One of the biggest fears that new entrepreneurs face is the daunting task of finding their first customer. It’s a fair concern, especially if you’ve never been responsible for generating your own revenue before. And the reality is, it isn’t easy. Ask any successful entrepreneur and they’ll tell you the struggle they faced with self-doubt, limiting beliefs, and pure lack of knowledge.
Here’s the good news. It doesn’t have to be the terminal road block that it becomes for so many could-be-awesome businesspeople. In fact, there are tons of people who will tell you that finding your first customer will be the most fun you’ll have in growing your business.
Your challenge this month, get your first customer!
Whether you are in the idea stage still, or already have a growing business, getting your first customer for a product or service validates it. (even existing business owners can participate, since if you have a new product or service within your existing business, that needs a customer too!)
There is nothing better than cold hard cash to tell you whether an idea is a good one or not!
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The Benefits Of Your First Customer
On top of that, there are a number of incredible benefits that you’ll be able to enjoy once you’ve locked down that first contract or inked that first deal.
- Validation – There’s no better validation than having someone open up their wallet and exchange their hard earned cash for something you’ve got to offer. The internet (and the world, for that matter) is littered with the carcasses of failed businesses who never sought out customer validation in the form of actual money exchanged. Asking “so what do you think of my idea?” simply isn’t enough. If someone thinks your idea is so great, get them to pay for it and move forward.
- Income – Might be a bit of a “duh” point here, but it’s hard to achieve progress without income to back it up. We’re in business to change the world, make an impact, and create a certain lifestyle for ourselves, sure. But truly, we’re in business to make money to afford us those opportunities. Once we see some coin come in, it becomes real and can be used to achieve further growth.
- Testimonials/Social Proof – I’ve watched countless service businesses struggle desperately to get some testimonials up on the site. We know we need to show social proof to make the decision to become a customer easier, but we don’t know how to do it. It’s not enough to ask some friends to provide a testimonial. Get it from a customer. Going out and finding someone to exchange money for what you’re offering and then sharing their experience with the world is one of the most powerful ways to gain new customers.
- Valuable feedback – Who better to give feedback than a paying customer? Want to keep improving your offerings and expand your market? Ask your customer what they love, what they don’t, and what they wish they could get. Find out what pain points they’re facing that you could solve. Although this bullet is titled “Valuable feedback”, it should probably say “Invaluable feedback.”
Alright, so you get it. The benefits of that first paying customer are clear. Now what?
First off, we need to understand that in order to be truly effective, in most cases it would be missing the boat entirely to focus solely on an online marketing plan. Please, don’t be one of the many who put up a long form sales letter, pay for some Adwords campaigns, and wonder why the sales aren’t rolling in.
The key to putting yourself in the top echelon of small businesses is to approach this from all angles. Keep in mind the importance and value of this first customer acquisition and treat it with as much respect. I’m talking online, offline, and everything in between. Don’t confine yourself to only one marketing channel. A-I-C (Butt-In-Chair…or something like that) can’t be your only weapon or you will lose the battle. It’s time to pound the pavement, hit the phones, and actually INTERACT with people. As Dave Ramsey would say, it’s time for “scorched Earth, baby!”
Once you’re committed to this, you can start to take real action.
Create Your Avatar
“In any business today if you’re not using social and not paying attention to who your customers are – who your audience is – you’re foolish.” – Sean Malarkey (click here to listen to that interview with Sean)
Now, we need to be sure that we’re perfectly clear on what pain point we’re solving. Achieving some serious clarity here will allow us to dig our heels in and define our target market. This isn’t an article on product design or anything like that, but it’s crucial to know who you’re looking to target and why.
One major piece of this puzzle is figuring out who our customer is not. I’d be willing to bet you’d love to save money, cut down on wasted time, and shorten your sales cycle. If I’m right, then clearly picturing your ideal customer and barring out who you don’t want to work with will be one of the smartest moves you ever make.
So let’s assume your vision includes an avatar of your ideal customer and you just want to get things rolling as quickly as possible. If it doesn’t, this is the wrong article to be reading. Maybe you should check out “Creating Your Customer Avatar“.
Some of the most powerful places to find your first customer can be some of the most obvious ones if you’re keeping your eyes and ears open.
