Yes, you made your idea into a product or service and now, you are eager to go. But, go where? Even when you have a target customer base acquiring your first few customers is a challenging task. Why? Because neither you nor the customers yet know if your solution holds some value for them or not. The same fact goes for startup owners; you will not get the actual valuation (total worth) of your product or service until you start selling at your full capacity.
So, how can you be “Nil Payment” to “first 100 paying customers”?
For achieving that, studying how previous startups have done it becomes essential for new startups. After doing our research here is what we understood. Using single channel for bringing numerous users. You must rely on different channels and sources as it allows you to build more significant number of user base.
Not everyone is born a salesperson or entrepreneur. Why the comparison? Well, aren’t you selling your product and services to the general public? Aren’t you looking for better businesses and investors for your future course of actions?
In this article, we will not be talking about any superficial strategy for getting your first 100 customers. On the contrary, we will be highlighting some points that might be at the back of your mind, but, after reading this article, you will be sure that what you were thinking was a nice set of workable plans.
1. Utilize existing network: ask friends to ask their friends and so on
The place to start out is by rattling your inner circle. Yes, while you are looking for your initial customers, the first step is talking to the people who know you.
- Friends, family, and your professional connections are all part of your internal network.
- When you are starting out as an organization, it is easy for you to feel the hesitation of approaching new people with your solution be it a product or a service!
- Asking your inner circle to be your customers and then asking them to recommend their connections based on their experience with your solution is a comfortable approach for startups.
You might be asking yourself, “are these number of people enough?”
We want to clarify, although the number of connection you make via your inner circle might be less, you are guaranteed to find quite a respectable number for the initial outing.
How can you execute this?
- Ask them about their pain points.
- Listen to what they want to say.
Based on your conversation with them validate your idea of how the solution is going to help them and people who have the same pain points.
Don’t decide on selling your solution to them or others right away. Being a startup, getting customer feedback at an early stage allows you to tinker with the final solution that you want to sell in the market.
Why is it essential for you to create a conversation with your inner circle?
The conversation that you have with your inner circle is not just for researching their pain points and creating your first customer base.
- As you are a startup, it may be possible that you lack the skill of smooth-talking salesman.
- Once you try your hand at selling your solution in your inner circle, it provides you with first-hand experience of pitching your business.
Note: In this early stage, you are developing your base. You are in the crucial process of customer development where you are not supposed to sell but learn!
2. Take the cold approach
Now that you have learned the first step of growing your business, you will start approaching various potential customers; pitching your services or products to them. This is where cold calls and cold emails come in handy for businesses.
- The practice of reaching out to the potential customers fitting the target-customer profile via strategic emails is called cold emailing.
- The aim of cold emailing is letting potential buyers know about the existence of your business and the solution it can provide to them.
- However, the success of your cold email outreach relies on the fact that you must have some or the other mutual connection whom you can use to introduce yourself.
- Unbelievably, if your opening lines talk about the recommendation of a mutual connection, then the recipient will take more interest in your email.
If you lack this edge, then we will suggest that you must take more time in researching the same as it makes your approach more personal with a higher success ratio. You want to grab the attention of your user so that they do open and read the content of your cold email? Then keep in mind that your subject line must be.
Use a straightforward subject line so that you do not sound like a person who is trying to pitch sales to a potential customer.
- You now have an approach and a catchy subject line. Make an impression on your recipient by providing value in the opening lines of your email.
- When you provide the “Core” in your email, it helps you leverage the goodwill as the reader realizes that you have created something that will help them have their desired ROI, if they decide to invest their money in your solution.
- In the body of your email include something that is genuine and less pushy. “I would like to follow up on this with a quick phone call whenever you get free time. Do a 20 minutes call for next Wednesday at 11 am EST sound good?”
3. Have some freemiums
There is a vast difference between free trials and freemiums.
What is freemium?
Freemium is a marketing model where businesses give away access to some part or all of their service for free forever, without any time limit. However, there might be limitations on the usage of some of the features of the product or service.
What is a free trial?
It means Premium + Free Trial. So, you get a free trial of a paid or premium product. Although there is the difference between the two, both attract first customers for your startup.
Offering freemiums or free trials are less expensive than traditional ad campaigns. Moreover, for a business that has just started out, this is a boon for grabbing those few 100 customers, or at least reaching that number, for product branding (brand awareness).
How does this work?
- Once customers start signing up, you can drop an attractive and warm welcome email in their inbox.
- This will send out the message to them about how much you appreciate their contribution in trying out their product.
