The ability to come up with a great new idea or product doesn’t automatically mean you have the innate ability to successfully sell it to customers. No matter how great your startup idea is if you don’t have customers you don’t have a sustainable business. Customers are the backbone of a business, without clients, you basically have no business! Customers are kings, take this seriously and treat them right once you have them.
Ways to Acquire Customers for your Startup
Here are some realistic and feasible action steps for acquiring customers for your startup:
- Start blogging
- Start with your existing network
- Network online or offline
- Paid Advertising (Online & Offline)
- Cold calling/emailing
1. Start blogging
Who hasn’t blogging helped? Blogging is a great way to put out first-hand information and to your clients and prospective clients. Again, your contents must be in line with your business and it should give the customer all information they need. It takes a lot of time and consistency but it’s worth all your time and dime.
To understand the power of a blog in growing your startup, we don’t need to look any further than Buffer. In the company’s early days, Buffer attempted to get featured on 3rd party blogs such as Mashable and TechCrunch. Those blogs weren’t interested. When Buffer approached blogs with smaller audiences they also declined to write about the company.
Co-founder Leo Widrich took content marketing into his own hands and started producing/publishing content on the company’s new blog. If you’ve read any of Buffer’s blogs you know they do a lot of things right, and there are lessons you can put towards your own blog for increased success.
2. Start with your existing network
When looking for those initial customers, your first step should be to talk to the people you know and the people they know. Most of us think of friends, family, and professional connections when we think of our network. If you’re new to asking people to be your customer, starting with your friends and family will certainly be the most comfortable.
Then expand your network reach by also considering previous customers and investors, ask your investors to help spread the word about your new venture. Most investors have fantastic networks!
When you are talking to people in your network it is critical that you ask them for introductions to people in their network who might be interested in your product. You never know where network connections can lead!
3. Network online and offline
Instead of sitting behind a computer all week, plan to go to a meetup or a conference, where your prospective clients may be mingling. Meanwhile, if you go to conferences and meetups where all your competitors are, you’ll have a hard time finding people that need your services. So you might want to go for exclusive ones and the ones that are not really known.
Online networking is just as important as well. Complete a LinkedIn profile with up-to-date information and work samples. Import your contacts and connect with as many people in your network as possible. Share your blog posts, website and other interesting content directly to your LinkedIn news feed.
Just like going to meetups or conferences that your prospective clients attend, join LinkedIn groups where they post. There are groups for every industry on LinkedIn, so this is an excellent way to get in front of prospective clients.
Answer questions, offer help, post useful content and you’ll not only grow your connections, but you might also land a new deal for your company. Once you land that huge deal, make sure you invoice them in a smart way.
4. Paid Advertising (Online & Offline)
There are conflicting industry opinions about using paid advertising to get your first customers.
There are many who are of the opinion that paid ads are only for established products with an existing customer base, steady sales pipeline and marketing that is based on experience.
Think about the first place you turn when you have a question or an issue. Most people (including us) go straight to Google. If you’re targeting search terms related to the solution your product provides, your product’s ad — conveniently offering the solution to the issue being researched — can come up with organic search results on Google.
For many tech startups, digital channels are the first port of call when looking for new customers. But every marketer that knows you can’t ignore offline marketing channels, which is why you still see digital giants like Google running billboard adverts. I mean, if Google is doing it, there’s got to be a case for it right?
5. Cold Calling / Emailing
If you can get your first 100 customers from within your existing network, great! But, sooner or later you’re going to have to approach strangers as potential customers and pitch your product to them.
When sending a “cold email” to someone you don’t know, it helps to have a mutual contact. If you don’t have a shared connection, take the time to do some research prior to emailing them. Reach out to as many qualified prospects as you can and pitch your service. If they’re interested, close the deal right then and there. If they aren’t, find out why.