Tap your warm market
I know that this is tired advice, but I want you to look at this from a 50,000 foot view. Instead of thinking of who you know who could be a customer of your company, consider the deep connections within your circle of influence.
“The great thing about referrals, of course, is that it’s easier to set the appointment with prospects because you’re going in on borrowed influence.” – Bob Burg (Click Here to listen to this interview with Bob)
It’s not always easy to discover who might have access to a potential customer, but a little sleuthing (which sounds so fun if you’re a nerd like me) can lead to a relatively quick and pleasant result.
Action Item: This one is simple. Connect with some people close to you and ask if they know anyone who needs help with X (with X being the pain your product or service solves).
We all know how powerful Google is as a tool, but sometimes we can overlook it when we’re getting started. To be crystal clear here, I’m not going to be talking about utilizing the latest SEO technique to rank higher and then optimizing conversions. Although that might be a critical part of your long term strategy, remember that we’re focusing on customer number one. This part of the entrepreneurial process isn’t glamorous and won’t be a hot topic amongst your friends, but it gets the job done so that you can focus later on the future.
What I’m referring to is using Google to find influencers in your market and reaching out to them. These people can offer an almost unlimited value to your company. It’s possible that they may become customers, sure. But more than that, the high level influencers are connected. They know much about what’s happening in the industry and can be a bridge between you and your potential customers. As Bob Burg said “…the law of influence simply says that your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.” Because of this, the people you think are hardest to reach out to will be the ones most likely to help.
Action Item: Type “top (your niche here) blog” and see what comes up. Or if you need to look locally, try “top (your niche here) in (your city here)”. Find someone who you think might be a great influencer, send them an email. Be direct and to the point, but don’t use a template. You’re simply looking to reach out and offer value of some kind. Remember, you’re reaching out to a real person who you’re hoping to build a meaningful relationship with, so let your personality shine here.
Actual, Real Networking
For a while, there was a (mostly accurate) stigma associated with networking events. Sometimes they can feel like business speed dating, and unfortunately, that hasn’t entirely gone away. I’m still haunted by images of suited up guys with slicked back hair handing their business cards around and offering “opportunities” to the room.
With that said, obviously that’s not the networking I’m talking about. I’m talking about getting out there and dropping value bombs everywhere. It’s an absolutely critical step and can lead to a nearly unlimited stream of customers, referrals, and enjoyment. What you’re looking for is a chance to make an impact without selling people. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Most people aren’t looking to be sold to, but they probably have a few problems that they need solved. And guess what… when you’re the person who solves that problem without hard-selling them, you become the trusted expert. Who do people buy from? Someone they know, like, and trust. Boom!
Action Item: Find an inexpensive networking event in your local area and register for it. When you get there, just talk to people. Don’t toss business cards around like a spammy marketer – just get yourself out there.
People everywhere are talking about hustle. It’s possibly one of the most overused terms in the world when talking about business, sports, music, or Van McCoy and The Soul City Symphony. Without it, very few successful people would be where they are today. And the best part is, the ability to hustle isn’t something you can only enjoy if you’ve been born with it. You may not have natural talent in many fields, but you can always out-hustle your opponents.
This is nearly never more important than in the very beginning of your business. It’s going to set a precedent that can propel you to the top or accelerate your descent. Everyone notices the small company, quietly putting in the work necessary to under promise and over deliver. And that’s who we want to do business with. If I’m your customer, seeing you relentlessly seeking out ways to serve your market is going to mean everything to me when it’s time to present the credit card.
Action Item: Keep track of your activity every day. Write it down and compare daily results to the day before. Do you feel you’re getting out there and making it happen, or have you been slacking?
Now Do It
If you’re anything like me, you’re an information soaker. I want to ensure that I’m making the right moves to achieve whatever goal it is that I’m targeting, so I’m constantly seeking out quality advice. This is an awesome way to be, but it can be a hindrance. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. You can learn the absolute top notch strategies that world class entrepreneurs use to acquire customers, but if you don’t get off your butt and apply them, they’re worthless. So take this as your morning alarm clock.
Final Action Item: Make a connection with one potential customer. Don’t try and focus on a broad market attack. Just go out and talk to someone who fits your customer avatar. Find out what their pain is, show them how you can solve it, and make a deal happen.
Go get results now, and send me a message when you’re ready to celebrate.
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