Starting a new business can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. One of the biggest challenges that a startup owner can face is getting their first set of customers. With the world moving online and increased competition among businesses, getting those initial 100 customers has become more crucial than ever.
It is the first stepping stone in creating a sustainable and viable business. In this blog, we will discuss proven strategies on how to acquire your first 100 customers. From defining your business model to building a sales funnel and charging your customers, we will go through each step in detail to ensure that you are well-equipped to tackle this challenge head-on. Read on to find out everything you need to know to go from zero to 100.
From Zero to 100: How to get your first 100 customers
Securing the first 100 customers is crucial for any business. Incorporating proven strategies such as social media, networking, and market research is key to grabbing attention, building relationships, and ultimately securing your first 100 customers. Make sure to develop customer engagement strategies that coincide with different stages of product development and launch. Identifying customer problems and listening to their feedback can also help you refine your product or service.
Take advantage of pre-due diligence processes to connect with potential investors. Focus on building relationships with customers by ensuring a good customer experience. By following these simple yet effective methodologies, you can secure your first 100 customers while growing your brand’s reputation.
1. Defining your business model
To secure your first 100 customers, it’s imperative to have a defined business model that caters to the needs and wants of your target market. To begin, gain a deep understanding of your customers’ demographics – age, income, location, opinions, attitudes, and lifestyles. This will help plan sales and marketing strategies tailored to your target market.
YC Group Partner, Aaron Epstein analyzed YC’s portfolio of companies to arrive at nine business models that have the potential to scale to a billion-dollar valuation.
While we’re not going to dive deep into the specifics of each business model, the team at YC has put together a business model guide that walks you through the following:
- Metrics that matter the most for each business model (ARR/MRR, ACV/TCV, GTV, Growth Rate, CAC)
- Key takeaways for each business model.
Businesses with the biggest moats are ones that usually have network effects that marketplaces have right where each new user increases the value, and they become the dominant player in the market. There is also a lock-in and high switching costs we see this with transactional businesses like Stripe.
If you’re the main way people process payments, they’re unlikely to switch to another option. In software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses, customers keep paying regularly, creating recurring revenue. Keeping customer data on your platform can also make it hard for them to leave.
Enterprise businesses may have long sales cycles, but once they’ve sold to a company, the churn rate is lower. Technical innovation, like in hard tech and bio companies, can create strong modes. These businesses take a long time to develop, making it hard for competitors to catch up.
Companies with high margins and better union economics, like Doordash and Instacart, can also create modes. They can lower costs at a large scale and improve margins, making it hard for new competitors to enter the market.
Finally, companies that get organic distribution through virality or word-of-mouth can dominate their market. They can grow quickly if users tell others to join for free, while competitors have to pay to acquire customers.
2. Define your customers/ Define their problem
To secure your first 100 customers, you must have a definitive understanding of your ideal customers’ needs and interests, which will allow you to showcase how your product or service can provide a solution to their problems. To this end, start by identifying the key characteristics of your target customer base, including age, gender, location, and lifestyle.
Leverage your existing networks and reach out to potential customers via social media, email, or other marketing channels. Pre-launch activities, including free trials or beta tests, can create buzz among early adopters and give you valuable feedback on your product or service.
It’s also essential to target industries if your business has a tailor-made offering for each industry. Finally, post-launch activities, such as engaging with early adopters and analyzing feedback, can help you refine your offering and achieve the next stage of growth.
3. Founders should learn how to do sales
Founders should learn how to do sales because they are often the ones who are most passionate about their product or service and are best equipped to communicate its value to potential customers. Additionally, when a company is just starting out, the founder is often the only salesperson, so it’s essential for them to know how to sell effectively.
One example of a founder who learned how to sell after starting his business is Brian Chesky, the co-founder, and CEO of Airbnb. When Chesky and his co-founders first launched Airbnb, they struggled to get users to sign up for their platform. Chesky realized that they needed to do something to set themselves apart from their competitors, so he decided to personally reach out to every Airbnb host and work with them to improve their listings.
Chesky’s sales efforts paid off, and Airbnb soon began to grow rapidly. Today, the company is valued at over $100 billion and has millions of users worldwide. Chesky’s experience shows that even if you don’t have a background in sales, it’s possible to learn how to sell effectively and use those skills to grow your business.
4. Build a sales funnel and pipeline
It’s important for startups to build sales funnels and pipelines because they provide a clear path for potential customers to become paying customers. A sales funnel outlines the different stages of the buying process, from awareness to purchase, and helps businesses understand where potential customers may drop off. A sales pipeline is a more detailed version of the sales funnel that includes specific actions and timelines for moving customers through each stage.
By creating a sales funnel and pipeline, startups can identify areas for improvement in their sales process, target specific customer segments with tailored messaging, and track their progress in converting leads into paying customers. This helps startups onboard new customers faster and more efficiently, ultimately leading to increased revenue and growth.
