1) Don’t focus on raising capital, focus on finding customers.
A lot of the circles where capital is distributed is not necessarily in tune with a majority of consumers. In addition, most Angel investors/Venture Capitalists are men, but most consumer good customers are women. This is a problem. When you pitch your business to these investors without significant sales they will dismiss you. Even if you do have a good track record, they will still dismiss you since you are making your product in the USA, and men have trouble seeing the potential of a product that women find attractive.
Instead of spending hours formulating pitch decks, asking for advice on drafts, and then revising- ditch the decks, and go straight to the customer.
Where is the customer online?
2) Google adword and email campaigns work best
While twitter is great for consuming new information and learning what other entrepreneurs are reading, it doesn’t lead to sales. Facebook and Pinterest are nice too, and anytime a company is thinking about working for you, they check how many Facebook fans you have, but what still works the best is email and adwords. The larger your email list, the more sales you get. The more people you can get to your website, the more sales you will get. If people are searching for your product on google, and an ad draws them to your site, capture their email, and offer them the best product for the category they are searching. Don’t be surprised when sales increase.
3) Use flash sales to acquire customers
Yes, you have to discount, but if your product is starting to sell, the toughest challenge you will have is to reach more customers. Referrals and ‘word of mouth’ marketing can only take you so far. Larger brands spend millions on marketing well known brands (see Coke) and you have to do everything possible to get more eyeballs on your website. The flash sales allow you to go to market faster. They have spent a considerable amount of money building up their email customer base long before you started. Participating in a flash sale also allows you to float through some of your slow months to get to what everyone is waiting for- Christmas Season. During Phase 1 of your business, which should be strictly focused on growth.
4) Tell The Story of the Maker
With the rise of Etsy and Kickstarter, and other marketplaces that tell the story of the makers behind the product- who is behind your product is trendier than ever. Not only is it trendy, but it helps you create trust with your customer. If they are paying you to make something, especially something custom, they want to know where it is being sent off to, and who is behind returning their new product back to them. It’s vital to think of the bottom line, but also acknowledge the different actors in your supply chain and make customers aware of these different partners.