02 Apr Getting your first 10 customers… and using the data to get your next 100
Startup marketing has no rules, no textbook and is generally trial and error. What works for Company X, will normally not impact Company Y’s successes. For this reason, startup marketing is generally the most creative marketing there is, and the entrepreneurs that take risks and learn from their failures will succeed. Startups are faced variables they can experiment with as they try scaling their product market fit. This includes but is not limited to; industry, timing, execution, funding, talent level, luck, offering.
With that said, below we share some key startup marketing learning’s from successful startups.
- Define what you offer
This sounds straightforward, however often misunderstood. Working out exactly what you are marketing is often the hardest insight to find. The best starting point is the value you think you can create for your potential customers. “Think” is the critical word in the previous sentence, never assume this “value” as it will take a few attempts (receiving a lot of “no’s”) to narrow this down. Then, determine what part of their business you serve. Define this in one word, three one words, one sentence, and one paragraph. Although this offering, both the value and part of the business you serve, will change over time you should always know what it is today.
The advantage of having only a few customers is that it allows you to promise the world and mold your pitch around their needs. In addition, you can sell the vision of tomorrow while being clear about what you can deliver today. This becomes harder when/if you start to see traction.
Once you have a potential offering defined you should scour your new network for those who are willing to provide feedback. Not listening to your customers is a recipe for disaster. Entrepreneurs can be narrow minded, and think they know best. However, the ability to change your focus or pivot what makes a successful entrepreneur. Gather all this customer feedback together like a product manager or brand manager would. Keep this information in the back of your mind as you continually mold your product offering.
- Maximize referrals from your first customers
A referral, whether its B2C or B2B, is the most important customer acquisition channel for a new business. It is human nature to trust referrals from people you know. The reason behind this is simple; past work is a determinant of future activity. An early stage startup does not have much in the terms of a business record; therefore, the talent and experience of the founder (or team) play a huge part in the customer’s decision-making process.
- Value creation vs, marginal value-add
Being cheaper than your competitors is a great way to start a conversation with your customers. However, becoming simply a “me too” brand is not the best way to retain customers. This is not to say that price can’t be a great way to get in the door, but the quality of your offering (and explaining this easily) is what will form long-term customer relationships and your eventual competitive advantage. Ask your first customers what they want; find out where “value” lies for them.
In short, you want to communicate to your clients that your offering will give your customer’s a competitive advantage. This determines an actual value-add to their business, not just a cost saving. What people sometimes forget is that your customers are your boss, so aim to improve their businesses!
- Market your customer’s successes
Proof is in the pudding. Without customer success, what does it matter what you offer? It is often easy to find a problem but making sure your solution solves your customer’s problem is the main goal. When you only have 10 customers you are agile, so make sure this first 10 get exactly what THEY want, even if it is different from the other 9.
Testimonials are not only the best but the purest form of marketing. It’s simply a customer saying what you do works. As you grow, every successful story should be a marketing asset, and the best part is that this marketing source is free. Think videos, demand content, PR, sales and the best of all, organic, unsolicited endorsements. If your customers are saying to other potential customers “you should try this”, you are on to something. The easiest way to do this is by creating an active social media presence; it will increase your customer’s willingness to talk about you. Acquiring and serving each new customer is an important step/milestone for a new business. To grow your business, you must facilitate, in some way, your customers achieving their business goals. Bottom line is this, forget focusing on creative ad spends, and the “newest” media platform; as a young company the best marketing remains word of mouth.
- Keep marketing yourself and your team
As you scale, whether you are in the service business or a production company, there is always a conflict between serving your clients and growing your own business. Time and resources are the main factors in this. However, whilst small you can focus on everything. No matter what business you run, there is always a face the customer is buying from; whether it is in a shop or over the internet. The face is your brand and your company. Don’t forget your identity and don’t forget your roots. If you change your fundamental purpose, you risk a lot. You see this often in restaurants. They start one shop and they get popular because they offer great quality food. As they start to scale they decide to reduce quality to improve margins. They lose customers, they go bust. When you started your business you probably had a reason. Market that reason from day one, and make sure you are loud about it. Being loud about your purpose will help attract your first customers, why change it as you grow? Although being loud about your purpose is common, what companies often forget is to market their team. They are what is creating your product; they should be visible for all to see. If you are providing software, make sure you explain who is building it!