[Customer Seduction] Where do first customers come from when you are a tech startup?

If you are preparing to launch your tech startup (hopefully after validating your concept with your customers), most probably you are wondering how you can attract your very first customers.

Should I send press releases to media? Should I buy ads? Should I rely on word of mouth? Should I ask friends to use it? Should I build a community? Should I organize a special event? etc.

Customer Seduction can offer some advice you need to follow. Other than that you can get inspired by the stories of EyeEm, StartupStay, Gidsy, Amen, Empreendemia, 6Wunderkinder, MsMoney, Skobbler, Hitfox described below.

Advice #1. Have few customer romances, not orgies and one night stands.

Keep in mind customer acquisition is not your objective yet. Your purpose at launch should not be to attract as many customers as you can. You do need to get some customers, but the most important is to check their activity – are they doing what you expected them to do? What are the most important metrics for you? Is it retention? Is it monetization? Whatever you choose, make sure your product does the magic to reach your objectives.

Have no leak in the bucket, do not invest in promotion until you don’t see retention. If you don’t have retention it will not be sustainable even if you bring new users.Amen

Advice #2. Don’t go yet to matrimonial places.

Investment in ads is not really recommended until you don’t know your customer lifetime value, which most often is clear much later (because the cost per customer acquisition should be lower than customer lifetime value). Even then, test ads investment and see what is the ROI.

We tested ads, social media. In the beginning it is best to try as much as possible and see what works and what doesn’t.Gidsy

Acquire users through ads only when you make money – know your customer lifetime value. You can spend 4 euro to acquire a customer, because you know you make 10 euro with him.” Amen

Advice #3. Pose in the media your customers read, not in the media you read.

Don’t fancy being featured in TechCrunch unless your target market is really reading it on a daily basis (heavy tech users, early adopters). Think what is your niche media. Is it a specific industry (example, gaming) or is it a specific location? And then, what is a good enough reason for them to write about you?

At launch we made an event, a competition for startups, where we also officially launched Empreendemia.” Empreendemia

The success came from design. Competitors take the usability part, we focused on enjoyment of use. People started talking about design and ease of use. We sent press releases to tech media because there was our target group, and in the articles they always talked about design.” Wunderlist

Talk to bloggers in your industry/ niche. Big media is not really up to cover you in the beginning, unless you do something special. At MsMoney we wanted 20 mil customers, we made PR without spending much money: we had Hillary Clinton at launch. It was broadcasted. That gave us a good start. Use celebrities if it makes sense.” MsMoney

When we went live on app store, we got sued by very big competitors – the story helped us promote the app, we were the good guys. For 2 months we had a massive media wave. If people perceive you as an enemy to a big company, it helps the story get out a lot. Traditional media cares a lot about big companies. […] Get out of the startup bubble ecosystem, everyone says TechCrunch is the most important, but big media gets you much more traffic. We have been in all of them, traditional media is still much more powerful. Small traditional media is better than TechCrunch and you have much higher chances to get there. If you want to build a service like groupon you don’t need early adopters, they have different demands than the general market. Normal people are not like TechCrunch readers. It depends on the product, if you want the next twitter, then TechCrunch is your place.Skobbler

We knew our target group is price sensitive, we offered launch discounts, and this generated lots of buzz in the media. […] For us the best media is games industry media because it brings us quality users, meaning real gamers, not occasional gamers.” Hitfox

Advice #4. Get an intro.

Offer people a product related incentive to come to your launch event or launch page. A blog that offers relevant content for your customers (started way before your current launch and developed). The presence of celebrities. Launching at a conference. etc.

We already had a blog with lots of readers that was offering resources to SMEs, our target group. When we launched Empreendemia we had 32K visits a month on the blog. Was good to launch with this coverage.” Empreendemia

We launched at TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 in San Francisco.Amen

Advice #5. Do you keep a hot phone book?

Hopefully you gathered a mailing list while you were validating your concept. Do go back to the people you validated the concept with. And perhaps start building a community from there.

In the beginning we did some photo exhibitions to see if there is actually a passionate group of people that take photos with their phones. And we built a website where they could upload photos and run photo competitions. We published interviews with people that called themselves mobile photographers on the blog. This is how we discovered there was a need we wanted to cover. And how we also got 5000 signups, only by people inviting other people. Then we launched.EyeEm

After a survey, we used a launch page, a blog, facebook and twitter. We connected travelling entrepreneurs with their host manually, in return for their feedback and visuals of the experience that we could publish on the blog. We started developing the platform with basic features after we had hundreds of entrepreneurs interested in us. We got to about 4000 entrepreneurs on the platform in about 3 months just by people inviting other people and our social media efforts, without any media coverage.” StartupStay

Advice #6. Sometimes the biggest love is just under your nose.

Friends can be your first customers.

Our very first customers were friends, people that we knew, people we were in contact with before.” Gidsy

Your first 20-30 customers are in your network.MsMoney

Advice #7. Who you hang out with does matter.

Try to close partnerships that can bring you customers.

First real customers came from a partnership we made with T mobile, launched an app with them. Then we launched in app store.Skobbler

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