Building in Public

There’s a marketing and branding strategy that has been around for years – but is really taking hold in a big way right now, especially since the barriers to entry for business ownership are getting lower and less overwhelming.

The concept I’m talking about is “building in public.”

Now, I’m going to share more about what it means and give a few examples of founders and business owners who are building in public, but before I do…

…I want you to know that I think this is a concept that applies to ANYONE, and not just anyone who has founded or owns a business!
Working on growing your email list? Posting consistently on social media? Looking for your first paying speaking gig? Launching a podcast, like me? Whatever it is that you’re pursuing, let us all in on it! Makers, creators, entrepreneurs, etc. – this is a strategy for YOU to consider.

The advantage of building in public is profound:

  1. If you say you’re going to do something – and you invite others to follow along – you’re more likely to follow through. I often share the quote “take the leap and build your wings on the way down,” and it applies here. If you tell the world you’re trying to accomplish something, you almost have to pursue it!
  1. Instant, helpful and supportive feedback. If you build in secret and then launch, you’re bound to discover at least one flaw in your marketing, your product, your price…but if you’ve been giving sneak peeks as you go, you can receive that advice in real time, which gives you the opportunity to make a change or to address the pain point you now KNOW about, in your marketing or otherwise.
  1. It’s FUN! Building a business or a brand or a WHATEVER can be isolating and scary. Even 9-figure founders will tell you that. Letting people see the hard times empowers them to encourage you to keep going…and then the celebrations and good times are shared by everyone in your circle.

And one more thing, before I get into the details: building in public does NOT mean you are stuck with what you announced. Failure and adaptation are natural parts of leadership and business. If you share that you’re working on something and it doesn’t work out – because you chose to let it go or the market killed the deal for you – so what? Move forward.

Fail fast. Break things. Learn. Start again.

OK, let’s talk about what building in public can actually look like. It’s most often used with startups – and I’ll admit, the bigger and more successful or profitable a company gets, the less likely it and its leadership team may be to share real numbers.

Building in public means…well…exactly what it sounds like. It’s the practice of taking an audience along during every phase of business, from initial conception to marketing strategies to product launches to the successes and failures, in pretty real time.

When you build in public, it’s helpful to show things that may still be in progress – like the design of your product label, or the wireframes of your new website. You can even ask for input: do you like option A or option B? Which headline would make you purchase this product?

I want to spotlight some examples that have inspired me through the years:

  • Nathan Barry, the founder of ConvertKit as well as an author and designer, built his company into a multi-million dollar a month startup…all while letting us watch! I am, in fact, one of the founding users of ConvertKit, and so I’ve had a front row seat to the growth and to some of the very serious stumbles that brand has experienced. One highlight of Nathan’s public build is that he bootstrapped the business – meaning he didn’t take on investors or capital to start and grow –  and he’s publicly shared his company’s financials since it was founded in 2013.
  • Another example of Buffer – and once again, I’m proud to share that I was one of the very early Buffer evangelists. Buffer has long shared its product roadmaps, insights into its corporate culture, its revenue and customer metrics and much more.
  • Andrew Gazdecki from MicroAcquire, Domm from Fast, Paul from CopyAi, Lolita from The Community Fund, Hera from Chayn (Chain), Sari from Startupy…just a few more.

I have played around with “building in public” with the 2.0 version of my marketing services agency…and it’s a strategy I will likely lean into even more over the next few months.  After all, a rising tide lifts all ships, so the more I share, the more I can inspire…

…and the more you can help me reach all of MY goals as well!

If you are a founder or creator who is building in public, please let me know!

Other Examples of Building in Public: ?