Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #96
If you want to build a successful company, only one thing really matters...
Entrepreneurship encompasses a broad range of subjects. As a result, I can — and do — write articles about all sorts of things: product development; fundraising; hiring; team management; leadership; and so on. However, in reality, to build a successful company, only one thing matters: customer acquisition. If you can’t get customers, you don’t have a business.
Because customer acquisition is so important, I’ve decided, in this issue of EOH, to beat you over the head with the topic (metaphorically, of course). Below, you’ll find two articles about customer acquisition and a Q&A about — you guessed it — customer acquisition.
If you’re interested in reading about how to get better at customer acquisition, this issue is perfect for you. Of course, if don’t want to read about customer acquisition, this issue of EOH isn’t going to excite you, and that makes the issue even more important!
Customer acquisition should be your top priority. Even if that’s not what you want to read about, I promise you’ll benefit from spending at least a few minutes thinking about the topic more carefully.
In order to sell more girl scout cookies, my daughter did something every entrepreneur should do. Unfortunately, lots of us forget.
How to Get Your Startup’s First Customers
Your startup’s first customers are the hardest to get, and it’s probably because you’re trying to be too many things to too many people.
Office Hours Q&A
I noticed you write a lot about customer acquisition and sales and marketing. I understand and agree with all your articles and points, and I feel like not enough people giving startup advice focus on that stuff.
With that said, I’m curious to know, if you were launching a new startup tomorrow, what would be the first customer acquisition strategy you would use or recommend a founder use to get initial traction in a market? Is one type of strategy better for a new company than another? I know, for example, that things like Facebook ads can be expensive, and not every startup can really afford them. But, on the other hand, an SEO strategy can take a really long time to mature, and most startups can’t survive long enough to really take advantage of it in the short term.
What’s your go-to strategy? Curious to get your thoughts!
If there’s one way to get your question featured in an issue of EOH, it’s to reference the importance of customer acquisition. Yes, I agree, more startup-focused advice should be geared toward customer acquisition rather than product.
In a weird way, your question might even point toward why it doesn’t happen as often as either of us might like. The challenge with discussing customer acquisition is it’s wildly variable and abstract. Plus, every market is going to have its own unique set of customer acquisition challenges that aren’t easy to give advice on without direct experience. In contrast, I can easily spend all day listening to entrepreneurs talk about their products and then tell them whether I think a product is a good idea or what features I think are missing.
Unfortunately, since your question is about customer acquisition, my answer is going to be a victim of this same problem. I don’t have one ideal or go-to “first customer acquisition” strategy. My choice would depend on the venture I’m launching.
However, I’ll share a general rule of thumb. If the venture is B2C, the first strategies I’d attempt would almost certainly be inbound strategies. I’d find ways of marketing/promoting my brand to a (focused) target audience, and I’d try to pull consumers into me using some combination of social media content and micro-targeted advertising campaigns since those would give me the best cost/value ratios. But I’d be open to other strategies like press and PR if I had the right connections or an appealing story I thought I could leverage.
In contrast, if I was doing a B2B company, I’d kick things off with direct, outbound marketing. I’d build a list of target customers, and then I’d reach out to them directly via some combination of emails, phone calls, and social media connections (e.g. LinkedIn messages). If I’m being honest, I’d probably stick mostly with emails because I really hate doing cold calls even though cold calls are probably more effective.
Beyond those generalizations, everything else would be experimentation and learning through trial and error. I’d run lots of tests to gauge the value of different messaging until I hit on the language or content that does the best job of converting people. Once I found it, I’d ramp up my marketing efforts as quickly as possible using that one strategy until it either failed or got me a significant enough amount of traction that I could begin exploring other strategies.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!