April 17, 2019

Best way to find a business model for a niche audience?

Karl Hughes @karlhughes

I have put together a free newsletter for a niche audience (technology conference speakers), and I have almost 1000 subscribers.

Now, the question is, how do I turn this into a business or try a couple business models?

Some ideas I have had are:

  • Creating a "prospectus" and selling ads (I'm currently trying this)
  • Creating a premium product for subscribers
  • Injecting job posts and charging posters (similar to ads)
  • Running a speaker training/mentoring program (about 1/3 of subscribers haven't given a talk yet)
  • Event management software (this is tangentially related, but there seems to be more money in it)

How could I try some of these ideas out or figure out which would work best for my audience? Should I poll them? Set up actual landing pages? Something else? Thanks!

  1. 3

    There may be a networking business there. Something like the Dots, but for speakers. But I'm a 'niche community' kind of person. If you needed to put up some drywall I'd go 'well, first off I'd build a niche community where different drywallers can network and share ideas....'. :)

    I'd just do polls and use your audience to uncover pain points. You never know what could bubble up.

    Spitballing - a lot of speakers have agents. Is there a possibility to create a community that matches speakers and events? Is that a thing?

    1. 1

      I like the community angle too, although I think I might need a lot more people to make it a really vibrant community.

      There are a couple "speaker matching" services and there's a whole industry of "speaker bureaus", but they don't typically work too well with tech speakers. From what I understand about talking to event organizers, getting speakers is sort of low on their list - they care more about getting sponsors and attendees (because that's where the $$$ are).

      That said, many speakers go to events too, so there still might be a way to build up a useful audience.

  2. 2

    1,000 folks may be too few for selling ads. For one, it's probably going to be hard to find advertisers willing to make the investment. But more importantly, if your list is really engaged, you're better off selling your own product. (Potential revenue per subscriber is much higher that way.)

    As far as trying out product ideas...

    I've personally found the insights that come from polling your audience to be misleading. What people say they'll do and what they actually do when it's time to pull out their wallet can sometimes be quite different.

    The better solution, I think, is to see what makes your audience actually take action by linking to existing products. So in your emails, you could test promoting:

    • Relevant premium (ideally affiliate, so that you know when people convert) products
    • Someone else's speaker training course
    • Someone else's event management software
      ... etc.

    Again, this is just to gauge interest and learn what people will actually pay for. Based on what you learn, you can then develop a similar product.

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      I was thinking the same thing about polls and asking them what they want. I'm skeptical that people will really want to convert even if they say the product would be great.

      I'd thought about the affiliate route, but if I do end up building a competing product, I don't really want to lose people to my competitors.

      I kind of like the idea of building a couple landing pages and sending my audience to them to see what resonates. Make them opt in or even pre-pay for access maybe?

      Also, we went to high school together. Small world, haha.

      1. 1

        We did indeed :)

        Yeah, that's the risk with promoting someone else's product. But if you expect to keep growing the list, it could be a good investment because future subscribers will likely be interested in the product you develop.

        It also depends on the nature of the product. For something like mentoring or a course, I could see people being willing to buy multiple solutions over time to continue "leveling up." So even if they buy from a competitor initially, they may ultimately buy from you, too.

        All that said, a landing page is also a smart, no-risk way to go. Getting people to do anything more than join a waiting list (e.g., pre-pay or commit to a paying once the product is live) may be tough. But I don't know much about your audience, so it could work.

  3. 2

    Might be worth finding out what the more experienced speakers spend money on. Might be software, courses or hopefully something unknown that costs a lot but brings them a lot of value.

    1. 2

      That's a really interesting idea.

      The ones who are doing 10+ conferences/year probably spend a lot on travel, eating out, and hotels (although much would be comped by their company), but there might be other things I'm not aware of. That's a good idea for something to ask around about!

  4. 1

    Round up the best of your own + IH-provided ideas below and ask them directly, focusing on the value for them.
    Question/poll could be turned into asking about "what is your biggest pain point?" (eg "hiring", "training", etc..) rather than present a list of solutions.
    People are usually more aware of what their pain point is, rather than what the solution should be.

  5. 1

    My 2 cents - who exactly is your target audience: the speakers? the organizers? the audience of the speakers? or all three? If it is all 3, then book ads that represent the verticals: technology brands, public speaking products, hotels and lodges, promotional companies, etc. etc. Another idea - provide information about topics requested by organizers, then show this information to possible speakers, or interested speakers. That way, you match speaker with the engagement. Charge the organizers. Something like a highly specialized job board where HR pays to post job opportunities. Hope it makes sense.

  6. 1

    If it were me, I would ask the email subscribers. Try sending out some personalised emails, ask them why they signed up, what would be useful, etc.

    It's also worth considering the other angle of conference organisers - is there a way you can serve their needs? I'm a conference organiser myself and I'd personally love to have ways to reach a new audience and help me sell tickets.

    1. 1

      Yeah, selling tickets and getting sponsors for event organizers are both angles I'm thinking about.

      After comparing similar tools in the market, I've found many more that are focused on helping events get attendees than helping them get speakers.

  7. 1

    create an online community with paid access only ?

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