At what moment can you say that your business has officially launched? Once you’ve made your first sale, of course! Highly symbolic, a business’s first sale is proof that it truly responds to a need in the market. It tells you that your project is a viable one.
Although the task may seem relatively simple, getting your first customer can be a real challenge for the starting entrepreneur! Some wrongly believe that all you need to do is invest in advertising and customers will come running to buy your product or service. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Actually, in order to make your first sale, you need to follow certain golden rules, which I’ll share with you here.
Truly know your customer
The key to success in marketing is to truly know your customer. Before attempting to sell anything, you need an in-depth understanding of the behaviours and motivations driving those who will buy your products or services.
However, as a starting entrepreneur, you face a difficult challenge. As you’re not yet dealing with customers, how can you know all about a client you haven’t yet interacted with? At the start of your business, your typical customer is rather theoretical. For that reason, it is difficult for you to draw conclusions about their behaviours and preferences. So, how can you improve your customer insight?
To get a good picture of your target customer, give it a persona. It is the most effective method to get a clear, lifelike picture of the customer you’re looking to engage. A persona is simply a fictional character who demonstrates all the personality traits and typical behaviors of your target customer. This character will help you make your potential customer as real as it can get.
Take Mary, a 26 year old young professional. Ambitious, career-driven and daring, career advancement holds great importance to her. In her free time, she loves going out for diner with her friends. She likes to try new dishes. She loves to discover and travel. She buys a lot of fashion accessories online. On the other hand, when she’s shopping for clothes, she prefers to go in-store so she can try them on. Very connected, Mary spends on average 3 hours a day on social media.
She holds a master’s degree and currently earns $58,000 annually. Considering her field, she can hope to earn an annual income of $75,000 in the upcoming years.
Doesn’t this give you a much clearer picture of who is your potential customer? Doesn’t this already give you a ton of ideas as to how to get Mary interested in your product or service? Of course, Mary doesn’t exist! She’s a fictional character. However, in this example, she represents the perfect client for a specific business.
The persona exercise is designed to give you better marketing focus. You will be better equipped to evaluate what marketing efforts might work for a client like Mary. It’s important to note that to draft such a persona, you’ll have to do some background research. You shouldn’t just create any fictional character! The exercise should be used to sum up the traits and behaviours of your potential customers. Prior research is therefore necessary.
Find the right communication channels
Once you have defined your persona, you will better understand how your potential customer behaves. This will help you define the best ways to reach that customer. Let’s look back to the example of Mary. Knowing that she spent more than 3 hours a day on social media, it is probably the best way to reach her. Also knowing that she shops online, you should think of offering your products online.
Communication channels simply mean the physical and immaterial spaces through which you can reach your customer. Social media, networking events, conferences, fairs, traditional media, platforms or online marketplaces are just some examples of channels through which you could potentially make contact with a customer.
The real challenge for you is to select the right channel for your potential customer. Each type of customer will have a preferred channel through which you can best communicate how you product or service can benefits them. The question is thus to know which channel will be best suited specifically for your client. If we return to our example, which channel would be best suited for Mary? Although Mary can represent, to a degree, all young people of her generation, it remains that her specific profile tells us which channels to maximize on.
Now it’s your turn to do this exercise for your business. What kind of places does your typical customer go to? What kind of media do they use? Where could you come into contact with this type of customer? Would this be the best place to talk to them about your product offering? Does this channel ensure that your customer will be at least minimally receptive? These are some questions you should be asking yourself well before spending the first dollar in advertising. It’s not enough to know who your customer is. You should also know the best places to reach them.
Develop the right message
Once you have established your persona and your preferred targeted communication channels, you then need to set the right message to communicate to your potential customer. Up to this point, the focus has been put entirely on your potential client (your persona and communication channels). It’s now time to look at your product features so you can communicate them clearly to your customer.
Let’s come back to our example of Mary. Why should she be interested in your product or service? Does it meet a need of hers? Is she aware of this need? What is the best tone to engage Mary? A serious or humorous tone? What type of language would make her receptive to your message? These are a few questions to guide your message development.
Specifically, there are many ways to publicize your product offering: advertisement, conferences, blogs, e-book, discount promotions and many others. Now, before deciding on which medium to use, you need to focus your energy on the key message you want to communicate to your customers. By doing this exercise, you’ll clearly see which means you should be putting into place.
You now know the three golden rules to getting your first customer: (1) truly know your customer, (2) find the right communication channels, and (3) develop the right message. You have the right tools in hand to promote your product in an efficient way. So what’s next?
After setting up our first advertising campaign, presenting at a conference or even finishing our first promotion, what happens? Often, nothing at all! In the very short term, it is very likely that your efforts show no impact. You’ll need to be patient! The reality of business development is that the result is often delayed from the effort invested. This is completely normal. You’ll uncover your first customer after several unsuccessful attempts. Stay on track and keep trying. Above all, ensure you follow up with those who have shown an interest in your business. Discipline is a key aspect of business development
Remember to constantly adjust your aim!
Now that you are deploying concrete and well considered efforts to attract your first client, you’re on the right track. That said, you probably didn’t think of everything! It is possible that you’ve taken a wrong path somewhere. What if your understanding of your potential customer wasn’t spot on? Or rather, have you use the wrong communication channel to reach them? Or are you sending out the wrong message? Could it not simply be a lack of patience on your part?
It’s up to you to decipher where lies the need for adjustment. That said, you can be sure adjustments will be needed. That’s pretty typical of the entrepreneurial approach. It’s impossible to think of everything ahead of time. You cannot predict everything. You’ll now have to be proactive with the parameters, the means and the game plan you’ve established.
If you’ve done good background work and you understand your market, your marketing actions will deliver results. You first customer will come naturally. There is no mystery or magic to marketing. You simply need to know your customer and to clearly communicate, at the right time and at the right place, what they’ll benefit from using your product. Quite simply. It then takes patience and constant reevaluating. These are the golden rules to grabbing your first client.
Written By: Jean-Philippe L’Écuyer, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Futurpreneur Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org