When you’re just getting started in business, wondering how to get your first customer can be stressful. After all, if nobody knows you exist, how can you expect them to come knocking on your door?
Whether you’re looking to get your first customer or your first 1,000 customers, there are several ways to help you get noticed — even without spending all your budget on paid advertising (or selling your soul).
How to get your first customer: 8 tactics to try
In this article, we’re sharing a mix of marketing and persona development tactics that will show you how to get your first customer — and set you up for long-term success.
Send a personal email to your network.
Take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing.
Attend networking events.
Participate in online communities.
Connect with other business owners in your industry.
Barter services or products.
Answer questions on Quora or LinkedIn answers.
Monitor social media for industry keywords.
Let’s get started!
1. Send a personal email to your network
The first thing you should do is to reach out to your personal network. While your immediate family and friends might not need your services, they might know someone who does. They can serve as a point of introduction and would probably be more than happy to help you out.
Send them a personal email and tell them you just started a business, and explain what you sell or what type of services you offer. You can then ask them if they know anyone who could benefit from what you’re offering and if they can introduce you to that person. If you want to be more personal, consider giving them a quick phone call instead of sending an email.
2. Take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing
If you’ve already had a few customers, follow up with them and ask if they know of anyone else who could use your services or products. Good old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing can be the most reliable method for getting new clients as you’re just getting started and don’t have a lot of connections.
If you want this method to be truly successful, make sure your existing clients and customers have nothing but words of praise for you and were provided with stellar customer experience.
You can also offer a discount on future purchases to incentivize them to refer people from their network to you. Make it easy to refer you by providing a sample referral email or a few business cards they can hand out.
3. Attend networking events
Check if your local Chamber of Commerce organizes any sort of networking events for businesses in your area. It’s a great way how to get your first customer. Consider attending a few of those events to connect with other business owners, both inside and outside of your industry.
This allows you to establish a mutually beneficial relationship, expand your network, and investigate the possibility of collaboration.
If you don’t have a Chamber of Commerce in your area, search online for business networking events. A good place to start is a website like Meetup.com. You can also attend conferences, trade fairs, and other events geared for business owners.
4. Participate in online communities
Like attending events, you can join and participate in online communities when you’re figuring out how to get your first customer. Forums, message boards, LinkedIn and Facebook groups, as well as Twitter chats, are a great way to connect not only with your potential clients but also peers and influencers in your niche.
Engaging and initiating conversations and sharing thoughtful replies allows you to position yourself as the industry expert and build trust — which facilitates the decision to hire you.
It also allows you to link to relevant sources once you’ve established your reputation, which means you can send interested community members straight to your website.
Pro tip: Make sure your social media profile or community profile is filled out completely with relevant information and gives other members of the community a taste of your brand as this can lead to organic click-throughs to your website.
5. Connect with other business owners in your industry
A mistake many new business owners make is to view others in the same industry as nothing more than competition. If you change your perspective and start to think of them as peers, you will do your business a great favor.
While it’s true there might be some overlap in what you offer and what others are offering, as well as between audiences, the truth is you won’t attract the same type of customers.
Likewise, some of the customers you attract might not be a great fit for you or you might not have the capacity to take on yet another project. By connecting with other business owners in your industry, you have a network of people you can refer customers to and they will be more than happy to return the favor.
Additionally, you should connect with business owners who are in a similar or complementary niche, as this allows you to partner with them and offer your services along with theirs to their clients — and vice versa.
6. Barter services or products
Another way how to get your first customer is to barter services or products with other business owners. Doing so means you won’t get paid, but you might get what you need the most in return — as well as the first clients who will provide you with testimonials and potential referrals.
For example, you might be an accountant in need of a website maintenance. You could trade your accounting retainer in exchange for a WordPress maintenance retainer. Or you might trade a professional photo shoot in exchange for a logo design.
Be sure to agree on the exact terms of the barter beforehand and don’t forget to ask for and provide testimonials so both of you can benefit from the trade.
7. Answer questions on Quora or LinkedIn answers
Building your credibility helps you position yourself as the go-to person in your niche. It allows potential customers to develop trust in your skills and knowledge. While you’re still working on generating steady traffic to your site, it’s not wise to spend all your time blogging there.
The benefit of this approach is that you build your credibility while at the same time sharing helpful tips to people who might be interested in your services and products. It also allows you to build backlinks to your site as you can link to related posts and pages in the answers.
8. Monitor social media for industry keywords
The last tip for how to get your first customer is to be active on social media platforms where your target audience is likely to spend their time. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or any other platform, you should search for industry keywords and engage in relevant conversations.
By doing so, you’ll not only grow your follower base, you’ll also add a personal, human touch to your brand, and establish your authority.
Figuring out how to get your first customer might seem like a mission impossible, but all it takes is some dedication and hard work. The pointers in this article are just the tip of the iceberg — but they’ll set you on the right path toward being booked out or sold out.