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Performance & Growth

13 Tricks for Landing Your First Thousand Customers

Getting the first 1,000 customers will not guarantee your success, but it will you give you a chance to get some real-world feedback – and maybe even pay some bills at the same time.

Jeff Foster

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Getting the first 1,000 customers will not guarantee your success, but it will you give you a chance to get some real-world feedback – and maybe even pay some bills at the same time!

As a startup, your biggest challenge is to get customers on board and getting the first 1,000 always takes the most work. You’re still learning what works while building up repeatable processes that scale.

Getting the first 1,000 customers will not guarantee your success, but it will you give you a chance to get some real-world feedback – and maybe even pay some bills at the same time!

Related: How to Calculate the Lifetime Value of A Customer

Here are a few tips on how to reach this goal:

Set up a waiting list

A waiting list is a great way to build early buzz as people always want to be first in line for a new product. This works extremely well for online services and mobile apps, particularly if you offer incentives for people to sign up, such as a free account for three months.

Mobile apps_mailbox

Look at the masterly work of Mailbox, which managed to build up a huge waiting list of over 800,000 people.

Their secret? They used a clever user interface to tell people how many others were in front of them and how many were behind them in the line to use the app. This addictive interface gave people a hit of dopamine each time they checked the app and saw they were closer to the front.

Use your personal network

Traditional word of mouth is still powerful way to get new customers on board. Tell your family, friends and colleagues about your product and ask them to spread the word.

Don’t be shy – there’s nothing wrong with asking for a favour. If you have a consumer-focused product, there is no easier or quicker way to get your first 30 customers than just asking people you know!

Target online publications

Just like bloggers, online publications can help you reach a huge new audience. Pick one or two relevant publications that make sense for your business. Spend time selling them on your product and offer them something unique, such as exclusive coverage of your product launch.

A great tip is to follow journalists on Twitter for a while and get a sense of the type of content they write. Then you’ll find clever ways to connect your product to a theme that interests them. Attentiv did exactly this, and got a great launch story in Fast Company.

Get bloggers on your side

Bloggers and other online influencers have huge audiences. Even better, their readers trust them.

Reach out to bloggers on sites such as mine Tomoson and ask them to review your product. You can drive huge numbers of new prospects this way.

Online reviews can often keep on driving sales for years into the future, as people track them down in search results. Even small blogs can often drive hundreds of sales over time, particularly when the review is thoughtful and well written.

Related: Get Your Customers to Buy More Stuff

Build suspense

Suspense is an excellent way to build excitement before you launch. Create a drip feed of information about your upcoming product. This will make people curious and want to know more – particularly if you reveal the details a little bit at a time.

The more you give away, the less interesting it becomes. Try to get people excited, but without giving so much context that people are bored and move on.

Work with early adopters

Your first customers are the most important. They bought your product for a reason, so you can learn a huge amount from them. Create a personal relationship with them and listen to what they say.

You’ll get great insights you can use, and they’ll tell other people about your product. Early adopters usually have smart opinions about products and have a good sense of the market, so always be sure to pay careful attention to them.

Create high-quality content

Content marketing is a great way of acquiring new customers. By creating genuinely useful content and giving it away for free, you can drive visitors to your site and also establish yourself as a thought leader. If you have the budget, hire a good writer.

Buffer CEO Leo Widrich managed to get 100,000 customers just from writing guest posts on other people’s sites. Those same articles will still be delivering hundreds, maybe thousands, of new customers each month – with no additional effort.

Offer a free product option

Many successful online startups use a “freemium” model to get users on board. This lets people try your product with no risk, which can encourage them to sign up for the paid service or product. However, make sure you strike a balance. Don’t cripple your free option, but keep enough back to make people want to upgrade.

Dropbox is one example of a product that gets this right, giving you enough free storage to get you invested in its ecosystem and invite your friends to join and collaborate. Before you know it, your Dropbox is full and you’re handing over your card details.

Incentivise customers to sell your product

Customers can be your best salespeople – they already know the value of your product. Give them a reason to get other people to sign up, and you can drive impressive growth.

