How Startups Should Get Their First 1000 Customers

Getting your first 1000 customers is no different than getting your first 5,000 or 1,000,000 customers.

It all comes down to a few key strategies.

1) Have a Product That Delivers On a Promise

Step one to getting your first 1000 customers is to create a product/service that delivers on a promise (i.e. solves a pain) your customers have.

…and also gratifies (i.e. they experience the core value) your customers when they sign up or experience it.

Think about the first time you had ever been to a Starbucks — just the interaction and the experience.

There was like this “aha moment” where you walked away and were like “That was amazing… I’ve never experienced that before… they asked me for my name… the coffee came out tasting really great… it just felt like it was really thought out, deliberate and well developed.”

That’s the part that a lot of people don’t have (a great experience) — that if they could get right — would really make everything else work.

In the software world they call it “Customer Success”… but you can use the same in your business.

Getting your product/service to a point where it delivers on the promise that you display on your homepage and gratifies your customers (or gets them to this aha moment) is number one.

I call it the core product value — getting them to experience that core value the first time they sign-up for your product.

Some people think they have a marketing problem — and I’m going to tell you right off the bat that 99% of the time it’s a product problem.

They don’t have a product that solves a problem, or the promise they make isn’t delivered on.

2) Building a Growth Engine

I like the word growth engine because it has this connotation of moving forward… you pour gas into the tank, it produces energy and it moves it forward… and as long as you keep pouring gas into it, it keeps moving forward.

It’s a great way to think about your marketing (ie. your demand marketing or inbound marketing) because essentially you’re building it to get new customers.

The way to build your engine is by testing different marketing channels.

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You know you have an engine of growth when you know time (or money) added to the engine will result in “X” number of new profitable customers.

A challenge that most startups have is they don’t realize that when they do a bunch of “viral” marketing they could get a bunch of people who sign up and never use the product.

This happens all the time with PR. They think, “Well, if I get covered on TechCrunch (because that’s the holy grail of anything!), then my startup is going to be successful.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

There will be this big spike in new signups because a bunch of people signed up to register to confirm their username — but that’s the only reason they signed up.

They have no interest in the product. They think, “Someday if this takes off, I’ve got to make sure I have my username!” And they never come back, they never use it, and they skew all of your metrics.

They make you feel great the day or the week, then you just feel like “Wow, that spiked, and now it’s flat again.”

It’s not sustainable. That’s why for me, it’s about building an engine and it’s about figuring out the different marketing channels.

Doing Less (So You Can Learn Faster)

Once you have a product that really delights — and you have a concept of building habits that get new customers — it’s about doing LESS.

A lot of startups create a bunch of stuff. They think, “I’ve got to do Facebook marketing, I’ve got to do content marketing, I’ve got to do PR, I’ve got to be speaking at events. I need to do all of this stuff.”

Most of the time — when nothing works, and you’re not seeing results — it’s because you are doing too many things and you don’t know which one of those things is the reason it’s working.

If you do less, then you’ll KNOW what’s working, or not.

Think about this concept… most companies die from indigestion — not starvation.

They die because they do too many things and they don’t focus.

When you do too many things, you don’t know what’s not working.

If you want to get your first 1,000 customers (or your first 5,000 or 1,000,000 customers) you want to make sure you have a product that delights, you focus on building an engine that is repeatable and scalable to get new customers that are profitable and you want to make sure that you are doing less things — not more — so that you really deliver — and really learn faster.

To me, at the end of the day, the definition of a startup is learning as fast as possible.

And if you have competitors out there, remember: “He who learns the fastest wins.”

What are some strategies you’ve used to get your first 1000 customers? Leave a comment below with your answer.