Getting revenue is great, but until you reach a “Product Market Fit”, most of your customer acquisition experimentation is a journey. Eventually it becomes a science of LTV (“Long Term Value”) and retention, but for most startups and likely the first year or two of exploration, finding revenue is more about finding the niche of what people are willing to pay for without becoming a service company.
The goal is always to become a product, but experts vary in how you reach a product. Dan Martell of Clarity.FM says “Build second, get a paying client first”, but that doesn’t work in every space and sometimes to achieve a true PMF you have to chip away at a market or an area you are passionate about until you find the right spot.
At ConsumerBell, we have been the first mover in the product recall space so we have always made sure to be on a equal level with of our customers, retailers and manufacturers so not to get too far ahead. Some industries take time for innovation – for instance, more mobile phone usage for applications might be required for more users of a particular program. Remember that there should always be a big enough “userbase.”
Without further ado, here are five tips we found helpful for acquiring customers:
Solve The Most Obvious Problems First
Find out what people are complaining about the most. For us when we would call or interview potential customers or generally any manufacturer we wanted to help we often heard "recalls weren’t common" or "how would I know about a recall?" So for several months, and for free we promised to do inventory monitoring, meaning if you sent us your data (stock, inventory, whatever it is that you sell) we would generate a manual report on what has been recalled recently called a "Recall Report." It was clunky and we kept building different technology to figure out how to scale it, but we kept doing them because we got feedback each week and figured out after a few months that nearly everyone in our "beta" was using a program called Magento Commerce, so we quickly looked into that technology and API and brainstormed automation. (Our Magento Extension can be found here, we also made supporting documentation on Slideshare here).
Spend time with your potential customers, go to relevant conferences and try to get published in items they read. To this day, our startup ConsumerBell has never been featured in TechCrunch (read: “Why TechCrunch Won’t Make You Money”). We’ve always just stayed in our space and had companies reach out to us years later to bid or make products for them. We began as a central source for recall information, a leading blog, and generally having a presence at industry specific conferences. I’m not talking TechCrunch Disrupt or anything sexy like that, I’m talking IPSLP (The International Product Safety and Liability Prevention conference).
Organize Your Leads
For us every email address was a lead; we take all business cards and emails and put them into one of five categories, depending on how we met or are related to the business contact and even without a Salesforce CRM create unique lists in Mailchimp (or Contactzilla) that way when you are reaching out and emailing leads you can tailor the message to the type of "lead" that person is. Internally we use hashtags and codes and sometimes will even hide a hashtag in our email signature. For example, if I am emailing with a VC or investor I might hide #IR in my signature and forward to an intern or someone on staff so they know to add that email address to "Investor Relations" (#IR) because this isn’t a proper sales lead but may one day refer us sales so investors should be kept up to date too but in their own way.
Organize Your Files
Google docs is fine, but always make backups of client data in word, xls or if needed PDF. Many times keywords can be used too often and email boxes are full but if you have a file on a client backed up somewhere and you know what “file type” to look for its easy. Again, at ConsumerBell we do two things which is have files on every client and we name EVERY SINGLE file in proper PMO (Project Management Organization) format meaning YY.MM.DD_Client_name. so for example 13.06.18_Onboardly would be the name of this article if it were a file. This is also helpful too because we know exactly what file is most to date, often the "modified" column or date is a trick.
Many startups have schedules that change too often and can turn themselves upside down. Send calendar invitations, don’t move meetings around and never appear to be reactive. Also make sure everyone’s email signatures at the startup match stylewise, it shows a put together team and can reflect strength as a company respectable from the outside.
Users and customers like to be engaged and feel supported so sending consistent emails, posting videos and other content consistently will go a long way. It’s said, so I have heard, that the average person or customer will need to see something seven times before a purchase is made. Think about that: you need to make an impression seven times before getting someone’s money, so interaction is key but being consistent is often what shows true winners. Someone from Adobe once told me, “Follow the pain” and so once you know the space you are comfortable or passionate in, follow customers pain and adapt a product around that, that’s best advice for customer acquisition.
What methods did you find best for acquiring customers? Share below.
This post originally appeared on onboardly. About the guest blogger: Ellie Cachette (@ecachette) is founder and CEO of ConsumerBell, helping companies and parents manage recalls. Recognized by the California State Senate as an “Outstanding Educator” in AIDS and Public health in 1997, Ellie has been an active supporter in the campaign to cure AIDS.