HOW TO GET YOUR FIRST CUSTOMERS

In the article below, I will summarize thoughts from Michael Seibel of Y Combinator, Kathryn Minshew of The Muse (at The Lean Startup Conference), Rob Walling of TinySeed, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Noah Kagan of AppSumo. Reference links included.

How to get your first 10 customers?

By Michael Seibel

https://youtu.be/WAXLTG9n7Kw

Finding Your First Customers

  • Ideally, your first customers should be people you know.
  • It’s important to solve a problem that you or someone you know has, so that you have a better understanding of the customer’s needs.
  • Don’t stress about trying to find elaborate ways to advertise or grow your customer base in the beginning.
  • Instead, focus on hand-recruiting your first customers.

Targeting the Right Customers

  • It’s important to target customers who are intensely experiencing the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Don’t waste your time targeting customers who aren’t interested in working with early-stage startups, won’t pay for your product, or don’t have the problem you’re trying to solve.

Charging Your Customers

  • One way to know if your customers really have the problem you’re trying to solve is to charge them money to solve it.
  • If they are pushing back and only willing to use your product if it’s free, they likely don’t have a real need for it.

Qualifying Your Customers 

  • You don’t have to accept every customer who walks through your door.
  • Create a set of qualifying questions to determine if a potential customer is a good fit for your product.
  • Only aggressively pursue customers who answer these questions correctly and are a good fit for your product.

Final Takeaways 

  • Your first customers should ideally be people you know.
  • Focus on recruiting customers who have a real need for your product and are willing to pay for it.
  • Charge your customers to determine if they actually have the problem you’re trying to solve.
  • Qualify potential customers to ensure they are a good fit for your product.

 

Acquiring Your First Users Out of Thin Air

By Kathryn Minshew at The Lean Startup Conference 2013

https://youtu.be/2cOzUtD8pCg

User Acquisition Strategies 

  • Kathryn Minshew is here to talk about how to acquire users out of thin air with no money.
  • Acquiring users is a thorny problem that every startup will face at some point.
  • You can’t simply build something and expect people to come, you have to figure out how to get the word out to people who don’t know you and convince them to come to your product or website.
  • Kathryn will walk us through five zero-cost strategies to acquire users out of thin air.

Design the First User Experience 

  • Designing the initial user experience is crucial because it’s the first impression that users get of your site.
  • You want to create a holistic design experience that makes people want to invest their time in your site and share it with others.
  • The first two seconds of a user’s experience is what matters the most.
  • Make sure that the site is visually appealing and easy to understand.
  • You want people to feel like they’re sharing something of value with others.

Ask for Word of Mouth

  • Don’t send long and unactionable emails asking people to spread the word about your product.
  • Instead, put together a short and concise email that has a longer description at the bottom for people who want to read more.
  • Write specific Facebook posts and tweets that people can copy and paste to share on social media.
  • The difference in getting people to spread the word about your product if you give them a copy-pasting they can share on social media is tremendous.

Seek Out Like-Minded Groups

  • You want to find groups of people that have already self-organized around a purpose that’s somewhat related to the one you’re trying to serve.
  • These groups could be small collections of people like the Stanford Women in Law Group or the Baldwin Scholars of Duke.
  • Offer something of value to these groups to get them interested in your product.

Approach Bloggers and Reporters Strategically 

  • You want to find bloggers and reporters who write about topics related to your product.
  • Make sure that you’re familiar with their work and that you’re offering them something of value.
  • Don’t send mass emails, instead take the time to personalize your pitch.

Become Your Own PR Machine 

  • You don’t need to hire a PR firm to get press coverage.
  • You can become your own PR machine by reaching out to bloggers and reporters, attending events, and creating your own content.
  • You want to create content that’s valuable to your target audience and share it on social media.
  • Attend events where your target audience is likely to be and network with them.

Approaching Users and Getting Initial Communities 

  • Genuine approach to users is required
  • Ask for feedback on the product
  • Strong response from users can lead to initial communities
  • Communities can provide interesting feedback

Approaching Bloggers and Reporters 

  • A challenging task for early-stage founders
  • Identify appropriate person to reach out
  • Understand the target audience and community
  • Think about the trade bloggers and people who have the small communities that are relevant to you
  • Consider their interests when approaching them
  • Keep the email concise but include a story
  • People love stories, it’s more interesting than a list of facts

Pitching a Story 

  • Pay attention to the narrative arc
  • Identify the problem that your hero or product is overcoming
  • Explain the opportunity and how your product is unique
  • Relate to larger trends and statistics
  • Make it easier for a reporter to cover your story
  • Treat reporters professionally and courteously

