I'm stepping away from the code I've been writing to focus on creating content to build my audience. How do you go about building traffic for this initial push?
First, before you jump into publicizing content you'll need to lay a foundation:
Hang out in communities where your target market hangs out. If you're focusing on Interior Designers, head over to /r/interiordesign on Reddit. If you want to help designers, hang out on Designer News. Want to connect with marketers? Inbound.org is the place to do it.
Look for opportunities where you can help: This is crucial step. Look for trends: where do people in your community need help? What pain points come up over and over again?
Take those pain points and turn them into blog posts: my favourite Derek Sivers quote is from Start Now: No Funding Needed. In it he says:
If you want to be useful, you can always start now. It will be a humble prototype of your grand vision, but you'll be in the game. Start by teaching someone this week. Starting small puts 100% of your energy into solving real problems for real people.
This is the approach I use when making blog posts: discover a pain, and write about it. If there's a lot of people who experience that pain, they'll share your solution with others, because it's helped them.
Put an email sign-up for at the end of every post: the email sign-up form is you asking "Hey, was this helpful? Let me keep helping you!" Tell them you'll email them every week (for example, I send my newsletter out on Saturday).
Start emailing them right away: don't wait. Even if there's just 5 people on the list. If anything, make your first email this: "Hey, what are you working on right now? What's your biggest struggle currently?" Use the feedback you get to re-start the process: observe the pain, find an antidote (usually a blog post), and put a sign-up form in every post.
Amplifying your content is all about tapping into networks that are bigger than you. I talk about this more in my first book, but here's a quick rundown:
Find people who have already built a large following: for me, starting a podcast was a great way to meet these folks. I could send them an email saying: "I'd love to interview you for my show" and they'd respond. After the interview, I'd have a relationship with them. I could also use little bits of those interviews in other pieces of content (like this) - then I'd email the guest and say: "Hey, this one comment you made in our interview was so powerful, I decided to write about it here..." More often than not, the guest would share it with their audience.
Find networks bigger than you: is there a Hacker News for Design Consultants? A sub-reddit? A paid membership site? An email list? A really well trafficked blog? Find out what those are, and figure out how you can share your best content in those places (guest post, share the link, embed the link in your response).
As your audience grows larger, you'll eventually experience a snowball effect: when you tweet, you'll start getting a bigger response (because you'll have a larger following). When you send a link to your email, more people will share it. When you publish a blog post, folks will submit it to different sites for you, because they've become passionate fans.
I hope this was helpful. You can follow the rest of the discussion here.
PS: I'm writing a new book called Marketing for Developers. You can download a 21 page sample here.