Depending on your business, finding that first 1,000 – or 10, 100, or 10,000 customers – is your most important and all-consuming task. All too often business owners and managers fret about how to finance and manage early stage growth, assuming that the low-hanging fruit will fall unbruised into the basket. It doesn’t, and owners often give up. This NYT article by Rebekah Campbell, chief exec at Posse, a social media friends-and-family referral engine, illustrates clever and inexpensive marketing that can establish that initial critical customer base.
There are lessons learned, all of which have applicability to any business start-up, including tech start-ups.
- Tap into buyers whose enthusiasm is infectious. Sound familiar? It’s part of the central thesis in Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point – connectors and mavens.
- Use the power of celebrity. There’s a reason sports stars are in so many TV spots, and why B2B marketers clamor to get a reference or endorsement from a blue chip or trendy buyer. Association pays off. For consumers, if LeBron James uses it then it must be good. If a B2B leader with deep pockets and an army of purchasing agents uses the product, then who is one to argue?
- No amount of marketing can fix a poorly aimed product. I’m not referring to the odd lots and end-of-season items that don’t sell, and are quickly shuttled off to discount outlets for a fraction of their cost. There is no shortage of business owners who love with their offering. But if buyers don’t love it, then the romance is short-lived. How does one avoid this trap? By doing the fundamental work of finding an unmet or poorly met need in the market, ensuring market size is ample enough to support your business, and then painstakingly ensuring that your product can – and does – deliver the value to cause buyers to reach for their wallets and checkbooks. Better than any alternative.
None of this is easy to do. But not doing it makes it easy to fail.