You can even make this work with a “freemium” model: offer a free upgrade to your paid service for three months as an incentive.

Related: Bonding With Your Customers

Speak at conferences

It may seem a bit old school but speaking at conferences is an excellent way of getting exposure and customers for your new startup. Become an expert on your subject, and then contact event organisers and offer to speak. Just make sure to get in touch early, as conference agendas are usually locked down six to 12 months before the event.

Neil Patel spoke at 239 conferences and discovered that the best strategy is to avoid speaking to your peers and speak to potential customers instead.

If you’re an SEO, for example, don’t go to an SEO conference where everyone is already an expert in what you do. Instead, go to a gambling event and show them how to get new customers. In the case of Neil, this led to a $100,000-a-month contract.

Online advertising

Online advertising can be an effective way of driving traffic to your startup’s website. It doesn’t have to be expensive – $1,000 with Google AdWords can go a long way.

If you don’t have experience with this, then hire a pro: keyword selection and ongoing optimisation are incredibly important.

Test, test and test again

Once you do start to drive significant traffic to your website, then it’s time to focus on converting visitors into customers. Many different factors can affect your conversion rates – ranging from website design to pricing. Try out different things and see which ones work best. For example, you can use Google Analytics Content Experiments to try out different landing pages.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is where you get other websites to promote your products in return for a commission on sales. This typically works best for information products, such as online courses, because you can offer affiliates high commissions without any product cost. There are sites that make this easy – such as Rakuten Affiliate Network, Commission Junction or ClickBank.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Jeff Foster is co-founder and CEO at Tomoson, the influencer marketplace. The platform allows bloggers and social media influencers to get paid for posting sponsored content, and lets businesses connect with targeted, niche audiences.

Performance & Growth

Taking Care Of Business

Do you want to grow your business in 2019? Bear these tips in mind.

Christiaan Steyn

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SMEs are the lifeblood of the South African economy, accounting for approximately 29% of employment in the country and forming a critical pillar of the government’s 2030 National Development Plan. With funding scarce and the economy volatile, small businesses remain increasingly vulnerable to economic pressures, with many failing to last beyond the five-year mark.

Thanks to the abundance of new and affordable technology, bringing with it the potential for new industries and market gaps, there has never been a better time to conduct business without crippling costs. It is not all doom and gloom in the small business sector, despite findings in the 2018 SME Landscape Report that suggest that a meagre 6% of all start-ups have received government funding.

Do not be afraid to delegate

Many entrepreneurs are so passionate about their own undertakings that they are unable to simply let things go. Rather than empowering and enabling others to take responsibility, many Type A business leaders instead opt to do it all themselves – usually with disastrous consequences.

Learning to delegate is key to alleviating bottlenecking and freeing up capacity in your business, so make sure to utilise all your available resources if you want your enterprise to expand.

Related: 10 Questions With Tshireletso ‘Ty’ Hlangwane, Winner Of The Workspace/MiWay Business Insurance Entrepreneur Competition

Go digital

While billboards and TV ads are expensive, marketing a business can now be done quite cheaply, thanks to the abundance of relatively affordable digital channels. So while you might not be able to have your brand staring out at you from the pages of a glossy magazine just yet, digital channels like Facebook and Google now allow you to achieve the same audience reach for a fraction of the cost.

Be discoverable

Offering the best service in town is one thing, but it is worth nothing if nobody knows about it. So make sure to pay close attention to your website and its search engine optimisation (SEO). By using the correct keywords and even putting a small investment into Google Adwords, you will ensure that people who are looking for what you offer are able to find you easily.

Mobile first

With over 50% of all web traffic in South Africa coming from mobile devices, businesses simply can’t afford not to take a mobile-first approach to business. If you are offering an online service, make sure it is optimised for a mobile experience and ensure that any communication touch-points – be they blogs, social media posts or online check-out pages – are designed with mobile in mind.

Be agile

One of the key advantages SMEs have over their larger counterparts is their ability to be flexible. Without outdated systems and reams of red tape to wade through, small businesses are far better able to adapt to market conditions and revise their offerings based on consumer needs. So make sure to listen to your customers and be willing to accept that some of your great ideas simply are not feasible.

