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I want to find my first paying customer

Problem πŸ€•

I want to find my first paying customer - not just traffic or free users, but one that actually pays.

Solution πŸ•΅οΈ

Launching your startup can by itself get you paying customers. But not every time. In addition to general marketing, you should reach out to potential customers directly through your network.

Why and when to worry about this? ⏱️

a. Rationale

The first customer is the toughest one to land for any startup. Your "launch" doesn't guarantee paying customers. The most reliable channel is, therefore, your own network.

Individuals in your network are likely to be the most receptive to you. So, you can get actual conversations started. Hence, there is a high chance of converting them to your initial paying customers.

The additional benefit is that it solidifies the way your offering should be sold - which can help in your marketing messaging too.

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b. Timing

Start reaching out to your network when you are in the final stages of readying your product/service. This allows you to shortlist people you can reach out to when you launch. On launching, personally reach out to each of them to understand how you can help them solve their problem.

Tools πŸ‘

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Implementation πŸ”¨

a. Realistic expectation

Your personal network can't be used to scale your startup indefinitely. This is to get your initial pool of customers. As a result, you will get your first few testimonials (super critical!). In entirety, you should have effectively exhausted this channel in the first six months of starting to sell.

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b. Process

The steps involve finding relevant people in your network and then reaching out to them. We predominantly use LinkedIn for this.

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Finding relevant people

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i. Start with your immediate LinkedIn connections

The goal is to get a list of your connections. Then, shortlist those who work in companies that could be potential customers of your startup.

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  • BeginΒ by defining who your target customer is
  • ~For example, at Flexiple our target customers are tech startups who have good revenues OR raised some round of funding
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  • After this, you need to get details about your connections, which can be done in one of the following two methods:
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  • ~Export your connections list from LinkedIn
  • ~~Here are the steps to get the list: Export LinkedIn connections
  • ~~You get the following details: Name, email id (not for all), Company, Position
  • ~~The details received from this method are quite limitedΒ 
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  • ~Use Phantombuster to get more details about your connections
  • ~~Start by applying a filter in LinkedIn to get only your own connections
  • ~~You can do it by going to this link and setting the "Connections" filter to "1st"
  • ~~Next, use the LinkedIn Search Export phantom to export all these connections
  • ~~You can then use the LinkedIn Profile Scraper phantom to get all the details available on the person's profile

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  • Using the details from the above two methods make a shorter list of people who fit your target customer profile.
  • ~For e.g. In the Flexiple case, you can
  • ~~Exclude students, freelancers, self-employed, etc.
  • ~~Take a unique of the company column and exclude companies that you think aren't a good fit

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ii. Look at the startups you want to target first

Here we start the process in the reverse fashion - identify companies that would be good potential customers and then try to find a connect in that company

  • Use a company database like Crunchbase to find your potential customers
  • For the earlier example of Flexiple, a list of recently funded (past 12 months) companies can be taken
  • Type the name of the company in the LinkedIn search bar
  • Click on "See xx employees on LinkedIn"
  • Then set the "Connections" filter to "1st"
  • You can also consider 2nd Connections and request your 1st connections to introduce you Β to them

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Reaching out to them:

  • Check how active that person is on LinkedIn. Visit their profile and check
  • ~If they have more than 500 connections
  • ~When their last activity on LinkedIn was
  • If they are active on LinkedIn, converse with them on the platform itself
  • ~Don't directly start with your pitch. Connect on some common past/interest
  • ~~After a couple of messages, tell them about your startup experiences
  • ~This is the moment to mention that you think your startup can be useful to them
  • ~Ask them if you can share more details on mail and if they can then connect you to the right point of contact
  • If they aren't active on LinkedIn, you can find their email on LinkedIn itself or through tools like Adapt
  • ~Here you would try to succinctly combine the above LinkedIn messages into a single mail

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Related posts to read πŸ“ͺ

If you liked this report, would be great if you could share the below thread on Twitter πŸ˜ƒ

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Use your personal network to personally bring in your first set of customers. But, how do you put a structure around it?<br><br>I cover that in No-VC Report #7.<br><br>Report link: <a href="https://t.co/IYzVQThhNV">https://t.co/IYzVQThhNV</a><br><br>Thread :point_down:<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/startup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#startup</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Entrepreneurship?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Entrepreneurship</a></p>&mdash; Karthik Sridharan (@KarthikS2206) <a href="https://twitter.com/KarthikS2206/status/1313820587911901184?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 7, 2020</a></blockquote>
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