90%. That’s the rate of failure for the startups during their initial years. The challenge of acquiring its first 100 customers is something that every startup has to face. They don’t know if the product they are offering has any value until they start generating revenues.
Acquiring the first cohort of customers is often more challenging than the later ones. You don’t have any data to start from. You don’t have any customer segments where your product has been a hit. Nor do you know the attributes of your right customers who would stay with you for the long term.
It’s a completely blank canvas on which you have to start from scratch. You are on your own to create and implement strategies that may or may not work in your niche. But then you wonder if there is any list of foolproof strategies that you can implement in your company? Well, the answer is yes and no.
Yes, because there are myriads of solutions you would get to fetch new customers. There’s no dearth of that knowledge. No, because not all of them would be suitable in your context. Hence, you have to be your own judge to decide what works and doesn’t work for you.
Keeping the same context in mind, let’s look at some ways through which you can generate leads and acquire the first 100 customers for your SaaS business.
#1 Start with your network
The best way to know if your product is worth buying for a customer is through your existing network. You must start with building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and send it across to your network for trials. If you are building a product for a niche then chances are that you know many people in that niche.
Try sending your MVP to them to collect the initial feedback. Then work on those customer feedback before you finally launch your product. Chances are high that the first set of customers would be from your network itself. Once you acquire them, it is time you must start looking beyond for more customers.
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These days social media has become a crucial factor for customers to judge a company’s credibility. You must create your social media pages on all the platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Insta, Twitter, Quora, etc. and start acquiring fans. Acquiring these fans is like the prequel of acquiring actual customers.
Apart from establishing your social media identity, you can also use these accounts for doing market research. For example, you must join the groups in LinkedIn where most of your prospects are already members.
Selling them directly on social media would not be wise. Instead, you must perform thorough research on their profiles, posts, shares, comments, etc., to completely understand their pain points and challenges. This would give you an idea of how effective your product is in meeting their challenges and also how to place your product in a clearest and concise manner.
#3 Gather Customer Data
Using tools like SurveyMonkey, you can gather their important data like their company’s name and email address with just a simple survey. Your survey could be as simple as asking them if they need a product for dealing with a challenge they are currently facing. If you hit the right spot, they won’t hesitate to answer yes along with sharing their details.
But before you send across the survey, the most important point is to know your customer’s persona. These personas would help you prepare a list of actual customers through their social media profiles. Creating an ideal customer profile would be a good exercise towards this end. Once you are done with all the necessary preparations, shoot out your survey through any or all of the communication channels.
#4 Use Affiliate Marketing
The best way to upscale your audience’s trust and credibility is by “borrowing” them from other marketers. There are many tech magazines or companies that promote tech-related products and services. You can reach out to their audience through affiliate marketing. They can showcase your product to the large set of audience they have built by themselves. This will allow you instant access to the vast audience and in return, you pay these affiliate marketers a percentage of the conversion amount.
One of the best examples of affiliate marketing is the Shopify affiliate program. They partner with many marketers and give them a commission of $58 for each conversion. They also give online support to their partners to educate them about the products that help them convert the traffic.
#5 Leverage your outreach efforts
Content marketing is one of the most effective inbound marketing strategies that companies are following these days. You can run your own blog on the topics that are most relevant in your niche. But apart from generating blogs in-house, you can also reach out to other websites for guest posts. This way you can use the traction that is generated in those websites towards your own benefits. Keep an achievable yet consistent goal for posting the guest posts.
It takes months of efforts and numerous guest posts over a period of time to start acquiring your first 100 customers. Foster positive relationships with the site owners that can be leveraged later for things like affiliate marketing or simply promoting your blogs in their email marketing. Content marketing is the strategy that has helped great businesses like HubSpot, KISSmetrics, etc.
#6 Generating organic as well as paid traffic
If you have started using content marketing, then the most important step that follows is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Your content must be discovered online for you to grow your organic traffic. Targeting the right keywords that are the buzzing topics in your niche is the way to go about it. But this is not the only way to generate traffic.
Another way to bring in your first customers to your website is through paid promotions. Giving ads on Google, Bing, etc. would allow you to target your audience directly in their online activities. You have to create an effective landing page with a CTA (call to action) option to convert your visitors immediately. It is one of the most proven ways to attract more visitors to your website.
The first 100 customers you are able to acquire would be the early adopters of your business. They are usually more tolerating towards your service because they understand that you are in your initial phase of providing the solutions. Their feedback would be most valuable through which you can iterate various versions of your product. There are many learnings you can glean from the customer experience of your first 100 customers.
As important as it is getting your first customer, customer retention should be of equal prominence. Don’t wait for your customers to start churning out as you look towards acquiring new ones. You have to be equally invested towards helping your clients achieve their goals through your solutions. Hence, the best time to implement the customer success function in your organization is when you acquire the 10th customer.
Finally, customer acquisition and customer retention are the two sides of the same coin. You have to keep growing in both these directions to maximize your business growth.24
Rohan has over 11 years of experience in client services, marketing and hospitality field. Previously, he was head of digital marketing for a hi-tech mobile application. Rohan is driven by new challenges and the possibility of making an impact on individuals and businesses.
Published November 25, 2020, Updated May 05, 2023