How to Find Your First 100 Customers and Get Your Startup Off the Ground

You’ve just launched your startup and feel like you can take on the world.

Your product and team are ready to go!

Now you just need customers to get your startup, well, started.

Because, here’s the thing: even if you have the best idea, the best team, and the best product, your business is going to fall flat without customers.

And, unfortunately, it’s not easy to land your first customers. Especially since new startups lack the brand awareness, social proof, and referrals that provide many established businesses with valuable leads.

Today, we’re going to cover four actionable strategies to help you acquire the first 100 customers for your startup.

4 Actionable Ways to Find Your First 100 Customers

1. Start Blogging to Increase Visibility, Traffic, and Demand for Your Product

Start Blogging to Increase Visibility, Traffic, and Demand for Your Product

If you don’t already have a company blog, I urge you to create one ASAP.

It can be easy to underestimate the power of blogging (especially when you have a million other things on your plate), but creating content is a valuable tool that your startup can use to acquire its first customers.

Since blogging is a long-term investment, the sooner you get started, the better. Publishing a steady stream of high-quality content will pay off majorly over time.

There are several ways blogging can help you find your first 100 customers, including:

A. Driving traffic to your website

  • Companies with active blogs tend to have 97% more inbound links than those that don’t publish content.
  • By optimizing your content for a few relevant keywords, you can improve your website’s SEO and rank higher in search results – which means more visibility, more website visits, and more potential customers discovering your brand.

B. Generating interest, need, and demand

  • Blogging creates awareness for your brand and product or service.
  • Awareness feeds interest, which can fuel need and demand.
  • Created branded content allows you to tell the story of your product.

C. Building relationships with potential customers.

  • Unlike traditional ads, which can scare off potential customers who aren’t ready to buy, blog content provides customers with information about the industry, brand, and product before they make a purchase.
  • Blogging creates an opportunity to create cater your information to people at different stages of the sales funnel.

D. Strengthening your brand and online presence

  • Build a stronger brand reputation by publishing informative content that demonstrates thought leadership in your industry.
  • Boosting credibility is not only important for improving search results, it fosters trust among customers – which can lead to more conversions and sales.

Blogging tips when you’re just getting started:

  • Aim for quality over quantity. Google prefers blogs that publish consistently high-value content over sporadic content dumps of mediocre articles.
  • Optimize for long-tail keywords. Trying to rank for general keywords like “SaaS tools” is a lot harder than ranking for something specific like “affordable SaaS tools for startups.”
  • Track the metrics that matter most. Measure how well your content is performing with metrics like time on page, shares, views, and conversions.
  • Set reasonable expectations. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to publish new content every single day. Start with once a week and increase to two or three if you have the resources to do so.

2. Leverage Your Existing Network

Leverage Your Existing Network

Even if you don’t have any customers yet, you do have a network of trusted contacts.

Don’t be shy about asking friends, family, and professional contacts for feedback on your product. In most cases, people are happy to help – and if not, they’ll politely decline. You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain by turning to your network for assistance.

Reach out to your network for referrals and introductions. You might just meet potential customers, users, or beta testers.

Ask about pain points your potential customers are facing, and ask specific ask specific questions about your industry, product, and market. Even if they don’t all go on to become customers, chatting with businesses or contacts in your industry is always a good way to build your network even further.

When you have a small cohort of customers or testers using the product, reach out to them individually to get detailed feedback about their experience.

At the earliest stages of customer development, it’s more important to listen to customer feedback than try to push a product no one wants to buy. Learn what your initial customers like and don’t like about your product before focusing on increasing sales.

3. Make New Connections with Cold Email

Make New Connections with Cold Email

Cold email can be an extremely effective means of expanding your network. Not only is it a scalable method of targeting new leads, but it can also help you initiate relationships with investors, mentors, and influencers who can help grow your business.

Need help creating a list of contacts? Check out our article on finding (almost) anyone’s email address.

Once you’ve built a killer list of contacts, don’t throw away your hard work on a poorly-written cold email.

Tips to send better cold emails that get noticed and get read:

  • Research the contact beforehand to determine whether they might be interested in your product and so you can customize your email.
  • Personalize each message with their full name, job title, and reference to their business or recent project. Even if you rely on a template, fill in these items with personal details.
  • Be succinct. No one wants to read a lengthy email from someone they don’t know. Prove your worth before getting into the nitty gritty details.
  • Communicate value. What’s in it for them? Make your offer clear and enticing so they feel compelled to read on and respond.
  • Include a strong call-to-action. If your contact is interested in what you have to say, what do you want them to do in response? Ask a straightforward question, ask them to set up a call at a certain time, or request a specific action from them.

Here at Propeller, we’re huge proponents of cold emailing for lead generation. So much so that we put together a guide to help you create your first cold email campaign. Interested? Grab your copy here.

4. Engage with Online Communities

Engage with Online Communities

Interacting with online communities allows you to engage with a group of likeminded individuals. Find the right group, and you’ve tapped into a valuable resource for consumer feedback, networking, and building relationships with your future customers.

However, you want to be considerate in your approach.

Before you post anything, spend some time figuring out how the community operates. What posts tend to get the most engagement? Is there a knowledge gap you can help fill with your expertise?

Once you’ve got a feel for the community, start participating in conversations. The idea isn’t to start selling right off the bat, but to provide value and contribute to the dialogue. Give before you take, so to speak.

Even if you don’t get a chance to pitch your product, these conversations can be a great source of insight. Listening to and chatting with consumers gives you a more rounded perspective on your industry.

As you build up a reputation as an expert in the community, you can politely ask for input on your business model or product to see how potential users react. You can also leverage these new connections to recruit beta testers.

Not sure where to find relevant communities? Active, niche websites like Product Hunt (great for discovering the latest in tech products) and Reddit (composed of subreddits dedicated to just about every topic you can imagine) provide an accessible starting point for business owners that want to get to know their future users and customers.

You should also scope out Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups related to your product or industry. Keep in mind that some of these groups require you to request access and will remove users who spam the group without providing value.

Apply These Strategies to Landing Your Next 10,000 Customers

The information you learn from your early adopters will play an important role in the trajectory of your business.

Engage with your early customers and testers. Call them up to learn about their pain points and ask about experience with your product.

Encourage honest feedback and don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. The sooner you uncover weaknesses, the faster you can learn from your mistakes and improve your offering.

The better you can learn from and understand the needs of your initial users, the better you can apply that knowledge towards refining your product and developing an ideal customer profile.

Get to know your first 100 customers, so you can better target and sell to your next 10,000 customers and beyond!

Use a CRM to Keep Track of Customers as Your Startup Grows

Now that you’ve got some tricks up your sleeve to help you find your initial customers, you should consider investing in a CRM to help keep track of your customer data and communication.

A powerful CRM system like Propeller makes it easier to maintain accurate customer records, so you can focus on sales, growth, and improving your offering to meet customer needs.

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