How I Closed My First 10 B2B Customers With No Network, No Marketing, and No PR (Part 4)
A step-by-step actionable breakdown for first-time founders.
Martin here. Welcome to another edition of Founders’ Hustle!
I write newsletters containing actionable insights and insider knowledge across the full spectrum of company building from inception to exit.
Today, I’m sharing the fourth (and final!) instalment in a multi-part series of how I closed the initial 10 B2B customers for my first startup!
In case you missed it, here’s:
Part 1: Defining target customers 👥
Part 2: Approaching target customers 🗣
Part 3: Converting targets into customers 🤝
Now for the finale, Part 4…
Keeping customers engaged 👂
Without sustained stimuli, time is a brutal killer of cognitive interest.
The last thing you want to do is put a ton of hard work into closing a launch customer and then have them fall off the radar between their agreement to use your product and the day you ship your product.
If you don’t have visibility over your release day, this probably means it’s going to be later than you subconsciously anticipate. Even if you do, it’s probably weeks away. Possibly months.
In the meantime, it’s important to stay relevant with your launch customer. Keep in their minds and remain an active part of their internal roadmap.
If you disappear for weeks on end without a single touchpoint, it’s natural for your customer’s interest and perception of you as an operator to start degrading incrementally.
Sometimes they will chase you if they haven't heard anything in while, at which point they’ve become the proactive driving force of the relationship, even though they’re the customer. This starts to erode confidence in your ability to deliver.
At my first B2B startup, we signed up launch customers well in advance of the day we shipped the product.
In the interim, we were in constant contact via email. Mostly, asking them questions. We were fascinated by how their businesses worked top-to-bottom and the various dynamics that impacted this.
Sharing market reports and layering on your own analysis of how your customer could be impacted by trends and changes can also be a great touchpoint during this period. If you have it, sharing your own research can work even better.
The interim period was also a great opportunity for competitor fact-finding. I’ve found that when you’re launching into a B2B market with a new product and company, your target market and early customer base can be pretty forthcoming with competitor feedback and KPIs.
Amongst this information sharing dialogue, we’d sprinkle in product and customer development updates from our side. This demonstrated we had momentum and were capable operators.
It also helped to build anticipation and make release day seem tangible.
Driving action at launch 👊
When your release day comes, it’s super important to drive usage of your product speedily. The longer it sits there unused, the less likely it ever will be.
Putting your product into your customer’s hands is easy. Getting your customer to integrate it technically, or, adopt it internally with relevant staff is a friction point.
Internal roadmaps and busy schedules can become implementation blockers. Whilst you don’t have complete control over this, you can influence the outcome. Preparation is key.
Keep your customers informed about your anticipated release date so they can carve out resources to implement your product in advance.
If you’re supplying a product that requires technical integration, sending over instructions in advance helps your customer plan more accurately.
It’s pretty common for developers and engineers to work in two-week sprints, so I would suggest a minimum of two weeks notice, preferably more. I know startups are chaotic and forecasting is difficult, you just have to manage expectations.
If your product requires adoption by staff, as in using a new piece of software or hardware, conducting tutorial sessions close to the day of release can help streamline adoption.
Other media such as blog posts or videos can also be helpful. Providing a demo or ‘lite’ version to play around with can be extremely productive. When you release, support will be very hands-on.
I’ve found that, no matter what you’re launching, you have to keep reminding your clients that your product is live to drive action sooner rather than later.
It’s not enough to send out one email blast or one tweet in the morning and call it a day. A sustained communication effort is required in the weeks leading up to and after your release day to maximise results. Use as many communication mediums as possible to do this — social media, email, chat applications, etc.
On our release day there was extra pressure to get clients across the line because it was essential to reach a critical mass of liquidity. We needed at least five integrations executed in one day. Anything less risked failure.
To drive positive urgency with our launch customers we offered to pay them an install bonus if the integration was completed within a short timeframe.
This worked very effectively. The amounts did not add up to much in total, just a few hundred dollars. Totally worth it.
This exact method of execution may not work with your launch customers, but there may be other promotions or incentives you can offer.
It’s likely you won’t need to offer any incentive at all. Keep in close contact with your customers and you’ll soon ‘get a feel’ for how many are likely to execute quickly after your release. Then, make a call.
Boom, there you have it.💥
Zero to ten customers 📈
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