Attracting Your First 100 Customers
The focus of every start-up is to have real, paying customers. So then how do you go from an idea to having your first 100 customers? This is an important milestone in the evolution of any startup. As the founder of a consumer tech company that offers pick up and delivery services at the tap of a button here are my lessons learned as I took an idea from the ground to an operational business with thousands of paying customers.
Phase 1: Go out of your way (Customers 1–20)
In the early days of your startup getting even your first five customers can seem like an incredibly daunting task.
As a founder, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and bend over backwards to earn the business of your early customers.
Lesson 1: Loose your ego
Chances are if you are the founder and CEO of a startup like I am, you have had a background where perhaps you were in a great corporate role or come from a highly reputable scale-up company. Good for you, but nobody cares! (At least, not your customers) As a founder be prepared to do everything in the early days. Clean the office, work out of a dungeon, run around town with flyers trying to promote your business cheaply and be a customer service rep answering calls at any time of the day. It doesn’t matter who you are. You are here to sell your business not yourself.
Lesson 2: Treat your early customers like royalty
In order to turn your first few customers, often referred to as early adopters, into loyal recurring customers, be willing to accept any and all of their tantrums and work hard to make their dreams of your product/service come true. It is a privilege that they are giving you revenue and for that you should feel indebted. Especially when you likely don’t have a product built, run everything manually and are a one or maybe two man show. Give them a service they will not forget. Talk to them personally. Keep listening to what they say. Treat all their feedback like gold. You’ll have them hooked and they will refer their friends. Without these believers, your business would not exist.
Your early customers are royalty and their feedback is gold.
Lesson 3: Don’t think about scalability
Often times as a startup founder, you try to set up everything from the get go to scale and avoid doing things that cannot scale. The reality is that in the early days everything you do will not always be scalable and that is okay. You are in a discovery phase and writing manual emails, making outreach calls, checking customer orders personally is all part of it. Everything is about building your revenue stream. Leave scale out of the picture and focus on everything you have to do in the present moment to sell the product or service. Being efficient isn’t important at this stage.
Lesson 4: Don’t build anything yet
Sure, you have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in place in order to test your hypothesis for the solution to the problem you are working on, but without all the bells and whistles. Keep it super simple. It could be a basic website with an email sign up form proposing all the features of your product or service but without actually having them built. This is because a) you don’t actually know what your customer wants b) you don’t have a lot of cash to burn. You do not need an iPhone app or Android app yet. Hang tight. The idea is to stay lean and test your assumptions so that you can find a product-market fit.
Lesson 5: Conduct A/B Tests
This is a simple and effective way to test how small changes could impact a purchase decision or how to best gather information to capture a lead before they close your website. This could be things such as placing buttons in different places, using different colours, or trying different text to see what version resonates more with your audience. There are also software programs that allow you to see a recording of how users interact with your site equipping you with useful information to better optimize your website. Don’t underestimate the important of user experience (UX), design and feel for even the most basic offering.
Hopefully, this article will help you gain your first few customers. Interested in learning what matters when building your next 50 customers? Check out Part 2.