I have been working with startups for the past 7 years. I have worked with startups in the Netherlands, Singapore, Australia, and the US. I have seen startups grow from 0 to 10 million in revenue and beyond.
The following is a short introduction to finding your first 10 customers for your startup. This is based on my experience working with startups and talking to founders who were successful at finding their first 10 customers. I am not going to get into details of what your product or service should be, but rather focus on how you can find your first 10 customers in 10 days without talking about the features of your product.
If you’re a B2B SaaS founder, the most important thing might be to start asking yourself ‘smart’ market diagnosis and profiling questions and thinking about your first 10 customers. The best way is to find out what would make them satisfied and understand your customer deep down. First, start asking questions to yourself like:
- How many target customers do I have, and what is their typical demographic’?
- How can I get my most committed customers to become promoters of my product or services?
- What are common complaints or challenges that are faced by our target audience?
- How are other companies in the industry addressing these challenges?
- What do they offer that may work for me, too?
- Who are my competitors, and why should people choose me over them?
- What can I offer to my target audience,
Q1. What keeps them awake at night?
When I started the business, the question that kept me awake at night was ‘will this company succeed?
I knew people were prepared to buy what I had to sell. We took lots of care in creating a service that would deliver value for customers and an easy process for them to use it. So why did I have sleepless nights? Because when you’re running your own company – particularly if it is one with no track record or external validation – everything rests on your shoulders. Nobody can step up and do what needs to be done if you don’t get it right. It’s hard not to think about things like ‘what happens if we run out of cash’ or ‘if we fail, will my investors be upset?’
Q2. What are they afraid of?
I recently attended a B2B SaaS Startup event. The speaker said that he gets very nervous before every pitch, regardless of what type of company is being pitched to or how much value it provides in clients’ business.
He also shared the following tips in terms of pitching:
1) Don’t rush out with your first pitch
2) Keep it simple
3) Remember who you are talking to
4) Provide them the immediate pain
5) Be honest
6) Tell stories
7 ) Say thank you
Q3. What are they angry about? Who are they angry at?
They are angry because they know that their company is not performing as well as it could, and they feel frustrated that no matter what they do, nothing seems to work. The thing is, I am not sure anymore. I have spent the last 6 years of my life trying pretty hard to understand how people buy things written in English on paper or screens. Sure, it has been a wild ride with more failures than successes, but hey! You live, and you learn. I have learned some amazing stuff across 4 million page views and several hundred thousand blog posts read by thousands (or hundreds) of human beings (and bots). I can’t even begin to describe what this journey has taught me about marketing — well, actually — no; oh wait — yes, I can:
- Marketing comprises everything that surrounds any activity related to identifying or satisfying consumer needs for particular products and services, including advertising research studying behavioral patterns.
- Marketing is about getting people ready for your product. Branding takes them away from the competition. Promotion creates a desire for it. Customer Service delivers the value once they have bought it, while public relations builds loyalty to the company itself, its core belief system, and vision.
Q4. What are their top three daily frustrations?
- They spend too much time finding the right sales leads.
- They can’t get enough qualified prospects at their fingertips anywhere or anytime. This is especially true in smaller companies with only one or two people handling marketing and sales.
- They struggle to find what buyers are Looking For
They will be your loyal buyer for life if you can help them solve these three daily frustrations!
Q5. What trends are occurring and will occur in their businesses or lives?
Trends in business
- Efficiency (i.e., useless labor force): I can use less labor force because I have been able to automate many tasks with technology.
- Automation (i.e., reduce labor): remove the human element to lower costs, improve quality, eliminate unnecessary material handling.
- Reducing ordering frequency by faster fulfillment; improving customer service by real-time communication with customers that weren’t possible before the Internet of Things, etc.; self-serve computer kiosks that don’t require local employees because all transactions are done electronically without human contact; etc.
- Replace salespeople & unproductive tasks with technology/automation: automation reduces errors because there is no ‘gray’ or ambiguous area where someone can deliberately or accidentally make mistakes due to
Q6. What do they secretly, ardently desire most?
The more they succeed, the more nervous and miserable they feel. The ultimate solution is not to aim for money or fame but rather to be happy with who you are and what you do.
Money can buy happiness if used in ways that align with your gifts and passions. When we’re piling up riches just for the sake of it, we get into trouble: chasing an unquenchable fire, never satisfied no matter how much we acquire. All this comes from a sense of identity based on scarcity and lack, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that there isn’t enough time or resources to live life fully. We know deep down inside that life is meant for much more than purchasing products.
Q7. Is there a bias to the way they make decisions?
They use more logic- or data-driven decisions. When making or evaluating an important decision, they will consider the following 4 criteria:
- They will weigh the risk-reward ratio heavily. The more uncertain I feel about this decision, the greater the perceived rewards need to be for me to make this decision.
- They will consider previous decisions that yielded positive or negative results and what alternative actions would have been undertaken if they knew it would go differently than expected.
- They are not above rehashing past mistakes – whether personally made by themselves or others they’ve observed – to avoid making similar mistakes again, doing things better next time, etc.
- Another question is titled ‘They keep their emotions out of important decisions, which is great because many founders struggle with rationalizing extremely emotional business or personal decisions.
Q8. Do they have their own language?
Having its own language is a big indicator of tribalism. The language part can be simple or complicated depending on the level of sophistication and abstraction, but it exists as a means to further differentiate from other tribes. I found an interesting follow-up question about the tribe’s ‘secret handshake’ that Dan Kennedy has asked his audience at one of his speaking events:
Q9. Who else is selling something similar to them, and how?
A recent write-up by Thomas Davenport in the Harvard Business Review,’ Competing on Analytics, Data Mining and Predictive Techniques, ‘led me to think about this. He says that businesses are using analytics in several ways :
For example, one company tracks how long it takes its customers to fill out online forms. They noticed that people took longer to submit their data when certain fields were livelier than others (for instance, when there were lots of competitors listed). So they changed the way people filled in these fields — for instance, showing only three competitors rather than five — thus reducing completion times. That simple implementation can save up to 10 hours of staff time per week on entering new orders into the system.
Q10. Who else has tried selling them something similar, and how has that effort failed?
I have been told that I should contact the [Insert company]. [Story of how their effort failed].
[Note: You can find a great example of this in ‘The Most Dangerous Business Book Ever Written’ by Guy Kawasaki. In one chapter, he tells a story about his previous venture and how it flopped.]
The ‘How did we get started?’ Story
This is an interesting question because people love to tell stories, and why not include something like this in your startup’s marketing material?
It shows growth and validation for any startup and helps build rapport with the reader/listener you’re communicating with. Therefore, they’ll remember you when they later read or hear your tagline (whatever it will be).
So here is what you can do right now.
You should use social media and cold calling to find out customer problems. For the first 10 days, you will call up 100 prospects daily and try to understand the pain points that our product can solve. If we get 10 customers, then it’s good enough for us. If not, then we need to re-do our market diagnosis again.
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