One example of a company that successfully created a sales funnel and pipeline is HubSpot, a marketing and sales software company. HubSpot’s sales funnel starts with attracting visitors to their website through content marketing, then nurturing those visitors into leads through email campaigns and lead magnets. The leads are then qualified and moved through a sales pipeline that includes demos, consultations, and proposals before they become customers.
HubSpot’s sales funnel and pipeline have helped them onboard new customers faster and more efficiently. By targeting specific customer segments with tailored messaging at each stage of the sales process, they’ve been able to increase their conversion rates and grow their customer base.
If you’re just getting started with building your sales pipeline, we have a comprehensive guide that will help you to get started.
5. Create reliable sales documentation
One of the critical elements to secure your first 100 customers is creating reliable sales documentation. It’s important to create comprehensive sales documents like battle cards, objection handling documents, and sales decks because they provide sales reps with the information they need to effectively communicate the value of a product or service to potential customers. Sales documents like battle cards and objection handling documents provide reps with pre-prepared responses to common objections, which can help them close deals faster. Sales decks provide a visual representation of the product or service and its benefits, making it easier for reps to demonstrate value to potential customers.
Creating comprehensive sales documents also ensures consistency in messaging across the sales team, which is essential for building trust and credibility with potential customers. It also saves time and reduces the risk of errors, as sales reps can refer to pre-prepared documents rather than trying to come up with responses on the fly.
One example of a company that has succeeded in creating sales documentation is Salesforce, a cloud-based software company. Salesforce provides its sales reps with battle cards that include information about their competitors, product features, and pricing. They also have objection-handling documents that provide reps with pre-prepared responses to common objections.
Salesforce’s sales decks are also a critical part of their sales process. Their decks include customer success stories, product demos, and case studies that demonstrate the value of their product. By providing their sales reps with comprehensive sales documents, Salesforce has been able to onboard new customers faster and more efficiently. It has also helped them maintain consistency in messaging and improve the overall quality of their sales process.
6. Craft your message
It’s important to get your messaging right when securing your first 100 customers because it sets the tone for how potential customers perceive your brand and product. Segmentation, targeting, and positioning are all critical components of messaging that help startups identify the right customers to target and communicate the unique value proposition of their products.
Segmentation involves dividing potential customers into groups based on shared characteristics such as demographics, interests, or behaviors. Targeting involves selecting which customer segments to focus on based on factors like market size, growth potential, and competition. Positioning involves crafting a message that differentiates the product from competitors and highlights its unique value to the target customer segment.
Getting messaging right can make a big difference in how quickly a startup is able to secure its first 100 customers. By segmenting, targeting, and positioning effectively, startups can communicate the value of their product more clearly and appeal to the right customers more effectively.
One example of a company that got its messaging right when securing its first 100 customers is Dropbox, a cloud-based file storage and sharing platform. Dropbox targeted early adopters in the tech industry who were looking for a more efficient way to share files and collaborate with colleagues. They positioned their product as a simple and reliable solution that solved a common pain point for their target customer segment.
Dropbox’s messaging strategy was highly effective in securing its first 100 customers. By targeting early adopters in the tech industry and positioning themselves as a simple and reliable solution for file sharing and collaboration, they were able to appeal to a specific customer segment and communicate the value of their product more effectively. This helped them to land customers faster and achieve rapid growth in their early days.
7. Focus on BOFU first
Focusing on the bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) first when trying to secure your first 100 customers is important because these potential customers are already aware of their problem and are actively seeking a solution. BOFU content is designed to provide information about how a specific product or service can solve the customer’s problem and address any concerns they may have about making a purchase.
By focusing on BOFU content, startups can create a sense of urgency and help potential customers make a decision to purchase more quickly. This can be especially important when trying to secure the first 100 customers, as early adopters are often the most likely to convert to paying customers.
One example of a company that creates compelling BOFU content is Canva, a graphic design platform. Canva’s BOFU content includes tutorials and case studies that demonstrate how their product can be used to create high-quality designs quickly and easily. They also offer a free trial that allows potential customers to try the product before making a purchase.
By creating compelling BOFU content, Canva has been able to win customers faster and achieve rapid growth. Their tutorials and case studies help potential customers understand the value of their product and how it can solve their specific design needs. The free trial also enables potential customers to experience the product firsthand, making it more likely that they will convert to paying customers.
In addition to creating BOFU content, Canva has also focused on creating a simple and user-friendly product that appeals to a wide range of customers. By combining a strong BOFU content strategy with a compelling product, Canva has been able to secure its first 100 customers and achieve rapid growth in a highly competitive market.
8. Define your marketing strategy
When deciding which channels to use while trying to secure your first 100 customers, it’s important to consider your business model and target audience. Here’s a decision tree that founders can use to make this decision:
- What is your target audience?
- B2B (business-to-business)
- B2C (business-to-consumer)
- Which channels are most effective for reaching your target audience?
