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The one trick you need to start a successful online business

Learn more of Gretta Van Riel’s secrets to success this Monday March 25, during the online premiere of The New Investors video series brought to you by Yahoo Finance.

“If you build it they will come.”

It’s an often-quoted line from the 1989 film, Field of Dreams. And while you might hear it paraphrased in business, for entrepreneur and Forbes 30 under 30 member, Gretta van Riel, nothing could be further from the truth.

She’s launched five successful businesses and through the glorious highs and near-catastrophic lows, she’s learnt one big thing: what’s the point of launching a fantastic product with no audience?

Speaking on Yahoo Finance’s new show, The New Investors – My Story, Van Riel explained that the success of her businesses, which include SkinnyMe Tea, The Fifth Watches and Hey Influencer, was due to flipping a well known marketing theory on its head.

“I think in the past the great kind of eCommerce myth has been build it and they will come,” she said.

“So like create a product, put it online, create some beautiful imagery, press live on the store and just wait for the sales to start flooding in.”

But that isn’t the way it works.

Gretta Van Riel and New Investors host Sarah O’Carroll. (Yahoo Finance)

Rather, if you build the audience first, prior to the product’s launch, you stand a much higher chance of success she said.

It’s an approach she terms “market-product fit” – as opposed to “product-market fit”.

“The main framework that I rely upon is this concept of market-product fit,” she said.

“So as opposed to the concept of product-market fit, where you have a product and you try to find an audience and a consumer to buy that product, it’s taking the reverse approach.”

Van Riel realised the power of this approach as she moved towards launching her watch brand, The Fifth Watches and was reflecting on the lessons learnt in launching her successful weight-loss solution SkinnyMe Tea.

And by this point, van Riel already had a few audiences built up, with 16 million followers on Instagram across her different accounts.

“The reason that I grew those [audiences] up was to create… a bit of a brand awareness funnel,” she said.

“So when I post on one account, it’s relevant to one audience set, which might be the detox or health market. And other accounts were more fashion-based and things like that.

“So we started to build awareness around the watches in a few ways. We did some giveaways with products that look quite similar in the space, but we also used a lot of influencer marketing, which has been a cornerstone of the growth of a lot of my businesses.”

The result

The Fifth Watch ended up generating more than $100,000 in sales in its first day of operation and grew faster than SkinnyMe Tea – a feat van Riel didn’t think possible.

And on the brand’s first birthday in December 2015, The Fifth Watch made more than $1 million in sales.

“The way that came about was through a need from our brand. So we had 8,000 people signed up who really, really wanted our watches.”

The lesson?

Build the audience and the sales will come.

Learn more of Gretta Van Riel’s secrets to success this Monday March 25, during the online premiere of The New Investors video series brought to you by Yahoo Finance.