Getting those first 1,000 customers will not gurantee you success, but it will enable you to get some real world feedback and hopefully pay some bills at the same time.
In running a startup one of your biggest challenges will be getting customers on board and getting the first 1,000 always takes the most work, at the end of the day you are still learning what works whilst trying to build a repeatable process that you are able to scale.
The following article aims to give you some insight and tips on how you can reach the goal of 1,000 customers:
1. Set up a waiting list
Creating a waiting list is a great way to build buzz around your product prior to it being launched, people always want to be the first in line to use a new product, this works especially well for online services and mobile applications, particularly if you offer incentives for people to sing up, such as three months free or a discounted membership.
2. Utilise your own personal network
Word of mouth is still an extremely powerful way to acquire new customers. Tell your family, friends and colleagues about your product and ask them to spread the word, try utilising your LinkedIn contacts with carefully crafted personal messages about what it is you are doing or offering. Don't be shy, there is nothing wrong with asking for a favour, if you have a consumer focused product, there is no easier or qer way to gain 30 new customers, it can be a little bit more tricky if you are working in a B2B space but that's where the power of LinkedIn comes in.
3. Target online publications
Similar to blogs, online publications can help you to reach a massive new audience that you probably have not tapped into before. Try and pick one or two of the most relevant publications that make sense for your business. Spend some time selling them on your product and try and offer something unique, this could be exclusive coverage of your product launch or a special discount for their readership.
Another great tip is to follow journalists on Twitter and try to get a sense of the type of content they write, this is a great way to ensure that you get your product across to them in a way that fits their style.
4. Get the blogging community on board
Bloggers can have access to huge audiences, especially those that have been around for some time, their readership trusts them. Reach out to these bloggers and ask them to review your product, or talk to them about how your services fixes a problem, this is a great way to drive huge numbers of new prospects to your site. Online reviews often drive sales continously over time.
5. Use suspense
Using suspense is a great way to build some excitement around your product prior to launch. Try and create a drip feed of information about your upcoming product and its launch. This makes people curious and they wil want to know more, especially if you revealsmall amounts of information over time. Essentially the more you give away, the less interesting it becomes.
6. Get early adopters on board
Your first customers are your most important, they are the ones that bought your product for a reason, so you can learn a massive amount from them, try to cultivate a personal realtionship with them and ensure you listen to what they say. You will be able to gain great insight from them that you can start using immediately, and the best thing is, they can be converted into brand advocates that spread your brands message for you and helping you to gain more customers.
7. Make sure your content is of a high quality
Content marketing is a great way of acquiring new customers, by ensuring you create genuine and useful content that you give away for free, you can drive people to your website, this will also help to establish yourself as a thought leader. If you have enough budget try hiring a good writer, the CEO of Buffer got his first 10,000 customers just from writing guest posts on other peoples websites, these posts will continue to drive traffic continously to your site, with no additional effort required.
8. Try offering a free product option
A lot of successful online startups offer a freemium model to get users on board with their products. This allows people to try your product or service with no risk, this can go a long way to encouraging them to sign up for paid versions. Ensure you get the right balance, don't cripple your free offering, but keep enough back to ensure that they will want to upgrade.
9. Create incentives so customers sell your product
Believe it or not but your customers can be some of your best sales people, they already know what the value of your product or service is. Enxure they have a reason to get other people signed up, this could be a financial incentive or a reduction in price on the services you offer them, if you can achieve this you can really drive impressive growth. You can even make this work with the freemium model by offering a free upgrade to your paid services for three months.
10. Become a conference speaker
This may sound somewhat old school but speaking at conferences is really a great way of gaining exposure and customers, your audience is already interested in your topic otherwise they wouldn't be attending. Become an expert on your subject, and then contact event organisers, build a rapport with them and offer to speak at their events. You need to ensure that you get in touch early, as most conference agendas are usually locked down somewhere between 6 and 12 months before the event is scheduled to happen.
11. Utilise online advertising
Using online advertising can be a really effective way of driving traffic to your website, it really does not have to be expensive and with a little planning can be done on a reasonably small budget, £1,000 with Google AdWords can go a very long way, if you don't have any experience with this type of online advertising you are best off hiring a pro as if done poorly you could waste a big chunk of money, check out our one off PPC campaigns for more information.
12. Keep on testing
To begin with you will need to have established a baseline of traffic, if you only have 1 or 2 people visiting a week, there will not be enough data to gain any insight from. Once you have become a little more established, then you need to start converting visitors into customers, there are many different factors that can affect your conversion rate, from design to pricing.
Try out different things and see which one works best for your users, this is a process you should be continuously doing, try using tools like Google Analytics content experiments to analyse and issue your test to your website users.
13. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing can be a great way to get new customers, you use other websites to promote your products or services in return they get commission without any product costs, there are a whole bunch of sites that make it easy such as Rakuten Affiliate Network, Commission Junction and ClickBank to name a few.