You never forget your first customer. Because getting them takes the life out of your system. I am writing this because I did experience the same. I quit my job to start my own venture. I gathered a team of 3 and started working on our idea. Getting our first 100 customers was a daunting yet interesting thing to do.
I will directly get to the point. Once you have made your MVP (which should be of good quality even if it is just one function) you need people to use it. Generally we all do research before we start and try to get early adopters for our products. I want to tell you how it worked for us and what we did. We are a team of 3 based out of India (location matters). And i believe your geography makes a lot of difference when it comes to early adopters and getting your first 100 customers. That’s was what we felt.
To start with I read a lot of blogs and other articles so that we have a good strategy in place for our early customers. So we started with the usual Friends and Family, the nearest and dearest ones.
Our product was a market for pre-owned fashion and accessories. In our product we needed fashionable youth (our target audience) so we started with friends (the best ones).
# Friends– I called my friends (3) and told them about what I am doing and how they can help. I was happy they agreed. So when the MVP was ready I took it to them. They liked the product and told me they will use and see.
Well none of them used. I followed up couple of times (the fact that they were friends I could do that) but it did not help. We as a team started thinking if we cannot convince our friends to use it why would others want to use even if their is a need. The issue was- there is a need but users to don’t see that the way we do. It is called latent need. If your product is solving a latent need problem be ready to devote a lot of time in coaching your customers, in showing them the need and then the solution. Be patient.
This insight helped us to decide where we need to put our money- is it product or coaching the customer (marketing).
We build a decent MVP and put the rest of money in educating the customer.
# Family– Well in our case none of them used it!
What we did- I posted my mothers clothes (saree ) for sale and it got sold within in 2 days. This made her our permanent customer.
Lesson– Make sales happen. Let the customer see the value upfront. In our case money in their hand.
This is how you will get your first 10 customers. If you can win them i.e. you show value upfront they will come back. Secondly if you cannot convince this group of people it will be difficult to convince the rest.
Another important thing we learnt that your first customer or say first 2 customers will help you improve your product. There will be lot of bugs which you will have to fine tune before you can acquire more customers. This will be a very critical time where you will have product updates almost daily. So be ready and be fast.
# 11–50 customer
The best way I think to get to this number is to identify a group of people in an area that will use your product like a college, school, company etc. Don’t target all the places at once. Just pick anyone of them and start make them using it. In our case we picked up one college and one stuff that this group of our target audience needed. And help them buy or sell stuff using the app. You can also give some level of incentive if your pocket allows.
This group was slightly more difficult. As more customers means more feedback and with constraints of the startup not all feedback can be implemented. So we learnt to prioritise. We learnt what is the most important value we will provide our customer, the most basic one for which everyone agrees, there will be a pattern see it. In our case was to make sure the customer’s stuff gets sold asap. If we can achieve this lot of other issues will be forgiven.
# 50–100 customers
This is the tough task but good to have a problem. More people, more expectation to manage. Stick to your core offering. Market your product for it’s core service and not ancillary features.
To get to this number attend couple of events around you, go to more than 2 colleges (or where ever your target audience exists). Keep your focus on covering one area at a time and get validation of your idea. Once that is achieved you can start moving out and expanding. You might have to do lot of changes and maybe your product changes completely but that’s okay. You are making something that people really need and will use. So stick to what your customers say.
By the time we got our first 100 customers our product that gone through many changes but thankfully our core offering didn’t change. That was something people liked!
Also make sure you do all this exercise really fast. Make it time bound. Ideally you should get your first 100 customers in 15 days. That means your tech team has to be on toes fixing bugs, sales people (I would rather say everyone in the team) should focus on making sales happen. And these customers should be active customers who use your service. Not some people who just downloaded for the heck of it. Like we say it internally “product should be alive, the energy should move”!
All the best in getting your customers. And would appreciate any inputs on making this a better list. .