Client Acquisition Methods to Launch Your Business

The Complete Guide To Gaining Your First Customers

Happy holidays! Here at Offline Sharks, we hope you’ve survived and thrived amid the challenges of 2020, and we wish you the best as 2021 draws near!

Last month we talked about retaining clients over the long haul. We discussed how existing clients have a much higher conversion rate and are much more likely to recommend your business to their friends.

But what if you have no clients in the first place? Acquiring that first client stands as an intimidating hurdle for new ventures. 

Did you know that roughly 80% of startups will fail, most of them in their first year? Many won’t make it because they cannot get their first clients, and their seed money starts to run out. We don’t want that to be your story.

ALSO READ: The Art Of Prospecting

Why You Need Those First Few Customers

  1. In order to have a business at all.

Let’s start with the obvious. Your business will not survive for long unless you can get people to pay for whatever product or service you sell. The difference between a nice hobby and a successful business is whether it has paying customers.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a pet project or hobby, but they have to be funded through means besides customers. When revenue (not funding) pays your expenses, then you have a business!

  2. They give you legitimacy.

When somebody disbelieves a claim they’ll often say, “I don’t know, I’m just not buying it.” Beyond mere semantics, this indicates a relationship between sales and legitimacy.

When your product gets customers, then you know that it works. You feel like the real deal. You gain precious insight into what else might work.

A gigantic obstacle for new entrepreneurs is imposter syndrome. You may feel like you’re playing make-believe, that you don’t have what it takes to make it. When you get that first invoice or payment request back, you’ll have something to respond with when imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.

  3. They give you momentum.

Momentum from your first few clients comes in three forms:

For one thing, happy customers will spread the word about what you do. A good way to acquire new clients is through a warm introduction: a current client likes what you do, and introduces you to someone they know who could also benefit.

Secondly, you start to learn what the market wants. This is why so much emphasis is placed on the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) these days. If a decent product sells well, you can almost guarantee that a new-and-improved version will perform better.

Third, customers provide case studies and testimonials to launch your marketing to new heights. Nothing sells quite like an attractive review. Just ask the leaders on Amazon and Shopify. With happy customers, viable products, and testimonials, you’ll be well on your way to long-term success.

ALSO READ: How to Write Digital Marketing Proposals – FREE TEMPLATE DOWNLOAD

How To Acquire Your First Clients

  1. Identify a hungry market.

Start with your ideal customer in mind. It could be eCommerce startups, brick-and-mortar auto shops, mid-level B corporations, you name it. Your goal should be to know your audience better than they know themselves.

Find out the problems they have. Discover the questions they ask. Learn the kind of things they search for on the internet. When you show up with the answer, they’ll beg you to work with them!

  2. Develop one laser-focused product or service.

Say you eventually want to help businesses with everything in the digital marketing world: websites, email campaigns, search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM), search engine optimization, (SEO), customer relationship management (CRM), and content marketing, to name several. 

Pick the one you know the best and start there. Eventually, you can offer a full suite of services, but for now, have laser-focus. For me, it was offline mailers. For Nick, it was SEO. For you, it could be something different entirely.

  3. Get social proof (Even if you haven’t proven anything yet).

When you have your first product or service down, it’s time to develop something you can show to potential clients. You don’t want to start a cold call or email saying “I can do this, I swear,” without any kind of proof.

Most people think that they need to get a real client from “out there” before they can start gathering samples or testimonials. This is false. There are ways to hack this so that you have something to show before you make your first sale.

For my mailers, I simply made a mockup of what ads would look like if a business decided to buy space on them. They didn’t even look that good, because I didn’t have a designer yet. Nevertheless, I sold out of space in a week. 

APR 2018 Mailer A copy

Nick made a video of him doing SEO for himself. He parlayed it into paying clients who saw the value of what he could do.

If you’re willing to get creative, you can develop social proof without waiting for the first few closes. Give a product away to a friend and have them write an honest paragraph about it. Perform your service for someone you know, and have them film a 1-minute video testimonial.

Get something you can put in the hands of a prospect and say, 

“See? Other people benefit from this, and you will too!”

  4. Show it off!

Whether it’s cold emails, cold calls, email campaigns, social media, giveaways, or going door-to-door, showcase your product or service to as many people as possible.

This part requires courage and vulnerability. I think it’s where most new business people fall away. You have to build confidence to put yourself out there. You have to build resilience to hear “No, thanks” and feel okay afterward.

The bad news is this: Hearing “No, thanks,” is the only way to build that confidence and resilience. And you will hear it frequently.

The good news is this: If your product or service will solve problems for your prospect, and you know it, then you actually have nothing to fear. You’re only benefitting them by offering a helpful solution. 

Having ready-made social proof can alleviate some of the anxiety as well as increase your closing rate, so do not neglect that step.

See A Problem and Solve It

Business boils down to problems and solutions. People buy when the pain of a problem is too much to bear, or the benefit of a solution is too good to pass up.

Only you can see and solve certain problems in our world. Once you find the market, develop one product or service, make social proof, and show it to as many people as you can, then you will score your first few clients.

FURTHER READING: How to Retain Existing Clients Long Term 

Picture of Tom Gaddis

Tom Gaddis

Attended the School of Hard Knocks. A former restaurant manager in Oklahoma, Tom always wanted to be self-employed and free from the butt-smooching of the corporate world. He wanted success bad enough that he picked up his family, including two small children and moved to beautiful Maui, Hawaii. Starting from zero, Tom embarked on building a local marketing consulting business. And promptly fell on his face! It seems Hawaiians were lovely people, until you tried to sell them something! But he persevered and learned from his mistakes. Today he's arguably one of the most successful in his niche and expecting to grow over 100% this year alone.

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