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How to Land Your First Customers as a Startup

More Americans than ever are shunning employment and choosing to start a business instead. In 2019, 30.7 million small businesses accounted for 99.9% of all the businesses in the United States. With all that competition, how can a startup stand out and claim their first customers?

Create a Professional Image

Most consumers make emotional decisions when it comes to choosing a product, service, or supplier. Companies that take the time to establish a professional image and build trust with their customers and prospects enjoy the most success. If you’re starting on your new business venture, it can be difficult to build a reputation that competes with the big brands. This will take time, but you can take some simple steps to create a professional, trustworthy image from the get-go.

For example, a virtual business number will attract more prospects to call you than a personal cell phone number. The latter suggests an amateur operation, whereas the former gives the impression of an established, reliable company. A virtual phone number is not tied to any particular device, so calls can be routed to your cell, landline, or desktop computer. Choose a local number for an area where you know there are great business opportunities — people prefer to buy from local suppliers. Or opt for a toll-free number that will encourage customer calls and suggest your company has cross-state reach. The caller sees the virtual number and is unaware their call is diverting elsewhere. This is a simple, quick, and cost-effective way to give your new business an instant injection of professionalism.

Learn about Your Ideal Buyer

There are few products or services that will interest every consumer. Successful companies have a good understanding of their offer and take the time to conduct market research that helps them to build buyer personas. A buyer persona is a fictional profile for an ideal customer. Most businesses will have multiple buyer personas that they use to target their marketing efforts.

Undertaking this exercise early on is crucial to ensure you are making the most of every dollar spent on marketing your products or services. There’s no point spending thousands of dollars placing ads in front of 20 — 35-year-olds if you’re selling mobility scooters and interested buyers fall into older age groups. Developing a good understanding of your target audience also helps to increase sales and customer service. If sales agents know who they are selling to, they can tailor their pitch and maximize up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. You might also choose to make changes to the contact and support opportunities you offer to customers and prospects as you learn about the behavior and preferences of buyers.

Make Use of Existing Contacts

Don’t be too proud to ask friends, family, former colleagues, and any connections you have to shout about your new business and refer people they feel might be interested in your offering. Not only might you close your first sale by doing this, but it’s also a great way to develop a great sales pitch. What does your product do — and what problem does it solve? How is it different from other products on the market?

In today’s age of social media, email, and SMS messaging, it’s easy to reach out to people in a non-intrusive way. A friend’s social media contacts could even provide access to more potential referrals.

Focus on Making Your First Sales

Most businesses are started by visionary entrepreneurs who have great passion and ambition. It can be tempting to rush in and want to do it all at once. You have an idea in your head of how the business should look — and you want it to be there yesterday.

Remember, without customers; there is no business. Sales mean more money to re-invest in the business and fund your ideas for growth. Customer reviews mean more customers. Feedback from buyers will allow you to hone your offering until it is one of the best on the market, meaning — you guessed it — more sales. Set yourself up with the essential equipment, technology and staff to deliver a good level of service and present a professional image, but don’t go overboard. You don’t need a fancy CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system from day one, and it’s unlikely you need many employees. Get the first sales in the bag and start building a loyal customer base before you scale up operations.

The Bottom Line

Startups face considerable competition from new and established businesses. To succeed in landing your first customers, take the time to build a professional image, and understand your buyers — then make sales your number one priority. Sales generate the income, reviews, and brand awareness necessary to take your business from startup to established enterprise.