Successful takeoff: getting your first customers

I came across a particularly useful article that interviewed a series of successful entrepreneurs, many of whom were serial entrepreneurs.  Via live chat, business owners asked the entrepreneurs questions related to building an initial customer base as a startup company.

I found the responses from the interviewees to be particularly insightful.  Rather than run the risk of linking the article to the News section, where it may get missed, I wanted to bring it to the fore by summarizing the main takeaways below.

Hopefully, you’ll find these shared perspectives from successful entrepreneurs to be useful as you plan, build, and grow your dreams. Thanks for reading!

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11 Key Takeaways

  1. In sharing your product’s or service’s story through social media, focus everything on the uniqueness or differentiating factors – forget the rest.  This will resonate with the right target users, who will be much more likely to share what they’ve found with other like-minded individuals.
  2. Similar to number one above, get community buy-in and support.  Leverage social media channels to get your very first users to share their successes with your product/service with their networks.  If you can assemble a team of connected evangelists to help you, even better.
  3. Know your target market.  Go straight to that market to find your first ten or so customers (e.g., ‘go where you’re loved‘).  Give your product/service away for free in the beginning.  These first few customers can be won over if they’re the right target market, and if you remove any other concerns from the equation for them so they can focus on having and using your product or service.
  4. Get feedback.  Listen to your users and proactively seek out both praise and criticism.
  5. Once you’ve done number four above (e.g., you’ve learned what the real value is to your very first users), then focus heavily on that for the next set of customers.  Reflect on your processes and product as you reach growth milestones, then flex and react based on those reflections, making the necessary changes to improve operationally.
  6. Product is everything.  Content is everything.  All else will fail if you haven’t nailed one of these two down first.
  7. Extending point number six, focus on creating beautiful products/services and beautiful customer experiences – leveraging the press will be a lot easier having accomplished this.  Also, don’t overlook or undervalue the power of traditional media.
  8. Familiarize yourself with Google Analytics – even if your business doesn’t rely much on e-commerce/web marketing, simply understanding the frameworks espoused within GA can help any business owner better understand and isolate key variables in their marketing campaigns.
  9. Understand that bigger competitors may be focused more on scale, and as a result aren’t really using hard-to-scale marketing channels and activities such as mailing lists, forums, online communities, offline gatherings, etc..  These are potential areas of focus should you find yourself swimming with the sharks.
  10. Don’t miss out on major opportunities because you are unwilling to disrupt your own game.  Be flexible, adaptable, and open.  Listen to the customer and the broader marketplace.
  11. Offer solutions, don’t point out problems.  Don’t underestimate your customers’ awareness of their own problems and challenges.  You’ll lose them in the first few seconds.  Just skip to the part that they want to hear: how you can help them or what they should be doing differently.

Link to the original article:  How to Build an Early Customer Base for Your Startup

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