When speaking of widening your audience, one of the most important things to understand (and perhaps the most neglected) is the marketing and distribution of your product or service. Creative entrepreneurs often struggle with this problem. They keep sharing content with their small group of followers and wonder why they don’t have a successful business or why it isn’t growing as fast as they’d hoped.
According to Tom and Mike, it’s not enough to have a good product or service offering. For it to sell, ask yourself: how can I get it out to the masses? How can I widen my audience for distribution? Here they share actionable tips on how to get a wider audience and make your distribution channels more impactful.
If you are in a rush, here are the key takeaways from this article:
- Find new ponds to swim in
- Prioritise your distribution techniques
- Try and find people on a similar platform
- Be patient & focus on building authentic connections
- Utilize your media platforms
- Immerse yourself in the industry you’re trying to serve
- Ask your friends to share your content
- And finally, create less and distribute more
For all the juicy stories that Tom and Mike have never shared before, click on the topics above or keep scrolling.
Running a business on hope and goodwill is never a good idea. Tom and Mike share their experiences.
Tom confesses that like many others, he too has been guilty of not distributing his work effectively or sharing it with a new audience. When he first started his company, he was greatly inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk’s content which was all about caring for your community, building relationships and everything Mike and him are now known for. Tom befriended his first few hundred customers, spoke to them one-on-one over the phone and built deep, lasting relationships.
These customers told their friends who later told their friends, leading to his company growing organically. He relied on word-of-mouth for the success of his business. However, this led to two dangerous scenarios: first, he believed that what he had was so good, there was a vitality built into it. This was a big ask because while a lot of businesses are great, they aren’t necessarily great enough for everyone to know about. Secondly, there were a lot of promotions that he was not leveraging. So, if your business is running on the hope that your customer will talk about it to others, you don’t have complete control over your distribution and promotional strategy.
Hope is not a strategy: Mike read a sales book he found at a discount bookstore many years ago. It was called ‘Hope is Not a Strategy.’ The title of the book resonated with him because he felt like that was the sales model for his business at the time. His distribution of services was led by this idea of hope. This compelled him to shift his mindset and realise that his clients weren’t going to come to him, he was going to have to take action and find them.
Mike’s father-in-law offers some great advice: “Toot your own horn because nobody’s going to toot it for you.” Don’t be afraid to broaden your distribution channels so that your work is not limited to the three or four clients you keep going back to, hoping they will give you more work. Be aggressive and ambitious. The more you distribute your work, the more opportunities you will be exposed to.
For example: Tom collaborated with Dave Talas for an Instagram post. While he wanted to make a new one, Dave Talas was happy to share an older post. Tom spent 15 minutes chatting with him and sent him the graphic, which he later re-posted. With this post, he got two weeks worth of followers without having to create fresh content. This made him realise that if he distributed his work more efficiently, he could be getting thousands of new followers. The results were staggering – months of work condensed down to a couple of weeks.
While both have relied on hope in the past, they agree that it is a losing strategy for your business in the long-term. While making strong connections is a vital part of business and shouldn’t be neglected, it is not the only thing you should do.
If you combine your connections along with distribution, it’s like a perfect marriage.
To increase listenership for the Biz Buds Podcast, Tom and Mike brainstormed a bunch of ways they could improve their distribution. Their aim was to increase their number of downloads by 10x by the end of the year – a pretty audacious goal for any podcast. Together, they came up with about 20 ways to do this and prioritized each task by impact. With minor effort and small changes in the way they distribute, their downloads doubled overnight.
8 Actionable Tips to Increase Distribution & Get in Front of a Wider Audience
Find new ponds to swim in
To explain this further, Mike uses the analogy of a pond: If you are a fish in a pond and are swimming around, you’ll probably come across the same fish over and over again. These fish are your current clients who are already exposed to you and your work. But if you are dissatisfied with your current ‘pond’ of clients, or want to find a wider audience, then you have to try swimming in a new pond.
If you keep trying to distribute your work with the same set of people, only they will keep seeing it over and over again and maybe even tire eventually. This limits new eyeballs on your work. If you want to grow your business, you will have to find new ponds to swim in. For the other aspects of your business that don’t relate to social media, try going to a trade show event you’ve never attended before and spend two days building new relationships.
