THE BLOG

How To Start a Blog And Win 40,000 Customers

11/25/2015 03:38 pm ET | Updated Nov 25, 2016

Your choice.

You can start your business the way most people do it, and have typical odds of success. (Namely, slim.)

Or, you can start the same way successful entrepreneurs launch new ventures. Adopt proven, powerful methods.

Even better? Sometimes, you come across a high-powered entrepreneur who takes these methods to a new level, succeeds brilliantly...and then tells you all about it.

Clay Collins is the CEO and cofounder of LeadPages, a software company with 40,000 active customers and $38M in venture capital investment.

Best part? They grew from humble beginnings.

"It just started off with a little blog," he told me.

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How did he begin?

Did he take all his money, hire a developer, build a polished product, and try to sell it like crazy?

No way.

He built trust with the people he wanted to serve.

First step? Build an audience

"I started with the audience first, rather than product first."

Smart move. If you build an audience first, you hammer down all your risk before product development. Far more efficient.

Collins wrote blog post after blog post about marketing. Testing ideas. Creating videos. Delivering value every time.

"I think blogging is a fantastic education in marketing because every single time you put out a blog post, you essentially launch a new concept to your market and see how they respond."

But how do you do this in an ocean of competing blog posts and articles?

Simple: prove you care about your customers. Rise above the noise.

Create generous content

The sad truth? Most of the blogging world equals noise. Wafer-thin content. Every piece in it for the money. Designed to shield the best information behind a paywall.

"I think a lot of people hire maybe English majors fresh out of college, just to produce a bunch of content for some blog. And they end up creating these content mills that just don't perform."

Collins built the opposite: super-generous content. Thorough material his followers could pick up and use right away. For free.

"Everyone else in the software space created these 90-second cute explainer videos that didn't even show the product at all. They just explained some concept."

"But long-form videos that actually walked you through a process where you got a solution to a problem you currently wrestled with -- I knew that would convert."

Best part? Collins and his team still swear by this.

"What we found works are these free courses that we give away. We'll give away a 12 to 15 to 20 video course, and we have a free course on Facebook advertising, which has like 15 videos. You get the transcripts, you get the audio, you get mindmaps. That's something that would cost maybe $200 on Udemy -- and we're giving it away for free."

Listen -- highly successful entrepreneurs care so much about their customers, they can't help but be generous. Who wouldn't want to follow them?

And so, their audience grows. You need to do the same thing.

But once you have a following, what next? Can you dive straight into product development?

Well, Collins didn't -- and neither should you.

Why? Because you don't know if people will pay for it, let alone care.

Turns out, the smart move is to do a pre-sell. Ask for money before you have a product.

Sell it before you build it

As Collins kept blogging, people ran into one problem after another.

"People would respond to my blog posts and say things like: how do I integrate this page with MailChimp or Marketo, or whatever they used, and they wanted to know how to publish it to Facebook or to Wordpress. They had all these questions."

"And at first I was like: I can't support all this -- you need to be a developer to do this. But then my next thought was maybe there's a business idea here."

Lots of (bad) entrepreneurs would ignore this and just keep going. Why focus on even more of your customer's problems when you have enough of your own?

Fortunately, Collins followed his hunch.

"I went to that same audience and said: 'Hey, I'm gonna make software that does essentially what you guys complain about here in the comments. Would you be interested in buying it before I create it, if I gave you a deal?'"

Wow. Test to see if customers will pay, tell them you're going to create something new, and make them realize their problems run deep enough to complain about them. Collins accomplished all this in one move.

Result? He got 200 customers to pay him $200 each. And he took that $40k and hired a developer to build the product: landing page templates, based on his marketing expertise.

LeadPages evolved and exploded from there. A hot software company, sprouted from a blog.

Go build your audience, create generous content, and pre-sell before you build anything.

Bottom line? Forty thousand paying customers don't lie.

Hi, I'm Harry, a fellow entrepreneur. Keen to help you get organized, so you can know your customer and earn more revenue. Let's connect.