6 Techniques for Startups to Get their First 20 Customers



One of the major concerns of every startup founder is “How will I get my first few customers to kick-start my business?” Even if you have a great startup idea and you have come up with an innovative product, not selling it successfully to the customers can put an end to your business. Early customers of a company are critical to the eventual success of its business as they validate your offering and prove that you have made something extremely good and useful. Their valuable feedback can help in improving your product or service as well.

Here are 6 techniques to land your first few customers:

Explore your Existing Network

Start by reaching out to the network of people you know – friends, acquaintances, family, alumni and professional connections. Ask them to introduce you to people who might be interested in your offering. Remember, at this point your focus is not to close the deal but to look for early stage sales exploration and sales engagement. If you get a lead of your customer, take your time to call him, listen and understand him better and gauge the pain points.

Learn from the Customers of your Competitors

Talk to the people who have used or currently using your competitor’s product. This will help you a great deal in learning how to improvise your product to better suit the requirements of the customers. Asking your competitors’ customers to share their experiences will enable you to revamp your positioning and messaging early on. However, never try to poach the customers of your competitors as that will be immoral and you might end up landing poor quality customers.

Start a Blog and Create Relevant Content

Writing blogs with good content can be long-term investment for your startup. By optimizing blog reach and indulging in guest posts, you can

  • Discover and develop relationships within your market
  • Pitch your solution and receive immediate feedback
  • Establish yourself as a thought leader
  • Increase your online searchability

Build relationships through blog and do not forget to include a blog sign up to procure email addresses. Blogs can help you in developing credibility among customers. If you get lucky enough that your blog is mentioned by an industry leader or expert, customers will start trusting your startup and look forward to your product.

Cold Calling and Emailing

Cold calling is an old but proven formula of getting customers. So, start calling your potential customers and pitch your product to them. But do some research prior to calling them and see if you share a common connection. Make sure that you have the latest news about your customer’s company and industry to transform your cold call in to a meaningful conversation and creating a better rapport with the listener.

Few fundamentals of cold calling are:

  • Fetch as much Information as you can – Try to learn about your customer’s situations, their pain points, products which they are currently using and so on. Even if they decline your proposal, you will have some useful information in your kitty.
  • Offer Value – Do not talk only about your product and its features. Rather, convey the value you can deliver to cater to the needs of your customer.
  • Ensure that the Conversation Continues – You don’t always sell your product in the first call. But you can try to take the conversation to the nest step by either sending them useful content or scheduling a demo.

Apart from cold calling, you should also send well-drafted cold emails to your prospects. However, this might require multiple follow-ups to get a response from them.

Offer Free Trial

Offering a free product or service is a great way to attract the first customers for your startup. It is a powerful and less expensive tool to grab customers as compared to ad campaigns. It can drive huge traffic and help in making your solution go viral.

The customers who get hooked through free trials can be converted to paying customers, given you have met their expectations and have premium features (additional to what you furnished in free trials) to offer them.

Leverage Online Communities

Search for online communities that are relevant for your product. Explore the forums where people are looking for product similar to yours or are raising issues that your product can provide a solution for.  Some of these communities are:

  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Quora
  • Reddit
  • AngelList
  • Growth Hackers
  • Product Hunt

Also Read, Why Startups should Sell to Small Businesses and Not Large Enterprises