The Lifeblood of any successful business is customer feedback. But what do you do if you’re just starting out and have no customers? This is the first challenge most startups face and it’s exactly where my cofounder and I were just six months ago with our project LeadIn. As of today, we’ve had over 100 conversations with prospects and users, either on the phone or over email. Here are four of the strategies we used to start these conversations.
1. Tap into your personal network
This is the first logical place to start when looking to start conversations. Post on your social networks and ask people if they’re interested in talking to you. Andy and I both got multiple phone calls set up after posting to Facebook asking for people who use WordPress at their jobs. I’m willing to bet everyone knows at least 2-3 people who would potentially be interested in their product. Here’s what I posted:
Reddit offers an enormous wealth of information. There is practically a subreddit for everything. These subreddits are filled with self-identified experts on a wide range of subjects. For LeadIn we decided to post on /r/smallbusiness (we’ll discuss how we picked our market in future posts). Here’s a post that netted us 13 conversations: Looking for feedback from WordPress users: creating an awesome, free/low-cost inbound marketing package. Here are some of the responses we got:
3. Seek out and email influencers
This tactic might be a bit controversial, but I had a 90% response rate when I used it. The key is finding the right audience who will be genuinely interested in the product you’re building. Don’t reach out to people just because they have a huge following. In fact, that probably would only decrease your chances of getting a response. I found a popular blog that had an interview series with WordPress consultants. I picked the last 10 people who were interviewed and either emailed them directly or filled out the contact form on their site. I sent out 8 cold emails, received 7 responses and set up 4 phone calls. One of the folks I emailed even invited me to be on his podcast!
4. Set up a landing page and email people who sign up
Just because you don’t have a product built doesn’t mean you can’t have a landing page. The first thing I did when we started out was set up a simple landing page with a few paragraphs that explained our company mission. The key here is to be as high level and inspirational as possible. Since we still didn’t know exactly what we were building yet, we didn’t want to bias people’s opinions. We drove a bit of traffic to the page (we’ll talk about our traffic strategies in a future post) and sent a personal email to every person who signed up, asking if they wanted to chat. Here’s the first version of the landing page we launched (not much to it!):
When you’re going about these strategies, here are some tips we picked up to keep in mind.
This one is pretty obvious. Don’t demand anything of anyone. Be respectful of people’s time, and always thank people for taking the time to talk to you. The nicer you are, the more willing people will be to help you out.
Send personal emails
When you email people asking for a phone call, don’t just send the same email template to everyone. Take the time to learn something about the person you’re emailing. Check out their website or social profiles and try to relate what you’re working on directly to them.
Ask for referrals
At the end of every call, be sure to ask for referrals for other people who may be interested in your product. They very well may know a few people who have the same problems as they do (see point #1). Also, if people don’t have the time to talk to you, ask if they know anyone who would be interested instead.
What’s stopping you from talking to 100 potential customers?
These are only four strategies out of many strategies to find your first customers you can try. There’s no excuse to start building anything without having talked to at least a handful of customers. Even if you have a full-fledged product, customer feedback can help you continue to improve your business. Get out there and start talking to customers!