We are almost done with new year resolutions at personal and professional levels. 2016 was bad or rather tough year for startups in India per say in terms of getting VC/ANGEL/Seed funding compared to 2015.
In fact, $3.5 bn poured into 815 deals in 9 months – an average of $13 mn invested per day in Indian startups, however, the pace of funding which happened in 2014 till mid of 2015 was not there in 2016. Well, I feel that’s good because non- serious and “ me-too startups” without strong business model vanished from the ecosystem.
So if you are still hanging on with your startup in 2017 or you want to start one now, here is the 3 point advice I would like to share to any startup to skyrocket sales and customer acquisition. I am a co-founder of a startup started in 2016 with own money (bootstrapped till date ) and not only survived all the business cycle but thrived and increased our sales, customer acquisitions and retention. So how did we managed it on our own? Here is 3 point advice
- Focus on acquiring correct target customer at least cost possible
So first and foremost thing to identify who is your correct customer. Don’t tell me that everybody is your customer and if that is so then you are in trouble for sure as everybody customer segment is costly to acquire and even costlier to retain as there are many established business in this segment.
So identify exactly the correct customer. Define age, city, area, the places they visit ( online and offline ) and their preferences. Start with meeting them offline – in person. Take permission to explain/demo your product ( if already developed ) or ask a question if you are in a phase of developing the product. Once you get the feedback about your product or concept, take it to your office, discuss with your co-founders, developers and work on it.
Develop something which your customers are looking for. Don’t develop assuming they will like it because it has 100 features and sharing options. Just look at traditional companies who makes soaps, shoe salt etc. they develop products after one to one market research done with their exact target customers. Google Market Research ( 99% startup founders do this ) is going to give you half accurate figures done by someone else.
Once you have identified the exact target customer and getting feedback from few of them, now your job is to complete product development ( MVP I prefer ) if not done and if your product is not ready then get some more real users or rather I should say, customers.
To acquire more customers please don’t create a Facebook page, twitter handle, Instagram account, Pinterest board, Snapchat etc. These all can be done later when you have a chunk of users. Likes on Fb fan page does not guarantee any sales ( ask me or research Fb fan page of any big startups in initial days ). No not even emails or bulk SMS please. Then you might be wondering what is the other option? The best option is meet/invite personally to use your product through personally calling, giving pamphlets, demoing etc. In personal calling, demo , pamphlets are the least cost of customer acquisition. (Remember Sachin Bansal from Flipkart used to distribute pamphlets personally at bookstores in Bangalore? )
- Get more customers through existing customer “References”
Once you get 10 such customers ( which you have talked personally on call or demo or given pamphlets ), ask for 10 more reference customers from them. If they are happy with your product, they will provide more reference else you will get feedback to improve which is even better for you. This step will help you get more customers + more feedback for improvement or enhancement + it is the least cost of customer acquisition again . Keep repeating or asking for customers references till you reach 100 customers who are genuine users/customers . Once you get this count , then I prefer you to go online with all social networks , invite your existing customers to be part of your online social network. Now to get more users at least cost , offer some extra discount, freebies to existing customers for providing references. You will see snowball effect . Everybody in this work loves discount. Even billionaires love discount ( in their own way ). And best is delight your existing customers ! How ? offer some freebies discount or something which they love without asking for any reference ! You will witness positive impact of such step on your sales and customer acquisition
- Get More “Repeat” Customers
If you have followed above steps and acquired customers that way, now only one thing is to be done to increase your sales and customers at least cost. What is that ? Repeat customers. Actually you and your staff need to keep asking for feedback , offer some delights and see you will not only get repeat customers but also you will be adding new customer with no marketing budget. Its word of mouth marketing and trust me, Word of mouth marketing is the best in this world. I can bet with anyone on this.
Following all the above steps, I have achieved 1500+ paying customers, 450+ orders/month, strong and steady revenues, 10500+ Mob App downloads, 30k Website visitors (for this I did little SEO myself ).
Yes, you will think that your startup will see the slow pace of growth but that is a correct thing to do instead of spending a bomb on marketing which you cannot sustain. Focus on one city, one market, fixed customer segment, and slow but firm growth. This will give you great sales and customers.