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Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #108
How to get your startup's first customers
Getting customers is never easy. But it doesn’t have to be as complex or challenging as some entrepreneurs make it, especially in the digital age. Why? Because we live in a world where advertising to your ideal target customers is as easy as clicking a few buttons. At least, that’s what I argue in this issue’s first article where I explain how to get your startup’s first customers using micr-targeting.
In my second article, I explore the psychology of entrepreneurs. Or maybe the more appropriate term is “neurosis of entrepreneurs.” Whatever you call it, entrepreneurs have a habit of constantly judging themselves against each other, and that’s not a good thing.
Last, in the Q&A below, you’ll find an answer to a question about how to get started on social media. If you’re thinking about leveraging the TikToks, Instagrams, and Twitters of the world, you’ll definitely want to read that answer.
Yes, customer acquisition is hard, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you think, especially once you learn to leverage the newest digital marketing techniques.
When I was building startups, I had a bad habit of comparing myself to other founders. But, as Shakespeare reminds us: "beware... of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meet it feeds on." Yes, I just quoted Shakespeare in this newsletter. Read the article to understand why.
Office Hours Q&A
Thank you for your newsletter. I’ve been reading it for a while now, but this is my first time asking a question. I hope it’s helpful to your other readers, too.
I am curious to get your opinion on something related to social marketing. I have a company that sells an energy drink and we are trying to figure out how to grow our social media presence. But we don’t know the best way to start, and we don’t currently have the budget to hire someone, so we’re going to have to do it ourselves for at least a little while.
What recommendations do you have for the best platforms to focus on? Any other important advice for getting started with marketing a new product on social media?
Thanks for your time,
Social marketing is a huge topic, and I’m obviously not going to be able to offer a comprehensive answer here. What I can do is offer a few questions to think about that can hopefully help point you in the right direction.
Question #1: Is social media the best marketing avenue for you right now?
Because of social media’s general prominence in our lives, I’m seeing more and more companies assume they have to have a social media presence. For example, since I teach social marketing at my university, I have lots of people reach out asking for connections to students who might be good social media interns. One company that recently reached out was a company selling a niche medical product that requires a prescription and is meant for people over a certain age with Type II diabetes. While I suppose, technically, you can market anything on social media, I found myself wondering if social media was really their best option.
An energy drink company is probably more relevant on social media than the niche medical product I alluded to, but it’s not inherently a product that needs to be on TikTok or Instagram or whatever. If you’re strapped for resources, I’d encourage you and your co-founders to have an honest conversation about the best places to spend those limited resources. Social media simply might not be one of them, and that’s OK.
Question #2: Which social media platform(s) will best serve your purposes?
If you do decide to leverage social media as a marketing tool, remember that you don’t have to create a presence on every platform. I see lots of companies assume they need to be on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Instagram and Snapchat and LinkedIn and TikTok and whatever the next new platform is, but that’s not true.
First of all, remember that each platform has its relative benefits and drawbacks for marketing different kinds of products. You need to determine which platform(s) are right for you. Second, each platform you’re on requires additional time and effort, and that’s going to limit your ability to grow an engaged audience. Trust me on this second point… as someone who consistently posts to Medium, LinkedIn, TikTok, and this Substack, plus I have a weekly podcast, I know a thing or two about spreading myself too thin on social media. For evidence, take a look at my Twitter feed, which hasn’t seen any sort of consistent posting in a long time.
Spreading yourself too thin on social media can be just as bad as not having any social media presence. Figure out where you’re going to get the most value, and zero in on those limited platforms.
Question #3: How can you get your customers working for you?
If you decide to leverage social media, and you figure out the best place to build a presence, you’re still going to run into trouble building an audience around a commercial brand simply because consumers aren’t particularly interested in following or engaging with brands via social media. There are, of course, exceptions – accounts like Wendy’s on Twitter or Duolingo on TikTok – but they are far and away the exception as opposed to the rule.
Rather than endlessly churning out content nobody is paying attention to, one of the best ways for brands to leverage social media is by finding strategies that get customers promoting their products/services on their own accounts. For example, you’ve mentioned trying to promote an energy drink. What kinds of things can you do to encourage people to post about drinking your beverage? For example, consider Starbucks. I realize this isn’t necessarily an apples to apples comparison, but Starbucks has cultivated an entire subcommunity of people who love posting pictures of their drinks in different places. That’s the kind of social marketing any brand would love to have. Can you also do something that gets customers wanting to tell their social networks about your product?
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!