- B2B: LinkedIn, email outreach, trade shows/events, industry publications
- B2C: social media, influencer marketing, paid advertising, content marketing
- What is your budget?
- High budget: consider paid advertising, trade shows/events
- Low budget: focus on social media, content marketing, email outreach
- What type of content does your target audience consume?
- Written: focus on blogging, guest posting, email newsletters
- Visual: focus on social media, video content
- Audio: focus on podcasts, radio ads
- What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
- Focus on channels that allow you to showcase your USP effectively
One example of a company that successfully built a media channel strategy for onboarding customers is Dollar Shave Club. They used a combination of social media, content marketing, and influencer marketing to reach their target audience of budget-conscious men who were tired of overpriced razors.
Their viral video “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” garnered over 26 million views, showcasing their unique selling proposition of offering high-quality razors at a low cost. They also used social media and influencer marketing to reach their target audience and generate buzz around their brand.
By creating a strong media channel strategy that resonated with its target audience, Dollar Shave Club was able to secure its first 100 customers quickly and achieve rapid growth.
9. Charging your first 100 customers
When deciding on how to price their product or service, businesses can follow a decision-making tree to help them make the best pricing decisions. Here is an example of a decision-making tree for founders to follow:
- Identify your target customer:
- Who are your ideal customers?
- What do they value most?
- How much are they willing to pay?
- Research your competitors:
- Who are your competitors?
- What are they charging for similar products or services?
- How does your product or service compare?
- Determine your costs:
- What are your fixed costs?
- What are your variable costs?
- How much profit do you need to make to sustain your business?
- Experiment with pricing:
- Try different pricing strategies to find the sweet spot that works best for your business.
- Consider offering discounts or bundling products to encourage customers to buy more.
- Monitor your pricing:
- Keep track of your sales and revenue.
- Analyze customer feedback and adjust your pricing accordingly.
An example of a company that excels at pricing its product or service is Apple. Apple uses a premium pricing strategy, charging a higher price than competitors for their products.
They do this by focusing on quality and innovation, which creates a perception of high value for their products. Apple also limits the availability of its products, creating a sense of exclusivity and desirability that justifies the higher price point. Overall, Apple’s pricing strategy is based on the perceived value of its products rather than the cost of production.
What are some best practices for retaining your first 100 customers and encouraging repeat business?
Retaining customers is crucial for the success of any business. Here are some best practices for retaining customers and encouraging repeat business:
- Provide exceptional customer service: Great customer service is key to retaining customers. Customers want to feel valued and heard. Respond to their queries promptly and provide personalized service.
- Offer loyalty programs and incentives: Loyalty programs can incentivize customers to keep coming back. Offer rewards and discounts to customers who make repeat purchases.
- Use targeted marketing: Use data to target your marketing efforts toward customers who are most likely to make repeat purchases. Personalized marketing messages can help increase customer loyalty.
- Continuously improve your product/service: Continuously improve your product or service based on customer feedback. This can help ensure customer satisfaction and keep them coming back for more.
- Maintain communication with customers: Keep customers informed about new products, services, and promotions. Use email newsletters, social media, and other channels to stay in touch.
- Resolve issues promptly: Address any customer complaints or issues promptly. Resolve any problems to the customer’s satisfaction.
- Provide value-added services: Provide additional services or features that add value to the customer experience.
Some companies that excel at reducing customer churn and providing great customer experience include:
Amazon: Amazon provides exceptional customer service and offers a wide range of products at competitive prices. The company’s loyalty program, Amazon Prime, offers free shipping, streaming services, and other benefits that incentivize customers to make repeat purchases.
Zappos: Zappos is known for its exceptional customer service. The company offers free shipping and free returns, and its customer service representatives are available 24/7 to assist customers.
Apple: Apple has a loyal customer base due to its focus on innovation, quality products, and exceptional customer service. The company offers a range of products and services that keep customers coming back for more.
Southwest Airlines: Southwest Airlines has a reputation for providing great customer service and offering affordable flights. The company offers a range of services, such as free checked bags and no change fees, that incentivize customers to fly with them again.
Starbucks: Starbucks offers a loyalty program that rewards customers with free drinks and food items. The company also offers personalized marketing messages and a mobile app that makes it easy for customers to order and pay for their drinks.
In conclusion, getting the first 100 customers is a major milestone for any new business. While it may seem daunting at first, with the right strategies and mindset, it is definitely achievable. Remember, every successful business was once a startup with zero customers. Even Airbnb, now a $35 billion company, took six months to get their first 100 customers.
So, don’t be discouraged if it takes a little longer than expected. Keep experimenting, testing, and optimizing your marketing tactics until you find what works best for your business. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be the next Airbnb, laughing at the memory of your early struggles while swimming in a pool of revenue. So, put on your hustle hat, get out there, and start bringing in those first 100 customers!