principles over tactics

I’m a little bit stuck.

I’ve been writing and writing and having a blast doing so. All the while, there’s a part of my brain that says, “make sure you’re doing what you can to grow the audience, Jay.”

Building an audience is hard. Quite literally, an audience is what makes so many products and services valuable assets. Snap Inc.’s IPO? That market price had nothing to do with it’s revenues – it was purely based on the audience.

So I’ve been researching, making calls, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos – how do people do it?

One of my favorite comedians is Mike Birbiglia. Honestly, I don’t think he’s even that funny – he’s just relatable. I really enjoy listening to what he has to say, the way he frames the world, and sometimes he shares that in joke format.

But Birbigs was on a podcast talking about what he did to break into comedy, which amounted to a lot of high-touch selling of tickets to his shows and his albums. He physically put himself in front of people to sell tickets to his shows and “hustled” to build an audience – this was a new concept in comedy.

Similarly, Bo Burnham became a success from being one of the first people to utilize a new platform (YouTube) to share his work.

Twenty One Pilots played shows for youth groups then went door to door delivering tickets for clubs they were playing for small clubs.

All of these success stories found their own path and their own tactics for building an audience. And once those paths were blazed, countless others tried (and most failed) to follow the same blueprint. It worked for them, it will work for me!

The problem is, tactics and strategies get worn out, especially for a product with a lot of competition. As soon as information or a strategy is no longer scarce, it is no longer valuable.

Sure, a lot of tactics may pick up some wins, especially in the short term. But once the rules of the game change, you have to start all over. Instead of researching tactics, consider the psychology or principles in play.

Let’s look at Snap again.

When Snap rolled out their Spectacles, they could have sold presales, or mounted a large marketing campaign to generate awareness and get in front of their audience like most apps or media companies do. But instead, they drew on principles of psychology they knew about their market (ages 13-34) and doubled down on their audience’s desire for social capital.

Snap went to the absurd by launching physical vending machines in locations (on short notice) and that was the only way you could get Spectacles. They were betting on their users wanting to be first adopters as a mechanism for advertising and excitement.

Instead of pushing their product to the audience, they leveraged psychology to have the audience pull their product.

It’s no longer the man who learns to fish who eats for a life time; it’s the man who understands the fish.


Hey, can I have your email address? I will only send you more articles like this one.