If you are a startup founder, chances are you already know how difficult it gets to find the first paying customer. Every business finds its first client in its own unique way. Some within a short time of starting up and some in several months from day one.
The following list of how a first paying customer/client can be found and acquired is based observations and speculation of what might possibly work.
- LinkedIn Message / Email: Not a random marketing email that you send to 50 prospective customers at once, but a very targeted customized message to a customer who you think might be genuinely interested in your product l service. Eventually, you will learn a variety of things that people like or do not like about your product/idea. It might be time consuming but is very inexpensive.
- Attending Meetups and Events: Networking at professional events and meetups is probably one of the best ways to get the word out about your startup. The more people you talk to and interact with regarding your product the more likely it will be that those people will tell others if you have a compelling story/solution that meets a need.
- Ask For References: Ask people in your LinkedIn network to provide a known contact that they believe could potentially benefit from your product. Remember, you should have a potential market or customer group identified before you begin approaching people for references.
- Provide Free Trials / Demo: Being a startup it might be difficult to set aside a budget for free trials, but its an investment that will earn you valuable feedback on your product and may be some paying customers too.
- Social Media Promotions: Be present on social media, do it regularly, mention others, tag content appropriately, maintain professional etiquette, use images, basically always be out there with something useful to potential clients.
- Explainer Videos: Videos help drive your product and company message visually, directly and in a short passive medium increasing your chances of the client finding you. Video content on YouTube also increases your chances of being found through search since video results are displayed at the top of Google web search results. Folks are also more likely to watch a short video than read a sales letter/deck.
- Be A Subject Matter Expert: Present publicly in person (meetups, conferences, pitches etc.) or on the web (Quora, LinkedIn, blogs etc.) and become known as an expert in your area of business. This can reduce sales cycle time otherwise spent on gaining customer trust and confidence in your company’s abilities.
The bottom line is — you can’t just exist; you have to let people know about existence. Getting the word out is essential.