Whether you start a home-based business or establish a service aimed at major corporations, the moment you make your first sale is when you are actually in business. But your first paying customer is always the hardest to get. This assortment of expert advice can help you land that first sale — big or small — to get your business rolling.
Your family and friends are a good place to start.
Asking your family and friends to use your product for free is a good first step towards finding paying customers, says Michael Glazer, founder and CEO of Back At You, a technology platform helping businesses maximize the marketing power of Facebook and Twitter. Once you build up a personal network of users, you can leverage this initial customer base to expand your clientele and go after bigger customers.
However, Dharmesh Shah, chief technology officer and founder of Hubspot, an Internet marketing company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, suggests that friends and family should also be paying customers.
“Don’t give the product away for free to these early customers — even if they’re friends and family. The reason is that if they’re not paying customers, they [would] be reluctant to voice complaints,” advises Shah in Inc.com’s article, How to Find Your First Customer.
“The big value of early customers is not the revenue generated — but the insights they provide,” says Shah. Starting out with friends and family as paying customers ensures they will provide pointed, objective feedback about your product.
Landing that first corporate customer can lead to more big clients.
Josh Green is the founder and CEO of Panjiva, an intelligence platform for global trade professionals who want to find, evaluate, and connect with companies in other countries. When Green launched his business in 2009, he struggled as an unknown corporate purchaser trying to convince large companies to do business with him.
“People said, ‘You’re a small company. We’ve never heard of you. We have armies of people all around the world charged with collecting insight about the supply base. Why should we trust you?’” recalls Green, in the Inc.com article, How to Land That All-Important First Customer.
Panjiva’s outlook improved when it managed to sign up one Fortune 500 company. “For most of 2009, that one customer was what we had,” says Green, whose business currently connects corporate purchasers with 2.5 million suppliers across the globe.
Today, Panjiva has more than 4,000 clients, 40 of them are Fortune 500 companies. So far in 2012, Panjiva customers have bought an estimated $60 billion in products from companies they found through the service.
Read the full story on Inc.com to get Green’s advice for tiny start-ups looking to land mega-corporations as customers.