure that our business is the best it can be.

Lucky for us, there are a lot of guides and resources available that can help us avoid some of these things, or that can help us move past them quicker than normal.

I hope this post serves as one of those resources for you when it comes to building an audience from nothing.

When you’re building an audience from nothing, a roadblock might represent defining your avatar: you can’t proceed without one.

When you’re building an audience from nothing, a detour might represent your journey to finding where your audience is and how you can reach them.

When you’re building an audience from nothing, a dead end might represent the realization that your content, products or services don’t solve the pain point your audience has.

I have some good news for you: just like when you’re driving in a car, there is always the opportunity to correct course – to see that roadblock up ahead and turn before you’re stuck for an hour; to know what those alternate routes are, or what signs to look for when you have to take a detour; to know how easy it is to make a u turn at the dead end and find your way again.

Here are some of the steps you can take today to start building your audience and avoid the roadblocks, detours and dead ends mentioned above.

Defining Your Avatar

Defining your avatar is what helps create the foundation for your audience to grow. If you are not talking to a very specific person with wants, desires and needs, then you run the risk of talking to no one.

Before you start trying to build your audience, be sure you know who that audience is made up of. Not generally speaking – be specific. It’s a person, they have a name, they are a certain age, and they have hobbies and interests.

Really define them.

Finding (and Reaching) Your Target Audience

In order to find (and reach) your target audience, you must have a niche.

Let’s say I’m going to start a blog for “people who want to lose weight”. There are millions upon millions of “people who want to lose weight”, right? Therefore, my blog will do very well.  And because there are so many people in this category, it’ll be really easy to find them.


How do you find (and reach) “people who want to lose weight”? What makes finding and reaching these people so difficult is the fact that they could be a 16 year-old girl, a 45 year-old man, or a 80 year-old couple. And they could listen to the radio, not have Internet access, or never watch TV. Doesn’t sound like a very easy market to target, does it? That’s because you’re not talking to a specific person.

But what if your blog was still for people who want to lose weight, but it was focused on young women around age 30 who are pregnant (or who plan to be pregnant) and want to be sure they are staying healthy during their pregnancy and are able to lose the weight they gained during their pregnancy quickly and safely after they give birth?

Wow, suddenly it became a lot easier to find and reach my target audience! I can easily target these women by joining niche groups online that support pregnant women; or niche groups online that support female fitness for women in their 30’s.

You’re not going to be speaking to everyone in these groups. Of course there will be a certain percentage of women in the pregnant online community who don’t need help staying healthy during their pregnancy or with losing the weight afterwards. Likewise, not everyone in the fitness group for women in their 30’s is going to be pregnant.

That’s the point, though. You don’t want to talk to everyone – you want to talk to someone. You will resonate with people in those niche groups, and you will be talking directly to your target audience.

Another great way to reach your target audience is to find blogs or online resources that women in their 30’s who are pregnant frequent.

What about a “mommy blog”, or a website like Babies R Us? Guest posting opportunities or appearances on podcasts are also a great way to get your name out there and reach an audience who will resonate with your content, but who might not know about your business yet.

Creating Content, Products and Services for Your Audience

Creating the right type of content for your audience starts with knowing who your avatar is. What types of things does your avatar want to know about? What can you provide them with that will be of value to them that they can’t find anywhere else?

Creating the right type of content isn’t necessarily always something that is totally obvious just as soon as you define your avatar, though. What comes next is testing your content to see what it is your audience likes and what they don’t like.

A great way to test your content is to keep track of analytics, like page visits to one blog post vs. another, or social engagement when you post about a particular topic. Just be sure you’re setting your criteria prior to testing and analyzing your numbers.

An example of this might be if you’re testing content by the number of page visits to one blog post vs. another, then be sure the posts were published on the same day of the week, at the same time, and that you marketed them in the same ways (via Facebook, Twitter, etc.) This will eliminate any variables.

Creating the right products and services for your audience comes through surveys and simply listening to them. What are they asking you for? What is their biggest pain point?

Once you hear what they’re looking for and what their biggest pain point is, you need to determine what product or service you can create to fill that need, or to solve that pain for them.

