Don’t leave growth to chance

In the first few months of your company’s life, sales can seem like an uphill battle.

When we started Crew, our first month’s revenue trickled in at around a thousand bucks, with a handful of paying customers. The next month was better. And so was the next. But it can be hard to look at how much work you and your team put in to grow so little.

When you’re starting out with nothing — no brand, no key customers or partners — getting those first paying customers is a grind. You will do phone calls, take meetings, write cold emails, write blog posts and tweets — all to generate a revenue number that your established competitors would laugh at.

But if you think about what your early customers have to overcome to choose your company, you can’t blame them for second-guessing you. You are the new kid on the block. You have no brand. No notable customers. And your competition is a Google search away.

This is why getting early potential customers on board the moment they show interest in you is so important. You need to remove any potential barrier someone might have to start using your product the moment they say they want it.

Removing alternatives guarantees a sale

Hick’s Law is a design principle that says the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number of alternatives. If you decrease the number of options, it becomes easier for your potential customer to make a decision. Thus, if you remove all the alternatives, a decision is guaranteed.

In 2010, John and Patrick Collision started their mobile payment company Stripe. It is now valued at over a billion dollars. It may seem like sales would come easy to Stripe but in the early days, the Collison brothers didn’t leave any potential sale to chance.

If you were interested in Stripe, they would set it up for you on the spot. They didn’t go back to their office and send you a link by email hoping you’d sign up. There was no choice. If you said, “yes” to try Stripe, they would grab your laptop and set it up for you.

Be the call-to-action

If someone says “I’m interested” or uses a phrase that indicates they want to use your product, a trigger should go off in your head where you remove every barrier to get them started with you.

Don’t give them instructions to create an account or fill out a form. Do it for them.

On Crew, we match short-term mobile and web projects with handpicked developers and designers. This means we need to collect a few points of information to create a new account and post a project.

We would often get potential customers referred to us by email that wanted to create a mobile app or website. In these cases, it might have been easier for us to direct these referrals to our form on our website, but we didn’t do that.

Why? Although I’d like to think we have a relatively simple signup form, it still leaves too much to chance. And it’s not as helpful to the customer.

What if we send a potential customer the link to the form but they get interrupted and don’t complete their project submission?

What if they decide to do it later but then forget about us?

What if they don’t quite know what they need to put in the form so they don’t complete it?

In a startup, growth is too important to leave the door open for these things to happen.

So instead, we set everything up for a potential customer.

When a potential customer would come through my email, we would have a short exchange about some of the details of what type of mobile app or website they were looking to create. Then, the conversation would reach a point where we had the minimum amount of information needed to create an account.

Once we had the minimum amount of details needed, we would not say something like,

“Great. Now you can go post your project here and create an account:”

Instead, I would say,

“Great. I’ll take care of this for you now. You’ll receive a confirmation email when everything is setup.”

This difference might seem small but it’s significant. Writing an email like the second one guarantees you have a new customer. You don’t have to worry if they get interrupted or forget about you. And your new customer will feel taken care of because you made it easier for them to start.

In the early days, don’t worry if what you’re doing to grow your business will work when you get bigger, just get the wheel turning.

If you’re building a product that solves a problem well, momentum from things like word-of-mouth and customer referrals will eventually step in and help propel you forward. Sales will eventually get easier. It could be a few months or years but if you look for ways you can take action to impact sales rather than leaving those actions up to chance, you will grow. Guaranteed.

In case you wanted to know more about the work I do: Hey there. I’m Mikael, founder at Crew, an invite-only community where you can work with top freelance designers, developers, or studios to build your app, website, or brand.

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Thanks for reading and here’s a gif that shows how Crew works ;) Of course it was made on Crew.