Becoming Your Own PR Machine 

  • Seek out blogs and publications looking for great content
  • Provide something compelling to them in exchange for a backlink
  • Write posts on topics that are interesting for their audience
  • Target small blogs first and work your way up
  • Be persistent and polite
  • Understand the publication’s requirements and interests

Conclusion 

  • To find your users and deliver something of value to them, you need to get laser-focused
  • Identify the target audience and understand what they want
  • Encourage them to tell others about your product or service
  • Initial users can lead to exponential growth

 

How To Get Your First 100 Customers for Your SaaS Product

By Rob Walling

https://youtu.be/QviDwsMLXb0

Building a Network and Finding Advantages 

  • Before writing a line of code, start building a network that knows and respects you as an entrepreneur.
  • Look for advantages you have when choosing an idea, such as having an audience or network in a particular space.
  • If you don’t have an audience or network, start building one through online entrepreneur communities like IndieHackers, MicroConf Connect, or the Dynamite Circle.

The Importance of Marketing and Customer Development 

  • Don’t think about building the product and then marketing it later; start marketing before you start coding.
  • Have conversations with potential customers while showing them mock-ups to validate the need for your product.
  • Create a landing page to capture emails and build an email launch list for your product.
  • Use social media and podcasts to get product direction and build interest in your product.
  • Talk about your idea in public before writing code to get validation and early interested customers.

How to Launch Your Product

  • Launch to your email list first, giving them a heads up two weeks in advance with mock-ups and a cool video of what your product does.
  • Offer launch motivation like free onboarding, migration from a prior tool, or a discount.
  • Make your email list feel special for having followed your journey.
  • Launch to your early interested customers to get revenue and motivation to keep going.

Scratching and Clawing 

  • Launching to the world is often a one-time event.
  • There are a lot of things that you can do in the short term to get customers.
  • These are things like launching on Product Hunt, Hacker News, doing a Reddit launch, going to Q&A sites like Quora and Stack Exchange.
  • Launching on Product Hunt, for example, can be learned from a 30-minute video on how to do a product launch by Derek Reimer who did this with SavvyCal.

Under-pricing Your Product 

  • A common mistake that a lot of first-time entrepreneurs make is under-pricing their product.
  • Under-pricing and thinking that if you only charge five dollars per customer, you’re going to get a lot more customers.
  • The problem is you get a hundred customers five dollars a month, you’re only making 500 a month, and that’s not enough to do much with.
  • If you charged a hundred dollars a month, what could you build that’s worth a hundred dollars a month?
  • By the time you get to that 100 customer mark, you have 10k in MRR, and that allows you to, in most places, quit that day job.

Building a Marketing Flywheel 

  • Your price point dictates a lot more than you realize early on in your product.
  • If you have five dollars a month versus 500 a month, you can barely do anything.
  • You can do some Quora and Reddit, some content and SEO, but you can’t afford to do pay-per-click ads.
  • If you have a price point of $100 or $500 a month, you can afford to do a whole swath of marketing approaches.
  • You pick one marketing approach that can get you to that 100 customer mark.
  • Pillar B2B SaaS marketing approaches include SEO or content, cold outreach, partnerships, integrations, or pay-per-click ads.
  • These are the most common ones that people build into flywheels.
  • Keep in mind there’s a lot of experimentation and maybe going with your founder gut to get the point where you have a hundred customers.

Retaining Customers 

  • Finding a hundred customers is hard, retaining them is the real challenge.
  • Building a product that people want and are willing to pay for month after month is much harder than you think.
  • If you drive 10 new customers a month but you churn 10 customers a month, you’ll be flat.
  • It doesn’t matter if you find 100 customers if you cannot retain them.
  • Building a product that people don’t churn out of can take six months, 12, or 18.

 

How To Hack Your First 100 Users

By Reid Hoffman

https://youtu.be/w2nrXTy47Gc

Tactics to Get Your First 100 Users

  • For LinkedIn, the first 100 users were acquired through personal, highly influential networks of the founders.
  • For businesses that don’t have such networks, it is important to think about unique ways to acquire the first set of users.
  • The tactics to acquire the first 100 users depend on the shape of the specific business.
  • For network businesses, it is important to use hacks to get the scale needed. For example, frequently networked businesses get built out of other platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn.
  • The “upload your address book and send emails to a bunch of people” strategy is essentially hacking the email platform as a way to grow.
  • However, this strategy is less effective now since people have gotten sick of receiving too many emails.
  • To acquire the first 100 users, it is important to think about the unique way of doing that which is different from the existing strategies.
  • Telling your story to investors, early employees, early partners, and getting media attention is also super important in the early stages of entrepreneurship.
  • If you can think of a unique or interesting way of doing that, then it will be really useful.
  • The first set of users is part of the go-to-market plan and should be thought of aggressively.