- You can also schedule calls with them so that you can know any onboarding issues they are facing and getting their feedback about what is right and what is terrible in your solution.
- Showing such personal affection to your initial client helps you establish a bond with them and helps you in spreading a positive word of mouth about your business.
Use a free trial or freemium plan and attract potential customers. At the initial stage, this helps you in deciding which customers are willing to pay the cost for utilizing the premium features.
- A good onboarding experience allows the users in realizing the actual value of your product.
- Customers look for solutions that are easy to use, and they appreciate a business that provides quality customer service.
- So, make these your strongholds and create the bases which can support and grow towards the goal of acquiring your initial 100 customers.
- However, to do so, the free trial or freemium users need to see the value of our product in their trial period itself.
- Make a long-lasting impression on these trial users by providing the value they are looking for and persuade them to become your premium customers.
4. Impressive advertising
Startup business owners and entrepreneurs start using paid advertising as their primary source for getting their first customers. You must understand and know that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about using paid ads.
- As a newbie in the digital frontier, you must consider the tools carefully for acquiring customers.
- Industry experts have discussed that paid advertising must be used by companies having products that are already set up in the market.
- Many entrepreneurs believe that these paid ads are helpful for businesses that are looking forward to scaling their sales process.
- However, other marketers say that paid traffic is the fastest way to drive leads when you are first starting out.
Once you use paid advertising, it becomes even more important that these ads turn into a high-converting landing page where you will drive your prospects.
Critical elements of a high-converting landing page:
- Unique value proposition with a concise headline
- Image or video showing the context of use
- Statement of Benefit
- Visitor information (e-mail, name)
- A strong call to action
- Social proof, testimonials
Paid ads run on a variety of channels. However, this rule applies when you are starting out ads you need to spread the word about your brand. Here are the most tried and trusted channels:
- Google AdWords
With Google Adwords, digital marketers get the freedom of targeting prospects when they are in the decision-making stage of the buyers’ journey.
About 70% buyers search for their pain points on Google.
This presents a perfect opportunity to the startups for offering your solution to this segment of buyers when they are entirely aware of their problems and want a solution for the same.
Google Adwords allows marketers, startup owners and entrepreneurs, in this case, to bid for targeted keywords. Let’s say, for example, that you are an advertisement agency. You will be running targeted advertisements to your industry or your niche.
Something like, “Digital Marketing Packages for Healthcare” or “Social Media Ad Campaigns for Clothing Line.” You can create higher click-through rate at a lower cost.
- Facebook Ads
With Facebook advertisements, you get the chance of being specific about various factors such as the user’s interests, their locations, and even their social behaviors.
When Adidas ran a soccer-related Facebook advertising campaign explicitly for the users, who had an interest in soccer, their Facebook page crossed 1 million mark and boosted brand awareness around 20%.
5. Watch your competition closely
This point is crucial for your startup as figuring out what your competition has figured out for their marketing and promotion makes it easier to stay afloat with your counter-measures.
If your competition has been around for a while, more than you, then it means that they have a few places where customers congregate.
No, we are not asking you to copy their strategies blatantly, but keeping an eye out for your competition makes you more secure against any threat.
How can you do it?
- Social Mentions
Digital uses today keep talking about the services that competitions are providing. Agitated customers take to digital platforms to blast out their anger on their service providers. You must keep a watch on the social mentions of your competitors, join these conversations and try to build relationships with such customers. This pays off in the long run if you are able to convert them into paying customers.
- Their Advertising
Their asre various tools in the market that can help your monitor the activity of your competition. Tools like Spyfu and SEMrush helps their users find out the effective keywords, advertising spends of their competitors. You can make not of how your competition is faring on the online advertisement front and create your online advertisement strategy that will increase user engagement.
6. Use data research tools
Decoding the various behavior of your target audience is the key success and such a key is easily provided by online marketing.
If you have a better understanding of your audience, you will be able to serve them in a better manner. You can deliver the exact content and update your olution in the manner that suits their requirement and needs.
Here are some simple and efficient ways of understanding your audience with some useful market research tools that deliver effective audience insights.
Heatmaps and surveys
Hotjar allows user to understand where the reader are looking on your page. This helps business owners in understanding what response does your content, page design, and call-to-actions receives. Surveys allow business owners to insert a mini survey on any of your web page or to website visitors who take certain actions.
Survey Monkey allows businesses to create their own survey from the pool of features for surveys of all types.
Conducting polls helps businesses understand if theor feature, app tool or product is faring well against the expectations of the users or not?
