What makes getting a startup off the ground challenging is the fact that no one knows if the offering has value until it has generated revenue. Every startup faces the challenge of acquiring its first few customers.


Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all step by step guide to finding your first 100 customers because there are so many variables to contend with.

So how do you get from “no one knows you” to “your first 100 customers paying you for your product or service”?

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To help you get your first customers we also set out to investigate how startups have gone through the process. We found that they don’t really rely on a single channel to bring in lots of users. Rather they explore different channels and sources. By doing so they build up their user base.

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What I found to be interesting is that the startups that were successful used a laser-like approach to focus in on their ideal client profile. This approach to gain better odds would be similar to the example below.





Let’s say you have a high-end PR service for businesses.

  1. Advice you would most often get on acquiring business would include “mass marketing” techniques like: blogging, SEO, social media, and even paid advertising.
  2. Doing that is like going fishing with a huge net. Sure, you will catch a LOT of fish.
  3. Trouble is, you’re going to get a lot of little fish for every 1 big fish that you land.

The problem with that is all those small fish will keep you so busy and eat up your attention. So much so that you won’t notice the big whopper flopping around on the deck until it manages to flip itself over the side.


With one deft motion — Lunch is served.

Very efficient.

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For a startup, the equivalent of this is finding small inlets or lakes that have much a bigger concentration of “big fish”. These groups will likely have a smaller overall audience size.

Businesses on Facebook alone for example are a very large market. Anyone who sells a necklace or prints on Etsy will probably get tagged by Facebook as a “business.”

In reality probably about 1 in a 10,000 would be a real business. Of those perhaps 1 in 200 would make the kind of money that would be a fit for your services.

So to reach your target audience I’d recommend hanging up the Facebook dragnet. Instead go on a spearfishing expedition.

Look for where professional businesses hangout. Perhaps its trade magazines, professional associations, unions or trade conferences. If it costs money for them to read, belong, or attend then they are likely to be a good fit for your services.

What you do next depends on the types of organizations you’ve discovered.

You might be able to get access to a list of members that you can contact personally. Perhaps you could pay for an advertising spot on the organization’s emails to its members.

At the very least, they’d probably be delighted to have you write content for their newsletter, blog, magazine etc.

Yes, you’ll only get access to a much smaller readership. In other words the pool of prospective clients you’ll be able to reach will be much smaller.

But you might find that 1 in 6 fit your ideal client profile.

MUCH better odds.