If you want to grow your business, you will need to stop distributing to the same pond you’re in. Find new ponds and build awareness around your business with new fish.
This podcast is a great example of finding new ponds: Mike gets massive exposure into Tom’s pond, and Tom gets exposure into Mike’s. They both have different audiences, but because they work on this podcast together, they often find themselves engaging with each other’s audience.
Another example: Tom’s company Design Cuts runs on a distribution model. His audience is given the opportunity to put their products on his platform, thereby using Design Cuts as a means to reach bigger, wider ponds. This allows them to sell to customers they weren’t exposed to before.
However, there is a flipside to this. When you’re too busy romancing the next potential customer, it’s easy to forget about the customers you already have. Make sure you look after your existing customers and continue to nurture that relationship with great marketing and customer service.
Prioritise your distribution techniques
Make a list of tasks for distribution and then prioritize them into low-effort, medium-effort and high-effort. Start by striking the low-effort tasks off your list. If you are recycling the pond water you’re currently in, sit down for an hour with a friend or maybe by yourself and create a list: categorize the ones that are low-effort but high impact, these are the very first ones you work on, followed medium-effort tasks and finally, high-effort tasks. Even the act of sharing your work on social media can do wonders for your product.
Order tasks from high to low priority like this: Low-effort but high impact, medium-effort, & high-effort.
For Tom, it was as simple as letting his audience know every time he released an episode via Instagram stories. When he released a new episode, he would put out a few posts on Instagram to create awareness or direct his audience to podcast episodes for answers. He realised by doing this, he was saving a lot of time and effort he would have otherwise spent on creating more content to distribute. Now that he is taking action to distribute his content intentionally, his response has doubled.
Try and find people on a similar platform
If you’re looking to grow your business or brand, try to find people who are on a similar platform because it reduces friction, and you don’t have to convince them to buy or show interest in your product/service. One of the key strategies for Tom and Mike to increase the listenership for their podcast was to appear on a bunch of podcasts with similar audiences, so that the listeners could jump to theirs from the one they were listening to, without having to switch between platforms.
For example: Tom is trying to grow his newsletter this year. Tom plans to write a few guest newsletters for people who have a similar audience as his and invite the readers to join his newsletter too via a link to his freebie. This process becomes seamless because the readers who are reading that are already subscribers to a newsletter and likes to read them, so when Tom shares his freebie with them, they will be very likely to download the freebie and subscribe to Tom’s newsletter too.
Be patient & focus on building authentic connections
Picture this: You go to a new pond and you meet one new fish, whom you spend the next three months trying to build a relationship with. Over the next year, that one new fish in that pond tells another fish about you. Now you have two fish in that pond you’ve made a connection with. In the following year, you have three fish whom you share connections with. Then, something magical happens – all of a sudden you have 15 fish in your pond. This is where the idea of exponential growth or compound growth comes into play.
You might not get exponential returns for all the marketing effort you put in. But with patience and the intention of building authentic relationships, people will respond.
Don’t try and hard sell products to your audience. Take time to build relationships, because they have a compounding growth. The more ponds you dip your feet in, the more chances you get for exponential growth. Five or seven years down the line, your business will be booming because you have built a network of different kinds of fish, who come from different kinds of ponds.
Pro-tip: Join an entrepreneur networking group in or the chamber of commerce in your city or town. You might find people interested in your product. Even if they aren’t, meeting people outside your pond and building relationships are a potential gateway to potential clients.
Utilize your media platforms
Social media platforms can be great tools for marketing and distributing your product. Use Instagram, Facebook and newsletters to distribute content effectively and expand your client base. It helps to know who you’re trying to serve, what kind of audience you want to build, and what clients you want to attract. When you laser in on that, it becomes so much easier to go where they are.
Instagram stories: Tom recommends using Instagram stories to talk about something new you’re hoping to push – be it a newsletter, podcast, product or service. Do it consistently and continuously for best results.
