How to get customers for your startup- A comprehensive guide.

- Mohammed Lakkadshaw


Marketing and selling products and services for your newly created startup can be a difficult preposition. But, it can easily be done if we think about it logically.

Let's Start:-

For the sake of understanding, let's assume we have a SaaS (Software as a Service) startup. We sell something that helps early stage entrepreneurs build their enterprises.

Defining a Persona

Now lets have a look at who our customer is and try to build a persona of our ideal customer.

Some things to consider:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Martial status
  • Education
  • Income
  • Interests
  • Aspirations in life.
  • Employment.
  • Where does he/she lives

For our startup, our customer is the founder of an early stage startup, and his name is Mike.

  • Mike is a male
  • He is 27 years old
  • Mike lives in San Francisco,
  • Single and a graduate in business,
  • Mike has a job and makes around 100k/ year.
  • He wants to start a startup and make it big in life.
  • Mike does’t know programming or design and has to rely on other people for these skills.

Now, we have got Mike but, Mike doesn’t know about us nor about our awesome product that is going to help him make it big. We have got to find him and tell him.

Where can we reach mike?

We might be able to meet mike in places where he generally hangs out, like:

On the Social media sites:

  • twitter
  • facebook

And Website which provides startup news and updates:

  • product hunt
  • betalist
  • hackernews
  • inbound.org

Apart from this Mike is also reading stuff about entrepreneurship and success on sites like:

  • entrepenuer.com
  • thenextweb
  • lifehacker
  • Medium
  • Forbes
  • VentureBeat
  • etc.

Mike also does a lot of things in the physical world:

  • Mike visits technology meet-ups.
  • Mike visits coffee shops, building his business plans
  • Mike visits trade fairs.

What does mike want ?

Since Mike is starting a early stage startup, he is probably looking for ways to:

  • build a website,
  • Build his product
  • Market his product,
  • Looking for people in his network who might be be interested or willing to help him with his startup.
  • Maybe he is trying to pitch his idea to investors
  • Looking for a small office space or a Co-working space among many other things.
  • Mike might even be looking for his early employees or freelancers perhaps. That might be designers and developers to help him build his product.

At this point in time we have got Mike with his early stage startup and we know what does Mike wants and the places where he hangs-out and the people he hangouts with.

Now we have got to get to Mike and help him succeed in his startup.

Why do we want to do that ?

Because Mike does not want to buy our SaaS product. Mike wants to succeed in his business. And we are not going to sell our SaaS product to him. Mike will buy a resource from us that is going to help him achieve success in his business.

Marketing that does not look like marketing is the best kind of Marketing.

Up till now what we have done is

  1. Customer Profiling: Identifying who our customer is.
  2. Identifying distribution channels: Finding out where our customer is.

From now on, We will help our customer find us. There are two ways we can get this done.

  1. In the physical world.
  2. Over the internet.

We can choose both ways or we can choose any one based on our resources and which we think might work best for our product.

The Physical World

We can go to the meet-ups, where mike is hanging out. To the coffee shops where he is working on his business plans. To the trade fairs where he might visit to sell his product. Out-side Co working spaces where he might be visiting. We can talk to him and tell him about our product and how we can help him.

OR

We can Find out his contact number/email and call him or email him.

Cold calling is an awesome sort of Marketing, you just need to know whom to cold call and how to execute. People out there have real problems to solve and if we can help them. It is going to be great business.

(One of the biggest examples of cold calling working is today’s business environment is AppAftercare  app maintenance business by Einar Vollset.

It is an awesome company, He even runs a course explaining how he markets his products.)

And we can speak to Mike, tell him how awesome our product is and how he is going to be huge success by using it.

Over the internet

We have already figured out where Mike hang outs over the internet, We just need to reach out to him and help him out with his Business.

  1. Building a Side Project.
  2. Teaching.
  3. SEO

1. Building a Side project.

A side project can be a website or a tool that does some kind of leg work for Mike. For example Mike needs to get a lot of things done.

He needs a Website, a logo, he needs legal stuff done, he needs to find designers and developers, he needs productivity tools. He needs to learn basics of coding or design. He needs photos for his blog or social media posts etc.

If we can build a tool or a side project that can help Mike in achieving his objective. He is going to come finding us.

One of the awesome companies that are doing this kind of thing is: Buffer

Buffer is company that helps entrepreneurs schedule their social media posts. They need to attract people who are into social media.

They have a side project called:

  1. Pablo is website that helps you design images for your social media posts. This solves a big problem for Entrepreneurs and social media marketers.

When Mike is searching for photos for twitter post and he stumbles-upon Pablo. He gets to know that there is this SaaS company called Buffer which helps him save time on his social media marketing and he is likely to buy from them.

2. Teaching

Blogging is a very well known tool for inbound marketing. But what to blog is thing to consider. We need to only blog things that are going to help Mike.

Actionable content, Content from which mike can take away something from and apply to his life and business and get results.

A study by New York Times, claims that the likelihood of an article being shared is the most for articles with practical utility. articles with actionable content gets shared the most.

Ideas to blog about?

We already know a lot about Mike. Lets just think what would be the core idea Mike would like our advice on?

Answer: Entrepreneurship and success.