An example might be something like this:

You write a blog post about the types of exercises you can do after giving birth to help get back into shape fast. Your readers love it, and they leave comments letting you know how helpful it was.

There are also a couple of comments from women who loved the content, but they also say they wish they had a visual, step-by-step card that they could carry around with them with the exercises on it that you talk about.

Ding, ding, ding! What are you waiting for? Go create that card and have it as a free, downloadable gift for those who sign up for your email list!

Okay, so you might be thinking to yourself right now, “Wait a minute – give it away for free?

The best way to grow your library of products and services is to listen to what your audience wants and needs, and then give them something of value that will help them for free.

When you’re building an audience from nothing, you have to provide value first. When you do this, you will notice that your audience likes it when you help them. And what happens when your audience likes you? They keep coming back to you for more information. They start to view you as an authority in your niche. They start to like you… They even start to trust you.

Building all of these things: a loyal following, authority, an audience who feels like they know, like and trust you – this is when social proof and word of mouth start a snowball effect for you. Suddenly, you’re not stressed out about where and how you’re going to find your audience – you audience is actually going to start finding you.

It’s when you have a loyal following who knows, likes and trusts you that you can start offering them products and services that are so valuable to them that they’ll pay you for them.

As entrepreneurs, we approach roadblocks, experience detours and even hit dead ends. The steps I’ve laid out above are meant to help you grow your audience from nothing and hopefully avoid running into the roadblocks, detours and dead ends in the process.

This isn’t say it won’t be difficult: building an audience from nothing isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would do it.


This guest post was written by Kate Erickson, Content & Community Manager at Entrepreneur on Fire


Kate Erickson

Content Creator and Community Manager for EntrepreneurOnFire.

Ready to connect? Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest |Google


  1. Yet again a practical blueprint from Kate! If there are any experts on building a massive audience from nothing, they are our friends at EOFire. My question, and one that my clients ask, is as you are producing all of this awesome content and building your tribe, what metrics should you measure to stay motivated? What key areas can you look to in order to keep your head in the game for the long-haul?

    • Hi Amber! Great question, and I think this varies depending on the type of business you’re running. For example, if you’re running a podcast, then you’re probably very focused on your ranking in iTunes or your # of downloads. Sometimes, that ranking or those download #s might not be right where you want them; but what about the engagement and support you might be getting from your fans on Facebook, or even via email? We naturally tend to focus on the bigger metrics as a way to judge ourselves and what we’re creating. But sometimes, the best part might be that “thank you” waiting in your inbox – this lets you know that you are reaching people.
      Another way you can keep you head in the game for the long-haul is to set SMART goals, which I’m sure you (and your clients) are very familiar with 🙂 Really focusing on those goals and where you want to be can be a huge help in getting you through the interim. Know that every minute of work that you put in every day is bringing you one step closer to where you want to be – draw charts, keep tallies, cross off days on your calendar – do whatever it takes to show yourself that you’re making some kind of progress towards a goal. Overnight successes don’t happen overnight.

    • Amber, I absolutely agree that the experts of audience building are John at Kate from Entrepreneur on Fire; taking a podcast from scratch to over 500 000 downloads a month in a year, not to mention the rest of their brand.

  2. Very Interesting piece, I like especially what you say about targeting your audience, many people try and be everything to everyone and end up not saying anything at all.

    • Phillip, thank you! It’s so true. I know from personally experience what that does to a business: it stops you before you can even begin. You simply cannot be everything to everyone, and until you can accept that, you will not be progressing. Appreciate the comment!

  3. Great post Kate, and Christine! Pretty cool resource for people who want to build an audience from nothing! I often speak to people who want to have their own business but they just don’t feel like they have enough experience to add enough value to enough people, yet I don’t believe you and John had a doctorate in entrepreneurship but you found a need and an avatar and with working with others you were able to fill that! Keep it up loving the blog so far Christine! You continue to have some great guests!

  4. Christine, thank you so much for helping me share this post with your audience! It was a pleasure to write for The Entrepreneur Speaks!

  5. An outstanding “How-To” guide, thanks Kate!

    I enjoyed it all, here’s my favorite: “It’s when you have a loyal following who knows, likes and trusts you that you can start offering them products and services that are so valuable to them that they’ll pay you for them.”

