As a new entrepreneur, an enormous amount of uncertainty lies ahead of you. It’s a two-way thing; either you fail or you succeed.
But your chance of failure is higher than success.
Do you know the percentage of businesses that fail within the first 12 months, 24 months, five years, and in 10 years in the United States? We’ll be relying on data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics;
Within the first year, 20% of new businesses fail and close up. If you can scale the first year, you may be part of the 30% that cannot make it to another year. It does not end here; 50% of new businesses fold up within the first five years, while only 30% make it to the 10th year. In 15 years, only 25% of such businesses will remain in business.
This trend is not just about the United States; it’s the same in the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and other economic powerhouses. It’s even worse in developing economies, where there are not enabling environment and infrastructure for businesses to thrive.
This is not just about location or environment; business failure is global.
Your curious mind should be wondering right now, why are these businesses failing?
Failure of startups is a combination of reasons, standing out among these reasons is attracting the right customers.
It does not matter if you have the best product and packaging. Being a new business, no one will pay attention to you. A rational buyer would prefer to stick with a known business with pedigree, reference, and testimonials — all of which you don’t have yet as a new business.
Some businesses have their family, relatives, friends, or even employees as their first customers. How long will these set of people sustain the business and increase patronage?
Some businesses relied on one or two big clients, a recipe for failure in the long term.
It’s not your fault; actually, the first customers are the hardest. This is not what we think; it’s what the founders of startups who have gone ahead to succeed all corroborated.
Depending on your product, niche, and industry, it’s not going to be easy getting your first 10, 100, or even 1000 customers.
This is why we will focus on how you can employ a combination of different marketing channels to land your first ten customers.
There are scores of marketing channels out there at your disposal as a startup. However, we are going to focus on just 12 of these marketing channels. Our choice is based on the potency, return on investment, and availability of resources for your marketing efforts.
You will be finding an answer to questions that matters the most;
- How to get your first ten customers.
- Which marketing channels you should use.
- And How can you build on the first ten customers?
At this point, here’s what we advise before you start reading; bookmark this page and find a secluded place to learn and brainstorm. Don’t forget to get writing materials as you’ll be able to draw out a digital marketing plan for your business afterward.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
What do you do when you want to look something up or when you’ve got a question that you need to find an answer for? You use a search engine of course! You are not alone; everyone does it, including your prospective customers.
It’s not just Google; Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, Amazon, and Yandex are also in the race. You may decide to focus on Google as that’s what 90.46% of searchers use.
On average, a person conducts 3-4 searches daily. What are they looking for? They are in search of businesses, products, and services.
How Can I Use SEO to Land My First Ten Customers?
Before you choose this marketing channel, be aware that it’s one of the hardest to scale, However, once you can scale it, you’ll land more than just ten customers, and if you can build on the success, it offers an invaluable source of leads and customers.
The idea is to have a website that offers answers to the questions that people ask search engines. Essentially, you will have to be able to prove to search engines that your website has enough useful information about the topic and that you have enough credibility and authority to talk about it.
For example, when someone searches for “plumbers in Connecticut that offer 24-hour service”, search engines do their best to provide exactly that, a list of plumbers in Connecticut that offer 24-hour plumbing services.
So in this example, all of the websites/businesses listed have proved to Google that they are plumbers, and that they operate in Connecticut, and that they offer 24-hour services. With that said, it’s important to mention that SEO is a long-term strategy and requires persistence.
2. Social Media
A single post on social media has the potential to go viral and reach millions of others. Here’s a cue before we go ahead to state how social media can bring you your first ten customers;
The idea is, you have to use social media effectively. You will think in your mind; every business has a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter page these days.
Think out of the box; set up mentions to receive email alerts whenever a customer is unsatisfied with your competitors on social media. There’s no better time to poach such customers than when they are disgruntled with their current provider.
So how do you get notified when your competitor’s customers are not satisfied? Look up Hootsuite, TweetReach, If This Then That (IFTTT), Buzzsumo, and other similar sites. These sites offer dissatisfied customers a place for them to share their opinion as well as a way to find alternative providers.
Also, have you heard of social selling? Yes, this is another thing you can do to land your first ten customers. The beauty of social selling is that for every $1 spent, you can get $5 back as ROI.
Social selling is built on your ability to engage and educate your prospective clients using social media.
In summary, this is what you need to do… after identifying potential customers using social mentions, engage with them on social media through “social selling” and convert them to a customer. We’ll talk more about this in our future blogs.
Depending on what you are offering and who your intended audience is, there are many mediums you can place your ads. Paid ads can be placed almost everywhere, on search engines, social media, digital media, emails, newsletters, and even chat rooms.
If you read through this Quora post here, you can see how other entrepreneurs supporting the same fact; paid ads are the fastest way to drive leads as a new business.
Paid ads can be an expensive marketing channel to use, but if your marketing budget is strong enough, go for it! However, keep in mind that some mediums have certain restrictions and that you cannot place a paid ad in every single medium.
As a starter, focus on the two ad giants; Google Adwords and Facebook Ads. These two are proven to be the most effective of all paid ads.
Why Should I Use Google Adwords?
