Hamilton Fraser | Partners

How to get your first customer – view from Eddie Hooker

So we’ve established that setting up a company isn’t easy. Getting your first customer with no history will be your next challenge because potential customers have nothing to base their opinions of your company on. You may have no online reviews and minimal reputation therefore you will have to work hard to get your name out there and become recognised as a reputable brand.

I would recommend breaking down the process into three steps that with hard work and determination should help you to gain new customers.

Know your product

First things first you, and your staff, need to understand exactly what you are selling. You need to be experts in your field and understand exactly what your customer is looking for.

Why are your potential customers not happy with their current supplier? What are their grievances?  How can you offer something to alleviate these concerns?

Most of your customers are already buying the product from someone else, so why would they move to you? Is it all about price? People do not want to buy something of a worse quality than they already have, so how are you better? What are your killer USPs?  Know where you fit into the market and adapt to suit your customer’s needs.

For example, when we launched mydeposits’ custodial scheme we knew that we had to be at least as good as the competition to persuade people to come over to us, otherwise why would they? You must have a good pitch and you’ve got to know what makes your market tick.  Is what you are offering unique and valuable to your customers, or are you just joining an already saturated market?

Know who you are pitching to

You’re first few customers may will be friends, family and people willing to take the risk and believe in what you are offering. Whether you are an established brand or just starting out you always need to be prepared to go above and beyond in order to find customers and persuade them that your product is better than others. Treat everyone as if they are the only customer in the world.

For example, with my mydeposits business, I didn’t bother pitching to the biggest landlord in the country straight away. Any large potential client will firstly want stability, expertise and a proven track record that you might not have at the start. This is not to say that you won’t ever have early traction and land a prize fish, but if a customer is going to place their trust in you they will want to know that there is substance behind your business. Most people start off with smaller customers while they build their brand. This approach has the added benefit on you not being reliant on just one customer to pay the bills for the next three months.

One of our first new clients at Hamilton Fraser was a highly successful friend of mine. He knew we were just starting up and had empathy with me setting up my first business. We were able to show him that we could manage his expectations and deliver on our promises. Our understanding of his requirements and our dedication to his need allowed him to recommend us to other similar businesses and slowly but surely we grew our company.

Identify your value proposition which may be different for different customers. Why are you of more value to your customer than the competition?  You can only know this by having researched your customers’ profile. Get this right and you are on the road to success. Even today I still get exasperated with the number of ‘pitches’ I get through mediums such as email and LinkedIn where the sender has no idea who we are and what we do.  Why would I respond to them, let alone buy from them, when I know they have no interest in really understanding who I am and are sending exactly the same message to everyone else.

Keeping momentum

Have you got the guts to put your foot in the door and keep it there? You are guaranteed to get more ‘no responses’ than anything else but it is your persistence and dedication to the cause which will eventually buy you some air time.

Getting your first customer involves hard work and commitment. No one said it would be easy. It involves multiple phone calls, emails and meetings which at times may feel demoralising. The most important thing is that you don’t give up. You will see a trickle of new customers at first but once established this number may quickly rise, providing you put the work in and your business idea is sound.

A great momentum builder, even in this digital age, is the old classic ‘word of mouth’. People love to talk, especially about new exciting discoveries and start-up businesses. Harness this. People talk to friends who in turn talk to colleagues and word of mouth travels fast.  It can significantly enhance your business profile, but be warned it can also ruin your reputation if you get it wrong. It can take months or years to gain a good reputation and days or weeks to ruin it!  Make sure you build a positive reputation in your industry and this goes for your staff as well. Employ the wrong people and things can go pear-shaped very quickly.  As the business owner, you have no choice but to keep your eye on every ball at all times.

Gaining your first customer with no history may be a challenge at first but with a clear plan in place, hard work and perseverance you can succeed. My own personal success in this area has come down to the three points discussed. Therefore when starting out ask yourself the following…

  • Do I know your product? Can I sell the idea?
  • Do I know who I am pitching to? What do my target customers want?
  • Do I have enough drive to persevere even when things get tough and can I manage the growth when it comes.

If you can confidently answer all of the questions then you are one step closer towards building a successful and profitable business.

 

 

 

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