Small Business Marketing for Startups
Yesterday, an acquaintance asked me for advice on his startup company’s marketing. He just didn’t know how to get started with his first customer. He wanted to know what kinds of brochures, business card or website he needed to get people interested.
I told him, “Decide who you want your customers to be.”
He replied, “Oh, you mean middle class or upper class?”
“No, I mean decide which specific people in which neighborhoods should be your customers. Get to know them, how they talk and what their needs are. Then you can start selling. Then you will know what should be on your website.”
When people first start looking for customers, their instinct is to look for large groups of people and hope to convince a few of those people to hire them. The idea is, “If I aim for all middle class families, surely I’ll get a couple of customers.” But this instinct is wrong. The more people with whom you try to communicate, the less each one will pay attention to you. For example, I imagine you rarely pay attention to the loudspeaker at the grocery store. It’s just not that meaningful to you because the grocery store is trying to communicate a general message to the entire store. When you try to be meaningful to everyone, you end up being meaningful to no one. Generalization for the masses is the worst way to sell a new (or any) product.
To find its first customer, a startup needs to get specific. Instead of selling to groups differentiated by demographics, sell to individual people. Talk their language and address their needs.
On a related note, marketing expert Steve Yastrow wrote two very helpful newsletters on how to differentiate your customers as individuals instead of groups– Do Differentiation Differently and How to Do Differentiation Differently. Steve’s essential message is:
“Your customer doesn’t really care if you are different. But he will be blown away if he sees that you think he is different.”
Showing your customer you think he is different is more work than blanketing a city with flyers- but it will also yield more results. As counterintuitive as it may seem, startups (and all companies) will find more customers if they focus on fewer people.