We already established it earlier that buyers rely on Google to make all their buying decisions. According to Pardot, 72% of buyers rely on Google, and they are looking for customer reviews, testimonials, and educational resources.
Advertising with Google can help you reach this audience, while providing solutions to their pain points.
Why Should I Use Facebook Ads?
One of the reasons advertising with Facebook is great is that Facebook gives you tools to narrow your target or audience to a specific demographic such as location, age, gender, language spoken, marital status, and even income level.
Want to see some proof? Adidas is running a Facebook campaign that has reached over a million people. Their Facebook campaign has successfully increased their brand awareness by up to 21%!
4. Business Partnerships
While often considered as a long term play, business partnerships can help you gain and retain your customers. So you can land your first customers by effectively using business partnerships.
How Do I Effectively Use Business Partnerships to Get Customers?
Let’s assume you have a new product or service in the market, and you intend to use business partnerships to promote your product or service. One thing you can do is look for existing businesses that offer products or services that complement yours.
For example, when you are in the business of printers, you can partner up with a company that sells cartridges.
Another example, if your business sells scented candles, you can partner up with local businesses like bakers. How does this partnership work? During special times such as valentines day, many people buy cakes as a romantic gesture and they could also very well be interested in scented candles. When you have key strategic partners, you’ll be able to increase your reach and target audience at minimum to low cost. It’s just a matter of letting these companies know about you and proposing something that works for both of your businesses.
When you have a strategic partner, you will no longer have to be the only one to market to the customer. In our example above, the baker who already has a customer base can market your scented candles.
When a business is not willing or is not ready to create a partnership, it becomes your objective to locate the customers of these complementary products and find a way of reaching out to them. So when a new customer buys a printer, find a way to market to them and offer them your cartridges.
5. Virality and Bush Fire Effects
Here’s a fun question for you… How fast can you get your customers to promote your product and ask their friends, colleagues, and family to try it out?
The viral effect is the period between when a customer tries your product and asks others to try it. Essentially the end of the viral effect is when a customer tries the product but decides not to promote it to his/her network.
Let’s assume you run a Vet Clinic, and you offer Telemedicine to your clients; how can you market this using viral marketing?
For every telemedicine session, you hold, end the session by asking the client to share links with their friends who own a pet. It can either be at the beginning of the session or immediately after it. If your telemedicine session is top-notch, you increase the chance of acquiring your next customers.
Since the dawn of the World Wide Web, companies have used the ‘invite-only’ strategy to get their products and services to go viral. For example, Skype in the early days required that you have friends on Skype before you could get on board. Your friends had to invite you first before you could join Skype. This is the perfect example of how you could use Viral Marketing to get your first 10, 100, or 1000 customers.
You have a product and service, and to apply virality and bush fire effect to it, you have to integrate it into it from the onset.
6. Content Marketing
Content marketing is one of the most effective tools that you can use to get your first ten customers.
In fact, with an effective content marketing strategy, you can go well beyond acquiring your first ten customers.
Content marketing is not just about articles and blog posts; there are games, podcasts, videos, animations, infographics, visuals, and perhaps the most imporant, user-generated content.
Let’s go over some content marketing strategies that have proven to be effective:
What is the Skyscraper Technique?
Locate a blog post or article related to your product on Google, Reddit, and Quora. Give your spin to this content; make it better than it is currently. If it’s on Google, ensure it ranks high, on Reddit and Quora, check the upvotes and make sure they are in the hundreds if not in the thousands.
Here’s a case study of how the Skyscraper technique was used to land new clients.
How do I Research-Backed Articles and Op-Eds?
There’s no better way to promote your brand, service, or product than to use data and op-eds. You can generate data by carrying out surveys and then use the results for your article. This is often called a quantitative approach and if you get it right, people will be moved to buy your brand, service, or product since it’s backed by research and data.
Have you heard of Blendtec? You might have seen one of their videos around. Blendtec was able to discover what makes their audience tick through similar research, and they went from 0 to 700% increase in 3 years. Today, they are closing in on a million subscribers on YouTube.
While qualitative data is good as it helps your audience connect with you on a more emotional and subjective level, quantitative data helps you create authority and credibility.
This is why when it comes down to marketing, content is and will always be king!
7. Email Marketing
Start building an email list as soon as you launch your business. There are not too many other marketing channels with ROI as high as email marketing. Not even Social Media!
According to Campaign Monitor, for every $1 spend in email marketing, there’s a $44 ROI. That’s a 4400% ROI.
How Do I Effectively Use Email Marketing to Gain Customers?
When creating your email messages, make sure you use a design that’s cross-platform (meaning that users on all devices can properly view your email message). Did you know that 46% of users open their emails on their mobile phones? You should definitely optimize your email for mobile. To succeed with email marketing as a new business, you first should study how your competitors are using the channel.
Subscribe to your competitor’s newsletters. Check the emails that you get from them and see how their messages are being crafted. You can easily see that email marketing is beyond building an email list. Most would agree that an effective email marketing strategy combines both art and science. There are numerous email marketing success stories out there that remind us of one thing; email marketing is not just a fad; it has been around for a very long time because it truly works!