Your willingness to accept failures and move on, will ultimately be what gives you the edge over your competitors.

Plan your finances

Cashflow is king when it comes to entrepreneurship and many a micro enterprise has come undone thanks to their inability to manage it. As such, financial planning is a critical tool for any business, especially for those operating without significant investment capital. Understanding potential pitfalls and keeping tabs on your profit margins will help to ensure you keep your pricing realistic and enable you to avoid finding yourself in the red.

Related: The Entrepreneurial Case For A Co-Working Space

Network

Operating in isolation can only get you so far, so it is important that you put yourself out there and make proactive attempts to connect with other like-minded businesses. By joining a business network or attending industry events, you will be able to arm yourself with useful contacts, handy insights and perhaps a few new clients in the process.

Remember that owning a business is like raising a child – it requires constant supervision, nurturing and care if it is to succeed to its utmost potential. So make sure to look after your business and one day it will end up looking after you.

MiWay is a licensed Short-term Insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP. 33970).

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Performance & Growth

How Taking Risks – And Failing – Can Lead To Business Success

Don’t let fear of failure stop you from taking the risks you need to, to carry your business forward. But as your business grows, you’ll have to re-evaluate what risks you can take.

Grant Field

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Innovate, innovate, innovate. The war cry is so often repeated that it has become something of a bore. Yet, true innovation remains a rarity – and to our huge detriment. As South Africans, we seem to carry a deep shame associated with failure. Yet, facing the very real possibility of failure is the only arena in which a culture of innovation can take root.

The biggest business failure of my life was an investment into a software company that wrote a piece of software that was set to revolutionise the mobile landscape. It was going to be huge. It was going to take the world by storm. But unfortunately, we backed the wrong horse.

We developed the software for the Symbian platform because Nokia was way ahead of the pack. Nobody else even came close. But, given the fact that there’s a good chance you currently have an iPhone or Android device in your pocket right now, you know how that story ended. Nokia seemed untouchable, then almost collapsed. We lost a lot of money.

Get back up

But, we learnt valuable lessons from that. Of course, there’s the general lesson that everyone should take away from failure – to get up and try again. As General George Custer said, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.”

The other lesson was more specific to our business. In developing the software, we learnt a lot about different technology platforms and those lessons were invaluable as we took the next steps in Fedgroup. The same people who built that software helped in the initial stages of developing Azurite, which today is the backbone of our company’s entire operation.

Because we’d been involved so heavily in developing for mobility and the future, our minds were opened to what technology could do. It gave us the mindset to get where we are today.

Related: 2 Types of Failure and How Your Business Can Weather Them

Investing in education

It sounds like a terrible cliché, but there’s value in failure. Take the lessons you learn in failure – the genuine lessons – because even if you lose money, consider it school fees, and cheap at the price. Arguably, our failure was the “fees payable” that bought us our competitive edge.

In the United States, they are less afraid of failure. They wear their failures like a badge of honour. Elon Musk, for example, misses his targets, but he’s always pushing the boundaries. Recent (questionable) antics aside, Musk’s risk-taking drives innovation.

If people in an organisation are terrified of failure, they don’t try new things, they don’t innovate, they don’t move forward and they certainly don’t disrupt. Even though now, as the CEO of a large financial services company, I can’t afford to bet the whole business on a risky proposition, I still encourage risk-taking and a spirit of adventure – within reason.

Reckless vs reason

This is not to say that we can – or should – be reckless. There should be accountability, and the reasons for making the mistake should make sense. And, you shouldn’t make the same mistake twice. But if you take risks within those parameters, you’ve got a better chance of making a real difference in your organisation.

We have recently launched an app that is fairly disruptive, and as far as we can tell, the first of its kind in the world. Before we launched, we put our personal money behind the idea to test it. We had done our homework, but it was still a risk. If it hadn’t worked, we would have lost our personal money, but because we took that risk and proved it worked, we were able to launch it safely to the public one year later.

Related: 8 Reasons Why Failure And Focus Are Essential To Business Success

Parameters, limitations, and the ethics of risk

When you’re an entrepreneur, when you’re just starting out, you can bet the farm. You can take risks on new ventures and potentially build something out of nothing.

