So, you’ve got a startup business idea. But the secret missing ingredient for turning that idea into an actual business? Your first customer. Building up a loyal customer base isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight, but there are things you can do today to start building those strong foundations.
Here are the best ways to land your business’s first paying clients.
Tell Your Friends and Family - and Their Friends and FamilyAs well as telling any business contacts you have, make sure you also go to family and friends to ask for referrals. By starting out asking personal connections, this is a safe way to test how well you know your product before you start trying to sell it to strangers. There’s already an element of trust there – and that’s one of the biggest factors of selling your product.
It’s almost like giving yourself a practice run at selling the new product, which is especially important if you’re not a natural smooth-talking salesperson. You’ll get to learn all the commonly asked questions about the product and prepare yourself on how to answer these questions when speaking with clients you haven’t met before.
As well as the people in your network, think about all the people in their networks – it’s a treasure trove of possibilities for your new business! If you know any other business owners, they’re a great place to start, especially if their clients also fit your target audience.
Try a Different Networking PlatformNetworking. It’s a word that sends shivers down the spine of many a wantrepreneur. But don’t let your preconceptions of networking get in the way of your dreams! As well as letting all your friends and family know about your cool new product, there are loads of other networking opportunities just waiting for you.
As well as traditional networking sites like LinkedIn, many businesses are starting to find success with popular forums like Quora and Reddit to reach out to potential customers. Search for subjects you know your target customer would be interested in and see if your product can answer their questions!
If you search for local networking events online, you’ll find loads – they’re always running (and they’re normally free)! From coffee mornings to full-on conferences, there are plenty of ways to get to meet other local businesses and show off what you’ve got to offer. Just don’t forget your business cards!
Offer Free SamplesOne of the biggest components for enticing a client or customer to make a purchase is trust. And if you don’t have any previous reviews to go by, you’ll need to instil a sense of trust in a different way – by letting them try before they buy.
According to a study by Opinion Research Corp, 81% of customers said they would try product after receiving a free sample, with 61% agreeing that sampling a product is the most effective way to get them to try a brand.
Not only is it a great way to show consumers what they might be missing out on, but it’s also a chance to reflect on any feedback you may receive from the samples.
Create an Online PresenceYour new product or service is unique and can help solve a lot of people’s pain points. And with the internet, the world really is your oyster. Here are just a few ways you can start to build a strong online presence that can’t be ignored.
Writing a blog is a fantastic way of tapping into the billions of people who use the internet. The reason a good blog will always do well is simple – you’re providing people with valuable knowledge and you aren’t charging a thing for it! It’s not just a win for the reader: it’s also a great way to promote your new business at the same time.
Many businesses, especially if you’re selling something visually appealing like handmade crafts, find their customers through social media. Not only can you host giveaways to entice new customers in, but you can also show off in detail how amazing your product is. The key is to talk to people; engage an audience and build trust through your account, and the sales will fly in. Depending on the type of business you’ve just started, Facebook groups, Instagram or LinkedIn are all great options.
If you’re wanting to start selling your product online, you’re going to need a website. If you’re doing all the rest – building a social media following, attending networking events, posting on forums – having somewhere to link to is a must when you’re promoting yourself to prospective clients. You don’t even need a web designer to make a start: here are some essential tips for your startup’s website.
Throw a Party for Your Grand OpeningA more direct approach for spreading the word about your new small business is to literally invite everyone round for a big opening party! Send out a postcard or an invitation in the post letting locals know you’re hosting a special event and they’re all invited. For an extra special incentive, give a big one-time-only deal, like a percentage of their first order or some kind of freebie. We’re sure you’ll land your first customers that night!
Create your own opening night poster design using our free online design tool.
Create a List of Ideal ClientsPerform some research into who your dream customers would be and create a list of people to contact. Create a 4-6 week strategy to target these potential contacts, possibly starting with a LinkedIn invite and message, then progressing towards an email, then a telephone call.
This style of reaching out has worked for numerous startup businesses, like web development company Beacon9. Founder Anna Talerico said:
“Don’t distract yourself with complications. Just pick up the phone, find your first customers, and sell them your product.
I know this works because that is how I did it… I took the above steps to get the ball rolling. And we did it in about a day, not weeks. We didn’t have a CRM, or any marketing materials yet.”
It took Beacon9 12 weeks in total to land their first customer, but once they did the ball really did start rolling.
Advertise on Job BoardsJob boards and freelancing websites are a fantastic way to start to build a customer base. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr let you advertise your service for free, or bid against other freelancers for jobs.
Although it would be difficult to base your entire business off of job boards, this is a great place to start and gain some testimonials to show that you’re a trustworthy business and that you do a good job. And that’s often all it takes to get your startup up and running full time.
Exchange Your Service for a ReviewWe can’t get this point across enough – reviews are like gold when it comes to starting a new business. That’s why you might find that working for free to begin with (just hear us out) might be a great option for you.
You can offer your product and services out to potential customers for free in exchange for a review. Don’t just offer this out to anybody though; try and pick people who already have a bit of an online following (known as influencers), whose followers you know would also love what you’re selling.
Get Some PRThe launch of your new product or service is going to revolutionise the lives of so many people – they just don’t know it yet. But with a bit of PR, they will soon!
One really easy way to get news of your product out into the world is to use websites like HARO (Help a Reporter Out). This is a free service that can help connect you to journalists. You’ll get an email update every day telling you what journalists are looking for, and you can respond to one that suits your purpose – to advertise your new business. Alternatively, you can reach out to journalists yourself by pitching article ideas with you as a source.
Go Out Into the CommunityBefore you can become a good businessperson, you’ll need to become a good member of the community – or at least a well-known one. This is especially true if your business is for local customers. Often, business deals are made while waiting for appointments, at your child’s football class, or other local events like fairs and workshops.
Get involved and grow your connections – not only will this help build trust, but it’ll also entice people into supporting your business because you’re supporting them in the community.
To land your first clients for your new business, there are a few essential ingredients:
- Trust – you need to do what you can to get people to trust what you’re selling, whether that’s through marketing, free samples or reviews
- Connections – use contacts you already have, like friends, family, former bosses, and make some new contacts along the way
- Presence – make sure you’ve got a platform to shout about your business from! Social media, a website, a forum, a job board or freelancing website, a business card: start the chatter by promoting yourself however you can