Importance of Go-To-Market Plan

  • The go-to-market plan is as important as the product or service invention.
  • The co-inventor and the first set of users are part of that go-to-market plan.
  • It is important to think about how to acquire the first set of users aggressively.

Tactics for Enterprise B2B Startups

  • For enterprise B2B startups, it is important to identify the first couple of core customers and get their feedback.
  • The feedback from these customers is crucial to improve the product or service.
  • Venture capital networks like EF and firms like Greylock can help startups get in touch with the relevant people.

Importance of Storytelling 

  • Telling your story to investors, early employees, early partners, and getting media attention is also super important in the early stages of entrepreneurship.
  • If you can think of a unique or interesting way of doing that, then it will be really useful.
  • Startups should frequently be thinking about the go-to-market plan and how to acquire users aggressively.
  • It is important to think about the unique way of acquiring users which is different from the existing strategies.

 

For enterprise B2B startups, it is important to identify the first couple of core customers and get their feedback.

How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers (Behind The Scenes)

By Noah Kagan

https://youtu.be/ZZ5BDsI9vDA

Introduction 

  • Noah Kagan, founder of appszoom.com, talks about how his new site Rove.com got 1000 users in one month.
  • He shares the three things that worked really well for them and some things that didn’t.
  • The first thing to do in marketing is to set your goal, deadline, and pick a reward.

Hand-to-Hand Combat 

  • In the 0-50 stage, hand-to-hand marketing combat is essential.
  • It involves texting friends, calling friends, and asking colleagues to sign up.
  • Justin Mayor from Kettle and Fire suggests individual marketing and not overcomplicating it.

Buffet Marketing

  • In the 50-100 stage, buffet marketing is recommended.
  • The goal is to experiment with many things and have fun.
  • Share the product with any audience you have, post in Facebook groups, and mention it on your podcast.
  • Use Sendfox.com to build a community for free.
  • Ask creator friends to launch it on their site or tweet it out to their audience.
  • Send a daily email to bring people back to the site.

Refine Selection

  • In the 100-500 stage, look for scalars and focus on one or two activities that can be 10xed.
  • Find the channels that work well and focus on them.
  • Build marketing into the product by including forced registration and making it easy to share.

Building Marketing Into Your Product

  • The goal is registration, so optimize around it
  • Think about how to build more marketing into your product, such as your ebook course, software physical product, etc.
  • Consider adding promotions like a card for redemption of source when someone gets your product
  • Claim your store and give people a reason to promote it
  • Recruit influencers and people who love talking about products
  • Create usernames and mission promotions
  • Give people a checklist of things to promote and lubricate it so they’re excited to share it
  • Discounts work well to get people interested and to make registration important and urgent
  • Giveaways are a great way to drive users and find people who are interested in cool products
  • Gamifying doesn’t work, make a great product

Leveraging Your Network

  • Leverage your network and friends who have audiences or are in groups
  • Use sumo.com to include in their newsletter
  • Add an opt-in button to let them know about the hall drop giveaways

Running Giveaways

  • Running a giveaway works well
  • Stop doing things that don’t work and focus on what does
  • Running giveaways can help you find people who are interested in your product

Company Loops 

  • Restructure the site to make it easier for companies to share
  • Allow companies to claim their page for top rank and more customers
  • Use a scoring system with follower number and vote streaks
  • Experimenting with views to give people more ego or status

What Didn’t Work

  • No ads as they are against ads and want to discourage people from spending any money until they’re making some
  • Didn’t use Product Hunt
  • No content marketing or funnels as it is a long-term marketing thing, not short-term

Major Takeaways

  • Spam your friends to get the word out
  • Be embarrassed, if you’re not embarrassed about your product, get feedback to get started
  • Different things work at different times, so keep experimenting
  • Marketing cannot fix a shitty product, make sure people actually want what you’re solving

 

In the 100-500 stage, look for scalars and focus on one or two activities that can be 10xed.

Author Bio

Benjamin Arritt

Benjamin Arritt

Global B2B sales & marketing executive that loves a fast-paced, customer-centric, high tech entrepreneurial environment. We help 50+ fractional CFOs and 93+ fractional CMOs find more work. Hire someone who has already done what you are trying to do. Follow me on X: @grokketship
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