I started an entire podcast about this exact question. It’s called the First Customers podcast.
I ask entrepreneurs, sales experts, and marketers how they got their very first customers. Every episode teaches me something new. Every business is a little different. But common patterns arise.
Using what I’ve learned from the show, here’s how a small business can guarantee they will make a first sale soon after starting their business:
- First, before you even start building your business, make connections with the people who are within your target audience, in person if possible, and learn about their problems. Get their contact info so you can follow up later (email, phone, follow them on social media).
- Think about how you could solve one of their problems, and come up with a plan for what a business would look like that would be amazing at solving that one problem.
- Go back to the people who are in your target audience and genuinely ask for their feedback on your business idea, without trying to sell them anything at this point. Just have conversations and learn. These are your potential future customers.
- Use their feedback to improve your idea and get a first version of the details figured out. (product/service details, basic processes, pricing, etc.)
- Contact the people in your target audience again, but only the ones you’ve built the most trusting relationships with, and ask them what they think of your improved business idea. If they think it’s great, ask them if they would sign up when it’s ready. Basically, you’re doing a presale now.
- Once you have enough people say “yes” to your presale, you’ve confirmed that your idea is worth building into a real business. How many pre-sales you need may depend on how much you charge for your product or service. If its a low priced product, you’ll want more pre-sales, if it’s a high priced service you won’t need as many. Aim for at least 10 pre-sales. Then build the first version of your business.
- When it’s ready to launch, contact all your pre-sale customers and deliver the product or service.
- Get feedback from your first customers. Offer incentives if you have to get that feedback because it’s the life blood of your business.
- Use the negative feedback to improve your business.
- Use the positive feedback to build an evidence-based story about how your business solves that one problem. Tell that story to more people in your target audience who have the problem you solve. Those conversations will turn into more sales.
Repeat forever, until you’ve built a great business and you ride it into the sunset, or you decide to sell the business and live happily ever after.
Hope this helps somebody build a business that solves problems and creates jobs for people.