Once you’re an established organisation with staff and clients – and in our case, clients who have invested their pension with us – the scope of risk takes on a new set of parameters. When you are dealing with a client’s security, it is simply not acceptable to expose them to additional avoidable risk.

However, because risk taking is where the magic of innovation happens, encouraging a framework where creativity, experimentation, and risk is possible within your organisation, is critical. One of the ways to encourage this is to examine your attitude towards failure. Build an environment where failure is not taboo, but presents a strong learning opportunity, and ring fence those areas within the organisation which absolutely cannot be jeopardised. This is risk in a helmet – you might get a roasty, but you could win the race.

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Performance & Growth

Proven Strategies To Grow Your Start-up On A Scale Following These Guidelines

The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.

Joseph Harisson

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Scalability and flexibility are important properties of any business. Let’s say you’ve managed to build a successful start-up. It’s profitable and promising, but you want it to become better. The scalability of a business involves its ability to adapt for bigger workloads without losing revenue.

Even if your business is currently small and doesn’t generate huge profits, scalability can help it turn into a large enterprise. The wrong approach to developing a start-up can deprive it of an opportunity to become better.

The following strategies can help you make the start-up scalable and grow it to accommodate a larger demand.

Scaling Vs Growth

Many companies make a mistake of thinking that scaling and growing a company is the same thing. In fact, growth involves increasing revenue or the size of the company (the number of employees, offices, clients).

Constant growth requires numerous resources and may not always lead to a proportional revenue increase. In many cases, the growing number of services or products needed to boost revenue involves high costs related to the growing number of employees and equipment.

On the other hand, scaling allows you to increase the revenue without the costs involved in growth. You can handle the extra load and boost your profits while keeping the costs to a minimum.

At some point, a successful start-up needs to make a choice between growing at a constant rate and switching to the scaling business model.

Even though a single clear method for scaling your business doesn’t exist, there are some guidelines you can follow.

Related: If You Want Scale, Fail Fast And Learn Quickly

1. Get Ready To Be Patient

Scaling is not a quick process so you have to be patient. The overnight success story is not about you. In fact, scaling too fast usually results in unfortunate failure.

Allow yourself to spend the time to understand who your ideal customers are and how you can solve their problems in a better manner. Make sure you understand how to be confident about the new volume of your work.

Do research to find out how you can find the right resources to achieve scaling rather than growth.

2. Choose The Right Software

The lack of time and team members is a common problem for a startup looking for scaling methods. That’s why they need to try and automate as many processes as possible. This can be done with the assistance of the right software.

  • Trello – to simplify in-office and remote teamwork
  • MailChimp – to improve marketing campaigns
  • Brand24 – to get insights about your business
  • Survicate – to collect customers’ feedback
  • Voiptime – to increase connectivity.

Enterprise SEO specialists at Miromind also recommend paying special attention to different programmes to help you with your marketing efforts. Many digital marketing tools available today are free.

3. Take Advantage of Outsourcing

Since you are hoping to limit the expenses while growing the revenue, you have to find ways to spend the revenue in the right manner. The biggest mistake made by business owners who think they are choosing scaling is hiring a big team. By doing so, they turn scaling into growing.

Your best bet to avoid hiring a large team and paying large salaries while achieving your plans is to outsource. Using your resources wisely involves finding freelancers and remote employees who are willing to work for a lower pay on a one-time (or several) contract bases.

For example, you don’t need a lawyer or a computer specialist sitting in the office all day long. Why should you pay them a monthly salary?

Related: What It Will Really Take For South Africa’s Businesses To Scale And Create Jobs

4. Don’t Do It Alone

Even though certain team minimisation is necessary to improve your scaling efforts, don’t try to handle everything on your own. It’s important to have at least one person you can rely on to manage the business-related problems.

Conclusion

Scaling your start-up is possible as soon as you understand what scaling is in detail. You need to be careful not to start growing your business instead of scaling it in the process. Once you have all the fundamentals figured, resources managed, and the right people in place, you are ready to start.

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