I recently had a startup contact me for advice. In a nutshell, they had spent the last 8 months building a slick platform for an online marketplace (which happens to be a very good idea), and now all they need is customers.
Wait – all they need is customers? But that’s (pretty much) all any business needs!!! Getting the customers is the hard bit. It’s the guts of the business. And until you’ve proven whether or not you can actually get customers, you can’t really be sure whether you’ve really got a business at all. (That’s why the Lean Startup approach has become a very popular method of getting started – although, it’s true that it’s hard to apply for certain types of businesses.)
With many of us now dreaming big about the businesses we want to create, we’re envisioning automated marketing pulling in customers and our automated systems providing the service (perhaps while we order another cocktail at the beach!). While these are great goals to have, unfortunately it doesn’t usually work that way in the beginning.
At the start of any business, it takes Hustle – and a LOT of it!
I don’t mean this in a sleazy way, it just means we have to get out there and do the hard work of sales ourselves. And in the very beginning, this is in a manual, non-scalable way.
The Benefits of the Hustle
Despite our brilliant ideas, very few of us get our product or service exactly right the first time. The hustle gives us the advantage of putting us directly in contact with our customers. This is where we get the real insights and can learn things like: what makes them tick (affects our future marketing messages), the best sources for new customers, which subsegments are most attracted to our offerings, whether the pricing is right, whether the features are right, and whether the service delivery is right.
There are huge benefits from getting this learning done early on and adapting before you’ve built a bigger business that is harder to change.
Practical Ways to Hustle
Depending on your business, in practice performing the sales hustle could involve;
- Getting on the phone and cold calling hundreds of prospects
- Joining Facebook Groups targeting your industry and providing helpful advice and a link to your service when a relevant topic comes up (please don’t be spamming though!)
- Door-knocking and letting people know about your local service
- Offering to provide something for free to a local event in exchange for being able to promote your business
- Hand delivering leaflets in your local area
- Contacting businesses with complementary services and finding ways that they can promote your business (for a benefit for them and/or their clients)
- Spruiking your messages at a busy train stations (yes, I personally have done this!!)
- Getting to know influencers in your industry and doing favours for them
- Running competitions that reward customers generously for spreading the word about your business (run them manually at first, and yes, I’ve also done this)
When you read this list, you’re likely to recognise a couple of tactics that might work. But then your next reaction is likely to be, “yes but…”
PLEASE, don’t be too proud, too shy or too “smart” to do this stuff. This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s no use having a business that is great on paper but doesn’t get off the ground because of a lack of action. And when I say a lack of action, I mean a lack of action that actually impacts a customer or potential customer. Most of us are very good at being busy 🙂 but sometimes there’s not a lot that actually makes a difference.
Get to it people and hustle, hustle, hustle!