An entrepreneur recently lamented to me:
I’m at the “where do I find customers step” and having heaps of trouble. Just have no idea what to do and am kinda flailing about trying things but no real success.
If you’re experiencing this problem, it means you probably haven’t narrowed down who your customer is, where they find products like your, and defined specific ways to test acquiring them.
When you first step out of your garage to test your startup hypothesis, you need to make sure you are focused in on a very specific group of people who you think will pay for your product. This razor focus allows you to hone in on the most likely places to reach your target audience. What blogs do they read? Where do they shop? Where do they hang out? Create a list of each of these places and how you think you can capture the target customers attention.
For example, let’s say you are make and sell male grooming products online through an e-commerce store. You are just starting out and need help finding your first customers. Here are some of the steps I would take to find customers.
Make sure you know who your customer is.
Write down the day in the life of your customer, where you think they shop, how much time do they spend grooming their beard, where do they learn about grooming online?
Now go to a barber shop near you, walk in and say the following:
“Hey, I’m (your name), I’m a local entrepreneur and I’m launching a new company called X that makes male grooming products. I’m not trying to sell you anything and would just like to learn more about your customers and what types of male grooming products they like. What are your thoughts on letting me speak with a few customers who walk in about this?”
(Side note, I’ve done this type of thing 100s of times, I know it can be intimidating but just practice a few times before you go into the business. After that, just go for it. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll get kicked out and then go to 5 more business until you get what you want.)
Now let’s say you get to one of these barbershops and they say “Yeah sure, take a seat right there and talk to whoever you want”. When your first beard wearing customer comes in, introduce yourself and ask for a few minutes of the time. Give them some context of why you are there, you’re researching how to provide them with the best product possible. Ask them the following questions.
- Tell me about how you groom your beard?
- What types of products do you use?
- Where do you find these products?
- What magazines/blogs do you read?
- What do you not like about the current products?
- How often do you use them?
- What challenges do you face when grooming your beard?
This gives you a ton of information that will not only improve your product but also give you insights into where else you can find people just like them. You can then turn this into content marketing material! One Month is an online learning company that has a great course on content marketing if you are interested in learning more. The bottom line is, if you start pumping out engaging and valuable content in the channels where your customers read, they’ll buy your product.
Pick 10 barbershops and call them or better yet, walk into the shop and speak with them. These shops could be a beachhead for you to build awareness of your product/brand and get some repeat customers/traction.
- Figure out what types of products they carry.
- How did they find these products?
- Why did they decide to buy them?
- How do they encourage their customers to buy?
- What are their thoughts on testing your product?
Connect with influencers
Connecting with influential bloggers can be a great way to quickly spread the word about your product. This takes time and is about building a relationship. See if there are ways for you to create value for the blogger. Here are some steps to get the ball rolling.
- Create a list of the top 20-30 bloggers in the Men’s hygiene space.
- Read one of their posts.
- Write an email template (See below example)
- Then send it to each author.
Hey (name of blog author/owner)
I recently read your article covering X, Y, And Z topics. I’m an expert in the space and have some thoughts and feedback for you.
- Point 1 (what you liked)
- Point 2 (Some of your own thoughts on the subject)
I’m super stoked to have found your blog and look forward to reading more.
Out of curiosity, what type of products do you like to feature? or What’s your process for choosing a product to write about?
P.S. I write about X type of products too (link back to your product)
I’ve got tons of other ideas for how to acquire customers and a lot of the above focuses on the earliest stage. Going from 0 to 1 to 20. If you’ve been asking the right questions and you are solving a real problem, by the time you’ve gone through this process and reached 20 or so customers you should know how to consistently acquire more customers.
I’d love to hear some stories of others who’ve tried different methods to find early customers. If you’re interested in sharing, please reach out to me and I can bring you on to guest post.