If you’re a business owner, you’ve likely had the same thought that crosses everyone’s mind when they start: “How will I get my first 10, 50, 100, 1000, etc. customers?” This is a very important question because for any business to be successful, it needs to be able to acquire customers.
If you’ve ever had to consider this question, then you know how difficult it can be. Many business owners don’t even think about it until they get their first 100 customers and then hit a plateau. This is a mistake because if you’re not thinking about your marketing strategy from day one, then it will be much harder to acquire customers once your business is up and running.
The best way to think and address this is by creating a marketing strategy to acquire customers from day one of your business’s inception. This will help you stay focused and make sure that you are deploying the right marketing strategy toward the right set of customer segments who will become your early adopters.
If you don’t have one i.e a marketing strategy, then it’s likely that your marketing efforts will be scattered and ineffective.
What is a marketing strategy?
A marketing strategy is a plan to reach your target audience with the right message, at the right time, in the right place. You can think of it as the total of everything you do to market your business. It includes the following three elements:
- Your target market
- The marketing mix, or the promotional tools to be used
- The specific action steps needed to achieve your goals
With our understanding of what a marketing strategy is all about, let us connect this with acquiring your first customers. To achieve this, the next logical question is:
Why the first 1000 customers?
Whether it is your first 10, 50, 100, or 1000 customers, the important question here is how is this set of customers important to your business.
The answer to this question lies in the fact that your early adopters will tell you if there is a market for your product or service and whether it is profitable. They will provide valuable feedback on how to improve your offering so that you can build a better mousetrap. They will also help you gain credibility with your next set of customers and investors, and they can become brand advocates, allowing you to leverage their social reach for “free marketing”.
What are the Challenges of Getting Early Adopters?
The first challenge is that early adopters are typically not in the market for your product or service. So, you have to reach out to them and get them out of their comfort zone and into yours. This can be challenging because early adopters tend to have strong opinions about what they like and don’t like. They may also be resistant to change, especially if it involves new solutions and technology. To achieve this some worth herculean task, you have to;
- Target the right audience
- Find the right marketing channels
- Create a compelling value proposition
- Be consistent in your messaging
Once you have figured out all of these, you can then begin your move to acquiring your first customers.
How to build a community of early adopters
The goal of this section is to help you find the right marketing strategy to build a community of early adopters or customers for your business.
When we say “community,” we mean a group of people who share your interests and beliefs. They don’t just buy from you, but also enjoy talking about your products and services with others. To achieve this feat, here are some simple marketing tactics to implement:
1. Reach out to friends and colleagues
This is usually the first marketing tactic many entrepreneurs deploy. You can start by reaching out to your contacts—friends, and colleagues—and asking them to share your business with their networks. It’s also important that you reach out to people who are interested in what you do or sell because they will be more inclined to spread the word about it.
2. Reach out to targeted strangers
This is one of the most important marketing tactics that can help you build your brand. You can start by reaching out to people who are interested in what you do or sell because they will be more inclined to spread the word about it. Reach out to targeted strangers via email and social media using relevant content that’s tailored for each audience.
3. Go where your target audience congregates
To reach out to people who are interested in what you do or sell, you must go where they congregate. This could mean joining an online community, attending events that attract your target audience, or joining a local business association.
4. Use influencers
Influencers are people who have a large following of people who trust them and will listen to what they have to say. If you can get an influencer whether paid or organic, to endorse your product or service, likely, their followers will also be interested in learning more about it. They can also help introduce you to people who may be interested in what you do or sell by sharing your content with their followers.
5. Press releases
Press releases are a great way to get your company in the news. The key is to make sure that your press release is interesting enough for journalists, influencers, and bloggers to want to write about it. This means you should have something new and exciting about your business that hasn’t been covered before. You can also promote an upcoming event or product launch with a press release.
