How we got our first 50 paying customers

For a startup especially the bootstrapped ones like us, early paying customers are most crucial. First 50 paying customers not only bring revenue but also validate your value proposition and help you grow in the right direction.

It becomes even more important that you listen to them and their feedback, on the other hand, don’t get every customer on board who are willing to pay in early stages, as every customer is not a fit.

They might pay you but if they eventually become a pain in the a*s and you have too many of them, it will drain the team more and impact long term growth.

As a small team starting out with limited resources at the disposal it is really important to pick the right and few battlegrounds and go all in on them. You practically can’t be targeting every marketing channel to get the first 50 paying customers.

So here is a lowdown on how we went about acquiring our first 50 paying customers.

The Process

Step 1 – Narrowed down on channels we would be focussing on

Step 2 – Worked on lead generation tactics for each channel.

Step 3 – Analyse how each channel performed, rinse and repeat.

We decided to focus on the following 3 channels and hit the mark of 50 customers:

1. Cold E-mail Outreach

Since we help companies with building B2B contacts list, it was a no brainer. We cook and eat our own cake.

Source: Giphy

E-mail outreach is a much better channel for quick revenue realization in early stages as SEO/Content Marketing take time to build and drive results. You can’t be entirely dependent on your Inbound marketing to kick in results.

We built our e-mail lists based on the following criteria –

  1. Industries – We picked Industries where companies are B2B focussed.
  2. Employee Size – 50-500 Employee size companies.
  3. Designations – Marketing/Sales Heads/VP’s/Directors

Next, we worked on our E-mail templates varying the content depending on which Industry we were targeting and used an E-mail automation tool using which we could set a cadence of 4-5 follow-ups.

You can check out the templates that worked for us – Top 10 B2B Cold E-mail Templates

We tracked open, click and reply rates consistently and optimised our campaigns for higher response rate.

Cold E-mail outreach is still a big part of our lead generation process and drives close to 40% of our monthly revenue.

Our advice would be to start small with your outreach campaigns and examine how well your targeting, content, and scheduling is working and scale up from there.

2. Quora

Here are some interesting facts about Quora (Source: Similarweb

  • Quora has more than 600 million monthly visits 
  • Almost 20% of traffic coming from India 
  • Of the overall traffic, 70% of it is coming from search

What does this mean?

This means people are searching in google for answers and end up on answers in Quora because questions asked on Quora get indexed in search results.

This means if you answer readers’ queries in your niche in an in-depth manner, you are likely to get visitors who are not only interested in your product/service they already have a fair idea of what problem you can solve.

To top this as per this Gartner report close to 88% of buyers encounter information during their decision-making process and one of the easiest ways to disseminate information about your services is Quora.

So what did we do? We went about dedicatedly answering the questions in our niche and adding value for the readers and buyers in our own unique way.

Now there is a whole process to finding the right answers on Quora to balance the amount of effort you should publish and visibility it can drive for your product and services. Deserves a well-explained post in itself, we will write about this one soon

Blindly answering every question that comes across in your feed is like burying your head in the sand and then expecting the storm won’t hit you.

A few basic checks you can follow while starting out are –

  • Pick a few niches where following is big and answer consistently
  • Look at follower to answer ratio. 3:1 is good and anything above it is great. Don’t just leave a question because the above ratio is low if you feel you can write something which can really benefit the readers, go ahead and write.
  • Make use of the Answer wiki’s, edit/create them wherever you think your product/service is the right fit.

Not only did we start getting traffic from Quora, as we kept on posting, but traffic also started converting into leads and leads into revenue.

3. LinkedIn

Being the largest Professional network, its a heaven for anyone looking to sell to businesses. You can not only target your audience but also engage with them and build relationships.

LinkedIn is the most effective social channel when it comes to generating B2B leads. Don’t believe me, read this post from Neil Patel LinkedIn Strategies for B2B Marketing. As per his research, almost 80% of social media leads come from LinkedIn.

There are many tactics which can generate leads on LinkedIn right from having your own company page to participating in groups.

We will focus on tactics we adopted to drive leads:

1. Content Publishing  – We continuously post about our learnings, best practices, B2B lead generation tips and add value to the network using free giveaways like one of these posts which generated close to 2M views.

There are a fraction of people who like, comment and directly interact with your content and then there are lurkers, who simply observe and absorb value from your content for a time and then when they are in buying mode they know where to look.

2. Prospecting and Direct Messaging – LinkedIn is a great platform to prospect your target audience especially with all the insights you get to know about your prospects can be used for personalized outreach. 

First, start with connecting the right prospects in our case it was people working in Sales and Marketing roles across companies. 

Don’t simply hit send when you are sending a connection request, personalize your request by adding a note and follow up with a conversation using the insights you have about them. It can be about workplace promotion, their social activity or any great piece of content they wrote. 

In all honesty, we tried both the things directly pitching our services right after the connection was accepted out of eagerness and pitching after a few rounds of messages has been exchanged.

The second approach fared better, warmed up the other person, built a level of familiarity and created a more solid pitching ground for our services.

These are not the only channels which can help get early paying customers. Now we have also started focussing on SEO and Content Marketing.

You can always experiment rapidly with a bunch of channels and settle on few that would work. The operative word here is few as a small startup team you ought to be focussing and optimizing on every calorie of energy spent rather than fighting on all fronts.

Let go of the good ones for great ones at least for reaching from zero to 50 paying customers.

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