After getting your product off the assembly line, the next hurdle becomes the users – where do you find the people willing to pay for your product?
Seth Godin has a popular counter intuitive perspective on how to do this. He says, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers”.
When you think about it though, it isn’t so strange. All it says is to consider the customers before the product. Know the customers exist before diving into the product. Hence, “find products for your customers”. It’s what the pre-product research is for (we talked about that here).
However, getting these customers to use your product (though they are clearly defined) is a different beast.
There are multiple ways to go about slicing this one, but a good place to start is on the streets. When we look at tech products, we often come away with the impression that Google/Facebook and Twitter ads will be enough to convert them.
It always takes offline interactions with your target market to get them to switch from their initial alternative.
If you are one guy on a budget, start meeting everyone you can and preaching about your product. If you will, cold-call your contact. If you have a bigger team with more money, assemble a sales team that executes offline marketing strategies. A marketing strategy depends on your business, but a product like iROKOtv for a time had sales reps at cinemas around Lagos attempting to share the app with cinema patrons. I have met PayWithCapture sales team at malls as well, asking if I wanted a better way to pay. It’s simple, but effective.
Then, there is the press. As your product begins to gain traction, a good way to consolidate on that is to get a press mention. Press mentions are not advised if the product is sub-par. Press plus a shabby product would probably leave you with a band of customers so distraught as to never use your product again. It could be worse – they could begin sharing hurtful testimonials on forums (read Nairaland) and telling friends to stay away from your product.
With a good product, however, it could grow your userbase exponentially. Some products (like Printivo), launched with the press. The CEO, Yomi Ojo, once told me that at the time they got press mentions, they didn’t have a single customer. It worked for them, but it’s not always so.
There are other easily actionable steps to getting your first customers. They include:
Guest posting on blogs
Free sample/trial periods and free tools
A native blog for your product (perhaps one tracking the development of the product)
It’s instructive to know however, that all these don’t amount to much if the product doesn’t address a need in the first place or is badly executed.