Once your business is ready for, well, business, we know there’s one thing on your mind: customers. (Not sure if your company is ready for its debut? Here’s a checklist to help you decide.) Specifically, it’s time to focus on landing your very first customer.
Why is your inaugural client vital to your business success? Simply put, after your countless hours of dedication, determination and perseverance, when someone buys what you’re selling, suddenly it feels like it was all worth it. Self-starters understand an initial sale or service contract roughly translates as, I did it! It’s proof-positive that your entrepreneurial vision is, in fact, 20/20.
But symbolic success aside, your pioneering first customer can help you better understand and grow your fledgling business. More than that: The way you think about and learn from client numero uno is crucial for your business to survive, and thrive, in the long run. Consider the following insights about Customer #1:
1. Customer #1 may be part of your existing network. When you’re a fledgling entrepreneur, chances are, your very first buyer is someone you know. You might even be related to them! Which makes sense, since your friends and family understand just how hard you’ve worked building your own business. If your first sale is to your neighbor, your dentist or even your mom, don’t dismiss it as a “pity” purchase or an obligatory investment. Instead, celebrate the moment as a bona fide win – and the first of many more to come. Bellybar co-founder Leslie Barber wholeheartedly agrees:
“My first paying customer was my father-in-law’s best friend. My father-in-law is a real masculine sort of guy, so it was hilarious when he told his friend, “Man, you’ve got to try her soap!” His friend asked how much a bar cost, so I just pulled a number out of the air and said $3.00. He said, “Great, I’ll take 10.” -- Jeriel Sydney, founder of Fable Soap Co.
“We created Bellybar *because* our friends and family members were struggling with swallowing their prenatal vitamins. We wanted to solve the problem of the “horse pill” with prenatals in other formats like bars, shakes, chews, chocolates and chewable vitamins. We loved that the very people we were trying to help were the ones who immediately purchased our products. The fact that friends and family members were our first customers was a total win.” – Leslie Barber, QB Community Leader
2. Customer #1 may be a microcosm of your entire customer base. As you provide service with a smile, ask yourself, what precisely motivated this person to buy from me? The deeper you delve to answer this question, the more likely you are to understand the underlying issue or problem your customer wants to address. Once you identify a customer’s individual challenge or concern, you can better position your product or service as a solution to a broader – perhaps even universal – problem.
Here’s how other QB Community members think about this important issue:
“If you’re a hamburger restaurant, the most important thing you can do is make a really fantastic hamburger. You don’t have to offer the best French fries or chicken sandwich or gluten-free bun. No business can be good at everything. What is the one thing your customers are coming for? The answer to this will drive your marketing and all of your customer success endeavors.” – Ian Siegal, founder of ZipRecruiter
“Small businesses need to ask, how did the client become aware of your company? What do they expect from it? How can your business make their life better? Business owners need to know the answers to these questions.” – Todd Eby, cofounder, SuccessHacker
3. Customer #1 can help you fine-tune – or even rethink – your brand. When you bring a product or service to market, you’re probably targeting a specific type of customer. In the early days of business, however, it’s particularly important to keep an open mind about your intended customer base. If you discover your ideal market is not the one you anticipated, don’t panic. Pivot! Now may be the perfect time to shift your branding to reach a whole new audience. Read on to discover how the owner of a women’s consignment store in Texas discovered, and embraced, two entirely unexpected consumer profiles. (Rustler, we love this story!)
“A woman named Kathy came in the store in a “hoveround” [a motorized wheelchair]. She couldn’t reach many of the hanging clothes and asked if we had a hook pole used to reach clothing up high. We gave her ours and offered to help her in the dressing room, too. Later, I fabricated some more hook poles, and we put them by the front door. When Kathy came back again, she saw our poles and got on her phone. Ever since, we have had a parade of hoverounds and wheelchair-bound ladies shopping in the store. Now we are the go-to clothing store for the handicapped.
“Another time, a man came in to the consignment store and asked if he could try on a dress. It was kind of a surprising and awkward moment, but we said sure. He bought two dresses and explained he was a transvestite performer. He appreciated that we weren’t upset with his trying on dresses. A week later, another guy showed up asking to try on clothes. Since then, we have guys coming from as far away as Austin (two hours) and San Antonio (one hour) to buy our dresses. Each and every one of these men really appreciates our non-judgmental attitude.
“When it comes to getting customers, you just never know!” – Rustler, consignment store owner
Thinking strategically about Customer #1 today will help you hone your approach to marketing and branding tomorrow.
Before you go
QB Community members, tell us about the exciting moment when you landed your very first customer or made your very first sale. We love celebrating your success!
Wow! We have some incredibly inspiring members here in QB Community. Thank you all of your stories.
My first client actually fell into my lap before my business was even a thought. A family I had nannied for for many years, while putting myself through school, own a recruiting agency. Once I graduated from college, they asked if I'd be interested in some part time work scheduling interviews, managing calendars and that I could do the work from anywhere. At the time, I saw it as a great learning opportunity, but little did I know it would lead me to a business and lifestyle I didn't even know was possible.
Love your story, Audrey! You never know where a contact or a connection will lead. My first really big client found me via a pal I ran into on a trail one day when we were both out with our dogs. We chatted about my editorial services biz and the next day, I got a call from a friend of hers. We ended up working together (practically joined at the hip!) for more than a year. If I hadn't been hiking that day, I'm sure we would never have connected!
@WillowOlder I love your story, too! It's fun to look back and consider what could have been had we chosen a different path. Your life could have been completely different had you not chosen to be active with your pups that day. It just goes to show, take care of yourself (and your pooches ) and good things will happen!