In the early days for most startups, acquiring new customers is one of the most important priorities for the founding team. You've spent months or years developing a great product that solves a big problem for millions of potential customers and all you need to do is get your product in front of them, right?
Instead, you find out your product isn't that solid, your potential customers tell you the problem you're solving actually isn't a large focus of theirs, those people you targeted probably aren't the best suited to evaluate your product and no one is buying.
This is a very common dilemma for early stage startups. In fact, I remember in the early days at Jebbit we would celebrate getting a digital marketer to respond to an email or agree to a demo!
Here are three quick reasons I've learned from my experience about why most startups fail to acquire new customers and how to avoid it:
1) Your product isn't what it's cracked up to be.
Don't sweat it. Almost all first products have more issues than you can keep track of.
The secret is to find innovative, early-adopters in your target market. Set clear expectations with these customers and quite frequently, you'll find they're even more supportive when your product works well or helps even a little bit! Even if the customer does not end up paying or staying long term, make sure you track everything around their usage for future product development.
2) You're going after the wrong target customer
It's just a fact that most early stage startups go after the wrong customer segment at first.
How do you avoid staying stuck in this rut and finally closing some clients? Share your product with as many people as possible, but the secret: do more listening than talking. Ask them about their challenges, what value they would potentially see in your product, and if they'd be willing to test it. Keep track of everyone's feedback, find the similarities in feedback and see what those individuals have in common. That might be your target market.
3) Bad spending or marketing decisions
If you're lucky enough to have some dollars to invest in marketing in the early days, do not waste them! Before you spend a single dollar, make sure you understand who your target markets are. Figure out where they're spending their time online, how they communicate with each other or what events they attend. Be tactical and focused in your outreach.
Pro tip: Some channels just won't work for your startup. Your target customers may not want to talk about your product with friends while search may be non-existent if your product is in a new category.
For most startups, acquiring your first paying customers is most likely going to be harder than you originally envisioned. Don't be discouraged by any initial pushback and always be willing to admit your product, strategy or spending decisions could have been better.