6. Create viral content
Viral content is an important part of any marketing campaign. It’s a piece of content that goes viral and gets shared by people all over the internet, often resulting in lots of traffic for your website. To create viral content, you need to think about what will be interesting and relevant to your audience. This means you should research trends related to your industry so that you can create something new and exciting around them.
7. Get physical placement
Physical placement is a great way to get your brand in front of people. You can put up flyers, stickers, or signs that advertise your business. For example, if you run an online store and want to get more customers walking through the door, consider putting up flyers at local gyms or restaurants so that people see it when they’re working out or eating lunch.
The Different Business Types
It is important to note that the effectiveness of these different marketing tactics depends on the nature of your business. The 2 most common types of businesses include;
Consumer-facing businesses or Business-to-Consumer (B2C) are those that sell products and services directly to end users. This means that you can reach out to your audience using social media, email marketing, and other digital channels.
This type of business could be brick and mortar, online, marketplace/platforms, etc.
Business-facing businesses or Business-to-Business (B2B) are those that sell products and services to other businesses. This means that you may have less direct contact with your audience but you still may have the ability to reach out to them using social media, email marketing, and other digital channels. This type of business also could be brick and mortar, online marketplace/platforms, etc.
The main difference between these two types of businesses is the nature of their customers and how they interact with them.
The Best Early Customer Adoption Strategies for the Different Business Types
First off, it is important to state that these suggestions are not absolute, but having worked with different startups and businesses over the years, we have noticed a pattern of how the different business types acquire their first customers, and which tactics and strategies have been most effective for the different business types.
Consumer businesses/startups (E.g. Facebook, Money Africa, etc.):
The primary marketing strategy for this type of business includes;
- Reach out to friends and colleagues (e.g. email them, post on social media, call them)
- Go where your target audience hangs out, online or offline (e.g. seminars, Facebook groups, forums, online communities, etc.)
- Enlist influencers
To give a good example of reaching out to friends and colleagues, we will look at Facebook.
According to Business Insider – “[Mark] Zuckerberg’s friends made up most of the 10 first Facebook sign-ups, after which the social network expanded to friends of friends across campus. Eventually, it swept all Ivy League colleges, the nation, and then the world.”
Marketplace or platform (e.g. Jumia, Flutterwave, etc.):
For this type of consumer-facing business, the most common marketing strategy for acquiring early adopters includes;
- Reach out to targeted strangers (e.g. DM celebs, email owners)
- Get physical placement (e.g. stickers, flyers)
- Get press
- Try to create viral content
Let’s take YouTube whose one of its marketing strategies for acquiring its early adopters was reaching out to targeted customers.
According to Steve Chen its co-founder, throughout the summer of 2005, they experimented with sending emails to bloggers, video bloggers, photographers, pets communities, etc. It was a lot of trial and error in guessing what type of content creators were looking and [were] in need of a service like YouTube.”
No matter the type of B2B business, the marketing strategy for getting first customers is usually in most cases similar for them, and this includes;
- Reach out to targeted businesses (e.g. contacting business decision-makers on LinkedIn, cold emails/calls, etc.)
- Go where your target businesses hang out, online or offline (e.g. seminars, Facebook groups, forums, online communities, etc.)
- Get physical placement (e.g. banners, posts, stickers, etc.) in areas where they congregate
- Get press releases – usually for businesses with a unique story to tell.
Using the Uber driver’s side as an example to illustrate reaching out to targeted businesses, Uber contacted cab owners and sold the value of making extra income and being visible to a wider market just by staying online on their mobile app.
So the marketing strategy you use for your business will depend on your business type, your target audience, and how best you can reach them.
When it comes to marketing, there are a lot of different ways you can go about doing it especially when it involves getting your first 1000 customers or early adopters whatever number that is.
There are tons of books, blogs, and articles that can help you get started on your marketing strategy, the important thing is not so much which method you choose, but rather that you find one that works for your business. By using the right strategies, you can reach out and make connections with new customers easily.