Did you ever wonder why some small businesses frame their first dollar, purchase order or check? The reason is that the first sale is often the hardest to get, but the most rewarding.
Launching a startup can be a challenging task. First, you need to come up with a great product and/or service, validate it and then eventually sell it. This is where things get even more complicated — finding the first paying customer(s). However, when starting up, there’s no feeling better than making your first sale.
But before you get your first customer, you must determine your target audience, which is the ideal customer you’d like to attract to your product and/or service through various marketing efforts. This ideal customer, or buyer persona, is a semi-fictitious representation of your ideal customer(s) based on data and research.
Buyer personas can help set the foundation for your marketing efforts, which will ultimately allow you to drive sales. With properly-defined personas, you can figure out who your target customers are; what they want or need from you; which message will resonate best with their needs; how, when and where to reach them to build awareness and drive them to your business/website; what to write about in your content marketing efforts; how to talk to them on social media; and much more.
Once you have your ideal customer mapped out, you can use these seven tips to land and retain the first customer(s) for your startup or new small business:
Tap into your own network
: After building your buyer persona, go through your social media profiles (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) for connections who fit that profile (who might be in the market for the product/service you are offering). Reach out to those people and explain what you’re building (and why) and that you’re looking for feedback. These connections are likely your friends, or people you’ve interacted with before, which means getting a meeting with them — or even making an early sale — may be quite a bit easier.
Network: Attend as many industry events as possible to widen your network and generate leads. In the beginning, you may not even have to pay for a booth at a trade show or industry conference; you can simply attend these events to meet people and pitch your business to them. Make sure to carry key marketing materials including business cards and brochures.
Secondly, keep your focus on building connections with people who could benefit from your new venture. Then, once you’re back in the office, you can contact them and start building a relationship.
Build an online presence: Create your website, optimize it and make use of search engine optimization (SEO) so that those searching for what you sell can find you easily.
Establish a social media presence: Social media is one of the most valuable marketing tools for businesses today. After all, 70 percent of Americans use social media platforms at least once daily, according to research.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn are the most-used social media platforms today. In order to be most effective, research each of these channels and determine how to use them to your advantage. You can also look at the channels your competitors are using and evaluate their methods.
Partner with other business owners: Another method of finding your first customer(s) is by partnering with someone who already provides a complementary product/service to what you are planning to offer. You could offer this potential partner a sponsorship agreement, a percentage of certain kinds of revenue or the chance to be a customer for a discounted rate in exchange for a public endorsement.
Ask for referrals: Ask everyone in your personal and professional networks if they know someone who might be interested in buying your product/service. Tell your neighbors, social media connections, former co-workers and even your distant cousins about your new business and let them know that you’re looking for customers.
Set up promotions: Everyone loves free stuff, and contests, giveaways, sweepstakes or similar promotions, which give participants the chance to win an award or a prize in exchange for completing certain tasks or actions, are effective strategies for achieving your marketing goals. These may include boosting brand awareness, increasing consumer engagement and generating leads.
You may also consider these methods to get the word out about your new small business:
Have beta testers try out your offering. This can help you build your user base and also refine the product/service features based on the results.
Offer a free trial of your product. This gives the user the chance to try out your product/service before they spend money. Free trials drive traffic, users and virality.
Once you have your first customer, the hard work of building your business doesn't end, but it's certainly a bit simpler. So strive to bring in your first paying customer as soon as possible, and then work to ensure they spread the word about what you offer.