Well, this is just one thing. What are the other complimentary things we could help Mike with.

Complimentary ideas

  • Productivity
  • Marketing
  • Getting startup ideas
  • Validating startup ideas
  • Building an MVP.
  • Getting funding etc.

Apart from writing an article, you could also make video or podcasts or slide-share. But the basic idea between all these mediums is the same, that is to help the customer achieve success in his/her pursuits.

And writing an article is just not enough. We will have to tell Mike we exist and here is an awesome article which would be a great help to him.

Distributing your Side Projects/Articles and doing SEO:

Well we have a great SaaS product, a great tool to help Mike and we are also writing awesome articles.

How are we going to make Mike come to us?

Well we know where Mike hangs out on the internet. We can just through stuff on the social media and hope and pray that Mike reads OR we can be proactive in our efforts to reach Mike.

Here’s How:

Now, there are certain people on social media who are called influencers. These people have a large amount of following.

We will need to find out certain influencers who would be interested in distributing our free tools and blog articles to their network of people on social media.

How we are going to do that?

With a certain tool called as Followerwonk, which is available at MOZ.com It helps us sort influencers on twitter with certain keywords in their profile or bios.

for example. If our tool is an open source product. we will sort people with open source in their bios and see if they post other people’s open source products on twitter.

Then we will contact them and ask them to distribute our product.

We could do something similar for product hunt as well. Product hunt is an awesome network that lists digital products. Though we don’t have followerwonk for product hunt. Product hunt has hunters and we can contact them on twitter and ask them if they will hunt our product.

This same thing we are going to do with our Blog article. One thing to remember though: The quality of our content should be top notch. The better the quality of our product the more viral it will become.

One very good side effect of this will be people will start linking to our blog or free product page. For example some one is writing some post and they might link to us as a reference. This is going to increase our SEO.

Or someone might be listing free resources for Entrepreneurs and businesses and they might list our product.

Alternatively, we can also search for blogs on google. Just typing in Open source software blogs or Entrepreneurship blogs and Google will give us a list if blogs and we can contact those blogs and ask them if they can list or add a link to our free product site or blog article.

Build an email subscription list:

Always try and build a subscription list. The people who are subscribing to your articles really believe in your content. And you should make them search for your articles from time to time. They are a dedicated audience and dedicated traffic to your blog. Do your upmost to make it really easy for them to signup to your mail list.

What is SEO ?

SEO is search engine optimisation. What is means is that When mike does a google search for a product or problem that we could solve our website ranks higher in the search ranking.

To increase search ranking there are many things Search Engines consider. Among them are

  • Keywords
  • Number of links connecting to our site
  • Traffic coming to our site
  • Number of social media posts of our site.

What are Keywords?

Key words are words Mike might type into the search engine bar to find something he wants to find.

For example if Mike wants to hire a mobile app development company, He might search mobile app development companies in San Francisco. or hire mobile app developer. We need to research keywords that are relevant to our industry and customer

Typically we should try to rank in the top three keywords our customer would search. Now there are two kinds of SEOs. Onpage and OFF page. Here is a very good guide to Onpage SEO.

For finding out keywords Think

“will searchers really find what they are looking for when they search using using these keywords?”

Or

Find out what key words competition is using. Tools like Open web explorer and SEM Rush are a great for this kind of research

and google keyword planner is another great tool for keyword research. It tells you how much traffic is there for a particular keyword. It even tells you how much difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword.

And we already have been doing a lot of off page SEO by building free products and Blogs. Just be sure to sub-domain your free product page and blog site to your startup site.

After getting an understanding of keywords. DO a quick on page SEO. It doesn’t take much time is simple to do and the results are for ever here is a quick guide.

These key word tools tools will also come in handy when distributing blog articles

Doing Paid Ads.

If we have the budget or if we want to do experiments we can use paid ads for this purpose. Building a paid ad is an skill unto itself We will need to answer questions like these ?

What is the goal of the ad?

The goal could be to drive signups, or influencing people to read our blog post or converting people to buy our product.

What keywords to target?

Key word targeting in ads is a skill. You need to find key words that drive traffic but aren’t that expensive to buy. We discussed some of the tools we could use above.

Which platform to choose?

Ideally we should only choose platforms where our customers visit (mike). Another thing to consider is what mood mike is in when he is on a particular platform.

Research shows that for long form content twitter is a good source, for relaxed entertaining content Facebook is good media. For getting conventions search engine ads like on google and bing are a good source.

Other things to consider:

What ROI do we want, and at what cost ads are feasible for us.

What does a client pay us VS How much does it cost to get the client is an important thing to consider.

Assuming our goal is to convert the client to buy our product.

Income from client > How much money a single click costs * How many clicks are required to get the client.

In Conclusion:

Marketing like everything else in life is a trial and error thing. All of the things will not work everywhere. And running with all the strategies and all the distribution channels that I have mentioned is a not a good idea especially when your resources are limited. Instead try and identify what channels suits you the best and work with it.

So many times it happens that one of the channels brings in more customers than all of the other channel combined.

I wish you best of luck for your adventures.

This blog post is by Mohammed Lakkadshaw. Founder at Mohammed Lakkadshaw & Co. A Mobile and Web design and development company.

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