Regardless of the industry, you can use email marketing to land your first ten customers.
One of the great aspects of email marketing is that it doesn’t really matter whether you are a new business with zero customers, or you are an industry leader with millions of customers.
Every business, big or small, are all using email marketing, and you should too.
8. Community Marketing
It may be challenging to start your marketing strategy with community marketing, but nothing is impossible. Look at Wikipedia, Stackexchange, and Reddit, they were all built on a community.
How Do I Do Community Marketing If My Business Has a Physical Product?
By using a combination of other marketing channels to build a relationship with your potential customers, you can create a community around your product to effectively promote your brand and product(s) using community marketing.
There are numerous communities on Facebook, Reddit, Quora, and even your local forums. Try taking your marketing to these channels at first.
Let’s take Quora; for instance, check out some brands that are successfully doing community marketing on Quora, and replicate it on Facebook for your own brand. Join groups and let people know what you are offering and try to add as much value as you can to them.
You can promote your community across several platforms. For example, you can start a subreddit group and it to your Facebook group.
At the end of the day, community marketing is done via building a community around your brand, product, or service to gain and retain customers.
You don’t necessarily have to rely on online marketing to get your first ten customers, you can use sales for that as well.
Let’s start with the story of how Nathan Barry used sales to increase their sales revenue from $1,300 to $725,000 monthly.
Venture Capitalists use sales all the time because it works. Before Nathan Barry, there was Colin NederKoorn who went from $2,400 to $50,000 monthly in revenue.
How did they all do it? They used “Word of Mouth.”
Venture capitalist businesses raise capital first and hire a sales team to gather leads shortly after. Then their sales team send emails, make calls, and follow up until they convert their leads to sales.
Unlike online shopping that allows prospects to back out of a sale without saying why sales allow you to push further. A sales person can ask why a person is not interested and be able to convince that person using their reasons and ultimately win them over using superior arguments.
You should always try an all-inclusive approach when planning a strategy of capturing your first ten customers. Afterall there more marketing channels you use, the higher the chance you’ll have at attaining customers. However, when online marketing channels fail, trackback, and proceed to sales. This also gives you a chance to take a break from those marketing channels and perhaps learn why they didn’t work in the first place.
10. Trade Shows and Exhibitions
Trade shows, exhibitions, and conferences are where you’ll meet most of the people that matter in your industry. Some people overlook these events even though they are a potent marketing channel to help you land your first sales.
You don’t have to make the sale right there at the event as the networking opportunities provided will lead to sales in the future.
In every trade show, you’ll find stakeholders, customers, influencers, journalists, competitors, vendors, and bloggers to name a few. The relationship you form with either of these people can lead to your first ten customers.
If you have the means to sponsor an event like a trade show, you can use it to draw attention to your product. You’ll be surprised how many will show up and try your product.
If you’re not hosting the event and you’re not a sponsor, it will help for you to do a little homework beforehand. Know who will be coming and have your sales team in top gear to poach the customers of your competitors. A little knowledge of what your prospects need is enough to strike a conversation with them and convert them to opportunities.
11. Public Relations
Long before now, businesses have been using public relations to increase sales. It may not be as effective as it used to be, but it still works.
The press can help you create a buzz around your product, which you can also use as social proof on other marketing channels. Use this channel right from the moment you launch your products.
This means from Day Zero; you can start getting customers for your product. Journalists are constantly looking for the next best thing, and they want to be the one to break the news.
If you can make your product look and sound cool and sociable, and if you are able to create an emotional bond between your product and your customers, you’ll be able to create a compelling story about your product that journalists will jump on and want to publish.
A great press can help you get featured on Inc., Forbes, Entrepreneur, Mashable, Huffington Post, and hundreds of other credible news websites.
12. Offer a Free Product
If all of the mentioned marketing channels fail you, you can create a free product.
We are not referring to something ordinary such as a free newsletter. By free product, we mean something that your competitors also offer but for a fee. A free product could either be in the form of free information, a free service, or a free physical product.
There’s no better way to draw people to your products other than this method. Everyone loves a freebie. If you are rendering service, you can offer a free trial period to get them on board. Ensure the free trial period is long enough for your customers to grasp the value you are adding to them and feel comfortable with it.
According to Totango, 62% of existing businesses got 10% of their customers from free trials. As a new business, you can land beyond your first ten customers using free trials as incentives.
How Can I Offer Free Trials To Grow My Customers?
Did you know that Dropbox went from 100,000 users to 4,000,000 in just 15 months? Do you want to know how they performed this magic?
They employed Free Trials. That’s not all; they combined this with email marketing and a referral system. One of the most popular marketing success stories on the internet today.
It’s not just Dropbox, other sites have used free products to go from zero customers to hundreds of thousands.
There are three things that all of the 12 marketing channels I mentioned above emphasize;
- Being able to create an authentic relationship and interaction with your audience
- Knowing and speaking the language of your audience, and most importantly…
- Taking your marketing campaign to where they are
If you can highlight these three core values in your marketing campaign, you’ll not only find your first ten customers; you will be part of the 25% of the businesses that make it to 15 years.