If your company doesn't have customers, then you don't have a company. Attracting and retaining your target customers is an ongoing process throughout your company's lifespan, and is something that you as a founder had better learn how to do early on. 

In this blog post, featuring exclusive insights from Rob Rusher (software executive, entrepreneur, and Director of the Denver Founder Institute), you'll learn some of the most essential steps in acquiring your ideal customers - and keep them coming back.

Customers are the lifeblood of any successful company. Unfortunately, even a great product or service can fall on deaf ears if you don’t take the time to focus on the customers who are most likely to invest in your offering. What’s worse, if your company can’t turn those initial customers into repeat customers, there is no way that it will survive more than a few years at most.

Luckily, this blog post outlines everything you’ll need to ensure that you’re not only targeting the right customers, but, most importantly, turning them into customer advocates who keep coming back.

Determine Who Your Customers Are

Define Your Initial Customer Characteristics

Ideally, you should create your initial customer archetype, or persona, before building a product. The persona is a fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customer. Whether you’re still validating your startup idea or you’re working on your MVP (minimum viable product), it is still essential that you create your initial customer persona, as it will help you guide the development of your final offering. Take the time to outline who you think your ideal customer is, and remember to be as specific as possible. Be VERY specific; making your ideal customer more real and relatable will only enable you to better understand the needs and wants of those who will invest in your product. Even giving them a name will help.

  • What are their interests, aspirations, challenges and problems?
  • Who does the research?
  • How do they make buying decisions?
  • Who makes the buying decisions?
  • What kind of content do they consume when exploring, considering and making a purchase?

Rule of Thumb: You should only have one persona unless you have a two-sided marketplace. That’s it! Any more than that, then you’re not specific enough.

Test Your Initial Customer Persona

Now that you’ve drafted your initial customer persona and created your key assumptions from that information, it’s time to test your data. One of the best and most effective ways to test your data is through conducting extensive customer interviews. You have to find and talk to the type of person that you’re targeting. Not your Mom or any of your friends. If you want honest feedback, it has to be people that don’t know you. After you’ve found people who you think accurately represent your target market, set aside some time to interview them over the phone, through email, surveys, or in person. Whichever method you choose, keep in mind that the questions you ask are what ultimately matter the most. Record every answer, even when you don’t think it matters. You’ll start to see strong patterns once you’ve interviewed enough people.

Below are some example questions to help you test your customer persona:

Customer Segmentation

  • What do you do professionally?
  • Who handles [process you’re improving] at your home/office?
  • Tell me about your role at [company]?
  • How much time do you spend on [process you’re improving]? [Specific questions related to your product/customer] – For example, “Do you have kids?”

Problem Discovery

  • What’s the hardest part of your day?
  • What product do you wish you had that doesn’t exist yet?
  • What tasks take up the most time in your day?
  • What could be done to improve your experience with [process/role]?
  • What’s the hardest part about being a [demographic]?
  • What are your biggest/most important professional and personal responsibilities/goals?

Problem Validation

  • Do you find it hard to [process/problem]?
  • How important is [value you’re delivering] to you?
  • Tell me about the last time you [process you’re improving].
  • How motivated are you to solve/improve [problem/process]?
  • If you had a solution to this problem, what would it mean to you/how would it affect you?

Attract Your Customers

Determine your Product / Value proposition

You have a business idea. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. You may have already started building it, but if you’re lucky, you haven’t started yet.

The first step into having your customers build your product for you is to create a simple value proposition for the direction that you want your business to go. This will put any potential customers that you talk to in the direction that you want them to go. At the end of the day, a happy medium for a successful startup is where what the founders want to build and what solves your customers’ problem meet.

Examples of possible top level value propositions for the Founder Institute would be:

  • Learn How to Build a Lasting Company
  • Learn How to Start Your Company from Scratch
  • Make the Leap from Employee to Entrepreneur

Do you see how the same business can be built from these three ideas? If you look at our homepage, you will see that we chose the third option because that is the one that agrees most with our vision while resonating with our clients.

When creating your value proposition, be sure to make it something that you think your customers will like or find useful.

Construct a Landing Page & Collect emails

Once you've established a value proposition, create a place that you can direct your customer to that will house it. Note that you could take your value proposition and directly contact customers to ask if it resonates with them, and get feedback from there. There are several “Landing Page” services, paid and free, available that will help you construct a beautiful site that captures an email from those interested in your startup. The primary goal of your landing page is not to look great, it’s to get contact information from people that are interested in what you’re doing. To do that, your value proposition combined with a great Call to Action (CTA) are the most important aspects of your landing page.

Your page and value proposition don’t have to be perfect and are likely to change. In fact, your entire product is likely to change. Because it doesn’t matter what we think, it matters what our customers think. So start with a couple of versions of your message on separate landing pages to see which one converts better. Only put one CTA on each page. Make it big, contrast and obvious. Use words that are customer-centric like; “I want it”, “Notify me when it’s ready”, “Get an early invitation”. Split test two or three variations of your value proposition so that you can begin to identify trends in what your customers like and don’t like.

*On an important privacy note, if a European citizen gives you their information, you must be GDPR compliant or you could be facing severe fines. I’ll leave GDPR for another post.

Keep Your Customers Coming Back

1. Focus on Customer Lifetime Value, not Customer Transaction Value

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) refers to the value a customer provides during their time with your company, while Customer Transaction Value (CTV) refers to the value your company receives when acquiring a new customer. CTV can be seen as a single sale or interaction, while CLV can be seen as a long-term relationship with numerous sale opportunities. Investors really like strong CLV with low churn (customer turnover).

Your company’s sales team implement a strategy that focuses less on one-time sales, and focuses more on cultivating multiple sales from single customers. While it is harder to turn a one-time customer into a returning customer, it’s ultimately more profitable for your company, and also more beneficial for the customer.

2. Offer More than Products - Offer Value

Customers want to feel like more than just customers; they want to feel like their favorite companies genuinely value their patronage. In fact, studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for a product that delivers stellar customer service than purchase a product from a company with mediocre, or worse, customer service.

To start, make the experience of purchasing a product from your company as enjoyable as possible, and ensure that customers can reach out to you as easily as possible, as this will encourage them to continue purchasing from you. Instead of continually offering discounts and special offers, go the extra mile to leave a good impression on your customers, because this is how you incentivize them to continue coming back to your company.

3. Build Relationships with Your Customers

To build off of the previous point, when you take the extra time to provide more value to your customers, you instinctively build relationships with them. Take a look at some of the most popular brands around, and you’ll notice that the reason why they have such a loyal fan base is because these companies make their customers feel privileged, as if they are creating something that suits their individual needs and goals. Apple and Tesla are good examples of this.

There are several ways to cultivate lasting, lucrative relationships with your customers, many of them quite simple and easy to automate. For example, you can send personalized follow-up “thank you” emails to your customers after they make their first purchase with you.

4. Remind Your Customers that You’re Still Around

When a customer makes a purchase with your company, there’s a good chance that they’ll forget about you and move on to another company for a similar product or service. However, as in the previous point, establishing a relationship with your customers will help ensure that you become their go-to company.

And just like in any relationship between two people, it has to be reciprocal, which means that you have to give back as much as you recieve, if not more so. One way to do this is to send them regular updates about your company, which can include new prices, updated features, expanded services, etc. Even birthday emails from you can really help your customers see you as more of a friend and less of a faceless corporate entity.

If you want even more expert startup tips from Rob Rusher, be sure to apply to the Denver Founder Institute today!

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