You’ve heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” If you’re building your own business, nothing’s more exciting than imagining when your very first customer will come. Who will it be? What product or service will they purchase? In what volume? Will they tell all their friends about your company? And how long before you’ve got a global following, international fame and wealth beyond your wildest dreams?
Customers and clients (you’ll notice we use these words interchangeably) are, of course, essential to your entrepreneurial success. And the time and effort you spend readying your business for its debut is critical to building a following of happy, loyal customers. In fact, the more you strategically fine-tune your brand before you hit the market, the more likely you’ll be to land your first customer – and make the first of many sales to come.
Herewith, five tips to help you ensure your business really is customer-ready.
Are all systems go?
People who work for themselves know it takes a special combination of confidence, courage and crazy to start a business and then share it with the world. (Still debating if self-employment is for you? This article may help you decide.) If you’ve done your due diligence, people will understand from the get-go exactly what you’re offering. More importantly, they’ll know why they should buy from you – and you alone.
Your business is customer-ready if you’ve carefully considered these five things:
1. Your pricing: When it comes to charging what you (and your products and services) are worth, a little research goes a long way. Operations specialist Jeffrey Trejos says these days, conducting a thorough competitive analysis is pretty simple. “A quick and easy way to check your prices vs. your competitors is to do a search … in Amazon and Google. Consider what type of customers you want to market to and what they will be willing to pay.” (You can find out how other small business owners approach pricing in this helpful post.)
2. Your market: Who is your ideal client? It pays to think beyond the obvious here. For example, if you sell handmade scented candles, you’re helping a multitasking mom instantly mask the odor of pets and teenagers in the living room. You’re helping make her dining room “dinner party ready” in mere minutes. You’re providing a sweet “hostess” or teacher’s gift she can always have on hand. Your candle, in other words, is making one woman’s busy, hectic life a little easier. And that’s a solution any customer will be happy to buy. Nick Leffler, an online presence coordinator and Exprance founder, says “positioning” is everything. “First, you need to do the groundwork to make sure people will pay for what you’re selling. Then the key to business survival is positioning your offering so customers know its long-term value.”
3. Your product or service: Of course you know what you’re selling. Question is, have you identified the specific problem your offering will solve or the real, lasting value you’ll provide? Todd Eby, founder of SuccessHacker, puts it this way: “You have to understand your [customers’] root need and how accomplishing it enables them to achieve their objectives. A customer is basically buying an outcome, not a service. Understand what that outcome is and deliver it, and you’ll be successful (and so will they).”
4. Your competition: Let’s stick with the homemade candle analogy here (although we could easily replace “candles” with “digital marketing services,” “flower delivery” or “silver jewelry,” since the same thinking applies to just about any product or service). How do you differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace? A key word to remember is authenticity. Danielle Vincent, founder of Outlaw Soaps, has this advice: “Make sure you build a business that reflects who you really are. Authenticity helps you make real connections with customers. It changes the way you think about marketing, too. You feel like you’re just writing for your friends.”
5. Your systems: This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s essential to make sure your backend and operating systems are fully functional before your first customer hands over his or her credit card. Whether you’re using Square, PayPal, an ecommerce platform or something else entirely, Make. Sure. It. Works. After all, we only get one chance to make a great first impression, so make yours positive -- and positively professional.
If you put a big fat check mark next to each of these five items, congratulations! Your business is on track for being customer-ready.
Before you go
QB Community members, how do you know if you’re really ready for your first customer (let alone your tenth … your 50th … your 100th… )? We can’t wait to hear!
Great tips here. There's nothing worse than realizing you haven't worked out all the kinks of making a sale when your first customer is standing right in front of you!