Starting out is always the hardest. When you are new in the market, you need to build your startup brand awareness and know how to get customers to trust you before they are willing to buy your product. If you are struggling with how to get your first 100 customers, you are not alone. We entrepreneurs know the difficulty. Here are 21 proven strategies to build your brand and get your first 100 customers.
Start with Friends and Family
When you are a new entrepreneur with a startup, perhaps you are a bit embarrassed to let your loved ones know that you are entering a business venture. Look in the mirror. There’s an entrepreneur in you. Own it. Share with your family and friends. Hold a party to celebrate your new journey and pitch to them. You will be amazed how supportive your loved ones are and how much they adore your bravery. Your first customers may be people you know very well.
Get to Friends of Friends
Once you have let all your loved ones know the value of your business, ask for a favour. Ask them to refer your business to their friends. That way, you will have already reached your 2nd degree contacts to know your startup. Ask them to share a social media post, a hashtag, a flyer or your website. Who knows, perhaps your friends’ friends would spread the word.
Start an Email Marketing Campaign
You need to quickly get publicity for your small business beyond your immediate circle. You need to know how to get customers online. To start an email marketing campaigns, I suggest that you first begin with 50,000 emails. I don’t suggest that you buy email lists. They are super overpriced and 50% or more of the emails are outdated.
At the same time, you don’t want to manually search websites for emails. If I did that, I would take 4 hours to find 50 emails. I recommend that you use TQ Prospector. It helped me find 50 emails in 4 minutes. It automates the entire lead generation process for you and it’s absolutely free for your first 200 emails! There’s nothing to lose except 200 potential customers if you don’t give it a shot!
Blog, Blog, Blog
At first you may be wondering how blogging can help you get customers in a short time. The truth is that blogging is useful to show to the world that you are an expert in your field. Your knowledge in your domain will help others understand what you do and respect you as a thought leader. This is especially important to build credibility as a startup founder. Learn Search Engine Optimisation to maximise your reach. Use keywords that people normally search on Google. That way, your blog post will appear on the front page of the Google search results and you get free traffic to your website.
Create a Newsletter
Do you remember moving your mouse out of the webpage and suddenly a pop-up on the screen appears? What does it offer? A free toolkit? An ebook? A newsletter? A free trial? Exactly. Do that. Copy best practices and this will supercharge your startup’s growth.This will generate leads for your email marketing campaign to reach your initial customers.
A great way to directly meet your potential customers’ needs is to find relevant questions on Quora to answer. Often people ask questions that they need an expert to advice on. Treat Quora like a blog. Share your expertise and build connections with a global audience. This will bring great long-term awareness to your startup.
Create a Facebook page and post your blog content. I also suggest that you create a “like-and-share” contest to incentivise your fans to share your content with the rest of the world. Building a following on Facebook is quite tricky nowadays. You may need paid adverts to give your startup brand the awareness it needs.
Tweet in Droves
Hashtag-ing is most popular on Twitter and it is an amazing technique to get your brand in front of a relevant audience. I recommend tweeting 10-17 times a day. Create your own hashtag and use other common hashtags also. How do you get your brand in front of potential customers? Ride on viral hashtags to drive traffic to your Twitter account. Direct your followers to your startup website through images and blog posts.
Pin It on Pinterest
Pinterest is a visual blog. Convert all your blog posts into infographics and post them onto Pinterest regularly. When people click on your image, link them to your website. Honestly I find myself more inclined to read an infographic than a blog post. So it is also prudent to post your infographics in your blog too.
Link Up on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is your digital CV. Everything you share and do on LinkedIn will determine the success or failure of your business. Be professional. People go to LinkedIn like they go for a business networking event rather than a birthday party. Share valuable educational content and not cat pictures. Advertising on LinkedIn is definitely an effective way to generate solid leads and get your first 100 customers.
Write on Reddit
How do I describe Reddit? It is a discussion page for everything under the sun, and that includes discussing your startup business. Getting in relevant discussions and providing insights will definitely provide you with a good reputation as a passionate leader in your industry and bring you your first 100 customers. Reddit has a cult following that is smaller than other social media platforms, but if you stay committed to the platform, you will reap a handsome number of leads.
