Content Inc.: How to build a better business model

It’s not really news to say that most businesses fail. If you are like most entrepreneurs, the first startup is surely a failure. According to, first-time entrepreneurs have just an 18 percent success rate. Not even a 2-in-10 chance?

Want better news? Henry Blodget, co-founder of Business Insider, places the success rate of one of the most successful startup accelerators on the planet, Y Combinator, at a mere 10 percent or less.

If you are an entrepreneur or part of a startup, you already know the odds are stacked against you.

Product first? Really?

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the first step in starting a business is to develop a business plan. The standard business plan includes things like “defining what you are selling” and “creating a sales and marketing plan.”

Of course it does. I’m sure if you search the thousands of different business plans on the Web, they all look pretty much the same. Every startup essentially plays the game by the same rules.

A better way

Through a lovely accident, I stumbled on a powerful way to build a business in the digital age — and now believe there is no better way to go to market. In 2007, I left the corporate world to start a company. The product didn’t work (as the stats predicted).

Luckily, at the same time, we were able to build an audience of loyal subscribers to our blog. Seven years later, our organization, Content Marketing Institute was named the fastest growing business media company in North America by Inc. Through this process, we realized that we stumbled upon a better business model — build a loyal audience through consistent content, then launch your products and/or services.

Examples are everywhere

In 2014, I decided to begin writing my fourth book, “Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses,” on this “audience-first, product-second” model. In searching for cases around this concept, what we found was amazing — it was rapidly growing all over the globe. Here are two examples:

■ Matthew Patrick left the acting business and couldn’t get a “real job.” So he started a YouTube series called Game Theory on video games. Today, he has more than 5 million subscribers and runs a fast-growing multimillion-dollar empire.

■ Joy Cho started a simple design blog in 2005, building a loyal audience for years. When Pinterest launched, she grew her following into more than 13 million followers. Today, Oh Joy! has designed and co-produced products for such brands as Target and Microsoft, and Cho has developed stationery, wallpaper, bedding, diaper bags and even computer accessories.

Today, any business in any industry can leverage a content-first strategy, building a loyal audience before any products and services are offered. Crazy, right? According to our research, this “crazy” model has the ability to minimize risk, increase the likelihood of success and enable significantly higher growth rates than “normal” companies. In the very near future, some of the fastest global companies on the planet will use this Content Inc. approach.

They’ve all found a better way.

Joe Pulizzi is the found of the Content Marketing Institute. His fourth best-selling book, “Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Can Build Massive Audience and Build Remarkably Successful Businesses” is now available.

To learn more about “Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses,” and listen to the Content Inc. podcast, visit