    Anyone with or wanting to start an internet business will surely reap a huge benefit from the wisdom you shared!

    • Dean, I agree that Kate did provide us with an outstanding “How-to” guide. I love your quote, because I think it is so tempting for new business owners to try and monetize before they have built that trust with their audience, and then fall by the wayside.

      • Dean, Christine – you’re both right on! It’s hard to watch as businesses continue to offer products to an audience that hasn’t been identified, and to “followers” who don’t exist. I know what it feels like because I’ve done it before. It doesn’t feel good, and it certainly doesn’t get you anywhere! Start by providing value first, and when you think you’ve provided enough, then provide some more. Thanks!

  6. Great post Kate and so agree about really defining that Avatar and talking to them every step of the way to really make sure they’re finding value in what you have to offer.

    Thinking back to when you and John started I remember how you guys were everywhere. John would be on Linkedin posing questions in his group and answering. I remember the weekend question podcast and how that shifted. You surely preach what you post. Great tips 🙂

    • I agree Michael. John also had a very clear avatar of the person doing the commute and wanting the inspiration that his podcast would bring. Their openness and accountability continue to inspire today. Glad you liked the post and hope you find the tips helpful.

    • The weekend question podcast! Wow – thanks for bringing me back, Michael! 🙂 Finding an Avatar is very difficult sometimes. People think that because they’re stuck on it, it’s okay to just move on to the next step – they hope that by moving on they’ll just discover who their Avatar is along the way. This is not a step that can be skipped, and I hope that’s something those who are just starting out will take away from this post. Thanks for the comment!

  7. Wow Kate! Thank you for this amazing guide. Sometimes it is hard when it feels like there isn’t a following, but your post helps to reinforce that there is hope and with good content it too will come.

    • Celeste, there is hope and many have said that perseverance is the key. Your brand is certainly gaining traction and encouraging many to apply for scholarships etc, so I hope you are able to use some of the tips in this post as you continue your journey.

    • Celest – I definitely understand how not be able to actually SEE a following can be tough. Whether it be via the number of downloads your podcast has, or how many fans you have on Facebook, or even visits to your website – these are all things we can see in front of us. But sometimes – especially in the beginning – it takes relying on those non-metric-based reinforcers, like emails and comments from those who we ARE reaching and who ARE finding value in the content you provide (like I was telling Amber above). Keep providing value, and those millions of people who are seeking help with sending their kids to college and having them come out on the other end debt free will be there waiting to thank you for helping them change theirs – and their children’s – lives.

  8. This is great Kate! Thanks for writing this. It is really important to keep talking to your audience and allow things to snowball from there. They’ll provide those ideas that are so hard to come by at times. Thanks for the post!!

  9. This is so relevant to where I am on my journey right now. Every time I think I’ve niched enough, someone like Kate comes along and says “You’re not niched enough!”

    It’s so true! I will take your guidance to heart Kate. I will niche until I know the blood type of my avatar! Seriously though, this is golden information, thank you!

  10. Paul – I love it! As John would say, “Niche until it hurts!” Glad this post proved relevant to your journey; I hope it will help you finally find that niche you’re looking for!

  11. Very nice. I can see the value of joining groups that my target market would be in and becoming a valuable part of their communities. In business we always have to give before expecting something back, just like in relationships (oh yeah, business is relationships!).

  12. What’s great about this post is that you are making the idea of a “niche” really concrete and do-able. People talk about having a niche in mind for a blog or website, but this outlines what it actually means to think about your audience and content and keep a specific focus.

    I think a lot of people worry about being “too specific” in their writing and not appealing to a wide enough audience, but it’s in specificity where we can find an important strength as writers.

    • Thank you so much Mandy, I’m glad you found the section on the idea of a niche helpful. You’re so right: it’s very easy to feel as though you’re being too specific – all you want to do is reach a wider audience – but I believe you really can’t ever be too specific, especially when you’re first starting out. Thanks for your comment here!

  13. Thanks Kate for the brilliant advice, always love reading your material. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I’ll definitely be taking some pointers from this article as I move forward. Again, thanks for the great write up!

  14. Great Article Kate! I love all the information that is presented on audience targeting. Lots of great information!


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