You may surmount many obstacles by raising funding and throwing money around. Ultimately, however, a tech business has to become self-sustaining from user generated revenue. Cracking how to reliably create paying users is the central ingredient for startup success.
Success = Product + Team + Customers
Often product and team are easily figured out. The roadblock comes when figuring how to start from zero users. We faced this exact problem at our startup. We had what we thought was a good team and a decent enough product. We, however, had zero users. Here are some concepts and tips that helped us grow to 200 users.
1. Understand Diffusion of Innovations
It’s hard selling a tech product to generally non-tech savvy people in a traditional market. Luckily, however, you can establish a beach-head with innovators and early adopters.
“Innovators are willing to take risks… Their risk tolerance allows them to adopt technologies that may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures…”
“ Early adopters have a higher social status, financial liquidity, advanced education and are more socially forward…”
Find your innovators and early adopters for a soft landing.
2. Create buyer personas
Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. This post from hubspot can help you as you create personas. In essence, you want to have a clear picture of who your customers are. This will help you segment them appropriately and devise correct means to target them. You will need to know their interests, backgrounds and where they ‘hang out’. This may be assumptions at first. Go out and test them. Figure out which of your personas correspond to innovators and early adopters.
3. Generate leads that fit your early adopter persona
Once you understand your potential buyers and know where they hang out. You will have to find a way to reach them. Try as many methods as you can initially. Facebook, linked-in and email marketing, the go-to for many in tech are acceptable. Be aware, these often work modestly in traditional markets like health. In our experience, we found far more success offline. We went door to door contacting and speaking to potential users. We found phone numbers wherever we could and cold called hundreds of people. Getting out of the building is the single most important thing you can do.
4. Prepare for Rejection
We ‘got out of the building’ frequently. We got to know our users and began to hang out where they hung out. We racked up a lot of contacts in the process and speedily got acquainted with hearing:
‘No’, ‘stop disturbing me’, ‘don’t ever call this number again’.
Prepare yourself for this. Be patient and keep plugging away. Contrary to what Drake would have you believe, you won’t be going from 0 to 100 real quick. ‘No, No, No’ is the soundtrack to the life of every tech startup. When you realize this, it’s likely you will become jaded and unmotivated. The key to overcoming this is setting small achievable targets. This blog post provides a basis for a general rule of thumb to motivate you:
Set goals based on this. It will give you the confidence to keep going in the face of disappointment. All you need to do is get to the next step each time not any farther.
In our experience, we went a solid 4 months without any customers. This despite constant work and speaking to plenty of people. We were demoralized, then we got our first paid customer:
We were excited and relieved. Fast forward to just over a year later, we have over 200 users with a good number of paying customers. We started from zero and within a year, began to get referrals from users:
We are by no means a success yet. Far from it, we’re on track to post more losses this year. We’ve however begun to see signs of success. We will continue to work hard at getting out of the building to talk to healthcare providers and patients. You too can go from zero to hundreds of users. Resolve today to speak to 10 potential customers daily. In a working month, you would have spoken to 200.