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    5 tips to win the first thousand customers for your startup

    5 tips to win the first thousand customers for your startup

    5 tips to win the first thousand customers for your startup
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    By Shrijay Sheth   IST (Updated)


    Most startups get caught up in the mundane, failing to cultivate excellence in product offerings and service delivery.

    As I learnt, winning the first 1,000 customers puts you through an entire cycle of experiences that form the bedrock of your approach in the future. The experiences of the past influence the decisions of today. Marry that to delivering a robust customer experience and you are well on your way.
    I put to use my experience in gaining the first thousand customers for my startup. Nothing beats commitment and ability when it comes to delivering top-notch product and services. Doing it right will help you scale the business beyond the first few customers – after some time, it snowballs.
    Remember that your first users can turn evangelists so introduce product to market by targeting the right audience. Here are my top five tips to getting initial traction and gaining your first 1,000 customers.
    • Understanding what you sell
    • Most startups get caught up in the mundane, failing to cultivate excellence in product offerings and service delivery. Start by a detailed analysis of your offerings and see what tangible value you can add – besides offering superb customer service.
      Often, as a new business, you will come across opportunities that are not your core forte but still can make you quick money. I would rather tag them as a distraction, unless you really think it could pivot your business in a better direction.
      • Understanding your Buyers
      • There is no point in knowing the product if you do not understand what makes the buyers tick. This is the key to positioning your product in the market to get the ball rolling. If you miss out on funnelling your audience, it may well eat up a lot of your resources without delivering the desired results. By product positioning and focusing on your audience, you are amplifying your voice. You get heard by those who matter and they are the ones that identify with and connect to your brand.
        Every founder does some market research when before ideating and then creating a new product. In most cases, they would have come across online communities and forums that are relevant to their product. It is important to return to them to help get your first 1000 customers.
        Understand that startups typically have a lean budget, and targeting the audience that is very broad will just make your resources less impactful. The rule here is “specific is terrific”.
        • Value Proposition in Offerings
        • Launching a product requires something extra – something special that adds value. Know what more you can offer and position your product according to your target users. Knowing your product & buyers will help deliver messaging to get them to try your offerings. Now, why does it have to be your product and not anyone else’s?
          Repay their faith by delivering what you have promised - and let them spread the word. And once they show faith in you, you too need to reciprocate the same. Give some personal touch to your offerings to make them feel special. Social media recognition, certificate, discounts, etc. Rewarding loyalty is not a bribe. It is a part of customer retention technique that adds value to their purchase.
          • Know where your customers hang out
          • There are street food people, then there are only ‘michelin star’ people, and then there are those who love both. Knowing the world your customer lives in plays a vital role in tailoring marketing plans targeted exclusively at and for them. If you get to know exactly where they are, you can spread your presence accordingly. Simply put, fashion brands are now targeting Instagram more than Facebook because this group of fashion-conscious people are mostly found on Instagram. Obviously, targeting can get more complex than that.
            Ensure you are present at forums. These platforms are where people are sharing their problems. These are extremely important as your product may well offer as a solution. Answer their questions, and see if you can devise something in your product to fit their requirements. Tracing your prospective users’ digital hangout place may reveal a lot about the current market requirements and trends. Tailoring campaigns that appeal your niche can kickstart your journey for reaching those 1000 customers.
            The common mistake that most early-stage businesses make is they run after high-value clients. That space is typically crowded. Also, at times their offerings are not suited for them, they may be a better fit for valuable clients. Great salespeople don’t sell products to customers they like, they sell their products to customers who perceive the highest value in the product.
            • Marketing Strategy
            • You simply cannot be in stealth mode when aiming to reach out to customers. When you look to appeal to the audience, try creating a message that helps prospective users to identify your brand easily. An ideal marketing mix will involve a planned approach to create messaging that makes you stand out amidst the clutter.
              And this totally depends on the channels and nuances of outreach. Consider widening your thought leadership? How will you conduct your outreach? Are you taking seminars? Or Webinars? The tone of your marketing message too can affect the audience you appeal to. prefers a formal approach and authoritative tone to imply our understanding and knowledge in the legal business. If we were a casual clothing brand, I would want it to be more fun, trendy, and upbeat.
              Depending on your audience and places they hang out (physically too) – decide whether you can afford a hoarding in a big city (if that’s your audience). Or, should you be good while staying present on social media? Gauge whether you will get the traction you need to engage those users. This is what will define your market reach and presence amongst the targeted group of users.
              There are many options available for both online and offline marketing, you may use a mix that suits your audience better. While you define a strategy, three-pointers are most important –
              • Make a marketing calendar, and stick to it. Everything needs to be documented so that you can benchmark results and improvise.
              • Make sure you have enough budget allocated to each activity. Marketing is mostly a game of persistence, and often there are no quick results.
              • There has to be a clear understanding of the role of each channel. For example, social media is great to reach out to newer audiences, but backed by a re-marketing or cart-abandoner email campaign can amplify the impact many folds. Generating traffic is only one half of it, engaging the audience and making them purchase again is a more vital art.
              • Conclusion:
                Practising everything I mentioned above is of no use if you fail to execute it well. Remember, burning money is not the only way to gain traction and attract users. Following the above points may organically generate customers as it offers a channelised approach to build a customer base that’s loyal. Moreover, this can save resources.
                Shrijay Sheth is founder,
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