Every founder has had to go through some variation of the following scenario.
It’s done: after months and months of work, your software, product, or service is polished up and ready to be shipped.
But where do you get your first clients?
There are several ways for you to get initial traction—and for much cheaper than you might expect.
In this blog post, I outline some of the best ways for you to get your very first customers.
There will be no conventional “paid advertising” or “search engine optimization” methods—instead, we’ll be focusing on non-scalable methods you can implement and see results with today.
Let’s dive right in!
1. Cold Outreach
Cold outreach is one of the most popular ways for new agencies and businesses to find their first paying customer.
It’s simple: if you don’t tell anyone about your product… no one will buy it.
It might be a little intimidating at first. Maybe you’re thinking your e-mails and outreach messages will be ignored or go straight to your recipient’s spam folder. Those are valid worries.
But as long as you’re doing it in a respectful way and at a reasonable pace, cold outreach is an excellent way to land your first customer(s).
Here are a few guidelines you should consider:
Write excellent e-mails
No one likes mindless spam. Personalize your e-mails as much as possible, and write an enjoyable, short outreach message.
If you need inspiration, check out our cold email scripts—proven to work, and ready to steal!
Don’t overdo it
Take the time to research your market, find people who genuinely have a need for your product or service, then send a couple (10-15) emails or messages per day.
Sending too many unsolicited messages can result in a ban on social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn.
When it comes to email, if several people report you as “spam”, you will experience delivery issues—and a lot more of your following emails will automatically go to the Spam folder.
It is therefore crucial to “warm-up” your mailbox before you decide to use it for cold outreach. We recommend setting up an entire domain dedicated to email outreach if possible!
Search engine optimization is typically a long-term strategy that requires a well-thought plan and a lot of time: create content, get backlinks, regularly update existing posts…
But rather than setting up a long-term funnel, our goal for this post is to find our first customers. So how can we do this with SEO?
One strategy that worked really well for me is to focus on ranking for common issues in super-niche industries.
Instead of focusing on ranking for competitive terms like “web development agency” or “page speed services”, creating detailed content around the most common issues in your industry might end up landing you your first client through Google.
Case in point, a blog post I wrote about speed issues on Shopify ended up driving this customer to my inbox:
Another trick—and this is one of my favorite tips when it comes to SEO: create “alternative to” pages on your website.
Got a well-known competitor? “Alternative to XYZ.com” is likely to rank really well, and within just a few days. That’s free traffic for you, and potentially your first customer, too!
Marketplaces are a very underrated acquisition method.
The Chrome store, WordPress plugins, or even the Shopify app store—all of these platforms offer much-needed visibility to new agencies.
For example, a Shopify merchant looking for a chatbot integration for his store might either look to Google, or (in many cases) to the Shopify app store.
As of writing this blog post, Shopify only has 57 “chatbot” apps on their app store. And if you look closely, you’ll notice the 3rd highest ranked app for this query only has 9 reviews.
Competition is extremely low—so grab your spot while it’s hot!
4. Freelancing platforms
When you’re starting a new business, it is fairly likely that your customers won’t immediately come to you. In which case, you have to go to them.
And what better place to look than existing freelancing platforms?
UpWork, Fiverr, PeoplePerHour, or 99Designs depending on your industry, are great places to start with. All you have to do is sign up for an account, set up your profile, and you’re good to go.
We’ve also recently written a blog post on how to get more clients on UpWork—check it out and apply this strategy to any freelancing website to find your very first customer.
Remember that those platforms have specific guidelines you should follow in order to avoid getting your account banned or suspended. Usually, direct marketing (simply sending a link to your website or asking people to call you on the phone) will not be tolerated.
So if a client wants to move work outside of the platform, be aware of the risks involved.
This might sound obvious, but one of the best ways to find your first customers is simply to launch your product.
Once your product or service is ready, it’s time to show it to the world. Here are a few places to get started:
Friends and family
If you run a B2C business, like a real estate agency for example, friends and family are a great first audience to present your project to.
They can relate to your product and give you immediate feedback on what they like, what they dislike, and what they think might go wrong with the business.
And if they like your product enough—they might become your first customer, too!
Online communities are full of potential clients. All you have to do is get the word out where your ideal customer hangs out online, whether it is Product Hunt, Facebook groups, Reddit, LinkedIn, Indie Hackers, or others.
Remember that even if it’s online—real conversations happen in those groups. You don’t want to be an unlikeable marketing robot: rather than sharing information about what your business does, you want to write the way you talk, create real connections, and foster long-term relationships.
Share early and often with your audience, and ask for product feedback from the get-go. Online communities are usually very receptive to this sort of thing, as people are often trying to help each other.
Here’s a Notion board by Xavier Coiffard with great places to post your project for free to help you get started.
Twitter is often ignored as an early acquisition method. For good reason, founders tend to think that it’ll take a long time to build a following, create relationships or spark interesting conversations on the platform.
But you don’t have to do that to find your first customers through Twitter.
One tip shared by GrooveHQ’s founder is to chat with people using competing products or software, and try to get them to sign up for your business instead.
This is made very easy with Twitter’s “search” function—a quick daily sweep for your competitor’s names + “problem” or “complicated” should help find some unhappy, ready-to-switch customers!
You can also save searches on Twitter, which makes the whole process a lot easier.
We hope you enjoyed our tips to find your first customers for your agency or freelance business.
Try to implement one, or all of these strategies today—and let us know how it went in the comments!