How To Get The First Customer For Your Start-Up?

So you have crossed all the stages of Entrepreneurship the ideation, validation, finding co-founders, setting up the team, and are now in the execution stage, ready to go to the market.

It is good to understand the structured process of Entrepreneurship and do the expected homework at every stage. That is so much for the theory. But many times in practical world the stages may overlap depending a lot on the type of business model that your start-up has and on the industry that you are playing in. Your strategies and business analysis for getting the first customer will also depend quite a bit on whether you are offering a service or a product.

When it is time to go to the market it immediately means that the strategies of your start-up should evolve and be implemented in such a way that the start-up acquires customers at the earliest. By acquiring customers, I mean the ones that are ready to pay for buying your services or products; and not just the ones who would hit the ‘like it’ button on your Facebook fan page. Those are also important but from the point of view of spreading the word about your start-up.

But it is more important to acquire the customers who pay. This is important as this will help you to reach profitability faster. But how do you get that first paying customer? The customer acquisition strategies will vary largely depending on the type of your business. I shall take three types of models here. The start-ups from the most favoured industries [by the entrepreneurs] will usually fall in one of these models. I shall try and highlight the strategies that could work well with such businesses for acquiring that first customer.


Some of the entrepreneurs, who have started their start-ups in consulting business, may tell you that they started with a client already in their portfolio. Getting their first client could not have been easier! But surely not all entrepreneurs starting a consulting business would find themselves so lucky. It is definitely true that entrepreneurs looking to start a consulting business would have good number of years of experience in their field and would have cultivated the right connects in the industry to start with at least one or two clients in their portfolio. In such cases further customer acquisition usually follows from network referrals and customer references.

Software Product Development:

If your start-up is into software development, then the strategy should be to provide some features of your software for free. Assuming that you have validated your idea with the target market, it will still be better to offer a part of your product for free for the same sample of prospective customers. You could also give a free trial period for a limited time. During this time it is important that you listen to your select customers with utmost keenness and improve your product based on their feedback. You could select the first few users of your product from the sample where you validated your idea before launching your start-up and approach them in a focused manner. You should also be willing to be flexible and customize the product (to some extent) to the specific needs of your first few customers. Also, if your product fails to perform as expected, then you should be ready for attending to the customer complaints immediately. Your approach will help you win the customer. Once you win their hearts and minds, you will be able to ask for favourable references and testimonials. These will be really helpful in further customer acquisition. You will have case studies to show case your successes.

Consumer Internet or B2C arena:

This is an interesting segment and has a lot of potential for start-ups. So if your start-up is into consumer internet arena and has a B2C model, then you can get that first customer by collaborating with the target audience. The quickest way to reach the target audience and hope for faster customer acquisition is through the use of social media. For example, have a Facebook fan page and introduce relevant contests which will interest your target audience. Online contests should also be complemented with offline events at relevant places (such as college events, corporate fairs or trade fairs and exhibitions). Some other strategies could be to roll out referral programs with attractive prizes for the winners. Another way is to make a video presentation and float it on the internet via YouTube. You could also consider advertising on the radio. With many FM players in the Indian market, and significant amount of time that people have to spend behind the wheels, radio advertisements seldom fail to get the attention.

All these strategies should be strictly based on the psychographic analysis of your target customers so as to see the results in the form of converted customers. Psychographic analysis should help you understand the likes and interests and spending habits of your target customers. This should give you an idea of how to select the medium to reach out to them and how to select activities to engage with them.

Mridula VelagapudiAbout Mridula: Mridula is a freelance writer. She writes on Entrepreneurship and has worked for a start-up in the past. To know more check out her profile at LinkedIn/Mridula Velagapudi

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