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Three Entrepreneurial Secrets to Finding Your First Customers

WIRED | Date: 2014-09-25

So, you’ve just launched your new company. You’ve come up with new products and services that you’re convinced will crush the competition, you bought an awesome new desk and set up a stylish office, and you’re about to embark on a whole new entrepreneurial lifestyle. But even if your business is virtual, your first order of business is to find customers. And if you’re like most of us, you’ve learned the hard way that they don’t always come knocking on your door, especially if you’re just starting out.

As an entrepreneur, where will you find your first customers? 

In the business-to-business sector, it can be even more challenging to identify and gain traction with new clients, since your prospects can be miles or even continents away. How do you start finding the business contacts that will become your first customers? Here are three tips to keep in mind: 

1. Get Your Marketing Game On: First consider your messaging. What makes your company and its offerings stand out in the market, and what are the points of pain they address for your customers? Successful entrepreneurs start by developing a unique value proposition (UVP) that answers these questions, and they then get buy-in on it from key stakeholders: partners, advisors, potential customers and those closest to them. It’s critical to ask these insiders to tell it to you straight so that you can be sure that your messages hold water. If you find your UVP doesn’t resonate, then re-think your strategy – it’s that important. 

2. Get Out There: More than likely, your first customers won’t come looking for you. You’ll need to find them. And that means getting out there. Attend local or regional business conferences that align with your target audiences, as well as industry events that are tailored to your prospects. And don’t just arrive on scene and expect things to happen. Participate, get involved and meet people. Be armed with a stack of business cards and connect with other attendees before, during and after -- on LinkedIn, Twitter and other channels. Also, have your elevator speech or UVP polished and ready to go. Most importantly, don’t just talk – listen. Find out what makes other attendees tick, what drives their businesses and why they might need help from someone like you. 

3. Build Your Sales Pipeline: While events and conferences are great, you can’t always be on the road. But you do need to establish a sales pipeline and keep it flowing. Beyond a website, a customer or prospect database is where most entrepreneurs turn first to get the word out – whether via phone, email or direct mail. The downside to this strategy is that if your business is new, your list might be limited. That’s where a reputable business contacts service comes in. The right service can help you quickly identify and download contact information associated with your desired target markets across a broad section of business demographics and industries, helping you expand your target list exponentially. And if your message and call to action are on target, your phone will start ringing and your online orders will multiply. 

There’s undoubtedly a lot that goes into starting a new business. You’ve taken the time to develop innovative products and services, and to create an office environment that reflects your style. Don’t forget that the most important step you may take next is to successfully identify your prospects and communicate with them in such a way that it’s crystal clear that you’re able to address their most pressing business needs.

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