Tools such as Proved.co helps businesses post their idea and the Proved community members provide a quick feedback whether what you are pursuing or planning to is worth your time, mney and investment.
Mention and Google Alerts update users about the conversations that take place around the topics related to your industry or business. As you know, it is always better to be in the know-how of things. Such conversation monitioring tools help you stay vigilante about the competition and take part in conversations where you see your business getting benefitted.
7. Online communities/forums
For looping in your first customers, online communities are the best ways. Such communities are scalable versions of industry conferences where businesses interact with compatible people, offer valuable services, and get paying customers.
- Let us explain this a bit more. If you go into a conference and just start selling your product or service to everyone you meet or interact with, chances are you will close the window of opportunity. The best way of doing this is to create a relationship that is mutually beneficial. This allows you to know them and understand their problems.
- Save their contact information and follow-up at a later stage. However, don’t take too much time for the follow-up.
- The similar rule applies to the online communities, first rule is not to spam any online community with promotions and links to your website.
Give them a chance to know who you are and how your presence in that community will add value. We have enlisted some online communities you could join as a startup:
- Hacker News is one of the prime tech news industry sites. Web developers and software engineers are their target audience. The latest developments in the tech world are the focus of the blog posts on the website and generate significant traction.
- Product Hunt is a forum that helps in discovering useful tech products across the globe. Initial users range from venture capitalists to startup founders. Product hunt also organizes in-person meetups where various startups can pitch their products. They are the perfect launchpad for a worthy startup.
- Tropical MBA is targeted group of entrepreneurs, many of whom sell SaaS products or services. With a quarterly subscription fee, entrepreneurs can become member of the group. The group members help each other with challenges that every growing business faces. For a startup there are better chances of you getting quality customers in these groups.
- Facebook groups. If you follow a niche, then joining a Facebook group similar to your niche will benefit you the most. Facebook groups are sometimes started and nurtured by industry influencers. Joining such groups and interacting with the members using your value-adding content can help you gain your target audience.
Want to make the best in an online community?
Understand the type of topics that resonate within the community and share similar content with the community members.
If the members read and find your topics and content at par with the community’s motto then there are good chance that they will reach out to you and recommend various customers to you.
Provide free Q&A session and understand the pain points of the community members and provide your SaaS based product to them for use and help them understand how your solution matches their requirements.
If you impress the members with your virtual product demo pitch them, you will surely win more deals via your online community.
8. Start your own journal
We thought including the topic of journals would be an apt ending for tips because blogs and press have become the mainstream tools for businesses while interacting with their customers.
However, if you are not churning out valuable content in your blogs then having it won’t make a difference for converting and driving your customers.
- Create content that your customers and target audience actually need.
- Yes, by this time you would be driving leads through guest posting and other platforms. So, why do you need a blog site?
- Your blog page serves as the main server of all the valuable content that you have spread across other online communities in your niche.
- Starting a blog also makes you create, save, and serve the content in your industry. It helps you establish your brand name and also prepares you to become an industry expert for the future.
How should you execute it?
Write about how your product or service is a problem solver.
Once you know about problems that customers are facing in the marketplace, it is easy for you to provide the solution.
Write how your solution has been solving these problems. Once you blog article about your solution stares echoing with the marketplace re-share of your blog content, link-sharing and signups will follow suit.
Leverage the content you write about on other sites like Reddit where groups of people with similar interests hang out.
Keep the About Page Dynamic.
Once you establish what your goal is and how you think your solution is going to make a difference, blog readers will understand your intent and will surely spread the word around. Meaning you will have more visitors which will eventually lead to conversions.
Start a blog to talk about your industry.
Talking about the industry you work in helps you gain more readers. What helps you gain more readers is the fact that why have you started your businesses and how do you see it making a difference in the millennials daily life.
If your solution addresses the issue you talked about in the blog by offering a unique perspective to your brand, people are going to be inclined towards your blog.
Over 409 million people view more than 22.2 billion blog pages each month. Isn’t that massive!
Crafting value adding content that allows readers to understand about solving a problem helps in boosting your Google rankings on those carefully selected keywords.
- Blogging puts your website in full control of the type of content and keywords you want to associate with.
- Once you blog start pulling in the crowd and that crowd starts loving your blogs they will be linking to your blog eventually increasing your online visibility and network.
- Such online visibility helps in boosting your chances of having more customers. Your blog will serve as a self-sufficient traffic machine that will create a pool of prospects for your business.
Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. – Demander Report
We hope that the topics and point that we covered in the above sections are helpful to you as a startup that is looking to land their first 100 or so customers for launching their business in the market.
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