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:
1) Define Your Target Customer
First, before you even start building your business, decide who you want to serve. Who is your target customer? 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).
2) Solve their Problem
Think about how your business could solve one of their problems. Come up with a plan for what a business would look like that would be amazing at solving that one problem.
3) Get Feedback From Target Customers on Your Business Idea
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.
4) Write a Rough business plan
Use their feedback to improve your idea. Fill in more of the details about how this business could work. Consider this your business plan. (product/service details, basic processes, pricing, ideas for marketing, advertising, & growth, etc.)
5) Get Pre-Sales from Target Customers
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.
6) Build the First Version of Your Business
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. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to work. It should solve the problem you discovered earlier in this process. This is where you actually setup the systems and processes laid out in your rough business plan.
7) Do the Work
When your business is ready to launch, contact all your pre-sale customers and deliver the product or service. Your business will always be evolving, so take action and improve as you learn.
8) Listen to your first customers
Get feedback from your first customers. Offer incentives, if you have to, get that feedback because it’s the life blood of your business. Look for ways you could do better at solving their problem. Can you do it in less steps? Are they excited about your product/service? Will they leave a Google Review of your business? Listen and learn.
9) Solve Karen’s Problem
Look for bad reviews. Most people won’t complain to you directly. They just won’t do business with you anymore. Search social channels for mentions of your brand name (there are tools that help with this). Find the Karen that hates your business. Listen with open ears to what they have to say. Are they legit complaints? Could you fix the problems mentioned so that no one else has that same bad experience? If one person hates many others will too. You may not make everyone happy, but you can use the negative feedback to improve your business.
10) Build Your Story To Win More Sales
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.
Rinse & Repeat Forever
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.
What’s your story?
Have you built a business? How did you get your first customers?
I’d love to hear from you.
To learn more about what other entrepreneurs are doing, you can check out the First Customers podcast on all major podcasting platforms and YouTube.