Contribute to Forums
There are online forums for everything. They are decentralised public discussion pages that passionate enthusiasts gather around. These forums tend to be less formal. So it is perfectly fine to offer the lighter side of your startup business. But people on these forums know their stuff. So they appreciate truly valuable insights that have educational value.
Connect with Your Subscribers
Your subscribers are fans, regardless of which social media platform they follow you from. They expect to be related to as friends. So it pays to interact with them over social media. Your aim shouldn’t be to figure out how to get them to become customers, but rather how to add value to them. It helps you build rapport, learn their needs, build trust and get referrals from them. Actually help them even if it is beyond your scope. Refer them to people who can help them.
Call to Action
You need to link every Social Media account, blog and print adverts to a single landing page. That landing page needs to be optimised to reduce barriers to purchasing your product. You should only have 1 button “Try for Free”, “Subscribe”, “Download Now” etc. Any other button on your landing page is a distraction. Remember that your landing page has 1 sole purpose, which is to convert your committed fans into your first 100 customers. Don’t ever forget that.
Go to Networking Events
Conferences, book launches, breakfast clubs, round tables, and talks are great places to meet like-minded people. Always have an elevator pitch in mind to stimulate a conversation about what your startup has to offer. Prepare name cards, promo codes, discount vouchers and flyers to give away. See my article about 12 money saving tips for start-ups for ideas about how to go for these events for free.
Dish out Deals and Discounts
Who doesn’t love a $10 voucher? Personally, once I receive one, I want to make the most of the voucher. I will spend just to use it. It’s a psychological tactic. The loss aversion I feel from not using a voucher makes me buy. So use that to your advantage (just don’t do it to me). I still want a voucher though.
Try for Free
Often software has a free plan and a paid plan. You will use the free plan until you realise that you are addicted to the product and need to use the paid version. For your free plan to work, you need to make sure that you offer enough free stuff for it to be sticky and people actually stay on the free product instead of deleting it. That’s how getting them to become paid customers becomes easier.
Get Free Publicity
Start connecting with influential people in your field who can share your startup story on their blogs or magazines. You can cold email them or message them on social media. But the best way to make the emotional connection is through meeting them in person. That means actually going to networking events to meet people. I didn’t say this yet but I’ll say it now. Networking is nerve-wreaking for an introvert like me. I love people, but meeting new people is exhausting. But it is worth it. You will meet new friends, help others and receive help. Being in community is good.
I generally avoid paying for adverts, unless it is for retargeting. Retargeting is how you get undecided visitors to become customers. Retargeting basically goes like this: a visitor enters your website but decides that he needs time to think about it. The adverts he sees subsequently will be about your website to persuade him that your product is really what he needs. There is a higher chance of getting a sale from him than from randomly placed adverts.
2 is better than 1, and 3 is better than 2. So why not get someone to be your brand ambassador for your startup! Offer your salesperson a commission for each sale to incentivise him to work hard for sales. You could approach bloggers to be affiliate marketers for you too. Then you don’t have to figure our how to get customers on your own. You have a team to synergise and figure out the best strategies together.
Find a complementary product to partner and exchange advertisements. Why? That’s because you will benefit from targeting your partner’s network while your partner will benefit from targeting yours. That’s why I say find a “complementary” product, not a “competing” product. Get creative about bartering for publicity.
BONUS: Tell your Story
Once you have made it past your first 100 customers, it is time to share your story to inspire other entrepreneurs who want to be like you. How did you end up doing what you are doing? What was the journey like? What were your ups and downs? Frame the story into the Hero’s Journey. Every story has the following elements:
- Living ordinarily
- The Call to Adventure
- Taking the First Step
- Trials, Tribulations and Troubles
- Meeting the Mentor (or guru)
- Confronting Your Biggest Fears
- Crippling Despair
- Slaying the Dragon
- Journey Home
- The Heroic Return
I hope this article helps you with many ideas find your first 100 customers. It is honestly not easy at the beginning, but that is the life of a startup founder. Entrepreneurs all go through these same problems as you. Keep pressing on and let us know any ideas you have too or surprising methods which worked!
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