Great Market, Great Product? Without This, You Still Don't Have a Company

Many of the best founders have...

  • a great idea and recognize a big opportunity
  • built a great product with great market fit
  • researched the heck out the space and know the strengths and weaknesses of competitors
  • put an awesome pitch deck together to raise some money
  • raised some money and build a team

And yet, they are not guaranteed to have a successful company. Why? Founders who don’t figure out how to drive awareness and acquire customers cost effectively and efficiently have a startup - but not a real company.

Many startups fail because they don’t get a business development engine in place before its too late - that is, they run before they can sell what they've built. If founders don’t figure out how to acquire customers, they don’t have a business. Period.

Sales Fix Everything

Acquiring customers is hard, and don't let any growth hacker tell you otherwise. In fact, creating sustainable revenues will be the hardest thing most founders will have to experience. The challenge is many-fold: as a company that may just have been created, you have to get the attention of your customers, interest them in your product as the solution to their problem, tap into a desire to act on this problem with your team, and entice them to act now. Good luck.

Everything matters in acquiring customers. For example, you can buy a good list, send a great email, but point prospects to a crappy landing page - with terrible results. Of course, this example assumes you did a good job of identifying your target and bought a list of people who will care about anything you have to say in the first place.

So how do founders put an effective and efficient business development engine place? Here are some key steps:

Target: Figure out who your target customer is - down to the individual person or people who will be part of the buying decision.

  • Why is this person my target?
  • What do they think about and pay attention to during the day?
  • How do they talk about the problem you're trying to solve for them?
  • What sort of message will you need to create to get their interest and attention?
  • Where and when should you deliver this message to them? 

Get as detailed and specific as you can. You don’t need to worry about who your 10,000th customer will be if you are still working on the first 100. Who are the first 100?

Map The Process: Yes, the entire process, leaving nothing to chance. There are a myriad of tools to leverage, from a plain whiteboard to write out your sales script and conversion funnels to Google Analytics. With answers from the section above, not all your current actions will make sense based upon your plan to reach the targets from above. Mapping the process will tell you what tools, content, and actions you need to have to create an end-to-end process that drives awareness, engagement, and conversions.

Own The Process: You will need to rely on vendors and tools throughout the process you defined. This doesn’t mean you get to coast and give your vendors the responsibility and accountability for customer acquisition. You need to know how each piece plays a role in the process, whether a piece is working or not, and what changes can be made to make it work better.

Measure, Learn, Adjust: Results are the only thing that matters around sales. You will be iterating constantly. Even when things are working you will always be trying to spend less and acquire more customers faster. If you're seeing conversion problems, maybe you're making one of these common mistakes.

Most founders aren’t business development gurus. Marketing and sales are viewed by many founders as necessary evils. Founders start companies to solve problems and impact the world, but you can’t do either if people aren’t buying your product. It doesn’t matter if you are an engineer, scientist, physician, or any other subject matter expert: if you can’t get a business development process in place to acquire customers you will fail. Sad, but true.

Anyone can start a company. Founders that start and lead successful businesses figure out how to acquire customers systematically. Do you have a strategy for customer acquisition for your business you're excited about, or need help getting your plan together? Let me know in the discussion.