Feed posts: Tom was coaching a freelancer looking to build his business. He asked his student to put out a post on his feed stating that he was a freelance designer and was looking to expand his client base. In the post, he offered graphic design services like logo design, website and print material. This kind of post allowed him to reach a wider audience. The takeaway here is, don’t be afraid to take action. Try to find clients yourself instead of waiting for them to find you.
Newsletters: Sending regular newsletters to your circle is also a great way to widen distribution. For instance, Tom mentions this podcast in his newsletters. Since the readers are already fans of his work, they will be tempted to check out the podcast as well. This allows him to get his audience from one pond into another.
Facebook groups: While forums are a bit obsolete these days, but Facebook groups are still very active. Find a Facebook group that speaks about your interests and start engaging with its members.
Speaking gigs: Tom and Mike have both participated in a few speaking gigs, and they end up picking up a few fans each time. Speaking gigs allow you to demonstrate your service or product to a new set of ponds, and as a result win you potential clients. For Mike, speaking gigs have helped him build a lot of awareness about his books. Aside from his coaching, his books are the only things that help to monetize his thoughts and leadership advice. With speaking gigs he was able to widen his audience and increase distribution on his book sales.
Hand-to-hand combat: When you’re small and early in your journey and don’t have much to offer, it can be hard to leverage a large audience. Find your kind of people, even one or two, and build authentic relationships with them. Don’t pitch, don’t sell. Just talk to them, befriend them and do it at scale.
For example: Julian Rotondo has hundreds of conversations on LinkedIn with decision-makers in the sectors he wants to serve. He makes small talk with them, gets to know them, and does this at scale. As a result, a large percentage of the people he speaks to, jump into his pond and hire him.
You can do the same thing on any social media platform. Search for people who share your interests by using relevant hashtags. Once you find them, befriend them. Go in with the intention of building relationships because they can smell a sales pitch from a mile away.
Immerse yourself in the industry you’re trying to serve
If you show up to a developer tech trade show wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase while everyone else is wearing either a T-shirt or a hoodie, they won’t accept you as a new fish in their pond. In order to win new clients from new ponds, you have to position yourself as one of them.
For example: Tom is coaching a student right now who is trying to tap into the horror genre. Tom asked him to try and find every possible sub-culture he could find. So if you type in ‘horror’ on Facebook and join every horror group or sub-group, you will be able to build solid relationships with your target audience.
It’s really hard trying to sell to people or serve a community, if you don’t fully understand them. The reason Tom and Mike enjoy what they do is because they get to serve people who are just like them. But if you don’t share many similarities, start small. Don’t go to Gary V and ask him for a shout out to try and cross-pollinate with his seven million audience pond. Go for someone with a smaller audience pond. Maybe you will only get three or four followers out of this collaboration, but you must start there and build over time.
For instance: If Tom and Mike both share the courses they are working on, on each other’s page, they allow the opportunity for cross-pollination and as a result, get new fans in the process.
Ask your friends to share your content
Asking your friends to share your work is actually a very effective way to cross-pollinate. Even if it is a very small network, ask them to share it with their audience. And chances are, they’d do it in a heartbeat.
Mike breaks it down: Ask your level one relationships to share your work, not your level two or three. Level one relationships are your core circle of people, those whom you can trust completely and share a strong bond with. They’re usually your best friend, partner, sister, brother-in-law, business partner etc. Tom and Mike share a level one relationship, and would be happy to share each other’s work with their audience.
For example: One of Tom’s business mentors put out some content: he called it the cheeky f***ing ask. He recommends just going in for the ask without worrying about the consequences. If you ask a hundred people, and two people respond positively, that’s two people who are interested in your product. It’s also the way he got some of his investors.
And finally, create less and distribute more
We all have finite time, so work smart – create less and distribute more. Create your own list of actions for distribution and aggressively pursue them. Set aside time in your schedule to think about how you want to distribute and the impact it could have on your work.
Remember, hope is not a strategy. You have got to take action. Ask yourself: Where are these distribution channels? What are the potential ponds you could dip into? Where can you find like-minded people? Start by brainstorming and listing out all the possible ways you could distribute and widen your audience. Then prioritise them based on low, medium and high effort and then start punching down the list. You’ll be surprised at the wonders it does for your business.